I punctured one of the tires on the pushchair tire yesterday. There was broken glass on the road, I didn’t see it, bugger. It’s annoying because everything is such a palava with a baby. Take today – I was planning to leave the house for the goodbye morning tea of a colleague, but then it’s horrendous weather, and it’s just not worth the hassle of trying to carry bubs up the slippery wooden steps to the carport while juggling an umbrella and a nappy bag, then finding a park in town, then keeping him dry while taking him out of the car and walking to the office building, then doing the same in reverse to get back home. I didn’t think the logistics of babywrangling would be so complex, back in my childless days. Oh, just take the baby with you, no biggie. Babies are portable. Well, yeah, they are – but our cities aren’t designed for them. Circling for ten minutes to find a park with a baby screaming his little lungs out in back seat, not fun. Paying for two or three hours of parking in town ain’t cheap. Finding suitable places to breastfeed or change nappies is hard. There’s always the risk that Unencumbered Adults will resent the presence of a baby in the grownup space. And, while my perfect day involves leaving the house, bubba’s perfect day involves staying put. So he might get grumpy. When it’s sunny, I can always just walk around with him in the wrap or the pushchair (bugger, it’s broken); when it’s rainy, wherever you go, you’re a bit trapped. And if you’re going to be trapped somewhere, it might as well be your own house.
There are measures that could improve things. Some cities overseas have cheap parking or subsidised public transport for caregivers of under-5-year-olds. A shorter working week would help – other people would be around to help out during the week, their houses could be places to visit. But even if things were better set up for babies, becoming a parent requires a massive mind shift. Last year, an effective day was one where I got to work with a mental list of things that needed to be done, and did them. This year, an effective day is one where I take it as it comes, in an opportunistic and impromptu fashion, and am guided by what bubs seems to need and be willing to accommodate. There’s no point making plans weeks in advance, I don’t know what he’ll be like this time next month. For a while mornings were the best times to do things but since about this time last week they’ve been the worst. Some days, he sleeps a lot, and I can get other things done (I proofread my brother’s dissertation last week, that was fun); other days, not so much. Some days I take him out all day and he seems fine with it. Other days, I take him out for half an hour and he has a little baby meltdown and I scoot back home. There are days when I feel tremendously unproductive, until I remember that meeting his needs is all I’m required to do. He’s just a baby, and he needs constant care. Don’t fight it. Preserving sanity requires choosing attitude, even though you can’t choose circumstances. Like my dad explained to me as a kid, enjoying the vanilla icecream even when you wanted chocolate (“like Pollyanna” I said “yeah, but less annoying” he said “Pollyanna isn’t annoying!” I said). A little bit of basic existentialism.
It’s hard to remember to do this. It’s easy to feel frustrated by the weather, or the flat tire on the pushchair, or whatever. It’s easy to feel frustrated at 9.30pm when the baby is exhibiting no signs of sleepiness, and every sign of wanting to play peek-a-boo. But it’s far better to just shrug and enjoy making him laugh. There can never be too many baby giggles in the day.