I’m on my way home from visiting the grandson. A little context here: Baby Knut is 6 months old. His father is in the army, and they just shipped him off for a training exercise in Louisiana for 6 weeks. My wife & I decided to combine two things: 1) Grandma & Grandpa get to visit and see/spoil the new baby, and 2) Grandma will stay for the full 6 weeks to help out. I’m skipping out early because I have job duties to perform back home, so I can’t stay that long.
I was there for only a week. OMG PARENTING IS THE HARDEST JOB IN THE WORLD. I’d completely forgotten — I speculate there is some form of stress/fatigue related amnesia that totally blanks out your memory of at least the first year, otherwise no one would ever have a second child. It’s the combination of being motivated to do a flawless job, and parenting being a 24 hour a day duty that never, ever stops, and interrupts you with a new crisis every few hours. That crisis might be something trivial, but there is no such thing as a trivial discomfort to a baby. Really. To a baby, being a little bit tired means “I must scream as loud as I can into someone’s ear until I’m so exhausted I pass out.”
It seems to work. Next time I begin to nod off mid-afternoon in the office, I’m going to step into the hallway and howl at the top of my lungs until someone consoles me, and then I’ll shriek some more.
Of course, babies also offer a reward system of giggles and bubble-blowing and cooing, and I think I’m well past my cuteness expiration date, so it’s probably not going to work for me. Dang.
Anyway, when there were four of us working around the clock it was a bit tiring; when my son left for Louisiana and we were three, it was exhausting; now that I’ve left and it’s down to my wife and daughter-in-law, I don’t want to think about it. I especially don’t want to imagine being a single parent, which sounds like it ought to be lethal. If any of you readers were single parents, you have my awestruck respect. How did you survive? And if you were single-parenting and trying to work a job…jesus fucking christ, you deserve a medal and Elon Musk’s salary.
It does make me realize that humans had to have absolutely depended on community during their evolution. Pair-bonding is fine, but even working in pairs to care for the young is inadequate — when I was growing up, we had a big extended family to distribute the load. Academia (and the military, or any other occupation that disrupts familial social relationships) is clearly a terrible idea.
But hey, Knut is a lovely 10kg monster of passions — the joy of a 6 month old is even more extreme than their grievances — so I can see why many of us still try. I’m going to have to give my wife a vacation and spoil her for a while when she gets back home in July.