As long noted, the problem with kids is that they don't come with instructions (which is a pretty embarrassing lapse in the manufacturing process).
But the real problem is: You have to take care of them!
At least you used to. According to a recent article in The Washington Post, more and more parents are outsourcing what used to be basic parental chores, such as toilet training. Initial consultation with a potty expert: $250.
That's just the beginning. One woman spent "several thousand dollars" for a coach to teach her 8-month-old son to sleep for more than two hours at a time.
"Worth every dollar," she said.
Excuse me? How does one teach an 8-month-old infant how to sleep?
"Look, kid, no more coffee after 8 p.m., unless it's decaf. The same goes for Red Bull and Mountain Dew.
"And those after-dinner cigars aren't such a good idea either, especially in the crib."
Besides, babies are basically machines that eat, sleep and do things that cause you to change their diapers.
You feed them and generally they'll sleep, though we did occasionally use the "take-a-car-ride" routine, which worked pretty well except for the time I suddenly realized I had driven from Delaware to Vancouver and run out of gas.
The article mentioned -- this is true -- a service that charged $4,000 for five nights of sleep training. I used to dream (so to speak) of working as a mattress tester, but I had no idea sleep was such a well-paying field.
And what do these people do on their day off? Sleep in? Set the alarm clock early?
Which brings me to an important digression (OK, it's not that important, but these tangents have to be justified): A recent study, presumably conducted by well-rested scientists, said that Americans are getting enough sleep after all.
This, after 80 gazillion stories (more or less) about how Americans are sleep-deprived. I'm sure I'm not the only one who lost sleep over this issue.
You have to wonder if those stories were planted by Big Mattress, the not-so-sleepy cartel that exerts a stranglehold over the bedding industry.
Also, shouldn't the government regulate those mattress ads? They show incredibly refreshed people opening their eyes with a radiant smile and positively bounding out of bed. The only time I ran that fast out of bed was when I had to puke.
No one wakes up that happy, and if they do they need to be locked up before they have a chance to harm others.
But back to the main topic, which I forgot because I was so sleep-deprived (or at least I thought I was). How far will this outsourcing go?
All parents dread the "terrible twos." Perhaps children should be outsourced beginning at age 22 months and then returned in time for preschool (or in more extreme cases, college).
Parents are even paying people hundreds of dollars to take care of such simple tasks as childproofing their homes. I'm sorry, but if you aren't capable of handling this job, you probably need the home childproofed to protect yourself. In fact, you might want to consider the ultimate in baby outsourcing: Pay someone else to have and raise your child.
It would save both of you a lot of trouble.
Write to Don Flood in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2008 King Features Synd., Inc.