Strictly speaking, it’s not really necessary for new parents to spend time learning about babies. Helpful as it is to go to ante-natal classes and read books about infants, what you really need to know is that babies – Dubai babies, Scottish babies, American babies, Yemeni babies, Russian babies, the whole lot – are chancers.
Regardless of your baby’s personal preferences, she’ll soon have allocated a large workload of cleaning, catering and procurement tasks to you, your relatives and any willing friends. Using a combination of smiles, gurgles and ear splitting noise, she’ll very quickly have the hired help dashing off to a kitchen to heat milk or mash a banana. Babies are masters at management. So forget the baby.
Far, far better to prepare for parenthood by learning everything you possibly can about The Stuff that follows babies across the globe.
Here’s what I’ve found out.
Baby Stuff looks friendly and helpful. It’s colourful, cheery, easy to wipe clean and designed to make your increasingly heavy schedule easier – everything a baby and new mum seems to need. You don’t immediately notice the stockpile of disposable nappies shoving your tins of beans out of kitchen cupboards, or the steriliser replacing your toaster or your hall carpet covered in pram tyre tracks. And, when you do, it’s too late. You’ve accepted the terms and conditions. You’re under The Stuff’s control. That’s when it starts to reveal its true, deadly nature. A few months after the baby’s birth, it begins weaving silent traps, seeking revenge for rough handling, vomit stains, storage in cold, dank porches. Crimes parents didn’t even know they’d committed.
Baby stuff can morph into many forms: seat belts that enmesh you as you battle to fasten the baby into a car seat; hinges that bite as you struggle to unfold a pram or travel cot; straps that ensnare as you battle to unfurl a papoose. A calculated conspiracy designed to keep you buying more and more gear – a smaller, easier to fold stroller to minimise the pram; a bottle warmer to supplement the steriliser, etc. etc. By that stage, you’re too in its thrall to walk away with the baby, leaving the Stuff to its next victim.
This is where travelling mounts an intervention. It’s not possible to take a showroom full of cots, prams, reserve wardrobes, play mats, baby bouncers, sterilisers and liquidisers on the road. A cull’s needed.
Here’s the solution.
If you can afford it, you can buy a miniature version of everything: a pop up cot (complete with mosquito net); light clothes; a lightweight stroller; a travel change mat, papoose and cold water sterilising tablets. If you can’t afford it, you can borrow cots locally; take clothes with you that are getting too small and give them away; buy a cheap second hand buggy and papoose from Gumtree or a charity shop; and boil water as you go.
Either way, your baby won’t care. She’ll be busy summoning locals to assist with bags, stamp her passport and sort out her next bus ride.
Ignore The Stuff’s agenda – you can function without it. All you really need is money, passports and baby.