A friend of mine, about to become a dad, asked me recently for some advice about parenting. I started to write down a few things, based on my experiences during the last seven months with my daughter/adversary Mary.
I set out to write a brief and funny account designed to reassure my pal, but instead - three hours and 2,500 words later - I appeared to have penned a rather lengthy, quite bitter and twisted account of fatherhood.
So over the next two weeks I’m going to share it with you.
This is for all those men about to have a baby, and those who’ve ever raised a child. This is what happens.
Your wife will get hooked on mum-baby websites. Three months in, she will start to think of herself as a leading contender for Mother of the Year and criticise other people’s parenting.
She will purchase copious amounts of baby-related nonsense from websites, using the joint account card.
Put any amorous thoughts out of your mind for at least six months after your wife has given birth. She’s not interested in any how’s your father - and after what you witnessed, you’re not either.
Your face. Wave it goodbye. Within three weeks you will be gaunt, lined, and will wear the haunted look of a 90-year-old military veteran who witnessed terrible war atrocities in his youth.
You will not disrupt the ‘routine’. All new parents say the baby ‘will fit into our lives, it won’t be the other way round’. This attitude lasts a month, maximum. Then the baby has to be bathed at 6.30 every night and put to bed at 7. Which means you can’t leave the house. Which means that thing you had called a social life now no longer exists.
Individual nights out. From now on will involve long and tense negotiations. ‘If you go to the gym on Tuesday, can I play five-a-side and have a pint with the lads on Thursday?’
You’ll become the kind of person you used to detest. You’ll make strange coochy coo noises in public and pull funny faces at your baby while shopping in Sainsbury’s. You used to think these people were cretins, now you’re one of them.
Going to bed at 10pm becomes normal. You’re knackered. Plus you know the bloody thing will be up at 1am, and 4, and 6, so you may as well get some sleep in while you can.
You probably won’t be that keen on him/her at first. They don’t smile, they scream and are totally unappreciative of all you are doing for them (keeping them alive, which is quite a big deal). You get absolutely nothing back. You will be tempted, when he/she is once again crying for no reason at half three in the morning for the fourth time that week, to throw he/she headfirst out of the window at great speed. Don’t feel guilty, this is natural and entirely understandable. Obviously don’t do it though.
If you suffer from OCD, you’re in trouble. You will get excrement on your hands at least five times a day. And vomit. Lots of it.
Grandparents. They must have equal access. If one set of parents live a moderate to long distance away, you will soon receive pointed text messages along the lines of ‘he/she will forget what we look like’, and inevitably, wracked with guilt, you’ll load up the car and drive all the way to Nuneaton or somewhere the following day just to keep the peace.
Your respective mothers will give advice and be obsessed about the baby being too cold. You’ll say you were told in antenatal classes that it’s preferable for your baby to be cooler rather than be too warm. Rubbish, your mothers will say, while taking the baby out of your arms to dress it in socks and a woollen hat - despite the fact it’s July and you’ve got the central heating on.
Strangers will talk to you. Having a baby makes you popular. People - mainly women of a certain age - will smile, stop, and engage you in conversation. Indeed you will start to feel affronted if while walking round town less than three people comment on how beautiful/lovely your baby is.
Your friends stop calling. Those without children no longer want anything to do with you. Those with children suddenly want to hang out, but the problem is they’re incredibly dull.
And so are you. Four or five months in you realise you’ve become so boring that you bore yourself. You’re suddenly the kind of person who looks for two-for-one offers on nappies and wet wipes.
You and your wife will spend 95 per cent of your time talking about the baby. So much so that you can’t remember what you talked about before having a baby.
Don’t ever get nostalgic. Don’t think about your life pre-baby. Don’t dwell on how simple and uncomplicated it was. Don’t think about how you could once nip for a pint at the drop of a hat or walk into your lounge without tripping over some kind of flashing plastic toy. It’s dangerous to look back - you’ll only feel depressed.
Hope to God your wife breastfeeds. It means you don’t have to get up and do any night-feeds for a whole year. Instead at 3am, you shout from the bedroom, ‘are you Ok love?’, perhaps make a half-hearted offer to make her a brew (desperately hoping she replies ‘no, I’m OK thanks’), then roll over and go back to sleep. She meanwhile is up for 50 minutes feeding in the next room. Over time this may lead to tension. You point out, again, that she’s on maternity leave and you’re working full time. This, in turn, leads to more tension.
This, in turn, means at least a two-month extension to the earlier section about not feeling amorous.
n Part two next week. My friend, by the way, hasn’t been in touch since I sent him this. Can’t think why.