I used to be an editor at a large newspaper. It entailed working late into the night, getting random weekdays off, and forgoing many holidays with family. The pay was decent, but certainly not enough to make up for the glaring lack of a personal life.
I accepted all that because, in exchange, I could say what few people can genuinely say in this world: I loved my job. Even in this age of electronic media, there was something so gratifying about seeing each night’s work plopped on doorsteps around town the following morning. And I always got a rush when a big story broke late, threatening to upend our entire evening.
Every night, I waded through an avalanche of words that invariably detailed the failings of humanity. War. Murder. Mayhem. Yes, there were also light-hearted stories and “feel-good” topics, but you can’t ignore the simple truth that it’s often our darkest sides that drive the news. And frankly, it took a lot to make me bat an eye. Journalists have a reputation for being cynical that isn’t undeserved, but it’s really just a defense mechanism to help keep the horrors of the world at bay. Otherwise, we’d go a little crazy.
I’ve been in a little bit of a news detox situation ever since becoming a mom, though. When I got pregnant, if it wasn’t light-hearted fiction or baby-care-related, I just didn’t care. I shock myself by admitting that – I used to pride myself on being well-informed. But after endless nights of roadside bombs and shootings and corruption, I needed a breather. And once Baby Y got here, I rarely read anything but a headline on my iPhone. Sleep was paramount, and the world could wait.
Now that my baby is getting older (sob) and he’s on a little bit more of a predictable schedule (knock on wood) I’ve been trying to crawl out from under my rock. But … the world is different. Or more likely, the world is the same, and I am different. My protective shell has dissolved and I cannot read, watch, or listen to practically anything sad without having a bit of a mental freak-out.
Anything that has to do with hurt or dying children is sure to make me go berserk now. I don’t know if anyone followed the heartbreaking end to the Powell saga, but I could barely make it past photos of the boys before fighting back tears. I started a story about a journalist killed in Syria, but ended up dropping it after I read about how she’d watched a child die in the fighting: “We just watched this little boy, his little tummy, heaving and heaving as he tried to breathe.”
I just can’t help it – my mind automatically substitutes Baby Y for any child in peril, and after that, I’m gone. And even when kids aren’t involved, I find myself despairing at the state of the world and yearning to protect my son from all of its evils – even when I know intellectually that such an impervious shield would ultimately do him a greater disservice.
My newfound mushiness extends past the news, too. Sarah McLaughlin and her SPCA commercials – please kill me now. Google and its devious Dear Sophie Lee? Can’t handle it. Pampers and its “Every Little Miracle” campaign. The beginning of “Up.” Every stupid episode of “Extreme Home Makeover.” My former self would scoff at the deliberate lunge for my emotional jugular from all this stuff; my current self is busy searching for another tissue.
Anyone else find themselves welling up at everything, big and small, now that they’re a parent? Please tell me I am not the only one who is a total softie now.
Watch that and don’t cry. I DARE YOU.