The following piece was submitted by the magnificent Katie Phillips:
If I woke up tomorrow and saw a baby in my bed I’d be beyond freaked. How did that baby get there? Whose baby is this and how do I return it? Is this some kind of weird reverse Godfather thing? After a few minutes of panicking I’d probably call the authorities (whatever division deals with mystery babies – SVU? Olivia Benson, help a girl out!) and make a mental note to start taking my birth control pills on the reg.
I am not ready for parenthood. One look at my apartment makes that clear. There are a lot of open flames (I’m a candle person) and pointy edges. My income cannot support my soft cheeses habit and a baby. If I have to choose between brie and baby, it’s gonna be brie (note to self: email Weird Al’s agent and pitch “It’s Gonna Be Brie,” N*SYNC cover).
But thinking about this whole made-up baby scenario got me wondering. If Olivia Benson was busy, as she likely would be, taking down bad guys and empowering victims and all, what would I do? How would I deal with this baby in my bed?
First, I’d give her a name. “Mystery baby” just seems cruel, and I really don’t want to mess up her self-esteem. It’d probably be something I blurted out after looking around my apartment for inspiration, like “Grapefruita” or “Lampshaden,” which, let’s be honest, is more of a boy’s name.
Grapefruita and I would chill around the apartment. I’d make sure she was clean and smelling like all babies should (where can one procure the smell of innocence?). Assuming she could eat baby food, I’d get her the good stuff. Only ethically harvested organic greens for Grapefruita! We’d watch the news, because you’re never too young to learn about current events, and I’d tell her she could grow up to change this crazy world of ours for the better. By now I’d be calling her “Grape-cute-a,” because she’s seriously adorable, and I’d put her in the most stylish onesie I could afford. Later, I’d play some folky tracks and lay her down for a nap. Everyone knows babies rest best to “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
When Olivia Benson finally arrived, I’d hand over Grapefruita and wish her well. I’d say goodbye and good luck and close the door. Grapefruita was cool and everything, but I’m still not ready for parenthood. Later days, lil’ baby.
Then it would be back to our regular scheduled programming. A quick shower, maybe. A scarfed down lunch. Some clothes pulled from the “probably clean” pile. I’d look in the mirror and grumble about my appearance. I’d do some work, stopping once and awhile to scold myself for not being good enough. I’d drink cups of coffee to stay awake, and spend way too much time on social media wondering why no one invited me to the party. I’d resolve to be more cool and likeable tomorrow.
Why is self-care so hard? As my imaginary Grapefruita taught me, I clearly know the caregiver basics. When I woke up to the baby in my bed, I knew I needed to tend to that thing. But I hardly ever feel the need to tend to myself. A long shower takes too much time. Organic is too expensive. Positive self-affirmations are silly. I’ll buy a new dress when I lose 10 pounds. Naps are for closers.
We often treat others (not just babies) better than we treat ourselves. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe we don’t feel like we’re worth it. Maybe we think it’s selfish to spend time/money/energy on ourselves. Maybe it’s because we live in a world that values profits over wellness. I’m just spitballin’ here.
I don’t think it’s possible (or recommended) to devote all your time and energy to self-care. There are definitely times when you need to put yourself on the backburner. But generally speaking, I think we should take better care of ourselves. We should eat well when we’re hungry and nap when we’re tired. We should remind ourselves that we are beautiful and smart, and that it’s okay to be sad sometimes. We should buy the damned dress, even if it’s not the size we’d like.
What this strange exercise in imagination taught me is that I don’t need Grapefruita to flex my caregiver muscles. I am the baby in my bed. I am deserving of care, and you are too.