One year in, or, our new strapless high chair

This month makes it one year since I left work and started staying home full-time with the little oyster. You may have noticed the serious decline in regular posting, which should lead you simultaneously to

1) awe of my most excellent and complete dedication to my current life situation and

2) suspicion about how I spent some of my working hours on the Hill

But that’s not for here.

May 2014 finds us surrounded by pregnant friends and neighbors, and I do mean surrounded. I didn’t know it was possible for so many women to all have babies in the same calendar year. I didn’t realize I knew so many women. But again, that’s not for here.

So what is for here, eh? What’s for here is a check-in on the staying-at-home thing, brought to you (obviously) by me. That and an exhortation to other parents to just consider their options. Let’s proceed. I’ll begin with a tale. Actually, it’s a parable, but not a biblical one, obvs. I was going to use fable as my term of choice but since this story is sans anthropomorphic animals and plants, yet still contains a moral, we’re going to use parable.

Once upon a time the oyster was born and started to eat real food. When these days came, her mom bought for the oyster a white plastic high chair with a white plastic removable tray. The chair was $20 and the tray was $5 and both items fit the bill and the budget (three cheers for Ikea).

The little oyster has always been a good eater and to her a high chair is a valued vehicle for partaking of comestibles, not a trap to escape from. For this reason the little girl’s parents never buckled her in.

Until one day her mom did. That day the little oyster choked on some food–the silent, gagging, turning-colors choking and guess what happened? Her mom couldn’t get her out of the damn high chair with the stupid buckle and ended up pounding on the little girl’s back while she sat there, until she gagged up the food. Chewed and regurgitated food went everywhere but the oyster recovered just fine. As her mom cleaned the high chair, the only thing that really made her gag was scrubbing the buckles and straps with their fibers and nooks and crannies. Ew. From that day on, the straps were pulled tight beneath the chair and tied to one another, out of the way.

The little oyster, good eater though she was, would still occasionally miss a piece and her mom or dad would later find some brown banana smashed into a useless buckle, or the remnants of tikka masala* soaking into a cloth strap, requiring much scrubbing.

And then, one rainy Wednesday before lunch, a year into their relationship with the Ikea high chair, the little oyster’s mom had an epiphany:

I don’t have to deal with this. There’s something I can do about this. I would never have to clean around these blasted things again, they would never poke my daughter in her meaty thighs and leave marks on her during lunch, and the high chair would be more comfortable for her, easier to wipe for us, and more sightly, come to think of it, with no straps and buckles dangling underneath like assembly-required dingleberries. Just because these straps have always been here doesn’t mean they need to stay. Eureka!

So I cut them off.

problem solving

The moral of the story is this: Just because something is a certain way right now doesn’t mean it needs to stay that way. If you don’t like the way things are, change them. Buying a high chair with straps, never using the straps, and keeping the straps attached for a full year before realizing you can just cut them off and make everything the way you want it is called problem solving. Slow on the uptake, sure, but also problem solving.

In an email to one of my book clubs recently I made a comment about day drinking. One of the ladies, who is expecting, wrote back with an LOL and her hope that I was enjoying a nice, crisp glass of something white. I was. And the windows were open, the grass had just been cut and the scent was wafting in, the oyster was napping, and I was catching up on emails. It’s not a bad life, I told her. She said to be careful, I might tempt her into being a stay at home mom yet.

But my intention isn’t/wasn’t/never will be to tempt any mom into staying home full-time. My intention is to encourage moms and expectant moms to consider their options and also consider that the decision you make this month can be changed. You can cut off the straps if you find they’re worthless, even a year later.

I didn’t leave work right away when the oyster was born. I didn’t plan to leave work at all, actually. I had 9 weeks at home, the last 5 of them working from home. Know what’s hard? Working from home with a newborn. Then I went back to work in the office and it was a delightful break but then it got harder to leave home and then I wanted to be at home with the oyster and then it got a lot harder and I knew I had to be at home with her or everything else in our family was going straight into the crapper, and fast. My heart wasn’t in it, and a paycheck and resume bragging rights weren’t enough to keep me there.

For us, having more dollars didn’t add value to our family. The husband and I had discussed our priorities, set goals in keeping with those priorities, and take steps to meet those goals. So a year ago, we cut off the straps and I haven’t regretted it for a single hour since.

I think a lot of parents are afraid of what people will say or think of their strapless high chairs, so it’s just easier–in theory–to keep the straps on and work around them and clean around them and let them dig into the baby’s legs and gag when they smell like old food and pretend you don’t see the ugliness of the useless things tangled under the high chair seat, as out of the way as they can be while still being there.

I also think a lot of people don’t consider that no matter how long you’ve had the high chair, you can always cut off the straps. It’s okay to change your mind. If you honestly want your high chair to be strapless, you’ll do it and you’ll make it work. Now, next month, a year later, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you’ve planned your whole life to put your child in this high chair and you’ve never considered what life may be like if you didn’t have to deal with the straps and all they require. Well, consider it. And if you find that the straps are useless and you’re only keeping them because you care about what people think of strapless high chairs, do yourself a favor and stop caring. If the straps are in the way, just cut them off.

After laying the oyster down for her afternoon nap I grabbed my book off the kitchen table and did a double take–there was something in her high chair! Wait, no there wasn’t…it was just the empty little slots where the straps used to live. It looks weird. It will take a day or so to get used to. But the straps are gone and I’m not looking back.

 

*Heck yeah my kid eats Indian food. Yours can, too!

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