I have this friend, right, and he doesn’t have any children; not yet, anyway. He came to my house for breakfast on Sunday morning, although we’d already been awake for so long that it was practically lunchtime. This friend – let’s call him Trevor, on account of that being his actual name – came over for breakfast foodstuffs and coffee, and we chatted, as old friends tend to do when they catch up over breakfast foodstuffs and coffee. Trevor’s been thinking a lot about fatherhood lately, and what it might mean for him and his lovely lady wife, who we shall call Dr Sexy, on account of that not being her name, but on account of her being a very attractive lady doctor.
“Do you find parenthood fulfilling?” he asked, as my two youngest children wrestled each other to the ground over a piece of Duplo. Bearing in mind that I’d been woken before dawn by a small girl saying MILO with devilish undertones, and then shouted at by a small boy for stirring the honey INTO the porridge rather than leaving it delicately swirled on top in the shape of a happy face, that was kinda self explanatory.
“I wouldn’t say fulfilling’s the word,” I answered, narrowly dodging the aforementioned piece of Duplo.
“Why’d you have kids then?”
I thought about this. I looked at my (tired) husband. I looked at my (naked, wrestling) children.
“Cos they give me something to write about?”
“Yeah, but if they weren’t providing you with a constant source of material for your blog, why’d you have them?”
Well my friends, that got me fucking thinking. I’ve been thinking about very little else since the question was posed (well, apart from monkeys on bicycles; I’m pretty much always thinking about monkeys on bicycles). I’ve been asking people whether they find parenthood fulfilling. I’ve been asking them why they had children. This elicits strange looks in the condiments aisle of Woolworths, I grant you, but I have to know. I shall not sleep until I figure this out. Well that’s bullshit, right there; the only things preventing me from sleeping are my fucking children, who take it in turns to come in at half-hourly intervals throughout the night and stand at my bedside, staring at me until I wake up.
So go on then, why did you have kids? Why, for that matter, did I have kids? No, kids aren’t fulfilling; they’re ENTERTAINING and they’re EXHAUSTING and they’re TIME CONSUMING and they’re ENERGY DRAINING and they’re FUCKING EXPENSIVE, but they’re not fulfilling. Describing them as fulfilling would be to imply that I was unfulfilled before they came along; that I was incomplete before I became a parent; that childless women (and men!) are somehow lacking. It would imply that I’m nothing beyond a mother. It would imply that my children are EVERYTHING to me, and they’re not. They’re a spectacularly large percentage of me, but not EVERYTHING. Take them away, and there’s still a bit of me left. Remember me? Hello! I’m still here! I like biscuits!
Which is not to say, of course, that I don’t love the little fuckers. I adore them. I adore them more when they’re asleep, but for the most part – except when they’re yanking on my pyjama shorts to play Mouse Trap, while I’m trying to make a cup of tea at 6 o’clock in the morning – I fucking love the little fuckers. I love them for the spontaneous kisses they plant on my cheek, for the arms that wrap around me at the end of a school day, for the gasping, hysterical giggles as I plant a raspberry on their squidgy bellies. I love them with a fierce mamma love that dares any fucker to make my babies sad.
Here’s what I’ve figured out: kids change your world. Yes, they turn your world upside-fucking-down, but they change the way you look at it, too. For better or for worse you stop focusing on yourself and focus, instead, on their world, and their happiness. Fire engines and police cars and green grass and whizzy slides take on a particular shade of magic when you’ve got kids, and you can’t help but experience the world through their inquisitive, bat-shit-mental little eyes. That’s fucking magical. The world’s a better, shinier, funnier place when you’ve got kids. Well, not just kids. I reckon if you’ve got a fucking excellent pet, or a brilliant hobby, like, for instance, dogging, or something, then you’d also see the world in a different light. It’s all about perspective.
Ben said to me last night, at bath-time: “You laugh a lot, don’t you?” And yeah, I do. I laugh a lot. I laugh far more than I ever laughed as a childless woman. Admittedly, yes, I cry a lot more too. And drink; I drink way, way more than I ever did before I had children. But the point is that I laugh a lot, too. I find humour in the most ridiculous places, because there’s actually nothing funnier than a four-year-old telling his older brother that he’s had a FUCKING good day.
My life is chaotically unfulfilling, but it’s fucking hilarious. Yesterday evening, Paul and I were sitting out the front of our house, watching the kids have bike races in the street (cos yeah, it’s actually 1960 where we live). Another couple walked past, with a dog and a pram, rocking the whole nuclear family vibe, and Frankie shouted – loudly – LOOK DADDY, THAT MAN WILL BE YOUR FWEND. And we blushed, and waved, and they waved back, and it was all very awkward for a moment there (because, yes, Paul is kinda short on men friends) but it was fucking funny, too. And then Alice went over the road to chat to the charming yet devout pastor who lives there, and he was looking at her a bit strangely, and we realised she was wearing just her knickers, with a handful of Little People stuffed down the front, and was telling him that she had a willy now. We have moments like that at least once an hour, day and night, and while they’re interspersed with wrestling and wrangling and tantrums and tears, there are enough of those moments to keep me going. That’s why I had kids, I think. Either that, or I was just very fucking drunk.