Is having children selfish?
Sometimes I wonder why I thought having children was a good idea. It’s not them, they’re great, it’s me. I constantly feel guilty for being such a poor role model and even more guilty for bringing children into a world where kids get shot down in schools, terrorist attacks are commonplace, university degrees don’t ensure employment (but do promise debt), and getting on the property ladder will probably be impossible. Your best hope for debt-free home ownership is if your parents die and leave you cash.
Is having a child a selfish thing to do?
More’s to the point, what do I do now? Ultimately, my job as parent, is to prepare my daughters for life. I’ve been trying to navigate the maze for 36 years and I’ve learned you only ever get more and more lost. Further down the rabbit hole, until it’s harder and harder to get back to the place where amusement can be found in raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. You start life weightless, but inevitably, over the years you’ll have to carry insecurities, financial worries, relationships and responsibilities.
I want my daughters to have the best possible experience of life, to find the joys I found and a map to avoid the painful pitfalls, but it’s just not viable.
I can cover their peachy skin in soft vests from Marks & Spencer, and warm their socks by the fire, but at some point they’ll have to go out into the big unknown and learn what life is about. For that they’ll need thick skin, tough enough for words and rejections not to hurt.
I don’t want them to grow up thinking life is going to magically unfold like a yellow brick road because at some point they’ll discover the Emerald City is only green though tinted glasses and magic is just an illusion. Do I wait for someone else to break their bubble or start telling them now, that life is often unfair, unfun and unfulfilling?
I spend my days tidying up after the morning rush and preparing for the evening. I resent it and try to get them to help make beds and load dishwashers but it’s a battle. I don’t want to shout at them all the time, nor do I want them to grow up thinking it’s fine to sit idly while someone else sweeps the toast crumbs from under their feet. I need them to know life will bring them to their knees and they’ll have to get back up, dust themselves off and carry on.
When they come home and tell me someone rubbed slime in their hair and called them a snitch for telling the teacher, I’m torn between telling them they did the right thing and making a vat of hideous gloop, so they can get their own back. You can imagine what I’d have done in their shoes, but the chip on my shoulder has gotten me fired more times than I can count - and I've more fingers than friends.
My youngest always asks me for a bedtime story about ‘when I was a little girl’. This week I told her about the time my parents took me to Whipsnade Zoo. My brothers went on all the rides but I was too small, so my dad took me to the gift shop and let me pick a teddy. I choose a lion, called him Lenny and loved him with all the passion a kid can love fake fur with plastic eyes. I took that stinky lion everywhere.
Years later, on a camping trip to Weymouth, we stopped at a pub and in a moment of childish forgetfulness, I left Lenny sitting by the sink in the toilets, not realising until we were miles down the road.
I begged my parents to go back but they assured me he would still be there in a week and they’d stop on the way home. They were wrong and Lenny was gone.
My moral to the story was hold close to what you hold dear, but Bliss started sobbing, for the seven-year-old me who’d lost her best teddy. She hugged me tightly and her hot little tears fell on my cheeks. I felt so guilty for upsetting her I told her when I got home Lenny had been posted back to me.
I lied to her to make her feel better. Life is not going to do this to her, but maybe my job isn’t to tell her that chocolate is a minute on the lips and a lifetime on the hips and boys will break her heart. Perhaps I shouldn’t warn her that girls can be cruel, periods are painful and the best friends she’ll ever have are her sisters, because they’re stuck with her. Perhaps I’ll let her find that out for herself and just be there to hold her when she cries.