BY the time you’re in your thirties, it’s safe to assume that at least 80 per cent of your friends would be parents. In fact, most of them are possibly well on their way to their second or third child already.
This is exactly my current scenario. While most of my female friends are mothers who are perfectly capable of taking on our usual conversation subjects, sometimes, I do find myself trapped in a discussion of breast pumps, kindergartens, prams, how poo can be used to determine the baby’s health and so on. And during these times, I sit awkwardly, trying to muster as much interest as possible in the subject.
All my close friends know how I feel about babies. Or more accurately, how I don’t feel for babies. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are adorable, but I am certainly not a baby person. If I ever have to run a nursery or pre-school, I might get hospitalised for anxiety.
I’m not sure why I never caught the baby fever, although there have been a few theories thrown around to try and decipher this. My mother is certain that I’m just late to join the bandwagon, and someday I will perhaps pop out five of my own. She might be right, although I can’t quite picture that yet.
A friend wondered if it was the whole idea of giving birth that had me spooked. Admittedly, I did see a birthing video on YouTube and it was like a murder scene — imagine something the size of an adult cat coming out of you — and frankly, I wish I could un-see it.
And then came the real stories about taking care of newborns. On a daily basis, someone in the office is always going through a particularly bad time with their offspring. The lack of sleep, the constant feeding, the non-existent time to do anything else like eat, shower or exercise, the bodies that are permanently changed, and the list goes on.
I was also enlightened on the realities of post-partum depression, and if I as the listener felt depressed just listening to their struggles, I can’t imagine how it must be like to go through the phase in person.
So, as one baby after another began emerging around me, all of these accumulated impressions and observations made me feel quite indifferent towards the whole idea. Babies and toddlers represent this picture of a goliath of responsibilities and commitments, and from the outside looking in, it scares me.
Once, when I had to babysit my nephew for an hour or two, my sister said, “All you have to do is make sure he’s alive when I get back”. To be responsible for someone else’s life! That’s how serious this business is folks.
IT’S NOT A DIAPER COMMERCIAL
I currently have one niece and two nephews. What this means is that I now have VIP access to witness what it’s really like to have a baby, and not just through office talk and venting sessions with friends. Spending holidays with my family also allows me to take a peek into the daily routines and the ups and the downs of raising a child.
Everyone knows it already — having childrenis no joke. You’re responsible for guiding and moulding another living person, and God forbid you do a bad job and screw it all up. Once, an auntie told me that when your children are young, you’re physically exhausted, but when they’re older, you’re emotionally exhausted.
Being a parent is a lifetime commitment, and you’ll never stop worrying about them even when they’re all grown. Through watching my sister and brother parent their children, I am able to witness the amount of work and patience it takes on a daily basis to keep their children safe and loved.
But what perhaps gets subdued sometimes amidst all the chaos is the sheer joy of being around children. Babies and children represent the unadulterated, innocent and sincere version of humans. Their curiosity, happiness and unending questions are genuine and wonderful to observe. Everything excites them, and they have the ability to be enthusiastic even about the most mundane things. They don’t have negative thoughts of others, they live in the moment and they see the simple things in life with fascination (I mean, have you ever seen a baby play with a metal spoon for 20 minutes?). And as an added bonus, when they’re not pooping, crying, sick, vomitting or throwing tantrums, they can actually be pretty cute to look at.
APPRECIATING IT BETTER
During the last weekend I played balloons with my nephew. It was great. We chased a large red balloon around the house with lots of giggles and shrieks of joy. But two hours later he had a sleep-driven tantrum, and the whole house heard his wails and screams.
That episode perhaps sums up what I’m saying here perfectly. There is this delicate intertwine between the pleasures and challenges of raising a baby. I’m not saying that I have completely changed my mind about pursuing it, but I certainly understand it so much better now.
It’s about family, and like any other family, whoever you are or whichever part of the world you’re in, there’s bound to be hardship. But then again, if sharing joy and watching each other grow up and grow old, or even chasing a balloon around the house supersedes these challenges, then isn’t it worth it?
A geoscientist by day and aspiring writer by night, Amal Ghazali ponders on everything, from perplexing modern day relationship dilemmas, to the fascinating world of women’s health and wellbeing. All done of course, while having a good laugh. Read more of her stories at bootsoverbooks.com