You go to an amusement park and head straight for the rollercoaster. You’ve seen pictures of it and heard experiences from other people. Your partner asks if you are sure about it, and you say “absolutely”. You get on the rollercoaster for the very first time; you are ecstatic as you take a seat, the safety latch comes on and the ride starts.
At every sharp turn and loop, you laugh, take selfies, wave your hands; it’s basically a hoot. The ride ends, you feel a bit queasy and are about to get out but the safety latch doesn’t come undone. Now you’re hassled, you give it a bit of a tug here and a nudge there but the latch remains steadfast. Suddenly, panic sets in as the ride starts again. This time it’s not all that fun, you give a few reluctant hoots. The ride stops and again you try getting out but the ride starts again! This time you are screaming, almost crying and want to jump off. The ride just goes on and on and on… never stopping! Now, replace the rollercoaster with a child.
My parents, and Sabiha’s, had their first kids within the first year of marriage. It seems this was the norm back then. Today, married or unmarried couples are making very informed decisions to have kids or not.
We always wanted to have kid(s); we were very mentally prepared. But no matter how mentally ready you are, if either of you is not strong emotionally, it’s going to cause some puking sessions through the ride. These are some of the most important learnings of our baby raising ride:
Patience – One night, Z was unusually awake. She just wouldn’t sleep when we wanted her to. I carried her around the house till I was tired; Sabiha took over but with no luck. Both of were getting frustrated and there was agony in our voices. It was midnight and we were getting sleepy and tired but madam was wide awake and in no mood to settle.
We tried everything – feeding, changing, walking, singing. Eventually, I took her down for a walk. That did it and she was asleep immediately. I am a very patient man but that day, she showed me that I needed to be much more. Patience is most important. Both parents have to build on it early on because they’re going to need loads of it as time progresses.
Tolerance – With great patience comes great tolerance. Remember, you are not a dictator, you are raising a child. I don’t need to tell you this but children do not come with a manual. You learn as you go along. Push that tolerance level as high as possible. Your child is the best thing that can happen to you, so you will have to tolerate a lot right from the start.
Paranoia – It’s the middle of the night, you suddenly wake up in a cold sweat and rush towards the crib with your phone flash directed towards the ceiling to diffuse the lighting. You strain your eyes really hard to see if her chest is rising and falling. You have decided it is not, you panic, now you place a finger on her nose to check if she is breathing. Phew, yeah she is breathing… oh wait… she is waking up… CRAP! I cannot begin to stress the number of times I have done this and still do. It is ok to be paranoid, it makes you a responsible parent, annoying also, but responsible.
Predictability – Two days in a row baby is sleeping on time, pooping/peeing well, taking her feeds and burping immediately and you are thinking “that’s it, we have set a pattern, we have tamed this child!”. Next day she refuses to sleep on time, she is pooping every two hours, refuses to feed beyond two minutes, cries the whole day. Just when you thought the pattern is set the baby sneaks up behind you and goes “Ha Ha fooled you! Waaaaaaaaa”. It would be unwise to think that you can predict the baby’s movements and schedule. Treat every day as a new day.
Alertness – A baby in the house makes you alert. Earlier, if the kitchen was on fire I would relax and assume someone would take care of it. But now, when the baby is sleeping and if the TV in the living room is even slightly loud, I rush out of my room with the intention of breaking it. The slightest sound makes me jump because no matter what, the baby shouldn’t wake up!
Time management – No matter how unpredictable the baby, ensure you stick to your schedules, it just becomes easy to work things out when you have a schedule, even if it’s for your own sake to begin with.
Teamwork – Always work as a team. Divide chores between yourselves. This way there’ll be enough time for yourselves and neither party will burn out.
“Raising a child is easy”, said nobody. It requires patience, teamwork, a lot of time and most importantly, confidence. Before starting a family, it truly helps to have hands-on experience around a baby/infant/toddler. Reading books and watching videos is research but nothing beats the experience of being spat on or projectile pooped on. Even if you have to watch it happening to someone else.