I don’t hate babies or anything, but I don’t enjoy them very much, either. I rarely want to hold someone else’s baby. I’ll do it if I think it will help out another parent, but it’s not something I seek out. I loved my kids as babies, of course, but I don’t get a lot out of sitting on the floor watching a baby mouth toys or rocking a sleeping baby for hours. I don’t relish making dinner with a baby strapped to my back or having porn-star sized breasts while lactating. Heck, I don’t even like bath time. I recently fed a baby a bottle in the church nursery, and I didn’t really get anything out of it, other than relief that the baby wasn’t so fussy anymore. There were many things about having an infant/young toddler that I did because I thought I should, but not because I loved or even liked doing them. (More so than now.) It’s made the first 18-24 months of parenting each of my children particularly challenging for me–especially given the fact that they are less than 2 years apart. By the time Linnea was at an age I really felt I would start enjoying, I had a newborn to take care of.
I’m not naive enough to think parenting is ever going to be easy. I’m smart enough to understand that every age will have its joys and challenges. I also acknowledge that I’m only about 4.5 years into this, so I have a lot more to experience.
But I have an almost visceral reaction whenever I hear other moms talk about how much easier infants are, and try to scare other moms about the trials of some other age. I would get so depressed when old ladies would come up to me and my baby in the store and tell me how these were the best times. And I didn’t have the same dismayed reaction as some of my mom friends when my babies started getting mobile. When I look back at baby pictures, I think “Wow, they were so little/fat/cute” but never, “ah, it was such a simpler/easier time.” It’s fine with me if other people love the baby stage, but at the same time, I think that a person can look forward to and enjoy other ages and stages without being accused of wishing her offspring’s childhood away.
When Linnea was a newborn, I was nursing her in the food area of Wegmans. A family with two school-aged children was eating at the next table and noticed me. The parents made the usual small talk and congratulatory remarks about my new baby. Then the father said, “Everyone always says that this is the best stage, but quite frankly, I’ve found that it just gets better and better as they get older.” I wanted to run over and give him a big hug, because his remark gave me so much hope and solace after weeks of hearing how blissful having and caring for a baby is supposed to make me feel.