Friday, January 16, 2009

Sample essay about adjusting to parenting

This is from October 22, 2005. I had my students write an essay about having to adjust to something, such as sixth grade.

I just wrote this for my students to have a sample. And I graded some more math tests today. So I totally rock. Okay, here goes . . . .

“Well, ma’am, you’re having this baby tonight.” I could not believe my ears. I had only just finished work that day. I still had three and a half weeks to enjoy my maternity leave, get ready for the baby to arrive, finish childbirth preparation class . . . I hadn’t even finished childbirth preparation class! All we had in the house was the car seat and some things people had given us at the baby shower. Where was this baby going to sleep? I had not really had any time to adjust to having the baby. Little did I know, giving birth was just the start of a whole new life, and I would have a lot more to adjust to than I had ever realized. I would need to plan out all my time differently, I would need to budget our money more efficiently, and, most of all, I would instantly begin putting someone else before myself, all the time. Becoming a parent is the biggest adjustment I have ever had to make.

The first major change to my life was in the area of time management. Babies don’t really believe in or adhere to schedules. Even when they eventually fall into a routine, a new developmental stage comes along and messes all that up again. For example, Cameron did not sleep through the night at first. I was still recovering from my surgeries, so my husband got up with him a lot, which made him really tired during the days. When Cameron finally did sleep for longer periods, his nap times during the day changed. The only thing that never seemed to change was that he needed his diapers changed . . . a lot. After two and a half months at home, I had to go back to work. That meant we had to learn to juggle our different schedules. It also meant that my husband could not work much at first. When he did go back to work, we managed to find a friend to watch Cameron those few afternoons my husband had classes to teach. And now that I was back at work teaching, the demands on my time increased. But I also had to make sure I set aside time that was off-limits to everyone but my family.

My being a teacher, and my husband being self-employed, means that we don’t have much money. And the more my husband works, the more need we have to pay someone to babysit Cameron, so that cuts into our finances as well. Babies bring an extra financial burden into the picture. There were so many things we had to buy that we never bought before: diapers, formula, baby clothes, baby food, baby toiletries, baby everything . . . and a lot more paper towels. We went through so many paper towels that I wish we had owned stock in Bounty. Fortunately, my step-daughter came to live with us when Cameron was one year old. Not only was it great to add another family member (without surgery this time), but she’s old enough to watch Cameron from time to time when the adults in the home are both working. But she is also another person to feed, clothe, and house, so it adds to our expenses. We’ve had to learn to do without a lot of things in order to save money.

It may sound like having a baby is a negative thing, when you consider all you have to adjust to. But just the opposite is true. The biggest adjustment I had to make came naturally. When you’re married, you are part of a team, and you don’t put yourself first, but rather “tied for first” with someone else when you prioritize things in your life. When you have a baby, however, you and your spouse move over and put the baby’s needs first . . . all the time. You learn pretty quickly that if you only have a certain amount of money, you can eat less, put off buying some cleaning supplies, and buy nothing extra, but you will buy all the diapers this kid is going to need. You can’t cut them in half or only use them a few times a day. When you look down at that baby whose diaper you’re changing, it hits you: this little person depends on you for everything. You are in charge of another person’s life. And instead of feeling super-powerful, you feel weak and doubt yourself. But you get through each day, mainly driven by the knowledge that someone special is counting on you. The way you look at life is never the same again.

Eight days after that night when I went into labor, our son was finally released from the hospital and could come home with us. He was tiny and helpless, and he was beautiful. He has grown and changed so much since then. He just passed twenty-one months of age earlier this week. He walks and runs all over the place, and he talks a lot – but not in front of strangers much, and not really in English words yet. Our lives have changed immensely since Cameron was born. And even though it’s harder in some ways, it is definitely better. As I approach my son’s second birthday, I can’t help but reflect on how much life changes when a baby enters the family. I guess what you really have to adjust to, when you have a baby, is that every day there is something new to adjust to. Next, it will be toilet training and preschool. After that, it will be kindergarten and learning to read. And someday, it will be college graduation, and perhaps marriage and giving me grandchildren . . . and my son learning for the first time what it really means to have something to adjust to.

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