A thing I noticed once I started telling people I was having a baby is that all of my friends suddenly turned into parenting experts.
They had advice about everything: sleep, diapers, feeding, burping. I even got advice about taking advice.
I was a little dubious considering the source of this material. Like, thanks for the tip Dr. Spock, but it’s hard for me to square your recommendation on organic fruit pastes with the memory of you blacking out at a Ruby Tuesday’s in Iowa and jumping naked onto the hood of a ‘57 T-Bird.
I came home one day to find the living room full of baby furniture. Lots of gerund chairs: bouncers and rockers and swings and jumpers. My son is almost a year old now, and I’m still not totally sure what a Boppy is, but I do know we own several.
“Are all of these things necessary?” I asked my wife, Melinda.
“Absolutely,” she said. “The baby will need a place to sit.”
I pointed out we already had plenty of furniture. “Can’t he just sit on the couch like the rest of us?”
While I was a bit jealous my unborn son had more seating options than a La-Z-Boy outlet, the real blow came when I got evicted from my office to make way for a nursery.
I tantrumed like a spoiled kid at Toys R Us.
“I don’t know why you’re complaining so much,” Melinda said. “I don’t have MY own room.”
And then I spent the rest of the day groveling because I pointed out she had both the kitchen AND the laundry room.
Not all my jokes land.
I tried to adjust to my new work space in the family room, but it was tough. You never realize how much you miss a door until you don’t have one.
Now when I sit down, I’m in the center of the action. Melinda’s running the vacuum cleaner. The washer is unbalanced and banging against the wall. The heater kicks on. My stepson is in his bedroom playing Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” on repeat.
And it got worse once the baby came. When I was a kid, I played with blocks and balls and stuffed bears. My son Robert, on the other hand, has a room—no, an OFFICE—full of toys, and every single one of them makes noise.
Some are classics—your “Old McDonald,” your “Twinkle Twinkle”—some are original jingles, like the coffee cup that encourages my son to become an obese caffeine fiend by singing “Cream and sugar, in my cup, cream and sugar, drink it up.”
Some of these toy manufacturers aren’t even trying with their little jingles. One of Robert’s cars sings a song that goes “Hey, I’m a speedy race car / I love racing / Let’s win the race / Let’s be a star.” His other song goes “Racing on the track / Makes me happy / I’m so speedy.” And it’s like come on, Riley the race car. You could’ve at least rhymed.
In the shower, in the car, when I’m trying to get a mental break from the anxiety and stress of being a productive human on this planet, these are the songs that occupy my brain space.
This is my hell.
Before you make suggestions, I’ve tried it. Earplugs. Noise-cancelling headphones. It doesn’t matter. Something about me sitting in the family room working prompts my family to ask me questions they’ve been meaning to ask me for YEARS. Oh hey, remember that coffee shop we went to in July of 2014? Let’s talk about it for the next 15 minutes.
I’ve become so miserable, so unbearable to live with these last few months, Melinda finally caved.
“Do you want to just look for a new house?” she asked.
I am absolutely shallow enough that a bout of depression can be solved by a little retail therapy, and it turns out this time is no exception. Within the week, we met with a realtor and put our house on the market and started looking for houses with offices. My hope is that we find something soon.
In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of dad advice for anyone who will listen:
Get a door.