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It’s OK to Refer to Babies as “Work”

In my professional life I work as an Enrollment Counselor for a child care & preschool organization.  For the past 6 years I have had the privilege of connecting with many parents of newborns who are exploring their option for child care.  And even though I am years removed from infant parenting, I can still relate to those times well. Recently I was corresponding with an adorably sweet new mom and she said “babies are a lot of work considering (he) just eats, sleeps and poops.” 

In 6 years working in the child care field, I feel like this was one of the most honest and true assessments I’ve ever received from a new parent.  I speak/email with new parents all the time and most parents give the standard “It’s amazing!” or “I’ve never been so happy.”  Undoubtedly many new parents are over the moon – rightfully so and Mazel Tov if you’re one of them.  But….not all new parents necessarily experience that insta-glow – and they have to know that this is perfectly normal.  It shouldn’t be shameful to share your feelings and it makes me sad that new parents feel that they have to do so.  It’s not always as we see it portrayed on television and movies –  or even by that perfect neighbor down the street.  As incredible as parenthood is, there are times that are downright rough. But, it’s what we all signed up for, right?  There’s no turning back now – and of course, we don’t really want to.

Yes, Melissa, we’ve heard your soapbox before… Fine, fine, let’s get back the adorably sweet new mom….some out there may be mortified that she referred to caring for her as  baby as “work.”  How dare she equate a new baby to work?  First off, I don’t necessarily think that this new mother felt that caring for her new son was actually “a job.”  But let’s face it – it’s not all fun and games (hmm…actually sort of like a job?  Just don’t tell my boss that I said that!)  Secondly though, besides the aforementioned eating, sleeping and pooping, there truly is an incredible amount of responsibility that comes along with caring for a newborn – and some of it is not particularly pretty.  Think about all the tasks that go into those 3 little italicized words.  And PS – let’s not forget all of the other adulting that we handled prior to the little one joining our family – these activities do not go away.  Someday we can pass some of it off to the little one – but it’ll be years and years until we get there.

So that word – WORK.  The basic definition is a physical or mental effort or activity directed toward achieving a purpose or result – or – to be engaged in physical or mental activity in order to achieve a purpose or result. A little technical, but maybe this isn’t the worse word to use when referring to caring for a newborn? (I mean, it’s not like when people compare a father taking care of his baby as babysitting!)

Think about work – actually, let’s use starting a new job as an example. I first started working for this child care organization back in 2010 and everything about working in this field was new to me. I had recently left a job in Corporate Human Resources after 16 years. And starting over was more challenging than I thought it would be. I was 40 years old and I felt like such a newbie!  I recall feeling like “I should know this stuff” or “How could I not figure this out?” about the most of basics things.  It was slightly frustrating and I questioned myself often.

Well, of course I didn’t know – how could I?  This was a new environment, with new responsibilities, new colleagues, new clients, etc. I had never done this stuff before.  I had to rely on others for help.  Akin to being a new parent – you’ve never done it before and it has to be acceptable to ask for a little assistance from your friends, family, and tribe.   And what about those companies that offer little training and you have to learn on the fly?  Not dissimilar to having a new baby for the first time.   Both situations offer a “learning curve.”  You aren’t going to always know how/what to do – and you may have to figure it out “on the job.”

Have I convinced you yet?  Still not buying this reference of “babies” and “work,” eh?   How’s this then –  let’s remember that word “work” does have multiple meanings…one I found online is “an artistic creation.” A beautiful, amazing, fantastic, life-changing creation.

Ta-da!  THIS sounds about right….making the word “work” a completely acceptable description for a new baby.  So when someone tells you that you’re doing a good job as a new parent – accept it as it is. And believe it – because you are.

And that little one is surely going to give you straight A’s on your performance review.

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