You’re not that good, you’re just a parent!

Earlier this week, the world of Twitter made me aware of this exercise in smug self-satisfaction, thinly disguise as an article about the difficult decisions of modern parenthood.

If (unlike me apparently) you have better things to do with your life than read mediocre – bordering on dull – parenting articles online, here’s the general gist:

Journalist talks about all the ‘sacrifices’ she has made for her children – i.e. Taking them to football practice on a weekend, being involved in their school and social lives, not getting hammered every night of the week and actually paying some attention to them – as opposed to all those other feckless parents she is friends with who apparently spend their lives bemoaning to anyone who will listen how outrageous it is that they are expected to abandon any aspect of their pre-parenthood life to actually care for their own offspring. Her general message: other parents are crap, I am good and I want everyone to know about it.

It was rubbish, but it got me thinking. If I scanned all my blog posts for the phrase ‘pre-baby’ or ‘pre-parenthood’, I fear that to the untrained eye it may well appear that I am one of those feckless parents who bemoans the fact that their life has to change just to accommodate a being so small they could probably squish themselves inside a dustbin during hide and seek and not be found until calling the police had become a serious consideration.

Obviously life changes considerably when you have a child, often more than you expect: you have to get up much earlier; you have to eat dinner so early you are hungry again by 9pm; you can’t just sit on your backside as soon as you get in from work – you actually have to do stuff; you have to respond to every social request with either ‘I’ll check the family calendar’ or ‘I’ll see if we can get a babysitter’; and forget about any kind of spontaneity like post work pub trips, they are a thing of the past.

It’s not such a bad thing. These days, every time I get the chance for a post-work pint I’m so excited at the novelty that I’m inevitably disappointed when I realise that it’s largely just people sitting around and moaning about work – like the staff room at lunchtime but with alcohol and much more expensive.

It’s a clear case of ‘the grass is always greener’. There are plenty of things I remember fondly from my youth, but that doesn’t mean I expect to relive them now. I remember as a teenager in my goth-inspired phase sneaking into the local dodgy club underage, dressed in baggy combat pants, a t-shirt emblazoned with a character from children’s TV and more eyeliner than Alice Cooper. It was great, but you couldn’t pay me enough to do it now. As a student it seemed a great idea to go out every now and then wearing fairy wings for no apparent reason, but if someone suggested it this weekend I’d be backing towards the door within seconds. Only a few years ago, I remember staying up every Saturday night until sunrise with a different array of people spread across the living room floor each weekend. It was amazing, and to be honest I do still miss it – but then I remind myself that I also hated my job, had no idea what to do with my life and spent my weekdays commuting in the sweaty pit of the central line, desperate for the weekend to provide an escape from the drudgery.

Pre-baby life was great, but that was then, and now post-baby life is just as great too. There’s no point comparing – it’s a totally different beast.

No one deserves a medal simple for accepting things have moved on. That’s just life. Our identities are made from where we have been and what we have done, and it’s the new and different things we do which make us more interesting. We don’t need to abandon who we are, everything we do and everything we hold precious to embrace that, we just adapt. No one writes articles about how amazing they are because as adults they have accepted they have to go to work and therefore can no long while away the hours scrawling notes about who they fancy on their pencil cases, or praising people who no longer attempt to subsist on a diet of Dominos pizza and Redbull once they’ve left uni. It’s called growing up!

Whether you like it or not we all have to do it in the end, otherwise you’ll end up as one of those scary middle aged women who lurk in the corner of Yates’ pubs, wearing clothes from the teenage rails in New Look and drinking Bacardi Breezers long after they’ve gone out of fashion.

Now that would make a much more interesting article!


One response

  1. This is an interesting post and thanks to your husband for drawing my attention to it. As someone considering starting a family, I’m terrified about giving up my identity. There are a lot of things that are a huge part of my life that I will never be able to do again; the main one being that I’ll be too old in 20 years time when any child has grown up sufficiently for me to disappear abroad for a month and a half without them. All of my current, long-lived hopes and dreams will die if and when I get pregnant, as they will simply no longer be possible unless I become the worst mother in the world. The term “daunting” does not begin to cover it! Your blog post, however, has given me food for thought about the positive things that could suddenly become a reality. I’m keen to get into coaching and, far from looking like some complete weirdo if I coach “minis” now, I’ll look normal coaching my own child and his/her peers, not to mention that if I haven’t been out until all hours on a Saturday night, a 9am start half way across the county would actually be feasible every Sunday! I know I’d get a great deal of pleasure from it. Additionally, there are plenty of environmental and youth development projects here in the UK. Yes, it won’t be paid work, and I’ll be forever in my husband’s pockets to pay the bills, but at least I still would have a chance to make a difference. I think I need to spend some time thinking about this, but thank you for showing me another way to look at things.

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