Do you really want to be a parent?

Why is it that we never tell expectant parents the truth? Parents wax lyrical about the joys of being a parent. Like a cheerful gang of die-hards, they laugh off the well-quoted exhaustion, discuss – endlessly – the requirement for wine, and welcome each new recruit with a knowing smile and a wink of collusion to the gang behind your back. And you learn. You learn to cope, you learn what those winks meant, and you learn to worry…

Finally, I’m going to tell you the truth about parenting:
For non-parents, weekends bring fun and games: maybe a couple of beers on the way home from work, a few chores on Saturday morning, and then a big night out. Take a shower, shave your legs, exfoliate, apply body lotion, make-up, heels and bling. Clubbing, or dinner, the Menu Gastronomique – 7 gorgeous courses, each accompanied by a matching glass of wine, pudding wine with the dessert course. You indulge, it’s Sunday tomorrow after all. No alarm clock needed, just wake with the sunshine and the aroma of fresh coffee. Lounge in bed with the papers until hunger drives you to the cooker for a fry-up, then maybe a walk to chase away the cobwebs. Finally, back to the pub – can’t be bothered to cook. Every stranger is a potential friend.

Once you’ve had a child the world is a very different place. You won’t need an alarm clock, body lotion, newspapers, or bling – you will stop wearing earrings at the peril of losing your earlobes. Clubs are places where snotty children lick brightly-coloured plastic toys and parents glug vats of cheap coffee in an attempt to stay awake. “Can’t be bothered to cook” stops being a spontaneous evening at the local Italian and becomes a bowl of cereal, or cheesy chips if you can muster up the enthusiasm. And every stranger is a potential paedophile.

Things you will worry about when you have a baby:

  1. Cot death – sadly, it still happens far too often, as the blogging community knows all too well…
  2. Choking – I will never forget adding marshmallows to my list of things I never knew I had to worry about, when a 6 month old baby choked on a marshmallow and died in a local restaurant
  3. Blind cords – often in the news as a hazard for children
  4. Meningitis

You will also worry about poo, vomit, sleep, and – of all random things – table corners. You will worry when someone else’s baby learns to roll over, crawl, walk, speak, or point before yours. You will worry when her first word is “Peppa Pig.” Don’t worry about these things. One day you will walk into a room and worry that your baby is not there – he’ll have learned to roll over and is hidden behind the door. You will really worry when your baby figures out how to work the TV remote! Oh, wait – you will also worry about sneezing in public…

As your child grows these worries will disappear. Life will get easier – in some ways. You think the worries are over. But let me warn you, as soon as one bag of worries is consigned to history, a new one opens.

Things you will worry about when you have a young child:

  1. Roads
  2. Strangers
  3. Swimming pools
  4. Hot saucepans
  5. Doors slamming on fingers

You will also worry about school friends, hormones, teachers, sleepovers, and the impossibility of finding a Brownie pack with less than 200 hopefuls already on the waiting list. And don’t get me started on whether the Gazelle group has more intelligent children than the Hippo group. 🙄 You will still worry about table corners…

But again, all of these things will iron themselves out eventually. Where you’re really going to start worrying is when you have a teenager. You think your child hates you now? You’ve seen nothing yet.

Things you will worry about when you have a teenager:

  1. Mood swings
  2. Exam results
  3. Drugs
  4. Pregnancy
  5. Someone else’s pregnancy (and by extension the CSA)

Somehow you get through it, and suddenly they’re 18. Phew! “That’s me done then,” you think. I can stop worrying now she’s an adult. Erm, noooo! Because as a parent you will never stop. I remember a lot of huffing and eyerolling as a 28 year old when my Father insisted on a phone call after my 90 minute car journey home from his house.

“Look Dad,” I reasoned. “If I do end up splattered all over the motorway I’m sure the police will let you know fairly quickly, so no news is good news, ok?”

Sorry Dad. I didn’t get it then, I do now.

Now that I am a parent I notice the bad news more than the good. What if my grown daughter gets in an unlicensed cab; what if she goes somewhere “quieter” with a man she’s just met, and then changes her mind? Will she be strong enough to cope with unwanted attention from her boss? What if her first flat is next door to an alcoholic, a domestic abuser, or worse? How can I make sure my son’s girlfriend doesn’t end up pregnant at 16? What if he gets into a car with someone who has been drinking? What if the person driving is him?

This post was inspired by the following story I read in a local newspaper. It got me to thinking about the fears we all have for our children, which never completely go away. As a parent, you have to live with them, without letting it affect your sanity. Can you do that? Can you? Think carefully…

"Cassie's Law"

38 thoughts on “Do you really want to be a parent?”

    • Yeah, that blew me out of the water. I thought the 4 yr old I was tod about choking on an advent calendar chocolate was an urban myth, but clearly this kind of random stuff just happens!

  1. Thank you for referencing my post.

    I believe as a parent you always fear for children, but it is how you deal with it and whether or not you pass that fear onto them. Your children will hopefully have gained the best knowledge from you as a parent to deal with a horrible situation and/or to make the right decisions to deal with life.

