At some point, as is natural, your friends will pair off. They will then marry. Copulate. Impregnate. And birth children. This is all beautiful. Their children will be beautiful. Their children will be special. And gorgeous. And brilliant.
Your friends will tell you all of the things that their baby does with the expectant urge of a best friend telling you a salacious piece of gossip about a mutual, long forgotten friend from college. You will reply in murmurs of excitement, amazement and wonderment.
The truth however, will be far less ambiguous: You do not care about their baby.
At some point I may do the same. I may pair off. Have a child. Although my version of impregnate may involve a surrogate in Mexico (as Facebook targeting has suggested is a popular option for New York gays). And that baby will be special and amazing and I will tell you all about it and how brilliant my baby is because it put a red square into a square hole. And you are free to not care about my baby.
Because I do not care about your baby.
It’s not that I hate your baby. I don’t. I want your baby to grow up healthy and go to Harvard. I want to one day realize that your baby has political views and look forward to reading an article about your baby in the newspaper (or whatever becomes of newspapers by 2042). Maybe one day your baby will call me and ask me for job advice and that will be awesome although it will make me feel old. Maybe one day I will ask your baby for a job because your baby has founded some sort of technology company that has made millions of dollars (hopefully your baby will buy you a fancy hovercraft that we can go joy riding in or alternatively a nice place to retire to in Florida). I will then care about your baby. I know I’m self-involved.
This is anathema to what we’re supposed to do of course. No one likes to admit that they don’t give two shits about babies; rather, we’re supposed to coo and get excited about their existence and celebrate our friends’ ability to procreate. (For men especially – what am I supposed to say – mazel tov on blowing your load inside your wife’s vagina?) If we don’t get excited for the baby, we are heartless shrews driven by the beat of our own self-absorption.
And yet – are parents who are obsessed with their babies not just as narcissistic as us? Why do we separate the insularity of parenthood from any other act of self-absorption?
When I moved to New York, what some would consider a life-altering decision, I emailed an old friend from college to tell her the good news. She had had a baby a couple of months before and at the time I had schlepped my ass to Pottery Barn Kids and used my meager Employment Insurance (I was unemployed at the time) to buy something for said newborn. I never got a thank-you card, nor did I get a reply to my email announcing my own “news.”
A month after I moved and settled myself into NYC I got an email from the dad, cc’ing the mom, with a photo of their baby. For the record it was a pretty cute baby (if I cared about such things); but it was still a baby.
I wrote back a passive aggressive email being like – “so adorbs; too bad I’m already gone!”
“Oh no,” My friend responded, “Our baby wanted to see you!”
I doubt that. Your baby doesn’t want to see me. Your baby probably wanted to eat mushy peas, throw up, and have tummy time. Because that is what babies enjoy. Babies do not enjoy being thrown into the arms of their parents’ random college friends so that they can be petted like a lap dog. Of all the people I wanted to see before I left Toronto there was no baby that made it to Tier 1 (other than my nephews) or Tier 10 for that matter. Why don’t I want to see your baby? Because I am not a friend of your baby.
I understand of course that as a new parent, babies are part of the package. New parents, especially moms, don’t have the luxury of being able to leave their baby at home and trot off to the Room and Board sample sale with me. I get that (I’m not totally heartless).
This does not mean I resent your baby or resent the fact that you have less time to bro-down with me on a weekend. What I resent is the singularity of focus that some new parents bring toward parenthood.
My friend K, herself a mom to two, very smartly said: “A lot of very smart people lose all perspective of reality when they have a baby. They forget about life outside of the baby zone.”
This is not to say that everyone is like this – while home I made dinner plans with a couple of mother friends of mine, both of whom said things like: “Our husbands are babysitting, we want to hang out with you” and truthfully I wanted to hear how they were doing – having a cursory understanding that being a new mother is hard and isolating and weird; and as Meaghan O’Connell noted in NY Magazine, trying to make new mom friends is the worst. While out for dinner a mom friend of mine mocked baby culture: “People tell me my kid is brilliant. I don’t know. He licks the coffee table every morning – what’s so brilliant about that?”
And yet so many new parents only. Want. To. Talk. About. Their. Babies.
When I was home in Toronto I ran into an old acquaintance of mine. She asked how my visit home was: “I’ve been visiting a lot of friends. Meeting a lot of babies.” She smiled and said, “I know. So many babies. Can I tell you something?” she asked, leaning in as if to tell me a secret, “Sometimes I just feel like telling people – I don’t care about your baby.”
I hear you girl.
The truth of the matter is that you don’t want me to care about your baby. Because you are more than your baby. You have ideas and opinions and thoughts beyond feeding times and pumping breast milk. And you should want to talk about more than your baby. Quite frankly, me not caring about your baby is helping you remember the fact that you’re more than just a parent – and that’s a good thing.