06-19-13 - Baby Blues

I had my first real day of "baby blues" a few days ago.

Baby gets these bouts of colic that I believe are mostly from gas. When she has it, she can't stand to be horizontal, and really just wants to be held over the shoulder and patted. That's okay for a while, but sometimes it goes for an hour, which is exhausting. Most days it only happens once, but rarely it occurs over and over throughout the day.

We had a pretty bad day, and I found myself just losing my mind. You get so hungry and tired, but you can't take a break, and you start thinking "shut the fuck up! WTF do you want god dammit". In a real bad moment I started getting these weird impulses "like maybe if I throw the baby on the floor it will shut up" or "maybe shaking a baby isn't that bad". And then you just have to go whoah, keep it together, calm down.

It made me realize that if I was somewhat more irresponsible, more prone to rage, or less in control of myself, I easily could shake a baby, or one of those awful other things that people do (just lock it in a room to cry itself out, or give it booze, or whatever).

In fact it made me sort of understand those moms that kill their children, or the dads that go out for cigarettes and never come back. There's this feeling that these fucking kids are ruining your life and you can't do anything about it and you're going to be stuck with them for the next 18 years and there's this sudden feeling of helpless desperation. I can sympathize with the impulse, but of course that's where being an adult with some self control comes in.

I'm in awe of the women who had to take care of their kids all alone, with no help from their selfish misogynist husband that wouldn't touch a diaper or cook for the family, and appalled at those husbands.

Part of my thinking in having a baby was that I understood perfectly well that I would lose going out to eat, and travel, and pretty much every activity out of the house. And I'm okay with that, because those things fucking suck anyway. I don't understand what old single people do. I feel like I've done pretty much everything (*) there is to do in this life, and I don't need to keep doing the same shit over and over. I'm fine with losing all of that. But I do miss the ability to just have a quiet moment for myself, especially at the end of the day when I'm exhausted and frazzled.

(* = obviously not actually everything, nor everything that I want to do; what I have done is everything that's *easy* to do, which is all that normal people ever do. Things like going to restuarants and driving cars on race tracks and skydiving and travel and watching movies - how fucking boring and pathetic is all of that, don't you have any creativity? That's just the easy default consumerist way to waste your time - pay some money and get some superficial kicks. The actual good activities are things like : make your own internet comedy, assassinate an evil politician, find sponsors and be a motorcycle racer, go horseback camping on your own across the Russian steppe. But everyone's just too lazy and boring to ever do anything good with their life, and so am I. So just have a kid.)

One thing I've realized is that a good parent is never annoyed; a good parent never says "not now". You need to be always able to drop what you're doing, or get up off the couch and help your kid. I've always been the kind of person who has moments where I'll socialize and other times when I really want to be left alone, and if someone tries to talk to me during the left alone time I'm really pissy at that them. That's not okay for a parent, you can't be pissy at your kid because they talked to you when you're tired or hungry or trying to work.

(I suppose this is related to a realization I had some time ago, which is if you believe you are a nice person except when you are tired or hungry or cranky or busy or having a bad day - you're not a nice person. Your character is how you behave in the difficult times.)

A good parent doesn't only love their children when they're behaving well. If you only like them when they're being quiet and happy, you're an asshole. A good dad has unconditional love that is not taken away when they misbehave; if anything you need to have more kindness in your heart when they're bad, because that's when they need it from you the most. Don't be a pissy little selfish whiney baby who's like "whaah the kids are being jerks to me so I'm justified in yelling at them or just running away to my office". You're the adult, you're supposed to be the bigger person than them. (in fact a good adult treats other adults the same way)

I really miss sleeping. I'm getting way more sleep than my wife, but it's still just not enough; I suppose the draining hard work of caring for baby is part of the problem, I really need even more sleep than usual and instead I'm getting less. I can feel my brain is not working the way it used to, and that feels horrible.

