Wednesday, April 28, 2010

babies should come with iPods

My iPod saved my life.

No, it didn't stop a deadly bullet or buy off a would-be attacker. It wasn't quite as immediate as that.

But it was equally as dire: my iPod Touch saved my sanity.

You see, I stay at home with my three young children. This is a job that simultaneously fulfills and frustrates me. You've heard about it, I'm sure: there are the sunny days, the smiles, the ice cream dripping off sticky chins. And then there are those days, filled with
rip-your-hair-out-swallow-your-screams-I-haven't-even-showered-yet frustration.

That kind of stuff was in the job description, though – I read the fine print. Deep breathing carries me through a lot of those days. That, and sneaking hits off a chocolate bar.

But what I didn't expect was the isolation, the alienation. That in a house often so loud, so filled with activity, I can feel so alone.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. And that traditionally and in other cultures, child care rarely rested in one or two sets of hands – extended families lived and worked together, spreading the stress around, supporting each other, knitting themselves into a cozy community.

But here and now, many of us surround our nuclear families by moats of hundreds of miles or maybe just too-busy lives that separate us from our extended families. And so we raise our children in personal microcosms.

Of course, technology connects us. Around here, our parents are always just a phone call away. We can see our siblings on weekends with little advance planning and car time. And the internet connects all of us in seconds as we share pictures and stories via email.

But what about when I paced the floor with a crying newborn, ears full, skin crawling? Or in the middle of night when I'm up for the umpteenth time to nurse the baby and the house is quiet and my mind is bursting out of my skull? When I only have one hand or one second but really need a connection?

That's when the iPod saves me.

It saves me when I email my sister in the middle of the night: Up.Every.Hour. And a message back: Me, too. Solidarity. Connection.

It saves me when I check Facebook while changing a diaper and ignoring a tantrum and see that Laura from high school is having a similarly trying day. Solidarity. Connection.

It saves me when I'm supervising lunch [Please eat your food. Please eat your food. PLEASE eat your FOOD] and read the blog post from a woman I've never met in another state whose this-is-real-life-mothering experience makes me laugh out loud and lighten my mood. Solidarity. Connection.

It saves me every day when I exchange quick messages with my husband at work. I share the news from the nursery – which kid is crabby, which kid wouldn't eat lunch, which kid threw an hour-long fit—and I don't feel quite so alone in whatever moment I'm wading through. Solidarity. Connection.

It saves me when I read comments on this blog from YOU, letting me know that you heard my voice and felt my words. Solidarity. Connection. [It turns out I need your comments – not the reassurance, but the connection]

They say babies should come with instruction manuals. I disagree – I can figure out a baby. But I can't navigate this life alone. I need a circle that's wider than this house, that extends my reach and connects me to family, friends, and the great, big outside world.

Babies shouldn't come with instruction manuals. They should come with iPods.