Instruction Manual for Babies

Food for Thought

We visited Michelle and Victor, who recently had a baby. They managed to cook us arepas for lunch while taking care of their infant. I remember when we came home with our baby; I felt it should’ve come with an instruction manual, not so much because we needed to know what to do, but because it would have made us feel okay for not knowing what to do.

Imagine buying, say, an Ikea cabinet and realizing that it didn’t come with any instructions. You call Ikea to complain, but the rep over the phone says, “Sorry, no, we have no instructions for that. You are supposed to figure it out yourself like everyone else.” “What?! How am I supposed to figure this out? It has like a hundred different parts!” “Well, everyone else did. You are the first person to complain.”

If infants came with an instruction booklet like the typical one that comes with Ikea furniture—with only illustrations, no words—we would be able to blame our failures on it. “Jesus, these instructions don’t work at all. Obviously, they have no clue.” We wouldn’t feel it’s our fault for not knowing how to properly handle infants. It’s like how Tevye, in “Fiddler on the Roof,” complained to God, looking up at the sky, why his life had to be so difficult. Having something to blame makes our life tolerable. The joy of complaining is not appreciated enough in our culture.

According to some research, people with kids are less happy. I didn’t need a scientific survey to know that; it’s pretty obvious. If parents were happy, why would they talk about how much they “sacrifice” for their kids? If you bought a Porsche that you could barely afford, would you complain about how much you “sacrificed” every time you drive it? Of course not. You’d be enjoying every moment of it behind the wheel.

“But buying a luxury car is not at all like having a child. A child has lots of needs.” True, but you knew that before you decided to have one. So, it’s like buying an expensive car that you knew breaks a lot. Somehow, we need to forget that nobody forced or tricked us into having babies. The best way to do that is to complain to something abstract, like God or an instruction manual.