Is parenting all misery and torture or do mummy blogs overstate the bad bits? Photo: Getty Images
A spooked Slate writer recently detailed her fear at the prospect of raising a child. Having binged on one too many parenting blogs, she found herself immersed in a joyless future brimming with misery and torture.
Parenting blogs, Ruth Graham said, seemed to make the notion of having kids “utterly terrifying” for anyone who is thinking about procreating.
It’s a fair point. Most parenting blogs frame child rearing as high on intangibles, low on individualistic gain. In exchange for all your sleep, freedom, privacy, money and standards of basic hygiene you receive, um, nobody is actually sure. A demanding child yes, but good stuff? Who knows? If the good stuff exists mums and dads sure as hell aren’t talking about it.
If you’re looking for some reproductive benefits, avoid parenting blogs. They’re not sales pitches for prospective parents, they’re therapy for anyone in the throes of tantrums and tears. But don’t worry; if you’d like to create a mini-you it’s not all excretions of bodily fluids. There are some brilliant upsides to this kid business:
1. Family parking
Revel in the moment when you find a vacant parent and child parking spot. Drive sideways into its cavernous space. Note that you’re so close to the supermarket you can practically start your fruit and veg shop from the driver’s seat. Pity the poor child- free folk who fought off a bad-tempered ute for the last available space on level 74 (warning: be prepared for zero sympathy from said child-free folk when your kids pull down a full shelf of tomato sauce and leave you stranded in a glass-ridden pool of red waste).
2. T2 Transit lanes
While we’re talking transport, you may think this isn’t quite in the spirit of commuter efficiencies, but there’s me, there’s the kid and there’s 25 kilometres of red highway with nary a vehicle in site. Adios my traffic jammed, solo-driving friends!
3. ZOMG! You’re Back!
You’ve had a shocking day at work. You return home, open the front door and a massive smile on chubby legs belts down the hallway to greet you. Short of being rescued from a 12-month hostage situation, no grown-up will ever by that pleased to see you. The small person throws their grateful self into your arms, and even sheds a few tears of joy at your return. Ha! Screw you horrible client, here’s empirical proof that I am in fact totally awesome.
Until kids get to an age where they can kick you in the shins for making them wear apricot-coloured tulle, dressing them up is great fun. Whether you have boys or girls, there is a whole host of clothing options completely incompatible with play but totally compatible with looking super cute. I know, treating your children like over-sized dolls is objectionable, but like I said you’ve only got a short window. Before long they’ll mount a rebellion in the form of flailing limbs and a determination to pair a moth eaten orange cardigan with purple satin pants.
5. Golden food
Adult life is one long boring round of healthy this and healthy that. Poached vegetables that taste like muddy fields and meat trimmed of all the bits that make it worth eating. And then kids arrive and choo choo! The tasty train chuffs back into flavour station. Once a month (or maybe once a week, who’s counting?) I make them hot chips, chicken nuggets and baked beans. It’s treat meal time and mummy and daddy (with an honourable waste-not-want-not ethos) hoover up the ample leftovers like the barely matured adults they are.
6. Kids’ TV
If I have to watch umpteen episodes of day-glo TV with insufferable moral finger wagging in lieu of an actual story then I at least deserve to appreciate the presenters’ abundant talents. Okay, cut to the chase. Mr Bloom is hot and a wild adventure with Andy is a pleasing proposition. You may find the objectification of kids’ TV presenters unsavoury, but just spend an hour or two with Jimmy Giggle and tell me Hoot isn’t on to a good thing.
7. The playground
It’s nigh on impossible to go to a playground as a grown-up without kids. I mean you can, but while you wait for your turn on the slippery dip, don’t be surprised if parents quickly gather up their young ones and herd them out the park while dialling triple zero. If you own a small child you can legitimately clamber over climbing frames and hide out in cubby houses. It’s brilliant and your kids will think you’re the funnest grown-up ever. That said, it is a bit tiresome when you have to give up the swing for the bawling toddler who’s taken umbrage at waiting 20 minutes for her go.
I don’t really know what the last one is called but it’s definitely the best. It’s the ache in your guts that tells you don’t want a baby you need one. It’s whatever weird hormone makes you feel all teary at the sight of a stranger’s newborn. It delivers cartwheels and sunshine at baby’s first smile and makes your heart pop with pride when your kids do nothing more than tie their shoelaces. In short, it turns you into a soggy-hearted sap with all the emotional fortitude of a love-stricken teenager.
It might be biology. It might be evolutionary necessity. It might be fairy dust for all we know, but it makes having kids incredible. There are no blog pieces about it because it’s hard to articulate and deeply personal. It’s some kind of magic and no matter how many 3 am wake up calls you’re subjected to, it guarantees you’ll emerge out the other side knowing parenthood is the best thing you’ve ever done ... and the best thing you ever will do.