Parenting is like a cult. You don’t understand it when you’re not a member. And once you are a member, there’s no escape. There also appears to be an unwritten rule that you don’t divulge the realities of owning a child. I think there’s the concern that, if you do, people will be reluctant to join, membership will start to dwindle and there will be far too many happy, carefree people roaming the planet. And we just can’t be having that!
So, here’s a list of random things the midwife didn’t mention, the health visitor didn’t discuss, the parenting books didn’t include and other parents definitely did not warn me about.
1. Weekends cease to exist as you knew them. They’re just another weekday. I remember going to bed the first Friday night after my eldest was born, feeling relieved the next day was Saturday and I’d get a lie in. Why? Apparently I was under the impression that my 7 day old baby would be able to differentiate a weekday morning from a weekend morning and would considerately sleep through to a reasonable time. Yeah, in twelve years time maybe. And you’d better make the most of it before those midnight hot flushes start.
2. If you have boys, there’s no possible point in potty training. Sixteen years down the line, you’re still wiping up their piss. It’s just now on the toilet seat. And on the floor. And up the walls. Would’ve been easier to keep them in nappies.
3. Don’t have kids two years apart. Because 18 years down the line there’s a chance, if you’ve managed to produce a reasonably intelligent first born, that you’ll have offspring studying for GCSEs and A-Levels at the same time. It’s not fun.
4. Don’t get carried away with the first one. Don’t take hundreds of the same photo and arrange them chronologically in an expensive photo album. Don’t buy a baby book and religiously add important events with accompanying photos. Don’t start a memory box full of absolute crap that takes over a quarter of the loft. Because by the time number two comes along, you’ll be too knackered to even print out the photos. And number three will think it’s adopted because there seems to be no proof whatsoever that they lived with you as a baby.
5. Unlike the wicked stepmother in Snow White, you’ll never have time to look in the mirror again for at least ten years. But when you do, you’ll now resemble the wicked stepmother in Snow White. Just grow a fringe and wear polo necks for the rest of your life.
6. Your house is never your own again. It is invaded by large primary coloured constructions designed to mute or entertain infants. In one fell swoop, your interior design masterpieces are ruined. Five years down the line, when said contraptions have served their purpose, they will be removed (but not sold due to various stains produced by different orifices) and you will rediscover parts of your living room as well as a variety of toys, remote controls, keys and mouldy pieces of food thought to have been lost to the twilight zone. But you then stupidly get a dog so the playpen makes an unwelcome reappearance and a corner is lost to the dog bed which is a pointless, carpet-stealing purchase, seeing as the mutt chooses to sleep anywhere but in it.
7. You’ll wash everyday for the rest of your life. There will always be dirty clothes. You will have a Magic Filling Washing Basket. And you will invariably wash clean washing because bone-idle teenagers can’t be bothered hanging up clothes worn for all of 60 minutes, so the newly washed clothes you’ve left in their room will slowly merge with the stinky, crusty items which have failed to make it to the laundry basket. You can try and differentiate between the two using your sense of smell but that’s a seriously risky business. So, just go for the easy option and wash the fecking lot all over again.
8. Don’t bother encouraging them to talk when they are babies, because you’ll regret it. Even when they can articulate all the speech sounds, enunciate intelligible words and form grammatically correct sentences, they do actually continue uttering complete twaddle. A prime example: “Mam? How much does my face weigh?”
9. It doesn’t get easier. It gets different. Replace sleepless nights with newborns with sleepless nights waiting for drunken teenagers to get in. Replace walking them for miles with driving them for miles. In fact, as soon as you learn you’re pregnant, buy shares in BP or Esso because you will be responsible for their massive profits as you spend more time on your backside in the car than on your backside in the living room watching endless repeats of Peppa Pig.
10. You’ll get excited when they fetch home their first reading book. Invariably, it will involve three delightful children called Biff, Chip and Kipper. Don’t be fooled. They’re not. They never change their clothes, their mother doesn’t seem to know what they’re up to half the time (the nosey neighbour takes more of an interest) and they just swan through life doing what they bloody want. By the time your third child starts on the scheme, you wanna get that magic key and stick it ……
So, those are the first ten things that sprang to mind. The list is probably endless. But like I said, we’ll never truly understand the cult of parenting. Unless Louis Theroux makes a documentary on it.