This is part of a series of blog posts under the title Fatherhood Diaries, which will be published here every Monday (for the foreseeable future). Enjoy.
The birth of our baby has tested our friendships. Though some didn’t make it to the other side, our closest friendships are now stronger. Admittedly talking about baby-related topics — his naps, his appetite and you-know-what — can get really boring exceedingly fast and so does refusing most invitations that involve us getting out of the house. Being among the first of our friends to have children immediately rendered our lives incompatible with theirs.
The joint life that Sunshine and I led over the past decade, and up until a couple of years ago, was that of the academic nomad. We moved cities every couple of years, from posh places like Cambridge and central London to industrial cities like Coventry and Southampton. Each time we had to identify the nearest supermarket, petrol station, the nicest places to eat and have coffee and the most likely and least irritating persons to hang out with. All those who have lived a life like ours know full well that having someone to share dinner and a drink is not something to be taken for granted. The upside is that we now have friends all over the world. The downside is that we are more afraid of loneliness than the next person.
Though irrational, it was not surprising that prior to the birth of our son we were anxious whether parenthood would suddenly render us friend-less. And it was not an outlandish fear; one day we were at a pub celebrating a friend’s birthday and the next day (literally) we became parents and couldn’t leave the house. Our lives changed overnight and our lifestyles were no longer compatible with those of our friends who for the most part work day and night and then go out and have fun (some even party like undergrads). These thoughts were with us until the very moment Sunshine went into labour.
Then Sunshine’s waters broke and we rushed to the hospital and into the delivery room. I sent a group WhatsApp message informing out friends that we would soon be parents. Their response was overwhelming starting with those initial witty messages that I was reading to Sunshine while we were in the delivery room. Once our son was born, our friends started visiting us at the maternity clinic, bringing coffees, meals and numerous bars of chocolate. What was most surprising was the interest that they showed for the new baby, which was not far off from what we were feeling. I was surprised, as I have always been rather indifferent in most things baby related, and now here they were, my friends being excited and engaged with the baby nearly as much as we were.
Once we got home they were visiting and calling us daily. When they visited they didn’t need to be entertained; rather, they were helpful and made us feel comfortable enough to do what was needed to be done — to have a shower, take a nap and you-know-what. They were looking out for us, making sure to distract and make Sunshine laugh and relax and also talk to me about non-baby related matters; whatever was needed in order to manage our cabin fever. As time passed and we started getting comfortable with the baby they got out of their way to organize activities at times and places convenient to us and the baby.
Of course, not all of our friends reacted the same way. Some just assumed that we’ve entered such a different phase in our lives that we would no longer be interested in hanging out with them. Others started treating us like pensioners who are no longer interested in having fun. Others, still, thought a good idea to go on lengthy monologues about various negative stereotypes of parenthood (i.e. that our lives were over; that we will not have a moment of peace for the next 20 years; and so on).
No hard feelings. It is hardships that mold relationships, though in this case this is not quite accurate. Taking care of a newborn and then an infant is indeed one of the most challenging endeavors we’ve embarked upon but at the same time one that is very rewarding. Sharing life’s joys and difficulties is the essence of human relationships. Those who’ve shared ours, and thankfully they were many, have solidified our bonds and their places in our hearts and lives for many years to come.