When my daughter was a newborn, one of my biggest fears was taking her out in public alone. This seems like a petty thing in light of the fact that, along with my wife, I was now responsible for the life on an entire human. Public places are scary things these days and I find myself staying home more the older I get. I knew it would not be fair to keep my daughter in the house forever, so I had to get comfortable taking her places. Taking a baby out in public alone is a scary thing for a new father. I mean, seriously, think of all of the things that can happen. Germs are everywhere and the media regularly inundates us with stories of child snatchers and other creepos.
Prior to my daughter’s birth, my time around kids was extremely limited. How could I, somebody who has never taken care of a baby, be comfortable with this? I mean, what if I had to pee, or worse a number two, while at the grocery or at the mall with my infant daughter? Do I take a baby in the bathroom with me? Is that even hygienic? Would I get slack for exposing my daughter to public bathroom germs?
Before I say any more, you must know that I am a chronic over thinker and tend to default to the worst case scenario. When I was preparing to be a father, I often turned to dads in pop culture for guidance because I was never close to my own father. Since TV and movie dads are often portrayed as loveable buffoons, little was done to ease my concerns. What I did learn from watching TV, there is usually somebody in a worse situation than what I am likely to face.
One of my favorite pop culture dads is Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom (1983). The grocery store scene is what I always imagined happening to me if I took my child out in public. I never thought I was naive enough to leave my daughter unattended in a grocery cart, but I, like Keaton, might go into a panic if I had purchase feminine hygiene products. Okay, maybe I am a bit more secure in my masculinity than that, but still, crazy things can happen.
I do think that holding a baby’s wet bottom up to a hand dryer is a brilliant idea. I do not understand why so many people laugh and mock that scene in the movie. It’s really quite a clever idea. it’s good enough for our hands, it should be good enough for butts too.
I really did fear bathroom incidents in public, particularly at the grocery store for some reason. I only changed a diaper once before my daughter was born and it did not go well. Are there instructions on those little changing stations in the bathroom? Would the men’s bathroom even have a changing table? What if my daughter pooped and the smell made other people so ill that they threw up in the produce section? Again, with the over thinking.
My job allows me two weeks off at Christmas, so the December after my daughter was born I knew I would have to venture out at some point. Sure enough, on a cold Tuesday afternoon I discovered that we were out of milk and oatmeal and therefore, there was no way around a trip to Kroger. I bundled my daughter up and off we went. Thankfully, none of the things that Michael Keaton experienced happened to me. The worst part of the trip was two different old ladies trying to touch my daughter. I mean, old people are cute and everything, but I am just not cool with strangers touching my kid’s face! Common sense, people!
I am happy to say that 16 months later, our public outings have been rather uneventful and my fears are somewhat eased. I still have to fight off old ladies, because they inevitably want to touch my kid. She is old enough now to just give them a weird look and her body language alone lets them know she is uncomfortable.
I also get a lot of people who comment how “cute” it is for a little girl to be out with her daddy. It’s like people assume that all dads are “hands off” parents, so when we are out and about with a kid it is something special. Hello, it’s my kid and I am an active parent in her life. You do not need to patronize me.
Anyway, it is natural to have fears about going out in public with a baby, especially if you have limited experience caring for a child. Like anything else in life, being a parent is trial and error. If something does not work one day, then try a different approach the next.