If Dom Knight's recent Daily Life article is anything to go by, it would seem I owe my childfree friends a massive apology. Having reviewed the charges levelled at me (and the millions of other parents around Australia), I should probably do everyone a favour and just stick myself in time-out for the next couple of years. But, before I slope off to the naughty corner I’d like to take a moment to offer an alternative perspective.
"Don't talk too much about your kids. Nobody is as interested in your children as you are, with the possible exception of the grandparents"
I get it. Small children, especially newborns aren’t particularly stimulating for those outside the family circle. We know this. But please try and see it from our point of view…. You see, when you become a parent your world-view shifts beyond all recognition. Your new baby becomes the centre of your universe and for a while, nothing else matters. When I became a mother I was overwhelmed with a huge surge of love mixed with an all-consuming sense of responsibility. And I knew that life would never be the same again.
I am well aware that I bored my child-free friends to tears. And it wasn’t because I thought my baby stories were fascinating. Really, if I’m being totally honest it was because I was too bloody tired to think about anything else. Serious sleep deprivation will do that to you. I vividly recall smiling at my friends and nodding at what I hoped were appropriate intervals, wracking my brain for something interesting to say. But all I could think about was how long it would be before my boobs started leaking.
"Don’t let the kids take over your house. If you have your non-childless friends over, you need to tidy up. We don’t want to cower in between piles of children’s toys."
Let me be very clear, I do not enjoy living in a perpetual state of chaos. Nobody does. I’m pretty certain that I’m speaking for parents everywhere when I say that trying to keep your house tidy when you have small children is rather like sweeping up leaves during a hurricane. If you’re my friend I expect you to turn a blind eye to the various toys that are dispersed throughout my home. I honestly thought that you were coming round to see me, not to inspect my house.
"Don’t fail to control your kids in public. When your children misbehave, it’s not only annoying and noisy, but it makes us feel incredibly awkward."
In the three and a half years that I’ve been a mother I’ve experienced some real parenting lows. And I’m lucky. My kids are healthy, and sociable and on the whole pretty jolly to be around. But they are also learning and growing and constantly pushing the boundaries. Tantrums are a totally, totally normal part of development. We know that they’re uncomfortable. But, and I’m speaking with experience when I say this, shaking your head, tutting and offering unsolicited advice does not help. If anything, the sense of pressure to ‘control’ children just makes the whole situation worse. What we really need is some compassion, for the kids, and the parents.
Rather than bemoaning the highly annoying habits of new parents, I urge all non-parents to extend a little empathy. Parenthood can be a tough gig at times and having the support of your friends can make all the difference.
So, to my childless friends, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I bored you. I’m sorry that my house was a mess when you popped in for a cuppa and believe me I’m sorry that you had to witness my child throwing a tantrum. I’m sorry that I had to witness it too! But most of all, I’m sorry that any of this stuff is an issue.