Parenting: 8 ways that it’s just like pledging a fraternity or sorority

As a new parent, I have heard some iteration of the following advice about 15 million times:

“Parenthood is unlike anything you’ve done before.  You’ll never truly understand until you’ve been through it.”

As someone with literally zero experience with the logistics of parenthood (e.g., changing diapers, cleaning spit up out the little crevice between the underarm and the chest, or wiping projectile diarrhea off the ceiling), I was concerned.

Once I got started, however, I realized it all seemed so familiar.  I wondered to myself, “Rob, how can you be so calm in the face of all these new experiences?  Where did your parenting prowess come from?  What in your life made you such an expert at parenting?”

And then it hit me:  The late night wake ups, the incessant crying, the bodily fluids everywhere, the nagging sense that there was something else I should be doing, the disconnection with the outside world.

Being a new parent is exactly the same as pledging a fraternity or sorority.

How parenthood is like pledging a fraternity - drawing by Rob Pollak

If you’re a new parent, just imagine yourself as a pledge of Delta Alpha Delta (D.A.D.) or Mu Omega Mu (M.O.M.).  Don’t panic, it will all be familiar.

You lose all control over your own time.

My first night as a pledge, I awoke to my phone at 3am.  I answered.

“Yello?” I said.

“Who’s this?”


“Pollak, you fuck.  I need you to bring me a pack of cigarettes and a yoo-hoo.”

For the next few months, I had no control over my schedule.  At any given hour, I could be forced against my will (on a completely voluntary basis, of course) to go searching for a taco, to bring a case of beer to someone camping in the woods in a nearby state, to walk miles just to be yelled at for not going fast enough, or to hold a match while reciting–in alphabetical order–the names of people long deceased.

Now, as a parent, I feel the same sense of uselessness when I shut my eyes.  The second I enter REM sleep, a whimper will sneak its way out of the bassinet, a stream of pee will make a triumphant escape from the diaper, a bombastic fart will echo across the room, foul-smelling poo will makes its presence known.  And just like that–bleary eyed and hallucinating–I get out of bed and figure out how to make it stop.

New moms

You get drenched with bodily fluids. 

Before becoming parents, everyone insists that they will not end up covered in human feces, but at some point it’s bound to happen.

New parents tend to go on and on about the time they aimed their kid at the Diaper Genie while the kid let loose a barrage of machine gun style diarrhea that obliterated the walls.  Not surprisingly, pledging can also include odd rituals that involve feasting on bodily fluids and super soakers of urine.

Don’t believe me?  A quick google search of fraternity hazing and bodily fluids brings back a mind-boggling smattering of hazing ideas that can keep young men occupied for years to come.  I’m guessing you’ve never had a vomlet before, have you?

New dads

You can’t go anywhere without telling everyone exactly where you will be and when you’ll be back.

Similar to the loss of control over time, new parents and pledges both lose the ability to disappear from the face of the earth.  No more sneaking out for a quick nine after work, or  over to your girlfriend’s dorm room for a quiet afternoon.  You now have to account to the other pledges for your whereabouts.  Some societies even make you travel in packs at all time.

With a new kid, you no longer can just get up and go.  Everything becomes a process.  I once got caught in a long checkout line at CostCo and Anne texted me 74 times.

[Anne didn’t really text me 74 times.  I completely made that up.  I normally assume that this kind of joke is clear, but Anne is in an interesting hormonal place because she recently gave birth.  She might rip my head off, screaming “I never fucking texted you when you were at Costcooooooooooooooo.]

[For the record, Anne’s not in an interesting hormonal place right now.  I dramatized that as well for another joke.  She’s very loving and caring and is an excellent mother].

You stick a finger in someone else’s asshole.

With a baby, it’s to wipe or apply ointment.  With a fraternity, it’s to do the The Elephant Walk.

You have to wear ridiculous outfits.

During pledging, you may have to dress in certain colors or costumes.  It’s not surprising to see pledges dressed in drag or even running around campus in the nude.  Likewise, new parents must wear Baby Bjorns, Bert and Ernie shirts, and often force the newborn to dress in similarly ridiculous costumes.  Anne wants our baby to be Oatmeal for Halloween.

You constantly clean up after someone else.

One of the best things about being a baby or a sophomore in a fraternity is that you don’t have to lift a finger.  Whenever there’s vomit on the floor, just cry or pick up the phone to call mommy, daddy, or that pledge to clean up your mess.

You are forced to listen to terrible songs on repeat all day.

I’ve heard stories of pledges sitting in a room blindfolded listening to Journey on repeat for 20 straight hours.  It doesn’t sound half bad now that I’m rocking out to the Bubble Guppies theme song for 93 straight hours.