Maybe most of all I miss being able to have a moment where I know I don't have to do anything. So I can finally stop working, so I can let down my guard and just relax and know I'm not going to get have to start up the diesel engine again. I may never have that again in my life, because kid issues can occur at any time; you can't knock yourself out on heroin anymore; you never get that time when you know you can just shut off your brain. Parents have to be always-on, and that's just exhausting.

I guess one of the problems for me is that I give my all to work; I don't stop working for the day until I feel completely drained, like I have nothing left, and then I just can't deal with any more tasks, I need to crash, be left alone. That's been a shitty thing for me to do my whole life; it's been shitty to my girlfriends and wife that I get home from work and just have no energy for them, but perhaps even more so it's been shitty to myself. Even morons (smarter than me) who work retail or whatever know that you shouldn't give all your energy to the stupid job; of course you should be texting your friends while you work, planning your night's activities, and when you get off work you shouldn't be drained, you should have energy to hang out, be nice to people, have a life outside of work. Anyway, when there's a whole mess of baby work to be done when you get off work; you really can't afford to work 'til you drop.

In other shitty-but-true news : if I was hiring programmers, and I had the choice between a dad and a single guy, I would not hire the dad. They would have to be massively better to compensate for the drain of children. Only young single guys will stupidly throw away their lives on work the way a manager really wants.


Hook said...

" if I was hiring programmers, and I had the choice between a dad and a single guy, I would not hire the dad. They would have to be massively better to compensate for the drain of children. Only young single guys will stupidly throw away their lives on work the way a manager really wants."

That's a bit simplistic and I feel inaccurate. 1995 Brian worked 2x the hours of 2013 Brian and probably accomplished 1/10th the work (not an exaggeration).

On top of that, the older you get the more aware you are (hopefully) of your shitty younger habits, so you duck those, which allows you to spend time with your kids or outside hobbies or whatever.

For the specific case of hyper-aspy dude that wants to do nothing but work on code, then yeah, the kid thing can interfere with that, but my point is that the young single vs. older married parent doesn't have as much correlation to productivity as I think we'd like to believe.

super friend said...

>> One thing I've realized is that a good parent is never annoyed; a good parent never says "not now". You need to be always able to drop what you're doing, or get up off the couch and help your kid.

Let us know how that went in a couple of years :).

cbloom said...

@sf - oh, I fully intend to be a bad parent. I'm super prone to that having a window where I want to interact and the rest of the time being in "leave me alone" mode.

But I do think dads in particular are prone to getting fed up and hiding away in their office, or just saying "not now" when their kid wants to show off their drawing or whatever, and that's pretty bad and something that should be avoided.

Aaron said...

I'm 6 and 3 years in and I still drop everything when my kids need help. Of course, defining need is the key element here. And proper self defense. If it's gonna drive you crazy to help, you shouldn't do it (happy parent = good parent, pretty much whatever it takes to keep yourself happy).

Brian, you would be more productive as your current evolved/faster self without family distraction though, right? Assuming you could actually maintain an interest in working without 'family distraction' :)

I don't find difficulty in loving my kids when they're being bad. The hardest part for me is loving my kids when they don't meet my expectations. Jesus kid you should be able to do X without whining like crazy! You're 6! Dammit 3 month old baby, you should be able to sleep though the night, WHY ARE YOU SCREAMING AT ME?!?!?

For me it is *all* about expectation. This might be why single/poor moms can make it work. They have no expectation at all from the world. They're so beaten down from a horrible existence up to that point that the baby is just another brick in the wall.

That baby-rage thing is pretty likely to get worse before it gets better. Gird your loins for sleep training (have you started yet? You're gonna ignore the advice to start early like we did, aren't ya :)). Practice punching a pillow. Practice having lots of hope but zero expectation. More hope, less expectation is my mantra for parenting and life success these days.

Oh and last point, if you want time to yourself, you need help. If you want to be happy, get a reliable nanny/babysitter/friend who can take the kid for big blocks of time and give you guys the time you need (no, having mommy do it isn't enough... you'll just feel guilty and she'll be tired, which sucks in it's own right, but then you get no rest either). There is absolutely no better money spent than on giving yourself time. You'll love your kid more, too. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, etc etc.

