Since we found out that my wife is pregnant, there have been two responses which have surprised me. One, the ‘Well Done!’ feels amusingly inappropriate, as if the person is uncomfortably saying, ‘So you managed to figure out where it went, then?!’.
But the other, less amusing response has been the ‘Ohhhhohoh, you just wait!’ near Schadenfreude of both older parents and people without children. The implication being totally negative and, effectively, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got yourself in for!’.
First, it’s clear that some people just don’t know what else to say. They’re parroting back to me and my wife exactly what they’ve heard other people say (I assume) which makes their dumb response a simple fill-in-the-gap discomfort. These people just make me sad.
What pisses me off are the people who fully believe the negative stance, and at that moment you can see the parents replaying their children’s early years through a gel of nightmares, while the non-parents wince at a vision of the utter loss of their free self-soul.
If I’m offended on behalf of me, my wife and our unborn child, how the hell would the children of these negatismo-people feel, to hear that the instinctive memories of their parents are all painful, all projecting that they suffered at the hands of their children.
I can tell you. We feel disgusted, ashamed, distressed and severely upset. After a recent meal with my family that showcased a concentrated burst of ‘You just wait’-ism, I spent the evening weeping in my wife’s arms. How dare someone be so callous?
We get it, okay? Parenting isn’t a cocking TV dinner, or a paint-by-numbers exercise, or any one of a million other facile analogies that all just suggest one thing – people are scared that yet-to-be parents will be too blind to the effort, sacrifice and care that kids need.
Well fuck you. Apologies for the direct forcefulness of my swearing, but I’m on the offensive now in any future conversation I have about our child, and I will not tolerate anyone telling me it will be anything other than a glorious, resounding burst of love and joy.
Because anyone who doesn’t think that can bite their own tongues off and never speak to me again. I’m not a shit-eating idiot. I know where food goes in and where it comes out. I know about the sleep and the noise and the money and all the other meaningless nonsense.
But for crying out loud, that’s not why I wanted a child. It’s not even a catalogue of reasons not to have a child. It’s just what happens, it’s just the territory. Me and my wife are so excited about having children because we know we’re going to love them to pieces.
I know people who have struggled. My own sister (and this is a favourite anecdote of my mum) called our parents in tears because my nephew just would not sleep. I feel for everyone who’s had a hard time. But for Christ’s sake, don’t fucking tell people about it.
Don’t publish your latest baby-related woe-is-me story to Facebook. Don’t whine to me about wailing or sleep-depravation. Talk to me about how you felt when your child smiles at you, about how you know I’ll feel when the same happens to me. Talk to me about love.
Otherwise, don’t have children. Because if all you can remember and pull out when someone tells you they’re pregnant is a shopping list of complaints, that person will have every reason to never tell you anything of worth or matter again. Or talk to you again.
Imagine how, in ten or twenty years, your child might feel to suddenly discover a Facebook post or a Tweet where you have, in a moment of stress and weakness and need, told a million strangers and a handful of friends that you wish you’d never got pregnant.
Imagine the pain. Imagine the heart-rending, soul-destroying and life-altering suffering you will be inflicting. You can reason it and excuse it all you like, but you said it, you did it. Your child will only hear you rejecting them, and from the moment that they were alive.
We have many ambitions as parents, and many decisions to stand by which we know many other people will judge us for. But one of my highest ambitions is to see these whinings for what they really are. If I fail I’ll be the first to stand up and accept that I have failed.
But we will only talk, ever, about how much and how endlessly we love our children and how proud we are of them simply for being them. Because that is all that is ever worth taking the time to talk about.