the Moonies. Parenthood.
Warning: Having a baby is just like joining a cult. No, I’m not talking about the “cult of parenthood,” wherein your
childless “child free” friends suddenly feel insulted that you’ve crossed over to this strange world where all you want to talk about is your kid. Actually, that’s exactly what I’m referring to. It’s just that what your childfree friends don’t understand is that you haven’t made a choice to get subsumed into this weird parenting cult. You’ve been brainwashed.
Think about it – everything that happens to you when you have a baby pretty much follows the play-by-play of Brainwashing 101. Just read the following and swap out “cult” for “baby.” Welcome to parenthood, sucker. Please leave your brain at the door.
1. The Cult Weakens Your Senses Through Sleep Deprivation
First, your sleep schedule is interrupted. You are no longer master of your slumber. You can be awoken at any time, day or night. Sleep comes in short bursts at highly irregular times. It is also interrupted by loud noises, a classic mind control technique. Sleep disruption is probably the most basic and essential step in brainwashing. Someone who can keep you up very late and wake you up very early, much less interrupt whatever spans of REM time you do pull together… they control you. They own you.
2. The Cult Further Disorients You By Altering Your Basic Routines
Second, your most basic routines get altered. Ever notice how it’s impossible to find sunlight while wandering around a casino? That’s because in between the loud music, the glaring lights and almost maze-like hall systems, you become disoriented and lose sense of time and place in a casino. By numbing your orientation, you become more vulnerable to making mindless decisions. Babies change what you eat (I don’t recall getting to eat a warm, freshly prepared meal for at least the first six weeks after my daughter was born!), when you eat (odd hours here and there), and how you eat (huddled like a starving animal scarfing it down as fast as possible!). They also change when and how often you shower and what clothes you wear (there are days when you never make it out of your pajamas in those early weeks).
3. The Cult Separates You from Your Support System
This is a super biggie. I had a roommate who the Moonies once tried to indoctrinate. She and a friend were invited to a “dinner” at a Moonie gathering place. They were picked up in San Francisco, driven about 40 minutes away (so they had no means of returning on their own) and then, once there, immediately separated from one another. Diana, my roommate, realized later that while everyone was friendly, she and her friend were kept in two distinct groups for the whole night.
Babies separate you from your support network just as handily. Because your sleep schedule is so off, good luck making plans and actually being able to fulfill them! Childless friends quickly drop off, taking your sudden lack of availability as a sign that they’ve been replaced by the baby. Friends with children are so busy raising their own brood they can’t make it. One day, you look up and realize it’s been MONTHS since you had a decent conversation with another adult.
4. The Cult Makes You Feel Vulnerable and Badly About Yourself
Now that the cult has got you alone, look out for your self image! It doesn’t help that your body is already in its worst spot – looking at the mirror post-baby is sheer depression-inducing. Plus, due to #3, you haven’t had a stimulating conversation in ages and your brain is completely fried. It’s very easy to lose perspective of all the wonderful gifts you have to give to the world and solely see yourself as a 24 hour baby-feeding, poop-wiping slobbering idiot. Now that you need it most, you are least likely to summon the courage to get out of the house and connect with folks in the outside world because of how low you are feeling.
5. The Cult Makes You Look to It as Your Sole Source of Value and Self-Esteem
Remember the feeling you got the first time your baby truly smiled at you? Enough said.
6. You are Now Obligated to Give the Cult All Your Money
Now that the cult has completely oriented your world around it, it demands that you commit all of your finances to its health, well being and development. The cult’s survival and growth is your highest obligation in life and every decision you make from here forward for the rest of your life will be filtered through the “is this what’s best for the cult?” modifier.
But It’s Worth It – I Swear! (says the brainwashed one)
After all – doesn’t this just make your ovaries jump?
By the time we all make it out to the other side of early parenting, when we start to get some simple routines and normalcy back – like sleeping for at least four hours in a row – we have no idea we’ve been brainwashed. This is the new reality for us, our complete and total dedication to our young spawn. Little by little, we reclaim small pieces of our former lives: an occasional dinner date with a friend, some witty repartee with a stranger in line at the grocery store, wearing shirts not branded with baby spit up. We creep back into the sunlight of a world that seems just like that which we left the moment before our child was first born, totally and completely oblivious to the fact that we are now 100% owned by our charges. Sure, our
child-free friends can see it, but they’re not going to tell us. They think we choose to pleasantly bear through our toddler’s temper tantrums, preschooler’s constant interruptions and nagging, teenaged curfew blow offs and sullen, ungrateful consumption of thoughtfully prepared meals. They don’t know that we are so totally absorbed into the cult that we can’t even see we’re in it. They think we are aware of our shift from autonomous adult to parental automaton.
But, thank goodness nature works this way. Otherwise, how would we continue to propagate and thrive? Without it, babies would simply be left on their own and, well, it wouldn’t be pretty. Speaking from personal experience, without the decent brainwashing I know for a fact that I’d be incapable of fulfilling everything parenting demands – the late nights, the odd hours, the sacrifice and in the end, the terrifying letting go. So, here’s to a good brainwashing! May it never wear off!