eirinie carson on community parenting
I am holding a baby in one arm, pressed against my hip as her rather large head (85th percentile) wobbles precariously, causing me to have to jostle her body to prevent her from back bending out of my grip. With the other arm I am measuring coffee into a pot, as my uncle enters the room. He asks if I have seen a particular comedian’s stand-up show. I have not. You must, he insists. He is so funny. The man uses the R-word three times. He is not funny.
Neither is the fact that I have been home with my family for four days, bringing my 7-month-old child with me, and have been either wiping a tiny butt or making dinner for five every second of every day. I miss my friends, the other people in my life with small children who make the trenches of parenting and caring for young kids feel more like a group task than a solo slog.
Solo parenting, blessedly, is not my everyday reality. My husband and I are brilliant co-parents, but on this particular trip back to my grandparents’ farm in the southwest of England, it is just me and the baby. I had expected that, seeing as I was to be surrounded by family for the duration of my trip, I would have plenty of arms to dump my precious babe into, plenty of people gagging to lower themselves onto the floor and have a wooden spoon repeatedly shoved into their face. I was naïve. I forgot that if you want solidarity and wordless help from people surrounding you, you’d better make sure they are also parents of young children.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have many friends who do not have kids who are considerate and empathetic and don’t suggest late night cocktails but rather, bring a bottle over to where I am and drink half of it whilst I try to put the baby down. But for the most part, they don’t get it. They arrange hangs with me that involve a Cirque du Soleil level of acrobatics to work into my day with a very tiny baby: Can I meet you across town precisely at baby’s bedtime, then you can just put her down later? Not if I want any sleep tonight, no. Can’t you just bring her along to that very loud and crowded comedy show? That will be fun for neither her nor me.
Even some fellow parents are no help, because if their children are above the age of about eight, they have completely forgotten the logistics and unique stressors of having very young kids. And I don’t resent them for this — I too hope to one day have complete and utter amnesia about the time I spent four hours pacing on a red eye flight with a teeny howling baby strapped to my chest trying to ignore the waves of hate coming off my fellow passengers. Or the time my eldest had a brief but very intense stomach flu that she passed on to both me and my husband and we all used the bathroom like a kind of grim carousel. Everyone should get to forget the gnarliest parts of parenthood so we can one day look back on our rosy little memories of chubby baby thighs and handmade macaroni photo frames, but that forgetfulness is exactly why it is often hard to find an ally in a parent of older children.
No, young kids are a unique type of trial — rewarding and magical and loving, yes but also a slog, a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other experience that can only be lightened and aided by parents or carers in the exact same spot.
This realisation comes to me as my uncle queues up yet another white male comedian for me to pretend to watch as I do eight other things and my mother explains that my baby is fussy because she isn’t having enough carbohydrates, she needs more carbohydrates to sleep better, Eirinie. This room is not where I will find my fellow co-parents. Those people are out there, waiting for me in play parks with a caffeinated beverage for me and one for them, those people are in my house, shoving our children in front of a show, and pouring me a glass of wine. Those people are texting me back at 3am when I am all but ready to put my whole baby in the bin, letting me know I am not alone, that they’re in it too. The next time you find yourself struggling in a house full of people who seem oblivious to what you’re going through, remember us.
We’re out there.
Eirinie Carson is a writer, model, former Londoner, and mom of two based in California. A regular contributor for MOTHER, her first book "The Dead Are Gods" is available for preorder, and she is currently working on her second book covering all things postpartum. Follow @eirinieeee in Instagram or check out more of her writing over on her website.