A co-worker, my office mate during our first pregnancy was 5 or so years further down the road from us with two kids, preschool and kindergarten. She was largely bemused by me and my behavior as an expectant dad. I would be now too. Expectant parents, the good responsible ones at least, are a bit silly. We were no different. I don’t recall what brought about the comment she made to me, but it’s stuck with me all these years. She said, ‘having kids is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. But it’s easy.’
Well, this is the definition of a conundrum and sounds like absolute hog swallop! But it turned out she was right.
Before the kids I had an absolute need to find consistency. To make that which was juxtaposed become resolved. To that brain there was a crisis, or there would have been had I accepted the statement, to make one of these opposing realities fail. After all how could it be hard and easy? A thing can’t be black and white. It just can’t!
Well, turns out it can. Because caring for my kids, providing for them, raising them, being there every minute is incredibly and sometimes seemingly unbearably challenging. It’s all the things you hear about but can’t fully conceive of prior to them arriving. And an absolute TON more.
Physically it depletes and even destroys some parts that may be revived to some extent but will never be fully what they were before. Emotionally they take you to your furthest limit and live on that edge, leaning on it and pushing it to the point where you have to break in order to rebuild your walls further out than you ever thought you’d be. Then they move there, to your new outer limit, lower their shoulders and push. Push until they break through and you are once again forced to build retaining walls further out. You can’t even remember where your silly emotional limits were before they arrived to push you, but surely you now think of your former emotional stamina as that of some sort of lower animal. Hard to imagine you ever thought a thing difficult before this.
Financially. Others focus on this and ameliorate it through hard work, smart work, good fortune, determination and single minded focus. I, being one who is unwilling and likely unable to eliminate this issue, pities these people. Mostly I pity them out of envy and defensiveness. That is as far as I’m willing to explore the dynamic so I’ll leave it there. But be it known, your money which you’ve always considered in short supply and wholly yours is now in shorter supply, much more necessary and barely yours for even the few moments in which you possess it. I’m not complaining and I remain aware of how insanely lucky I am to have what I have. But it’s still a grinding thing trying to make it all work.
Beyond this you now carry a burden that is beyond your comprehension until the moment that baby meets you. I daresay that moment came months earlier for my wife than it did for me. Still, once it appears it will be with you for as far out as you can look. Another human being, one completely incompetent and needing of you every single day, all day, is here. You love him and hold him and treasure it all, but it does weigh on you. I once knew a man who honestly believed he didn’t carry this stuff with him. Yet if you asked his wife and kids they’d tell you, he carried it nobly, and for ten years while the kids were young he moaned like a cow mooing in his sleep. Loud. Wake you up on other floors loud. Showed up with the kids and disappeared when most of them could shower, bathe and feed themselves. It hits us all.
The hard is evident and there’s an annoyingly long line of people who can’t wait to tell you this as you head toward welcoming your little baby to the world. It’s doubly annoying because the negative commenters, parents I now recognize as being in the midst of their own process of becoming who are merely projecting all of the above onto you because they need the support you can’t yet give them, far outweigh the positive. Like my office mate, Mary, who also said, it’s pretty easy. And it is.
It’s easy for a lot of reasons. Reasons that arrive to you with the baby. Because along with all the ‘what!’ comes boatloads of ‘why’. You are provided a wonderful, bottomless bucket of love and care. Endless and effortless motivation. Without realizing it you have all jumped into the river and are teaching each other to swim. We are interconnected and integrated into this life that we lead. All of us. Together. Before long you accept all the challenges as the life you’re now blessed to be living and you
move on changed, multiplied. Stronger for having broken. Deeper for having cared. Happier for changing that which you feared you could never change. Your life is now one you can’t even conceive of existing without these new responsibilities, challenges and love. So sure, it’s hard, but you’d not have it any other way. Which makes it all pretty simple. Easy.