I was recently talking with my heavily pregnant friend when all of a sudden, I fell in to that all too common parent trap – I became the mummy kill joy! “Just sleep as much as you can” I started spouting “because when he arrives…..” STOP! Stop right there I screamed inside. Why am I telling her this NOW? She’s buried that little nugget about exhaustion in the back of her mind while enjoying the last few weeks of pregnancy. Ignorance is bliss – why couldn’t I just stay focused on all the fun she will have with her little man.
Kill joy moments are not just a thing that happen to mums-to-be or new mums, it happened to me recently too. Harrison and I were having a day to ourselves when he started kicking off ‘terrible twos’ style in a coffee shop (cliché mum hang out, sorry). A mum with two older pre-school children smiled sympathetically and then joked: ‘Just wait until he hits three, it gets worse…’ Lucky for me, Maia has already prepared me for a three-nager, but if I didn’t have an older child, why would I want to hear that amidst blood curdling screams?
It seems many of us parents can’t resist telling others about the impending doom heading their way. We might wrap it up in a jokey tone, but the seed of dread is planted nevertheless. Do we enjoy it? Does it make us feel like experts? Perhaps it is just another auto pilot trait of naturally pessimistic Brits? I wonder if the Americans are like this too. I’ll find out soon enough I guess (seven weeks until we move to California. Eek!)
The internet is currently bursting with ‘open letters to friends with no kids’ or ‘tips for mums to be’ – a heads up on how dramatically their life will change when a baby arrives– the good, the bad and the ugly. Now I am all for parents having a rant about the bad and the ugly online – it is a remarkably cheap form of therapy – but sometimes I just feel particularly sorry for those parents-to-be being talked AT by ‘experienced mums’.
Sure there will come a time when parents-to-be will want to know about cracked nipples, sleepless nights, getting the spark back with a partner, tantrums etc…. but they will ask in their own time. They will ask when THEY are ready. We don’t need to bombard them with these open letters or public warnings. It’s not a competition to know it all first! We don’t have to always wear the ‘been there, done that’ t-shirt.
I for one am going to try to be more careful in what I say to my childless friends – those who are planning, expecting or just plain curious. I am using the ‘Fight Club’ rule – the first rule of Parents Club is, we don’t talk about Parents Club. I won’t talk about the tough bits to future parents unless specifically asked and I’ll save my ranting for mums already in the same boat as me. Let future parents uncover the less glamourous parts of parenting in their own time. That’s part of the adventure. For now, let them just enjoy the magic of being pregnant while we focus on fueling their excitement. And then, when they need our help and support, we’ll be there to share our similar experiences.
Let’s try not to make parents-to-be (and current parents) look too far ahead huh? Let’s encourage them to stop focusing on the ‘next phase.’ We can’t afford to miss out on the present moments by future gazing – the years are already short enough.
So my ‘take two’ message to my darling friend who is about ready to pop:
“When the time comes, you’ll be amazing. You’ll cope. You’ll adapt. And I will be here for you, as and when you need me. No question is a stupid question. I can talk vaginas from dusk til dawn if needs be. Every child is so different and loaded with new challenges that no one can call themselves an expert. I look forward to you teaching me new things about parenthood -I’m still hungry to learn. This is one of the few jobs where you never can take the ‘L’ plates off, so I’ll let you in on a little secret from Parents Club: we’re all just winging it really!”