One day, my wife gave birth to our son, and suddenly we were parents…
American maternity leave is not as generous as British maternity leave, so just six weeks after the birth, my wife returned to full-time work, leaving me at home with our new baby. This wasn’t a complete surprise; we had discussed what we’d do if we had children, and mutually agreed that my wife would continue to work full-time, in a job that she loved, while I quit my job and stayed home.
Becoming a parent is life-changing; suddenly there is this helpless little stranger, who you have instantly fallen in love with, living in your home and needing all your attention, all the time. It is truly magical. It is truly exhausting. At times, it is truly disgusting. In those first few weeks alone with the baby, I would set up camp on the couch; a stack of snacks on the coffee table, some DVDs, a pillow on my lap for the baby to sleep on, and everything I needed within arm’s reach. The baby would sleep, wake up to be fed and changed, then sleep some more.
There was a small group of local parents that got together once a week for breakfast, followed by a visit to the library, to attend storytime. Meeting with this group of parents became my main (sometimes only) social event of the week. I first joined them when our son was six weeks old.
I carried my sleeping baby into the children’s area and sat down with a large crowd of other parents and their young children. An enthusiastic, smiling, happy lady greeted us with a song; “Welcome, welcome, it’s time for a story! Welcome, welcome, we’re glad to be here!” I appeared to be the only person in the room who didn’t know this song, so I looked on, bewildered, as everyone else sang along and did all the sign language actions.
I felt like I had inadvertently wandered into an episode of Sesame Street, and expected Big Bird to come striding into view at any moment.
I felt very British and out-of-place; the sleep deprived part of me was thinking what am I doing here? My baby boy is six weeks old and asleep, I could be asleep too. But the sane part of me, the part of my brain that was desperate for some social interaction, was thrilled that I was there, because this was a new experience, and there were all these other parents to talk to, and how wonderful was it to be a part of something like this instead of being home alone? Like the song said, I really was glad to be here.