When my first son was born I couldn’t even define “child rearing.” My wife had spent months reading “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” I, on the other hand, had spent months in basic denial that this kid was going to change my life much at all. I really didn’t know what to expect about child rearing when my son was born.
In my head, he was going to slot right in like a member of the team.
Sure, there would be diapers. I had to get a crib of course. But basically, if you asked me before my son was born to say what parenting was going to be like, he would define child rearing as basically just keeping the kid alive while he went about his daily business.
Well, it’s not quite like that. I’ve discovered a lot of things that I wasn’t expecting about child rearing.
Here are seven major things about having a child I never considered before having a child.
1. The Cost of Child Rearing is Insane
I didn’t have any conception of how much it would cost to raise a child. They don’t really tell you this kind of thing at the birth class. Again, sure, there are diapers. You figure there are going to be some ancillary expenses.
And then there’s the food. So much food.
But shoot. Raising a kid in modern American middle-class suburbia comes with all kinds of expenses. There are the shoes, the bikes, the clothes, the toys, the play dates, the amusement park tickets, and every other little thing. Some of these activities and expenses are optional obviously. But there is a lot of pressure to keep up with the Joneses.
Just taking the family to Disneyland is over $1000. It’s probably how Disney could buy Indiana Jones.
Oh, and this is something that has just gotten ridiculous. It costs nearly $400 a month to send my kid to preschool two days a week for four hours.
Preschool is going to cost you more than college and you only have a couple of years to save up for it. If you’re sending your kid to daycare right away because, you know, you have a job and shit, that cost is going to take an enormous chunk of your take-home pay.
But don’t worry, it’s worth it to work just to pay for someone else to watch your kid so you can work… wait a second…
Kids are non-fragile, but they’re also pretty dumb. That’s not true. They’re curious. When you define child rearing you kind of define it as keeping the kid alive. How hard should that be?
Well, babies, toddlers, and I’m finding out kindergarten age kids have no sense of self-preservation. They’d run into a fire if they could just to see what it felt like. Who does that? Oh yeah, the little apes you’ve fallen in love with and are charged with keeping alive.
There are so many things to buy to baby proof the modern home. You don’t need all of them, but if you don’t want to spend every second keeping an eye on them you’d better invest in some serious babyproofing. Who knew a kid would jump head first off the couch? Why would they do that?
No one tells you that. God damned nobody.
3. The Early Torture
I didn’t expect the early torture when I became a dad. You instantly fall in love with the child. It’s biological. You could just sit there and stare at them all day.
That’s good, because you’re going to. Those kids need constant attention. They’re either always dirty, hungry, sleepy, or something. They need attention at all hours of the day and night. I don’t know how people keep it together when they’re single.
The first two days of having our son in the house made me appreciate how hard it must be for a single parent. Those folks get no breaks. Man, our society sucks when it comes to supporting parents.
4. Child Rearing Takes Time
Time. There’s never enough of it when you’re raising kids. You’ve probably thought about the doctor’s appointments and the dance classes. But the thing that floored me was the unexpected stuff.
The times when your child needs to go to the doctor on a workday. The times when they’re sick for days at a time. When your kid is sick nothing else in the world matters to you. It becomes really hard to hold it together with that boss who doesn’t want to let you off to take care of them.
But the medical establishment is pretty crummy at this too. They tend to want to work 9 – 5 for regular stuff (although some doctors do go out of their way to keep different hours). Well… I need to work those hours too.
So every appointment you make for your kid is going to come at the expense of your work time. I really don’t know how people who work full time without a support network make it happen.
5. The Little Things That Make You Smile
You can read all about it in the books that define child rearing. They’ll tell you that your little one will bring you a joy you have never experienced. Well, they’re right.
But it’s also going to blindside you.
Sometimes, usually after some huge explosive meltdown of a tantrum, my kids will do something that just makes me giggle like Nick Offerman. With my older one, I’ve been surprised by the questions he asks and how he thinks the world works. The sun keeps us warm because it’s on fire, you see, but it goes out on a cloudy day.
With my littlest one, it’s how he tries to communicate. When you hit just the right offer for him, Cheerios let’s say, he lights up and smiles so wide I think he’s going to crack his face.
You can’t get that kind of smile on command. It has to be in the moment. I never expected to treasure those moments as much as I do.
6. Child Rearing Equals No Baby Clothes
You don’t need to buy baby clothes.
Those people around you love to buy your baby clothes. Plus, babies don’t need that many clothes. When my son came home from the hospital he lived in a diaper for three months because it was summer in San Diego.
Every cute little outfit from 0 – 3 months was a total waste. Of course, the other one was born in the winter, so he’s been wearing a lot more clothes. But here’s the deal. They’re going to dirty so many things so fast that you’re going to get them into a clothes routine.
Eventually, they’ll probably be wearing straight out of the basket more often than not. What that means, and what I didn’t expect, was that your kid’s drawers full of cute clothes are going to live there and never get worn. Maybe some parents are better than I am at holding it all together, but my kids wear the same 5 – 10 things over and over again. So do I.
I can only do so much laundry, folding, and putting away and hold down my awesome job. Something has to give. You can readily expect it’s going to be baby clothes.
7. You Can’t Work From Home (as well)
Okay, you can. Sort of. The kid will probably nap at some point. So you can squeeze those important things you need to do into those nap periods when they’re relatively safe.
But the problem that I’ve found, that they never tell you when you’re trying to define child rearing problems, is that that time is so very precious. When they’re babies, you’re going to want to nap during that time to make up for all the sleep you’ve lost.
But that’s also the time to do any kind of maintenance on the house that might require dangerous tools. Plus it’s the time you can, you know, shower and shit. If you can work quickly, you can take advantage of that nap to get some stuff done. But lots of jobs don’t work like that.
My job, for instance, has me grading student papers from home.
Well, most of their waking time my kids don’t allow me the attention I need to critically evaluate a student’s work. I’ve found recently that my life is far less stressful if I just worry about housework on the days where I have the kids.
I try to keep work at work, and home at home. Unfortunately, my workplace isn’t thrilled with that arrangement when I’m unavailable during the week. Students don’t like to wait when they have a midterm coming up.
So yes, you can work from home to a point. But those kids need you pappy. You need to make sure you’re there for them. Speaking of which, my kid is awake…
While I’m tending to the latest child rearing disaster rearing its adorable head, what are some of the things you found out about being a new parent that caught you completely off guard?