I accidentally said that my age was thirty seven the other day, it isn't, I'm way off and it struck me like a thunderbolt, followed by "How did that happen?" and so on. Throw being a parent into the mix for over twenty years and you have a whole ton of "What the hell was that?".
A TV programme just aired on Irish TV called Baby Hater by comedian Joanne McNally addressed a topic well-worth discussion. One that's always brushed under the carpet especially in mass-catholic Ireland where we may not bother going to mass any more but still everyone wants a massive white wedding and for their child to be a mini bride of Jesus and wear white at the altar at age seven....Joanne looked at and talked about whether or not she wanted to have children and she talked to people, women who were totally sure they never wanted kids and also also she met Mums who are blissed out and so happy that they are Mums. It's not a given that everyone wants to have children and it's becoming more and common to choose to never be a parent, when conception timing can be so in our hands, the choice not to is a natural progression. While we hear so much about the heartache of couples or women or men who so badly wanted to have children and couldn't, do we ever asked that so taboo question, did you regret it? Claire Underwood did ask it in House of Cards to a blooming Mum of toddlers and wife of a senator, but she's about the only one who would get away with it and who is also fictional.
Well done Joanne, almost thirty four and I reckon had she had kids already she would not be doing the comedy circuit in ripped jeans, insteasd her jeans would be too small and covered in baby puke, actually she wouldn't be wearing jeans at all. Her Mom is well cool and really gets her, which is a massive support for anyone who decides that they don't want to add to the already over populated planet. Thirty four is a great age, forty seven is a great age but thirty four is thirteen years earlier and when you don't have children, your life and your body still belong to you.
When a woman becomes pregnant, her body is no longer her own. When a woman has a child, she no longer has her own autonomy as the child is now part of the world and while it does not belong to the Mother or Father (I'm not going into a Woman's rights to her own body re the 8th here), the parents are under siege regarding how to bring up their children, where they go to school, what they achieve or don't, how they socialise, what they eat, how they look, and on it goes and we're not even American. I never planned to have kids, but I did, Irish style. I never planned on being a single parent but I am. I'm gobsmacked daily that the one thing I thought I'd fuck up for sure, has turned out two stalwart guys who I would choose to hang out with anytime, who I am proud to go anywhere with and who annoy me too because I am human and to be human is to be human. I love them dearly and love to see them head out the door so that I can be happy to se them come back. I'm keenly aware that their time to step out the door and not come back is nigh, there is no guide book for this...we all feel too young to be dealing with the empty nest, but it's looming.
On the show Baby Hater, a happy new Mum sat in the hospital bed, flooded with happy mothering hormones and explained that the reason you should have children is so that they will look after you in old age......
Your children wanting to care for you in old age is a testament to how fab you were as a parent, it's not a given.
So where do sandwiches come into this, when you have children they lean on you, that's the design and if you did your job right they'll be well-rounded (and not in their middles) and out the door age early twenty something or, as we were IN MY DAY, age seventeen. When you have children you answer to the world, what they do wrong you do wrong and, occasionally, what they do right. Please take the credit, please listen when people tell you that you did an amazing job and that you are a great parent. If you are a one-parent family, listen doubly well as I have even had it said to my face that it's amazing my kids turned out so well, given how some kids from single parent families are! When your parents are alive you might be lucky and have fit and healthy ones like I do, but many of my peers are caring for ageing and infirm elderly relatives, so that's your kids on one side of you, and your parents on the other, that's a lot of dependents. That's why you are meat and they are bread and you are in the middle, yet the meat is the best part of the sandwich, especially with mustard on it, and pickles. Vegans take note, hummus is not ham.
What can you do about being in a meat sandwich? Firstly, own it. Don't take on too much which is far easier said than done as I arrived in from a two hour drop-my-sn-off-then-wait-for-him-and-crawl-home-in-the-traffic, learn to say no, tell your kids to do stuff in the house and to cook a few meals. Hope that they might do it. Tell your parents you appreciate them and show them too, they have feelings just like you. Think about tomorrow while living for today. Go back to college to do that degree or masters, go to Cuba for Christmas because Christmas blows when your kids are big and Cuba might disappear off the face of the earth. One day the bread will be gone from one or both sides of the sandwich so appreciate who you have, but most of all appreciate yourself. We are all in the same boat, it's just memes on facebook and 'shredded' yoga bodies on old people that pretends that we are not.