When Benjy Lampert and his wife, Lori, discovered they were going to have a baby, the couple was elated … and more than a little surprised. They’d been trying to get pregnant for less than a month.
“We thought, ‘that was so easy!’” Benjy said with a laugh.
The pastor and now-retired anesthesiologist duo got married young, at 20 and 21. During Benjy’s first year of medical school, he and Lori talked about children for a long time. Benjy sought out advice from trusted folks, and those around him were very encouraging. It’s very pleasant to see a miniature version of yourself running around the house, he recalls others telling him. They shared their own stories about how parents’ cherished relationships with their children grew and blossomed over the years.
They knew they’d be really happy having children of their own, and ultimately Lori and Benjy decided they wanted to have kids young, reasoning that they’d have more time to have relationships with each other and their children once they were grown.
His first reaction to learning his wife was pregnant was overwhelming joy and celebration. Then came consternation and fear. He quickly realized just how much his life was going to change, and his mind became filled with questions like, how are we going to manage this? What if everything isn’t perfect? Will the baby be healthy? Is everything going to be okay? How will we manage this financially? What’s next?
Benjy doesn’t chastise himself too much for this sudden onslaught of questions. He says he believes all these fears are valid, and that his concerns were realistic ones. However, when baby Ray was born nine months later, it soon became clear just how big a commitment caring for an infant can be.
“Even knowing a baby was going to take a lot of our time, we didn’t realize just how much time and effort it would take—at least I didn’t,” he said. “To simply see in hindsight just how much time (babies) take, and how quickly things have to change, that was a big surprise—at least to me.”
The mom- and dad-to-be had very different approaches to preparation ahead of their due date. While Lori was constantly reading books about child-rearing, “I didn’t do any of that,” Benjy said. He figured that, because people have been having babies for hundreds of thousands of years, everything was probably going to be ok. He called himself much more “lackadaisical” compared to his wife, and that he did a lot of learning on the fly.
In contrast, Benjy’s preparations were much more tactile, concerning himself with making an adequate living space, preparing the nursery and supporting his wife feel supported. He also saw himself responsible as a financial provider for the family.
Four months after welcoming Ray into the world, the aspiring doctor started residency. It was a challenging time for the young family, with Lori shifting into a stay-at-home mom role. To support everyone on his income alone, Benjy said he had to work more, taking on extra jobs to make it happen. He wasn’t home much.
“That’s how we worked it out, but others do it differently,” he said, commending others—including some of his nieces and nephews—who flexibly alternate who works and who takes on parenting responsibilities.
The three-year stint as an anesthesiology resident meant he didn’t have a lot of time to make sure Lori had what she needed, and Benjy said she did a lot of that by herself while he was focused on his studies.
“She was alone with the kids for years,” he said. “Back then, I was just trying to keep my head above water … I was swamped with school. I was so worried about getting a medical license to support my family.”
After rushing to get his license early, Benjy started driving around to various hospitals to make ends meet. He was always on call during training, and most of his weekends were spent working emergency rooms in the area.
“I had to do what I had to do, but I also look back and think I could have been more considerate,” he said. “It was a tough time in our lives … I’m looking back on it, wondering, how did we survive all that?”
Three years later, along came Emily, born toward the end of Benjy’s residency training.
“We were blessed to have a boy and a girl—one of each,” Benjy said. He recalls Lori telling him, ‘that’s the perfect sized family; let’s be done.’
Benjy wasn’t entirely convinced. He encouraged his wife to think about it for a while, which explains the four-year gap between Emily and the youngest Lampert, Zak.
“One day she called me up, crying, ‘I’m pregnant!’ which was very unexpected, but we were so happy,” he said. “She thought she was out of the woods because of the gap (between births) … I still tease her about that.”
In retrospect, Benjy figures it may have been easier to wait a few years longer to have kids, until after he and Lori had their feet under them. He recognizes this choice was probably very hard on his wife. But then again, having kids young means they “got it over with,” he said, and that it was the right choice for them. Ray, Emily and Zak were already out on their own by the time the parents were in their early 50s, which meant they were able to enjoy more time with each other and with their grown children.
Young people are not mature yet and are really the least prepared to have children of their own, Benjy conceded, “but there’s something that happens when you have a kid—suddenly you’re no longer the most important person in your own world. This other person needs you to be a grown-up, putting aside your own needs.”
He points to a sense of maturity and growth he never knew until he became new father.
“Now we can enjoy our five grandchildren, and we get together all the time,” Benjy said. The three Lampert kids, now in their late 30s and early 40s, still live in the same town as their parents.
Benjy’s relationship with his adult children is very important to him, he said. He cherishes looking back on the way the relationship has changed—from a dependent baby who requires your constant, undivided attention through the years of teaching them, through the stages of moody teenagers, and finally to mature relationships where you can give and receive advice, engage in great conversations and enjoy an adult beverage together.
Benjy’s Advice for Dads-To-Be
Before your baby comes, do more reading and preparation than I did! The childcare role is so important. People nowadays view child-rearing as a partnership. Two parents share the burden and work collaboratively, watching the kids while the other takes a break or goes to work. The roles were far more set in stone in previous generations, where there was typically one breadwinner and one caregiver. That’s not the case as much anymore in lots of homes. My advice is to be open to sharing both roles: You are both caretakers and both providers. This advice is important for Mom, too, as she deserves to have time to herself, to work and to contribute to society in the ways she wants. That’s one thing I didn’t really consider as much as I should have.