When I announced, eight months pregnant, at my baby shower that (1) I planned to be back in my bikini by summer, (2) I intended to tag along with my spouse on a planned work trip to China with a nine-month-old, travel-loving baby in tow and (3) I planned to never, ever appear in public, even during the first six post-partum weeks, with unbrushed teeth or spit-up on my shoulder, the parents in the room exchanged knowing glances and let out condescending chuckles—those insulting little snickers that make you feel like, well, a naïve little baby.
It was the same response I received anytime I’d inform my friends and family with children that I would never have one of those houses that screamed, "KIDS LIVE HERE!" You know the houses I’m talking about—the ones with bikes strewn about the lawn and gigantic plastic slides in the living room, matchbox cars constantly underfoot and headless, naked Barbie dolls littering the floors. It’s not that I think kids and their accoutrements shouldn’t be seen or heard, it’s just that when I was growing up, the whole house was not a playroom. In fact, there was no "playroom." There was a bedroom for me and I played there. And I think that taught me valuable lessons—lessons such as, "Lego sets and games of it-tag do not belong in the dining room."
Apparently, though, I have some selective memory loss on the one about me and my toys being banished to my bedroom, because my mother is one of those condescending chucklers. And what I have discovered now that I’m a wise old parent of seven months is that you and your house will scream "A KID HAS INVADED MY LIFE" no matter how much you try and clean up the mess and no matter how much you try and match all the large baby equipment to your furnishings (which I did—matching swing, Pack n’ Play and bouncy seat all in the baby-stimulating shade of muted tan). Your child’s presence will be evident in every Cheerio stuck to the sides of the kitchen chairs (and the sides of the couch, and the sides of dogs’ ears and the lamp shade—wait, how did it get there?). And it will be evident in every primary-color-adorned, red-light-flashing, alphabet-singing Baby Einstein toy resting in the muted tan Pack n’ Play. You will be too exhausted and too caught up in baby’s giggles to care that her exersaucer clashes with your mid-century modern design.
I will continue, naïve new parent that I am, to try and confine the biggest messes and the loudest, most obnoxiously colored toys to my daughter’s bedroom. I have resigned myself, however, that my home’s every pore will ooze baby just as every corner oozes the scent and hairballs of my smelly old dog no matter how much carpet freshener I sprinkle or how many times I vacuum.
And in case you were wondering, the bikini has been banished to the darkest corners of my bedroom closet, likely never to be seen or heard from again; I have appeared in public numerous times, just yesterday in fact, with unbrushed teeth, unwashed hair and two-day-old spit-up on my shoulder. And a 13-hour flight to China with a crawling nine-month-old? [Insert condescending chuckle here.]