Why Caring For A Newborn Is Just Like Waiting Tables

by Matt Abraham
Scary Mommy black logo with a red crown illustration

I was terrified when I had my kid four weeks ago. He was tiny and fragile, screaming and shaking, and all I knew was that I wanted to succeed as a parent. However, the only skills I possessed dealt with waiting tables. What was I going to do, up-sell him a bottle of wine or crumb his bib between courses?

But after four weeks of fathering, I have realized there was no need for concern, because as surprising as it sounds, the skills I gained from working in restaurants were the only ones I needed to successfully deal with an infant. After all, he was just a weepy egocentric human who was demanding all my attention, and even on a slow Tuesday night, you’ll see four of those. So if you’re a waiter who’s expecting your first kid, you can rest easy, the following six lessons from your time spinning trays are guaranteed to get you through the crucial first month of parenthood with ease.

Kind of.

Lesson No. 1. No matter how bad it gets, don’t panic.

It doesn’t matter if your apps are dragging, the POS machine is down, or table 12 just found a human finger in the flan: You don’t panic. Personally, I apply this cool thinking to everything I do as a dad. Like right now, my baby’s been crying for 10 minutes straight, the cat’s crapping on the new white rug, and smoke from the toast I forgot I was making just set off the fire alarm. But am I freaking out? No. I’m writing this, because waiting tables taught me to keep a level head, or maybe it’s because I’ve got six fingers of gin in me—whichever. The point is I’m not panicking.

Lesson No. 2. You develop an iron bladder.

It’s happened to us all: You have to go to the bathroom, but you’re weeded like Snoop Dogg at Reggae Fest with no one around to cover your section, so you seal up your bladder like a sous-vide bag and wait (sometimes an hour) before finally finding three minutes to sneak downstairs and drop your urine like one of those planes that fight wildfires. Congratulations, this ability comes in crazy handy when you have a baby. See, the first thing you learn as a parent is never wake the baby. Never. Even if they’re lying on your stomach and you just drank a gallon of tea, you sit there as still as possible like the kid’s pinning you to the sofa like they’re fucking Mjölnir, because the hard truth is a quiet baby trumps dry pants every time. Seriously. I’ve never wet myself to keep my baby quiet, but I wouldn’t judge anyone who has. It’s the right call every time.

Lesson No. 3. You’ll eat every meal like it’s a shift meal.

If you’ve never seen a restaurant worker eat before their shift, picture a team of piranhas working on a cow, except with more silverware and fewer niceties. There are two reasons why: First, there’s only a tiny window in which that food can be consumed before the barbarians arrive, and second, there are precious few actual edible bits in a shift meal, and you’ve got to fight for them. Seriously, I’ve seen cooks throw shoe leather into a hotel pan of Salisbury steak to add mass. Basically, I’m saying if you want to eat you’ve got to move quick.

It is the same way you eat around a baby—you just power it down like it’s the Nathan’s hotdog-eating championship, because you got maybe three minutes before that cross between Gollum and a potato you spawned wakes up and starts asking for shit. But, whatever, tasting your food’s for wimps anyway.

Lesson No. 4. Booze won’t make it better, it’ll make it a lot better.

Alcohol’s your friend, ally, parent, therapist and old war buddy poured into a convenient bottle. I heartily recommend it to restaurant workers and new parents alike, but only after the shift and never when you’re breastfeeding.

Lesson No. 5. You only have friends like you.

Thanks to the vampire hours most restaurant folk keep, it was impossible for me to have friends who weren’t also in the industry, simply because my schedule guaranteed I’d never see them.

The same thing happens now, except it’s with my kid-free friends, and if I ever do see them, I have no clue what they’re talking about. “Taylor Swift’s Twitter feud? China’s currency? Trump?” What the fuck are those things? I live in a world of diapers, man. Let’s talk about that.

Lesson No. 6. Babies and customers are never right, but you still have to give them what they want.

Every part of waiting tables is great, except for the diners. They suck more than if a black hole manifested in the Dyson testing facility. With complaints like, “Where’s my food? I screamed my order at you a minute ago,” “This bottle’s too cold, warm it up,” and “me, me, me, me, me,” the only reason that more of them aren’t killed annually is because it’s illegal. So all you can do is shove whatever they’re crying for into their mouths in the hopes it’ll shut them up.

I forgot if that point was directly about babies or restaurant guests, but you get my point, it works both ways.

Bonus Lesson. When it’s over, you’ll miss it.

Sure the industry sucks with all the doubles and clopens, but it’s full of the best people in the world. Plus, you get to work and drink with them all night before waking up at noon in some strange place with no recollection of what you’ve done, like a goddamn werewolf. It’s awesome, and I miss it a lot.

They say the same thing about newborns, that they grow up so fast and you’ll miss the time when they were itty bitty. It’s hard to believe, but I guess if I still long for my waiting days, despite being bossed around by bald assholes who think they’re the center of my universe, I don’t see why I won’t miss parenting a newborn despite that the very same thing happens here on a daily basis, too.