To make matters worse, I only know the lyrics to one song.  So my poor baby has to listen to me sing the first verse of twinkle twinkle little star until he can’t take it anymore and pretends to go to sleep so I’ll shut up.

Every once in a while when all hope is lost, something wonderful happens.

Both parenting and pledging have moments that are pretty damn hard.  Maybe you even question whether you can hack it.  It’s in those moments–the ones that often come at 4:30 in the morning–when you awake to another in a long line of stressful activities.

But this time, instead of the usual hazing or, well, hazing, you get a surprise keg party or a sweet little smile.  Then, BOOM.  You’re sucked back in because, in the back of your head, you think that even the worst moments might be one huge mindfuck on the way to a happy ending.

66 thoughts on “Parenting: 8 ways that it’s just like pledging a fraternity or sorority

  1. I survived pledging but still not 100% sure I will survive being a new parent. Note: that statement refers to when the time comes; there are no buns in my oven just yet.

  2. hahahaha….new parenting and sorority….remarkable 🙂
    will encourage many aspiring parents….made me smile throughout (with those spurts of laughters in between)
    congratulations on the new one and good luck as well.

  3. Child rearing was not one of my favorite things. Three kids and truthfully I let the wife handle the messes and gooey stuff. I did my share of diapers but made excuses to get out of the routine. My wife walked the halls with the baby if there was a night of restlessness. No excuses I guess. On ten to one I give myself a three. Bad dad and a bad grandpa. Just like the movie.

  4. I liked your blog but I disagree with you. I think that parenting is a lot harder but also filled with joy and is a lifetime commitment. I do not think that pledging for a sorority or fraternity is a lifetime commitment at all or joyful.

  5. I wrote a new parent piece once (written in hindsight). I compared parenting to joining the mafia. The job is yours for life, you may be put out to pasture for a while, but you can be hauled back in for active duty at any time. Congratulations on the job and on a great post.

  6. Beautifully captured on both ends: pledging and parenthood. I have yet to be a parent, so I haven’t had it too bad yet, but I have taken care of several baby cousins in my life, so I have a small inkling… and I may or may not have been exposed to some hazing that nobody knew I saw. You are hilarious, my friend. Continue!

  7. “Anne didn’t really text me 74 times… She might rip my head off, screaming “I never fucking texted you when you were at Costcooooooooooooooo.” Oh, god, so funny. Definitely enjoy a hilarious perspective on difficult times. Thanks for some good laughs!

  8. Oh this is hilarious! I’m almost five years in but can so clearly remember the stages and total shock to the system new parenthood was. Thanks for the laugh – and especially the “interesting hormonal place” line. That really made me crack up.

  9. Rob –

    I have never been so terrified to click on a link as I was when I saw the words “vomlet” and “the elephant walk” highlighted. I’m happy to say that my common sense won out over my morbid curiosity and I am still blissfully unaware of both… though my imagination has proven itself to be gross enough.

    But putting aside your evil attempts to sear revolting images into my brain, I thought your post was hysterical. Bravo for being freshly pressed and on your new kiddo. Don’t worry – the explosive diarrhea stage only lasts about a decade or so….


  10. Funny stuff here! I especially loved the pie charts and your sense of humor. I will not, however, google “The elephant walk.” 🙂

  11. Your pie charts made me laugh out loud, having never been in a fraternity/sorority, I couldn’t really relate to the article, but the PIE CHARTS! Hysterical. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  12. Yep. . .made me glad I was a GDI so I didn’t have to go through this twice! Parenting is good preparation for being a nurse, though. . .same deal. “I want to eeeeaaaaatttt. . .(uttered by patient who is NPO for procedure and had that explained 1,596.94 times already)!!!!” Cleaning up poo. . .dealing with temper tantrums (from family), etc. Your post was awesome!

  13. Never would have expected there to be this many similarities between parenting and fraternity life. Funny that in this situation you are being hazed by baby. Nice work with those pie charts.I also really liked the Delta Alpha Delta.

  14. Absolutely hilarious analogy. And I agree, parenting isn’t THAT much of a shock if you’ve been though anything hard/exhausting in your life – but sounds like pledging a frat is the way to become fully prepared, for sure. Sharing this on my fb page.

  15. Oh my god, so funny, so true. The thing that sucks is that parenting is a pledge that never ends, you never “make it in” you just keep kissing & cleaning butts until they move out.. lol

  16. Hi Rob – found your blog on Freshly Pressed. Pretty funny stuff! Parenting is great fodder for humorous stories, isn’t it? The similarities of parenting and pledging/hazing…….sad but true. And to think that in 19 years, you’ll probably be paying the dues so your little one can enjoy the hazing process just makes for the perfect circle of life.

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