Good afternoon and welcome to this week’s edition of the Father-Hood.co.uk midweek list. I asked 100 people what it took to be a parent in 21st Century Britain and no-one replied, so I came up with the following 10 answers all by myself. Read them, enjoy them and then share them with your friends.
1. Mental and physical strength
Don’t worry. I’m not suggesting that parents should be able to withstand waterboarding or bench press a car (although let’s face it, we can probably do both). I’m simply revealing that, over the last 12 months, I’ve discovered that child-rearing superheroes need a significant heap of mind muscle to deal with the early mornings, crying fits, peeing sprees and lost comforter disasters. And a sizeable dollop of body might to carry baby bags, transport prams and lug uncooperative human dumbbells in and out of baby classes.
2. A sense of perspective
This is easier said than done. But if you can develop the ability to take a step back and appreciate that there are far worse things going in the world than your son or daughter ruining all his or her clothing with a heinously smelly poop in the middle of Tesco’s crisps and snacks aisle, then your life will become a much rosier and less stressful existence.
How do you turn a potential projectile vomit fest into a merrily swallowed dinner in the space of five seconds? Simple. You chuck a load of cheese on the top. Hey, if it’s good enough for Ella. It’s good enough for the rest of us.
Spoiler alert: if you’re going to get annoyed about staring at the washing machine for 45 minutes, hearing the same “shapes are in my cookie jar” song a million times or taking three-and-a-half hours to complete a one-hour journey, then parenting might not be for you.
5. An internet connection
This is essential for two reasons. First, to catch up on all the TV, news, sport, world events, cat pics and social media gossip you missed while trying to get your baby to sleep/eat/sit in the car/tidy up/not be sick/stop headbutting you/come down off the box/close the dishwasher door/cease banging a solid wooden object against the window (delete as applicable). Second, to frantically Google queries like: ‘Is green poo dangerous?’
Somewhat naively, I used to believe that parenting was all about planning your day in advance. Now, I know that it’s actually all about re-planning your day when baby wakes a lot later than usual due to being up half the night. Re-planning the re-plan when you miss the train due to a poop-based turn back to the house. Re-planning the re-plan of the re-plan when baby falls asleep between the nappy change and the door. And then sacking everything you’ve planned or re-planned off in favour of spending the afternoon banging a cereal box with a spatula, while walking like an Egyptian and singing a nursery rhyme.
No, not as in the opposite of back. As in the ability to be bold and confident enough to do whatever your child needs you to do wherever they need you to do it. You know, stuff like performing the bum sniff test in the middle of a coffee shop, pushing to the front of the toilet queue at the London Aquarium, squatting your baby to sleep in a busy restaurant or playing peek-a-boo on a crowded train.
8. A strong bladder
There are a number of things I miss about child-free life. One of them is having the freedom to get up and go to the toilet at the exact moment I realise that I need to go to the toilet.
9. Wet wipes
Mopping up spillages; dealing with regurgitated milk; wiping noses, mouths and kitchen worktops; cleaning baby’s bum; gathering dropped food; freshening up arm pits and on the odd occasion genitals; making shirts just about clean enough to wear to the office… it’s fair to say that I can’t remember the world before wet wipes and nor do I want to.
As much as I like to joke and tell stories, parenting is hard. Really, really, really, really, really hard. My wife and I are fortunate. We have brilliant grandparents and lovely friends, who go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to helping us out, but even with all this assistance there have been occasions when I’ve felt lonely, down and completely and utterly useless. Thus you can imagine how mums and dads with less support feel when their kid has been crying all night and just won’t eat properly or lie still when they are trying to change his nappy (hint: the answer is very, very low). Because of this, I’m ending this midweek list with a plea. If you are friends with any new parents who you have not contacted or heard from for a while, please, please, please get in touch, tell them you’re thinking about them and ask if they fancy catching up for a chat or a coffee. Go on. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. It’ll only take 30 seconds and it could make their day.