As I was waking up in the hospital after my recent colonoscopy, one of the first things I heard was a man in the recovery bay next to mine telling his wife how incredible he felt. “I haven’t felt this great in ten years,” he said. “Can I just stay here forever?” I didn’t ask, but I’m almost certain he was a dad because I could totally relate. Sure, maybe it was mostly the lingering haze of anesthesia talking, but the sentiment was real: never had a routine medical procedure felt so freeing. Of course, leave it to his wife to bring a heavy dose of buzz kill to the situation. “No,” she laughed. “You have to mow the lawn today.”
Still, it did get me thinking, what kinds of boring and routine things do parents love, perhaps more than they should? I’m not saying parents love these things more than their own children, but sometimes it might be up for debate.
Routine Medical Procedures
Since this is what sparked the idea in the first place, let’s start here. While some people might approach medical procedures with trepidation or at least general indifference, parents gleefully circle the dates of their appointments on their virtual calendars. The week leading up to the big day we feel like kids the last week of school before summer vacation. All we think about in the case of colonoscopies, for example, is the 6 or 8 hours we get to spend locked in the bathroom, by ourselves, the night before, and most appealingly, the glorious sleep we will get on the procedure room table. Alone time plus sleep equals happy parent. Throw in a side of post-anesthesia glow and it’s more or less Nirvana.
Because medical procedures can be very expensive and a bit of a hassle (mostly worth it, but still), scheduling copious doctor appointments is a good alternative. As new parents, we are very interested in looking after our health because we now have our kids to think about. Or so the widely-accepted narrative goes. The real scoop? We need that down time in the waiting room of our family doctor, dentist, dermatologist, psychiatrist, and podiatrist (none of which, by the way, we have seen in at least five years) to decompress. All the while, we text back to our partners who are stranded at home, washing child excretions off of pieces of furniture, “Aargh! I can’t believe this doctor is taking so long!” All this socially acceptable alone time is such an inconvenience.
Other than teenagers, no one loves driving as much as parents. And for most of us, while the thrill of hitting the open road mostly subsided by the time we were seventeen, as parents, the shine never really wears off. There’s something about driving around without destination for an hour or two with the kids safely strapped into their car seats, firmly immobilized, that makes parents smile. If our minds wander for a few seconds at home, when we snap out of it, there’s a good chance the kids are performing Cirque du Soleil stunts from the ceiling fans. In the car, however, they’re always right where we left them.
Every parent wonders why they didn’t work out more when they were childless. Of course, there is an obvious answer: Exercise only doesn’t suck when it’s compared to child rearing. Relaxed brunch with adult friends versus one-hour workout? We know what’s winning out in that contest. An hour of cajoling your 3-year-old into eating a single carrot versus an hour by yourself on a treadmill listening to adult music? Similarly, the choice is obvious. See, it’s all about your perspective. Parents also love exercise because it allows us to receive exorbitant praise just for spending some time alone. Post a gym selfie or check-in at the fitness center and you’re guaranteed to get a stream of praise-filled comments. And then, when we’re talking about our renewed commitment to health and fitness we can humbly say, “I just want to be healthy and set a good example for my children.” Yes, that’s definitely our motivation.
I haven’t seen the latest numbers, but anecdotal evidence I’ve gathered suggests that about 85% of workplace productivity can be directly attributed to avoidance of child care duties. “What’s that? You need someone to take a 6-week business trip to Antarctica the month after my wife gives birth? Count me in,” said every working dad ever. Add in the extended hours that new parents suddenly and urgently feel the need to work and you have a huge productivity boom. The corporate world should be very thankful for procreation. Of course, all us busy parents are really just going that extra mile to provide for our growing families. After all, it’s the responsible thing to do.