Recently, I’ve found myself judging and critiquing parents. The man at the checkout counter with a screaming toddler (get your kid in line). The lady who is scolding her daughter for getting an A- instead of an A+ (relax, helicopter mom). The mom of the out-of-control son throwing toys at me as I’m trying to sleep on a red-eye (shouldn’t I be able to throw the toy back at him?).
But recently, the idea of having children has become a more imminent reality. I am approaching 30 and just got married last year, and our friends are popping out children left and right. The question of when Zak and I are going to have kids comes up all the time. I’ve started to realize what everyone means about your biological clock “kicking in,” as I feel my body screaming “Get pregnant!”.
I also have worries about how it will affect my life: Will it hurt my career? Do I really want to give up my freedom to travel? Will it be too much of a financial strain ? I just found out the average cost of raising a kid in NYC is over $500,000, which is absolutely insane For further reading: Life Hacker Gothamist . I also wonder if its the best use of my time and energy, versus my personal non-client creative endeavors that I do on nights and weekends? Then I feel guilty and wonder: Is it selfish to worry about my own freedom and career? On the other hand, I argue with myself: Isn't it equally as selfish to bring another child into this overpopulated world?
I even worry that with talks about designer babies being around the corner, maybe I should wait to see whats going to happen For further reading: MIT Technology Review: Engineering the Perfect Baby The Economist: Editing humanity . I don’t want my child to face disadvantages in life if he/she is part of the last wave of us normal humans whom will be inferior to a new super intelligent human species that could develop. Okay I know that last one is going to sound crazy, and I admit all these irrational worries are likely a mask for the deep insecurity I feel:
As I was overthinking all this, it dawned on me that there should be a trial period for parenting. Isn’t it kind of crazy to commit to a very permanent life choice without before trying it out first?
So, I’ve decided to try this out: I am going to fly in my nieces Audrey and Evelyn from California and try to take care of them in New York City with my husband Zak next week. As I have never so much as baby sat a kid for an hour let alone entire days and nights, I am scared shitless as to how this is going to go, or what is going to happen.
Luckily, Audrey and Evelyn have great parents. These girls are just about the cutest and well-raised kids you could hope for. The only thing I’m worried about is that like most children, they’re very high energy. Given that we have no experience taking care of kids, this could be a total disaster.
As the days narrowed in on Audrey and Evelyn’s visit, we got this email from Zak’s brother, about the girls:
This made me go into panic mode. Their visit was only days away and I realized I had no idea what you’re suppose to do to with kids in this city. Where could I let them run around, are there enclosed parks? Are you allowed to bring kids out to all restaurants or only specific ones? What do they eat? Can I take them shopping? Do kids like shopping? Can you take them in cabs and just buckle them in on your lap, or do we need car seats? What the hell does butt wiping mean? Are they still in diapers?! What age do kids stop wearing diapers?
The one thing that most people do agree on is that you need to keep young kids extremely active. I figured that if I have enough plans with them and try to tire them out each day, things should go smoothly. So I spent the next few hours researching online, plotting out activities to do with them when they arrive. I also called my own mom up in desperation, who seemed to have a surprisingly complete list of ideas of what to do with kids in New York, and if I wasn't overwhelmed enough already she ended the call by reminding me how much she can't wait to have grandkids.
So, here are some activities I've planned:
1. Central Park Zoo I had no idea there were giant bears, penguins, and leapords in the middle of Manhattan?! Got to go here.
2. Gazillion Bubble Off-Broadway interactive magic show with bubbles! I'm kind of excited about this myself.
3. Remote Contorl Boat Pond I’ve seen these in movies and secretly always wanted to do this but you know, I’m not a kid… now I have an excuse!
6. Alice’s Tea Cup An Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant near central park for lunch
4. Sea Glass Carousel A carousel of fish in Battery Park
5. Sailboat Cruise to Statue of Liberty Because tickets to the actual statue of Liberty are sold out three months in advance, the little girls can’t wait to “meet the statue of liberty"
6. Eloise High Tea at the Plaza This looks so fun! Fancy tea in an all pink Eloise themed room
7. Children’s Museum of the Arts Hands-on arts experiences for kids, classes, performances & exhibitions
8. Ninja New York Sushi and Japanese food served by…. Ninjas!
9. The Met I believe dinosaur fossils are cool for all ages?!
To see the full "Kids in New York" google map I made, click here.
A few things I learned from my trial experiment in parenting:
Okay, sort of kidding about the last one, but it’s been a seriously tough week. The girls left me with a flu, sleep deprivation, and a very deep worry that maybe I would be a bad mother.
What happened? Most of the plans I had outlined in the last post were thrown out the window as the realities of taking care of the girls’ needs in the moment conflicted with all my over-ambitious schedules. They required constant attention: chasing them when they’d run away from us or hide from us, carrying them down subway stairs, getting them to eat three meals a day, keeping them excited about activities for more than five minutes… The list goes on and on.
Getting them to do things they didn’t want to do, like sit quietly for five minutes, required constant bartering and bribery, which is likely not a smart method but Zak and I didn’t know any other way to control them. We were totally desperate. The briberies we made usually involved some sort of food: If they were good, they could have chocolate, donuts, or candy. This worked temporarily but made things worse late at night when they were sugar high and opted to watch the same episode of Dinosaur Train on repeat instead of sleeping. I realized after that in our haze of sleep-deprivation and being totally overwhelmed, we had gone three days without showering them or making them brush their teeth! I was extremely naive to think I’d be good at this whole parenting thing. I was making mistakes every other moment.
To be fair, we also had a lot of fun. I can’t remember the last time I smiled so much. They constantly made me laugh: Picture the world’s cutest four-year-old shouting “I GOTTA GO POOPIE DO YOU” at a goat in Central Park Zoo, or them bragging to every random stranger they met about going to see the Statue of Liberty. It also made me feel like a kid again, skipping on the street with them, eating candy, riding all over Manhattan in a magic dinosaur time machine (that’s what they thought the subway was). And at night, when they were too scared to sleep alone and wanted me to hug them until they fell asleep, my heart melted. It felt really nice to be needed. And after they left, I found the silence and calm I normally love to be lonely. I missed them.
I thought this trial period would help me learn whether I want kids or not, but I am more conflicted than ever. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but the constant demand of physical and mental energy that went into keeping the kids entertained, happy, fed, safe, and clean was way more than I expected. So there are days now where I feel sure I don't want kids as it's clear to me now that there is no way I could manage a child without compromising my career and lifestyle in a major way, and on top of how this experiment proved that I’m not very good at taking care of kids!
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this experiment is a deep respect for parents everywhere. It made me think of my own childhood. I pulled out my photo albums from when I was a kid, and suddenly all the photos took on a different meaning. Seeing photos of my family out at restaurants, my mom cooking for me, my family on vacations, at the park, visiting the zoo, those ridiculous amazing outfits my mom dressed me in: I now have an appreciation of how much time, money, and energy went into each of these moments. It made me feel a little guilty for my lack of appreciation.
I called up my mom afterwards and asked her how she did it. How did she clean my butt, chase me around, and then put up with my craziness during all my teenage years when I'd yell "I hate you", and still love me incessantly? She said the unconditional love of a mother is something you can’t explain. That when I have a kid of my own, I’ll just know it.
That might be a few more years away (if ever!). However, I do know that next time a child is throwing a tantrum, tossing toys, eating too much candy, or smelling like they haven’t bathed, I will never again judge their parents. And I’ll never again take my own for granted.
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