You see? Clickbait-y headlines do work! Hyperbole aside, this is a very real realisation I’ve lately come to: having children is really, really difficult.
This may seem like the least surprising revelation in history, but I’ve always thought when people said things like, “you just don’t know how tough it is having kids”, they were exaggerating. You know, a bit like how, when I say things like, “You have zero clue how hard it is to be a full-time blogger,” I’m mostly taking the piss. (Because being a full-time blogger is difficult, and can be stressful, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a pretty freaking privileged position to be in.)
The past 10 days, spent in the company of my sister, her husband and her three (adorable) children have made me realise just how much I have to be thankful for – and how many things I take for granted. For example…
You will never, ever have a second to yourself again
Or, at least not for a good 12 years, until your children begin to wish you were dead. My sister’s children are 5, 2 and 7 months old, and there is not a moment in your day with those children that is free of chat, nappy changing, channel-switching, volume-adjusting… The list of things a child can come up with that they need you to do right now this minute is absolutely infinite.
You just can’t have nice things
My sister and her husband bought themselves two white couches (clearly because they forgot they had children), which they now have covered with an assortment of printed throws and cushions – and woe betide anyone who removes said throws and or cushions. Of course, they’re right – three minutes of exposure and that white fabric will go the same way as their fabric kitchen chairs (scribbled on) or white walls (ditto). And that’s before we even get to the myriad Lego pieces that are stuffed in a so-tiny-it’s-hard-to-understand-how-they-got-them-in-there centre leg of the kitchen table.
You will end up eating a minimum of 500 extra calories each day
My sister calls this, the curse of the momnivore. Let’s start with the toast your child half-eats and leaves on his plate – that’s swallowed before you even notice yourself picking it up. And that’s before we get to sucking up the end of the ice-cream cone threatening to spill itself all over his clothes, half of the Starbucks cookie he suddenly decided was “yucky”, at least 10 teaspoons per day of revolting baby food, to check it for temperature / taste… It is just incredibly difficult to control one’s eating when you’re surrounded by tiny saboteurs.
There’s no such thing as a throwaway comment – and you can forget sarcasm
I mean, I know it’s not their fault, right – and it’s kind of obvious, when you think about the fact that they barely know where their noses are – but children do not understand sarcasm, or hilarity. “What do you mean, you might starve to death? Mom, is Rose-me dying?!” Loud sigh. No matter how many times I fall victim to this common mistake, I still keep on making it…
Do not mention going somewhere unless you are absolutely committed to going there immediately
I made this mistake several times, while hanging out with my nephews. You know how, with normal people (read: adults) you can say things like, “will we go for pizza tonight, or will we stay home?” or, “you know, I’d love to go to the cinema”, and those people will not hold you to those suggestions. Not so with children, for whom any mention of pizza or cinema must (immediately if not sooner) be followed by pizza and cinema. SIGH.
You’ve to be very careful what YouTube videos you show children
Who knew?! In my defence, it’s not like I was showing them hardcore porn, but I was in the middle of watching a particularly juicy Dr Pimple Popper video when my nephews shuffled over, the middle child plonking himself on my lap. I deduced that blackhead extractions probably weren’t that interesting to children, so I showed them the only cartoon I could remember ever watching on YouTube.
It was only later that afternoon, walking around TJ Maxx while Nash sang, “DUUUUMB WAYS TO DIIIIIEEEE” at the top of his lungs, that I realised the error of my ways. (I also got a stern talking to from my sister. “Please, please don’t show my children videos that give them ideas about how to kill themselves.” Oops.)
You’ll never have a lie in again
Children defy all of the laws of physics and sleep requirements. No matter how late they stay up the night before – on Thanksgiving, I think it was 9pm – 9pm! – before they toddled off to bed, you can rely on them being up and full of beans well before 8am. Every. Single. Day. What’s that even about?!
Children don’t understand privacy
Granted, this is a lesson I learned from owning a dog – you just don’t get any private time, whether you’re talking about sitting on the loo, having a shower or tweezing the hairs from your beard. Children care not for invisible boundaries (or physical ones, for that matter), and your ideas of share time will differ wildly from theirs. In short: children think everything is for sharing. (Including food, which is another thing I couldn’t wrap my head around – eh, no, Nash, you already had your chocolate bar earlier. This one is mine.)
“Explicit language” albums are out – and your cursing days are done
Matching cards are more fun than I remembered, especially as – at the age of 31, when playing against a two-year-old and a five-year-old – I’m really good at it. Nash, on the other hand, is not that amazing (although, for a five-year-old he’s probably in the top 5% of his age group) and takes losing very badly. We were playing a particularly vigorous game one afternoon when, upon realising that I had six pairs to his four, he shouted, “OH, SHIIIIII-“, cutting off when he noticed mine and his mother’s horrified faces. Now, wherever could he have picked that up? It was only later, listening to gangsta rap coming through the house’s surround sound speakers, that we realised our folly.
You can forget about nice restaurants
There’s nothing I like more in life than a good restaurant – delicious food, a starter and a dessert, drinks from glasses made of, well, glass and not a straw in sight. Once you decide to have children, those restaurants are out. Instead, you’re scouring the place for glasses (and, ideally, plates) made of melamine; colouring pencils; “fish tacos”, little fish-shaped cookies in a taco shell (props to Fort Wayne’s The Hoppy Gnome for that one)… Actually, all of the restaurants we went to were delicious with incredibly friendly (and patient) servers, but it just seems so exhausting, having to take those tiny, demanding humans into account every time you want anything.
In short, parents – I salute you. You have your work cut out for you. But, before you start feeling too sorry for yourselves, remember: you made your bed. Right now, I’ll congratulate myself for remaining childless. When I’m in my 80s and have no one to look after me, while your children dote on you, we can re-evaluate. For now, I’m sticking to my guns.