Baby Boot Camp

In the months since my son was born, I’ve struggled mightily with resisting the urge to unleash the mommyblogger that’s been lurking in my heart lo these many years.

But one recent insight seemed to cross the bar of “would this still be interesting to a child-free person?”: Babies act as boot camp.

You see, we have a structured model for turning adults into more capable, overperforming versions of themselves. Whether it’s going through boot camp to join the army, enduring a medical residency to become a doctor, or even just the various hazing rituals that different organizations put new initiates through, there’s a pattern that’s common to reprogramming efforts:

  • Sleep deprivation combined with constantly-changing schedules
  • Performance of rote tasks, incorporating newly-acquired knowledge over time
  • Breaking down of self-consciousness or a tendency towards embarrassment in the face of overwhelming responsibilities

While I’d seen friends and acquaintances go through these processes in a medical or military context, I had never considered that the most highly evolved form this “break them down to build them up” process is actually the most universal one: Becoming a new parent. And as much as I’m chagrined to admit this as a feminist, I’d always assumed that women are physiologically reprogrammed to some degree by the act of carrying a pregnancy to term, but I hadn’t really thought about the fact that being a new dad would do the same thing to me.

It’s absolutely true, though. The baby boot camp that springs from the combination of sleep deprivation, emotional stress, extreme positive reinforcement from your baby’s responses, and an overall process of learning a whole new way of living your life performs a pretty profound transformation on the way you think, act and live. Even just a few months into the process, I can tell I’ve been fundamentally upgraded and modified. Even though I’d heard a million times that “being a parent changes you!”, I’d never put it in the context of it changing behaviors the same way that other boot camp-style processes do.

Now I’m left wondering if those other processes were explicitly designed to mimic new parenthood, or if the similarity of process is coincidental. Because it damn sure is effective.