Jonathan said...

'One thing I've realized is that a good parent is never annoyed; a good parent never says "not now".'

Humans get annoyed. Applying your own standards from this post, it depends on how you act when you are annoyed. Recognize your annoyance, identify what is annoying you, work out what you are going to do about it. Ask for help - there's no extra points scored for toughing it out alone.

And telling a child "not now", "wait", or even "no" is fine - depending on the circumstances.

(imho, "no" is better than "not now" - honesty and directness are good things. "Not now" is often "I don't want to say no, but I don't want to admit to my motivations" - say "no" and know why.)

To take your statement to an extreme, a parent who puts the child as the central defining and controlling point of their life is not acting in the best interest of the parent or the child.

Children are annoying, just like any other human being. Don't expect to not be annoyed.

(all assertions derive from my own experiences of parenting, living and working with other human beings)

super friend said...

Jonathan makes some great points, kind of what I was getting at in my admittedly kind of flip offhand comment.

It took me a while to realize that I was trying to attend to my children's every need whenever they asked, and it was making me annoyed at them but I bottled it up. And also they were getting too used to being waited on hand and foot. I did this because I thought in some way it was being part of a good parent - tending to your child's needs, and so on...but taken to an extreme it is detrimental. So I have been trying to learn (and teach them) to say no, get them to wait a minute, patience...

SteveP said...

Having raised 4 kids I can tell you that not getting enough sleep does pass fairly quickly. However, if your expecting to get more work done at home when they get a little older, forget it. There is no way you can not (want to) be interrupted when your little girl enters the room while your working. You begin to realize what's important in this world and what's not. Kids change your life for the better.

SteveP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cbloom said...

"However, if your expecting to get more work done at home when they get a little older, forget it"

Yeah, I'm foreseeing this and am worried.

sylvain-v said...

Haha, +1 to super friend, Aaron Jonathan and co: CB is discovering what being a parent means, and today's post make him more vulnerable thus more human than the previous "Marsupial Sapiens" post.

Charles, don't worry, there's no "good father" model, whatever you do will be the best your daughter will get.

Btw, "baby blues" is mostly an expression intended for mothers, not for you Charles. Mothers usually spend twice to 10x more time as we father do with babies, and in the end they lose their mind spending all their time with the little one and speaking/thinking baby-like. What you're experiencing is probably nothing compared to what your wife will.

Don't worry, it will last only... up to kinder garden or primary school. Then it will be replaced by a different form of needs and stress. Not better, just different :(
Oh well that's parents' life. And in the end, it's a nice life too ; not in the same way as before, still nice.

Oh yes btw, forget about working from home for a while. It gets doable again when they get older (3+ years?) if you have enough energy after getting them to sleep *and* after having an evening couple-life with your wife. Very important not to forget about the couple, which is still the source from which the baby came.

cbloom said...

"Btw, "baby blues" is mostly an expression intended for mothers, not for you Charles"

Yeah, you're right, I should have used a different term. I only had one day where it just all added up and I couldn't handle it. She has that level of stress and exhaustion almost every day. And I don't have to deal with any hormonal issues or etc.

cbloom said...

BTW on the productivity issue -

I realized there is a big plus in employees with kids - they have much better perspective about what's important, and don't flip out so much about stupid shit.

Young single nerds tend to just be way too high strung and putting way too much energy into getting work "right", which is good in some ways (they're giving the job lots of passion), but also really annoying because every single architecture issue is the end of the world to them, and anything that's slightly inefficient is "horrible" and so on.

Older guys with kids are much more zen; for one thing, they're exhausted; for another, the job just isn't that important, but also I think they see with kids that your life can get all torn up and things can be totally a mess and done all wrong and you know what it turns out fine in the end.

And that's a lot nicer to work with.

cbloom said...

Bleh had to delete the dupe post cuz my blog poster doesn't like dupes.

Assen said...

Also: I highly recommend amortizing your pain and suffering over a few more children. The additional burden is not linear, while the joy is. I regret stopping at two.

old rants