• The Parent Trap
  • Author avatar
    Amelia Slocombe
  • friendshipmotherhoodrelationships

The Parent Trap

Everyone loves a conspiracy theory. Some people are convinced Princess Di was murdered by Al Fayed. Others are adamant that Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 never actually crashed. On a lighter note, I know of one girl who is absolutely 100% certain that dinosaurs never actually existed (much to the irritation of her Darwinist friends).

My conspiracy theory is a lot simpler. I am absolutely convinced that anyone who becomes a parent takes an automatic and subconscious oath to ensure that every other friend they know who doesn’t yet have children succumbs to parenthood within 18 months. And why do they do it? Not because having a child is a wonderful experience. Not because they receive £25 worth of John Lewis vouchers for every couple they sign up. No, the reason is actually a lot more insidious. They do it because they want to take their friends down with them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Having a baby and creating Arthur remains one of my proudest achievements. And I am delighted to admit that it has changed me from being rather selfish and spoilt (only child syndrome) to being genuinely willing to give up my life for another person (something which came as quite a shock, I can tell you). BUT, having a child is also one of the HARDEST things I have ever done and I am so glad that I waited until I was (almost) ready. I have read and been told this so many times, but it’s true: NOTHING can prepare you for the relentlessness of having a baby. Relentless tests of your patience. Relentless panic that you are doing something wrong. Relentless sleep deprivation. Relentless tedium. Relentless googling about the colour of your baby’s poo. The list goes on.

The reason I can talk about this so knowledgeably is because I myself am a victim of the theory. I was always going to be a career woman. Always wanted to travel to far-flung places at least twice a year. I was never 100% certain that I even wanted to have children. But everyone kept telling me that I should. People would ask why I got married at 25, when I had no intention of having kids until after 30. Others would query who would look after me when I was old. Or what I would do with the rest of my life if I decided not to procreate.

I fought them for a very long time. I told them that my career was more important; that my husband and I loved each other enough not to need anyone else; that I would have so much money from not having children that I could fund the last 20 years of my life on a luxury round the world cruise. And oh, how I gloated. Posting pictures of myself on holiday in India, Columbia, Mexico and Sri Lanka or dancing on a table in some late night club. Secretly laughing at my friends with children and their never ending baby groups, their holidays to Center Parcs and their outings to zoos and activity centres whose names I hadn’t even heard of.

Eventually they got me though. Against my better judgment, I relented. I began to think that I had got it all wrong. That perhaps my life would be enriched if I had a child. And that if I didn’t, I would end up old and alone. And so I had a baby. And the minute I had Arthur my personality was literally wrenched in two. One the one hand, I was hopelessly in love, with a passion that I continue to find utterly disconcerting. But on the other, I couldn’t help but look at those parents who convinced me to have him in the first place and think to myself: “You bloody bastards”.

So, my advice to anyone reading this who doesn’t yet have children: you are NOT WEIRD if you don’t want them yet, or if you don’t want them at all. In fact, in financial and environmental terms, you are doing both yourself and the world a favour. Give it time. And wait until you are completely ready, because if you aren’t, you will find the whole experience even harder.

And my advice to those who have just had children? Don’t force your friends to succumb to parenthood before they are ready. Be honest with yourself: you are just jealous of their amazing holidays, their hungover Sundays and their spontaneous jaunts to the cinema. Don’t try to take them down. They’ll get there in their own time. And when they do, you can say with great authority: “Welcome to the Parent Trap”.
  • Author avatar
    Amelia Slocombe
  • friendshipmotherhoodrelationships

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