The subject of children arose for the first time a couple of years ago. Erin brought it up. I’d say this is the way it happens in most cases. You’re happily getting on with your life, you’ve met, you’ve courted and moved in together. It’s worked out and you might be married.
If not, chances are the law sees it that way. You’ve settled into a nice life, both working away at your careers, enjoying nights out and weekends with friends. Holidays, trips and traveling thrown in as often as possible, spending time relaxing and enjoying each others company. Lovely.
Then somebody mentions children, and from that moment on it’s a ticking time bomb. Doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together, if one person in a couple wants children and the other doesn’t, you’re screwed. It’s either going to happen or the party’s over.
Just to add to the sweeping generalisations, it seems as if women are in more of a hurry to procreate than men. The ‘Let’s have a child’ conversations are seldom initiated by blokes. Not that I’ve had a lot of them, there’s not exactly a long line of women knocking down my door wanting kids. But from asking around it’s almost always the women who start the ball rolling.
I know now, that after the age of 35 it becomes considerably more difficult for women to get pregnant, and if they do there’s a much greater chance of carrying children with Down syndrome, or a range of other genetic disorders. I’m sure this plays into their thinking.
Men are also less willing to give up their lives, I think, especially when everything’s in order and going so well. It’s probably an evolutionary thing. Good excuse anyway, prevents me from facing up to the fact that I can be a selfish bastard sometimes.
It’s not like Erin was one of those women who just couldn’t wait to have kids, but for most women I’d say there comes a time, when it’s just time.
Erin introduced children into the conversation very carefully. It was only briefly mentioned, as something that she would like, at some point in the not too distant future. Not the immediate future, but in a while.
We’d moved to Australia together and it had worked. We both knew that marriage was on the cards, although I’d not plucked up enough courage to pop the question as yet. Children too, I suppose, were inevitable. We’d been together for about seven years by this point. Fair enough.
I imagine our conversation was reasonably typical. I didn’t say a lot, Erin talked while I probably looked at my feet a bit, and that was it. She didn’t mention it again for a long time.
After that initial talk, or more accurately, talking to, the whole idea was shut out of my mind for a good few months. Complete head-in-the-sand approach. Very effective for a short period of time, and I could continue pretending that my life wasn’t about to change completely.
Six months down the line however, it’s mentioned again. I’m actually quite surprised it’s taken this long to come up. She’s a clever one my wife (yes, she’s now my wife) and yet again it’s a short conversation. Erin knows how to play me. I can be a stubborn bugger when I want to be and backing me into a corner wouldn’t do anyone any good. So, cunning like a freakin’ fox she bides her time. Periods of grace are given, and dates are set to return to the conversation.
God, I sound like hard work.
Anyway, throughout all of this I allow the idea into my mind more often, and I play around with it. Sometimes it’s not so bad. And then the fact that it’s not so bad scares the crap out of me and I close it down again.
Each time it’s allowed into my mind though, it causes less alarm. Got to be a good sign. I suppose it’s a bit like those contractions I’ve heard about. They happen very occasionally to begin with, then more and more frequently, eventually you’re in labour and then there’s a baby.
I laid it all out.
Against. I’m shit scared. I like things the way they are. There are things I want to do with my life. We can’t afford it. We’re not ready. I’m shit scared. It’s grown up stuff and I don’t want to grow up.
For. I like the idea of having kids. I don’t want to be too old when I have children. I’d like to be able to enjoy them, play football with them. Also, it’d be nice to have someone to look after us when we’re old. Lots of parents have loads of fun with their kids when they’re grown up. You hear people say their kids are their best friends.
When you look at it like that, the ‘against’ doesn’t really stack up very well.
After months of rolling it around in my head I eventually had to give myself a serious talking to. Ah the mind tricks, the pros and cons… the inevitability. At the most basic level, it’s what we’re here for. It’s the whole point of being alive. Survival of the fittest, survival of you, to enable the survival of the species. It drives us more than anything else.
So why was it so difficult for me to make the decision? With blokes in general, I reckon it comes down to a fear of change; a fear of ‘loss of freedom’, and a fear of commitment—which is actually the fear of permanent change.
This inbuilt drive not to commit, probably comes from an innate need of males to spread their seed as widely as possible. Ironic, that the genetic desire to procreate, prevents you from actually wanting to procreate.
Yet, of course, without this genetic encouragement, none of us would be here. Nature wins out despite the most ardent and determined of blokes trying to convince themselves that everything’s fine the way it is and there is no need to have kids. Nature finds its way and we’re off into the unknown.
It’s kind of like the first day at school. You have no idea what to expect. You’ve never been near anything even close to school before, so you’ve no frame of reference.
At my age now, however, when you’ve been around a bit, there’s not really that much that you don’t know a little something about. Maybe that’s not the best way of putting it—there’s not much you don’t know how to handle, how to deal with.
Fatherhood, becoming a parent, having a baby however, how on earth do you deal with that? No frame of reference, see? Nothing to compare it with.
In fact, here’s a comparison that might work. It’s a bit like bungee jumping—terrifying and exciting all at the same time. You’re not so sure you’re ready for it, but somehow, you’re standing on the edge of a bridge. Someone you’ve never met before says jump—and off you go.
It’s once you’ve taken the jump however… that’s when it starts to get interesting…
I didn’t know anyone with children when my wife was expecting. So I’d sit in front of my computer at the end of the day and squeeze my life out onto the keys. This is a little part of what I wrote, and if you’re thinking about having a kid, it’s a wee taster of what might be ahead.