Thoughts from 4am on the subject of inter-parental schadenfreude.
By Mark Hooper
Having a baby is amazing. I thought I’d better get that in right at the beginning because, if you read any newspapers or magazines ever, you would be forgiven for thinking the opposite. “Why does study after study show that having kids makes people less happy?” asks New York Magazine. Meanwhile, in the Sunday Times a mother who decided to stop after one child describes how she’s made to feel “selfish” by her more broody peers, and The Observer runs the shocking news that working mothers aren’t actually damaging their children’s long-term emotional wellbeing.
There are a few common threads in the above. Firstly, they’re written by, and for, well-to-do middle-class parents. And secondly, they’re all about guilt. What’s with that? When we had our baby, something odd happened. As my inbox pinged with well wishers, I noticed a certain tone creeping into a few of them, and all from the same type of people: the sort of friends you gather on Facebook who aren’t really your friends, and all of them men.
To paraphrase, the typical message from these people went something like this: “Congratulations. You realise you’ll never sleep again don’t you? Ha ha. Life as you know it has ended. Join the club.” The obvious reply to which reply, “Wow. I’m sorry your kids have ruined your life.”
Obviously I didn’t say that to anyone. For a start, I’m English. But I definitely don’t want to join their club. The subtext seems to be that children will make you miserable – or at least regretful for the life they make you give up. I can honestly say the thought that having a baby might cramp my style never entered my mind – I don't have any discernable style to be cramped in the first place.
Of course it’s not easy. Of course there are sleepless nights and stressful moments and a constant nagging doubt in your head. But “having kids makes people less happy”? Wow. Obviously, if you’re having a kid because you think it will save your relationship, well, good luck with that. After all, lack of sleep, added stress, doubt and less sex are all well known relationship savers. But you know what, none of those things I listed make you less happy. Because I’ve conveniently missed out the reason for all of them: your baby. As I say, having a baby is amazing. Yes, you have to get up at 4am. But nothing in the world can explain the feeling you get at 4am when your child – the little you – opens their eyes and smiles. If life as I once knew it has ended, I’m happy to see the back of it, as long as this is the alternative. What those people really mean is you’re going to spend less time in the pub with them. Which just proves they’re friends in the social network sense only.
And don’t get me started on advice. You want to know the best advice we’ve had about parenting? My wife’s doctor, said “Listen to all the advice you get, smile politely, say ‘Thanks, that’s a great idea’ and then carry on doing whatever works for you.”
Babies, believe it or not, have been around for tens of thousands of years. Even more amazingly, a lot of them have managed to survive with the wrong-sized teat on their feeding bottle, and some didn’t even have buggies designed by Formula 1 teams. And, despite what it says in every book you read, babies haven’t all eat and sleep at exactly the same time throughout the day. You know why there are so many books about babies? Because no-one has a clue. Of course, there’s a lot of good advice in books. You just have to decide which works for you. Just avoid the stuff from selfish, miserable people who think their life has ended. They wouldn’t know the best thing in the world if it woke them up at 4am with a nappy full of poo.
Stuff Mark Listens To When He’s Up At 4am Feeding The Nipper
1. Aaron Neville - Tell It Like It Is
2. Air - Il Secundo Giorno
3. Aphex Twin - Nannou
4. The Association - Never My Love
5. The Band - You Don't Come Through
6. The Beach Boys - Still I Dream Of It
7. Beachwood Sparks - By My Side
8. Bonnie “Prince” Billy - Puff the Magic Dragon
9. Brian Eno - Unfamiliar Wind (Leeks Hills)
10. CSN&Y - Lady of the Island
11. David Bowie - Buddha of Suburbia
12. Festival of Brass & Voices - Softly As I Leave You
13. Field Music - Shorter Shorter
14. George Harrison - Marwa Blues
15. Jim O'Rourke - Ghost Ship In A Storm
16. Karen Dalton - In the Evening (It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You the Best)
17. The Memory Band - Ploughshares
18. Michael Head & The Strands - Something Like You
19. Nick Cave - Into My Arms
20. Serge Gainsbourg - Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M'en Vais
21. Tim Hardin - Part of the Wind
22. Matt Deighton - The Windmills of Norfolk
23. Calexico - Ritual Road Map