  2. That post is bang on. I worry about my 19 year old daughter far more than my 13 month old son. I can make his decisions for him. 😉

  3. What a fantastic post.

    The other day, D and I happened to be driving round the area where he used to live with his ex. I remarked on how dodgy it was, and he responded that he used to really worry about his then girlfriend, when she was walking home. In the old days, I would been thrown into a jealous grump and have thought, ‘why on earth were you worried about HER? The minger.’ But, the other night, the first thought I had was, ‘oh my goodness, I can see what you mean. What if our Gwen ended up living somewhere like this? I’d be really worried, too.’

    I have crossed the line into parent worrying-dom. I’m sure I’ll never look back.

    • There is seemingly just no end to the amount of things we have to worry about as a parent. Every day I discover something I didn’t know to be scared of. It’s the biggest change in my life since having children.

  4. Heavens, it really is traumatic! My mother in law is a total worrier but now I see why. A friend’s mum (mother to three boys) used to take drowsy formula Benylin every night her sons went out as teens. Again, I see why!

    Have you seen this poem?

  5. I’m with Curious Lyn! I worry far more about the 19 year old than the 2 year old! With the 3 year old you take responsibility, you watch and steer them away from those sharp corners, with a 19 year old you just lay in bed hoping you hear them come in and then you can settle, but worrying they’ll wake the whole house up when they do! 🙂

    • Oh Lord I am dreading it! At least I’m a night owl so it won’t be hard for me to stay up listening for them! But omg having a teenager and a toddler must be exhausting!

      • It’s definitely burning the candle at both ends….and a bit in the middle. We’ve actually got 5 teenagers, but only 1 who currently ‘goes out’, and works in a club some weekends in big bad Manchester. In another 4 years we’ll have 2 17yo’s and 2 19 yo’s – then I’ll be a nervous wreck!

  6. Brilliant post and so true! Luckily my 2 year old’s first words weren’t ‘Peppa Pig’ (surprisingly) but she did wake me up at midnight last night to say “I want to go back to Peppa Pig World”. Thanks, kid.

  7. What a fantastic post, loved loved,loved it. I actually snorted coffee out of my nose at one point (attractive). Thankyou for cheering my day up. xx

  8. Brilliant post! So true as well. I used to moan at my Mum constantly about her worrying and know I know EXACTLY why she did and (still does). It’s definitely for life and as you say, just changes rather than going away! I wonder if we’ll ever sleep well again?! x

    • I sleep well once I know they’re asleep – I’m in that phase where night waking is very unusual. But whether I’ll sleep well when I’m not 100% sure where they are all of the time, is another matter entirely!

  9. Yes, the worrying is endless! I always worried, now it’s tenfold. I sometimes even worry that I’m
    not worrying enough! Hehe x

    • I never realised! I knew babies were tough, but I had no idea adult children were still going to cause me grey hairs!

  10. Does it make me a terrible parent if I don’t worry as much everyone else? I sometimes think I am a bit too laid back but maybe it’s because they are still really young.
    Admit that in those early weeks I did have moments of ‘Oh my god – are they still breathing’, but I’m now quite worry free. Kids are resilient little things and they bounce!
    You are right though. We do need to give anyone thinking about having little ones a quick ‘heads up’ on the fact that anything they want to do themselves will soon become a distant memory and they will spend the next 15 years picking things up!

    • Not at all! And I agree that once they get past babyhood and have a measure of self-awareness, most of the “panic” of the early days eases. My worries now though, are for the really horrific things that happen to people once they go out into the world, without me to watch over them and influence their decisions. I know I will do it – I always hated the desire my parents had to control what I did as a 17 year old – but I fear for my sanity when I do!

  11. Another thought-provoking post. Have worried non-stop about my daughters since birth, they’re off to university in September (grades permitting) and will the worry stop there – absolutely not!

  12. Yes, to all of what you wrote and unfortunately so much more to wrap my anxiety-filled brain around. The wine thing bugs me. And, yes, the single days were easier, but I don’t think they weren’t better. Then again, maybe, I just need to convince myself that it was all so worth it, so I don’t go crazy.

  13. I was a worrier before I had Ethan. Now it’s utterly my main occupation in life.. Of course, I truly wouldn’t change being a parent, but you are right, you never appreciate the life shattering change that little person will induce! I’m about to have my second in a matter of weeks. I must be mad… X

  14. very well put *claps loudly*
    i worried before i had children about soooo many things and now as a parent the list of worries is just endless!
    and the phoning your family when you arrive home – i am asked to do this when i leave my mums!! see I am almost uhm 21 *ahem* and I am still asked to do this!!
    enjoyed reading this and apologies for not being over sooner x

  15. Loved this post. I am a bit of a natural worrier and so I totally agree with what you say. We can only do our best to protect our children but at the same time we need to allow them to take some risks, and learn and develop as well. Tricky!

  16. I have not stopped worrying for one minute since the day Z was born. I think it is actually even getting worse as he is getting older x

  17. I came for a visit as this is now a crowdsourced keynote post, but I recognise it so I think I read it at the time.
    Going to read it again though.
    Liska x


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