It was mid-November 2018 and our son Eli had reached the magical 3-month mark (goodbye, fourth trimester!). My husband Sam and I were finally feeling like life was getting manageable again. Well, sort of. The very normal activity of having friends over for dinner seemed like something we could totally handle again. Well, sort of.
Twelve weeks into parenthood, we’d developed a (fragile) confidence in our ability to care for a little person. And said little person was no longer spending two hours a night screaming for no reason. Plus, we were kind of itching to do something other than half-watch endless episodes of “The Great British Baking Show.”
So, we invited two of our couple friends (who didn’t have kids) over for takeout from our favorite Indian restaurant. We could catch up, introduce our cute baby, and pretend like things were totally normal. Yup, we were so ready for this!
Here’s how our chill night would go: We’d hang out at the table chatting, eating, and drinking wine while Eli went from charming everyone with his cute coos to dozing in my arms.
When bedtime rolled around, I’d pop him in his crib and come back downstairs to join the fun, which would continue on for hours. It was gonna be great.
And things did indeed start off on a good note when Matthew and Karen walked in the door, obligatory baby gift in tow. Eli was happy and sweet while we hung out in the living room waiting for dinner to arrive. And he stayed that way for the first few minutes after we settled in at the table with our food.
This was going so well! It was exactly what I pictured having a baby would be like, before I actually had one.
I was about halfway through my samosa when Eli started to fuss. I probably looked like I was listening to Matthew and Karen recount all the exciting details from their recent trip to Japan. But most of my energies were focused on mentally willing Eli to not randomly freak out.
No such luck. He started crying and, worried that the wails were going to ruin everyone else’s dinner, I figured I’d try putting him in for a short catnap to recharge and make it another couple hours until bedtime. I brought him into his room, rocked him against my chest for a few minutes, and laid him in the crib as he nodded off. Then I headed downstairs, figuring we’d have at least 30 minutes of peace.
I sat back down, excited to finish the rest of my now room-temperature dinner.
“What’s on your shirt?” Sam asked, pointing to the mustard brown splotch on my white tee. I shrugged, a little embarrassed but unconcerned. “Chana masala?”
Considering I’d been holding a squirmy baby while I ate, the possibility of spilling food on myself seemed pretty plausible. I took a sip of wine and smiled at the classy piano jazz playing in the background that we hadn’t bothered to put on since last summer.
Within 10 or 15 minutes Eli had woken from his “nap” and was crying once again. I ran upstairs to get him, and upon walking into his room, was smacked with the vinegary stench of a diaper blowout. Looking at the poop that had soaked through the back of his onesie onto his sleep sack, I realized this hadn’t just happened.
Somehow I had put him down for his nap without noticing he needed to be changed. And the stain on my shirt was not chana masala. Mortified, I cleaned him up, changed my shirt, and headed back downstairs.
Why I opted to tell Matthew and Karen what the stain on my shirt actually was, I’ll never know. But as I was frantically laughing it off and they were pretending like I wasn’t insane, Eli had a huge projectile spit up that landed with a SPLAT on our wooden floor. Before Sam could wipe it clean, our dog dutifully licked up the mess.
Exhausted from his fake nap, Eli lasted for another 15 minutes at the table before his mild whining turned into crying that pretty much drowned out the conversation. He just needed to go to bed. But I didn’t want to make our guests leave early, so I insisted they all keep hanging out while I did Eli’s nighttime routine.
Forty-five minutes later, after I’d bathed him, put on his lotion and diaper and pajamas, read him a story, nursed him, and laid him in his crib, I ran back downstairs once again. And Matthew and Karen were getting their coats on.
“This was so nice, but we don’t want to keep you guys all night!” Karen said. Whether that was actually true, I have no idea. But it was sweet of her to say. And while a part of me wanted them to stay so I could play fun, carefree Marygrace a little longer, I was tired. I really did just want to curl up in bed and watch “British Baking.”
I think Sam and I believed that having people over would help us feellike we had it together. Instead it just left me worrying that our lives would never really be normal again. But now that Eli is 10 months old, I’ve learned a few things: One, that you do eventually reach a point where you have it together again. And two, that having it together with a baby just looks different.
That’s not to say you can’t have friends over. You just need to reframe your expectations—and make plans that will set you up for success.
- Count on the fact that your baby isn’t going to be perfect the entire time — to help you feel less anxious when he fusses (or less resentful when you have to miss out on some of the fun).
- Consider planning a daytime or happy-hour hangout instead of dinner. Your baby will be happier, bedtime logistics won’t be an issue, and you won’t be falling asleep. Or if your schedule allows, host dinner and drinks after baby is in bed.
- Don’t be afraid to give your shindig an end time to keep guests from lingering too long. Unless of course, you can count on a giant poop and spit-up to send them on their way instead.
Marygrace Taylor is a health and parenting writer, former KIWI magazine editor, and mom to Eli. Visit her at marygracetaylor.com.