Photo by Stocksy
I have a new baby in the house. That’s why I’ve been mostly wearing sweatpants and trying to stick to feeding and pooping schedules. I’ve also been struggling with that sense of isolation that only someone who’s been trapped in her house with a helpless creature—day after endless day—could truly understand.
Bringing home an 8-week-old puppy quickly reminded me of something I’d long forgotten: Keeping babies alive is a pain in the ass. In all my romanticizing of the early years with my children, I zoned out on just how relentless it all was, always another diaper to change or chicken nugget to cook. There’s definitely something to be said for kids that are old enough to heat up their own pizza bagels and then vanish to watch Netflix.
Finn requires me to be pretty faithful to a schedule. If you ask the ladies I used to work with at Athleta, I’m not always amazing at that. Now and then I would forget altogether to show up for a shift, and once I was folding leggings for a full hour before someone realized I wasn’t even on that day. Caring for infants was similarly haphazard. I mean, I never forgot anything terrible like feeding them, but I’d often have a hard time remembering the last time they nursed or slept.
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On the upside, I’ve also been reminded that I’m really good at letting my little charges cry it out. In fact—as long as I know all their needs have been met—I don’t even hear the weeping. When I stick him in his play yard, Finn gives it his all for about five minutes, throwing in a little howling for good measure, then downgrades to some whimpering before resigning himself to his fate. I’ve survived kids on the floor sobbing at Target when I refused to buy a Bionicle, so I can easily wait out puppy drama. My offspring, on the other hand, can barely take 30 seconds. They try to shush him or reassure him that he’s OK. And sometimes they even pick him up and cuddle him. Suckers.
I thought I knew what I was getting into. I figured that since the kids were so hot for me to get a dog, they’d do their share of standing outside at 6 a.m. watching him chew a stick rather than pee. Turns out they were excited for me to get a dog—as opposed to us. And so lately I’ve been harboring a teensy bit of rage, another feeling I haven’t felt in a while. Their dad could come and go as he pleased—the children were my problem. Meals. Permission slips. Earaches. Dentist appointments. These things all tend to fall to moms while dads remain blissfully unaware of all the moving parts that make the family machine run.
Honestly, when I was so pro having four kids all those years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. Maybe none of us do. But this I do know now: I wouldn’t change any of it. Raising babies and puppies is hard work. Waking up at all hours. Loving someone even when they’ve done something less than lovable. It’s the payoff that perpetually draws us back in—the little hands on your cheeks pulling you in for a kiss, the pup asleep at your feet. The alternative, being alone, might work for some but not for me. I’ve learned that I need to be part of a tribe, and there’s always room for one more. Provided he doesn’t poop on my floor.
Amy Byrnes is an essayist and journalist who writes about family, divorce, pop culture and travel. She is currently working on a memoir. You can follow her at amybyrnes.com.