Last week I went to a gig with my husband. Nothing unusual you might think but it’s kind of a rarity since we’ve had kids. By the time we’ve bought tickets and drinks and paid the babysitter we’re looking at the stomach churning end of the £0-£100 bracket. But here’s the miraculous thing. We can do it. As painfully expensive as the endeavour is, it’s perfectly doable. Our kids have reached an age when we can pay a teenager to look after them in the fairly safe knowledge that they won’t miss us too much. We sometimes leave them asleep, often in bed and awake, tonight with the smaller one practising her nativity repertoire with the door open “so people can hear me” but they’re leaveable. We no longer need complex plans where the babies need to be minded close by or brought with you. I don’t need to pump milk or cross my fingers that we can eat dinner between feeds. We’re through the baby stage and with it comes a fresh blast of living life.
Not that we have huge amounts of energy. We’re hardly teenagers any more and working, child wrangling and a million other commitments can start to take its toll. Nights out tend to see us home by midnight, gorging on leftover babysitter snacks in front of Mock the Week. The gig we went to was undoubtedly one for the more seasoned music fan but that’s OK because why would we want to listen to anything more modern? Aren’t they all just ripping off The Strokes?
The reason I call this part 2 is that I wrote a similar post a few years ago. Back then we were fully immersed in nappies and breastmilk (thankfully not literally) and it was real survival stuff. ..the social bread and butter to an extrovert in need of energy. It was coffees with friends, trips to Tesco, lunchtime birthday parties. ..the very baseline of “getting out of the house” that I needed to remind myself to do with a newborn and a three year old. I sounded pitifully optimistic and I’m pleased to say that optimism has paid off. Four years on, life has changed to an unrecognizable degree.
What’s tricky though is retaining friends during the foggy baby stage so that you still get the invitations once you’re through the other side. Nowadays I can more than hold up my end of the conversation when it comes to politics and general world-righting. But then? No. You shut the wider world out, to a large extent. It’s a survival mechanism. If you start to think too much about the politically terrifying world you’ve just brought a child into, you can do nothing but sob. In the newborn days, your concerns don’t tend to stretch far beyond the front door you left open all night.
And that’s OK… you don’t need to be going I’m marches and firing out petitions when you can barely remember to eat. And as for keeping up with what’s in the charts and out at the cinema? Pah! Not a chance. All of which tends to get new mothers labelled as boring. Not only have you given up drinking and dancing on the tables, you also struggle to converse on many subjects outside your day to day life. And that loses you friends.
But if you’re someone who’s reading this and thinking “well all my friends have turned boring since they had babies ” then I beg you to be kind. It’s not being boring, it’s coping with a profound life change. When I announced my much wanted and worked for second pregnancy on fbook, two friends responded with statuses about how annoying mothers were, talking about mothering all the time. I’ll admit it stung a little at the time but it got me thinking about why we get this reputation.
Strange as it might seem, most mothers don’t talk about their kids with the sole purpose of boring you to death with their parenting theories. Maybe it’s just the main thing that’s going on in their lives right now. Or maybe it’s what they have in common with other people in the conversation. Or maybe – in the case of Facebook – they’re aiming their statuses at people who actually want to know about their grandkids/godkids/nephron. I’ve taken to warning people when I post statuses or videos that only a grandparent would want to see. It filters out the arsiness.
As I said at the beginning, eventually you come through the foggy stage and can start to talk about other things again. But yknow what? Talking about politics loses you friends too. I’m sure there are people on Facebook who wish I’d go back to talking about nappies and teething again. And then there are people who wish I’d talk about going out drinking all night and dancing on the tables…I think ideally they need to be Facebook friends with me-at-university. But that would be impossible, seeing as Facebook wasn’t invented then. And trust me, I thank the Lord and all my lucky stars daily that that’s the case.
So we’re in phase two of parenting. No more dummies, bottles, cots or buggies. Just homework and Christmas Jumper Days (that’s a whole other post). Next up is phase three, where you don’t even need a babysitter but the gigs are even more uncool and the kids will probably have nicked the car any time you want it to go anywhere. I’ll report back then…