You see, when you are lucky enough to get babies; you look after them, nourish them, clothe them, care for them, and protect them to the best of your ability. As they grow into young children you cherish them, concentrate on their development and deliberate and argue over their education.
You are scared leaving them at Nursery (even when they themselves don’t give a dam!), someone cries when they go to Junior School (and it isn’t always the child!), you suffer the trauma of selecting a Senior School, and worry yourself sick when they come back the first day with all that homework & moaning incessantly (cover their Maths book, cover their English book, cover their Dairy book!). You search your bank account to pay for their activities, uniform, sports kit, music instruments and lessons, and all else – and then you encourage them to succeed at all they do (whatever the cost to yourself). You help them with their homework and hope the teachers don’t guess (they don’t say but they do know!). You buy them expensive things (bikes, games machines, music centres, mobiles, designer trainers and clothes) – nothing but the best, so that they can compete with their friends.
In Britain the cost of having and raising a child these days is frightening. Often when parents have additional children they have to move home to upsize, so increase their accommodation – a significant cost of course. The conservative estimated cost of three children (until 21 years of age that is), would be some £650thousand, and six children one and a quarter million pounds! But the costs don’t end there of course. Try telling your Bank Manager that you are planning to spend that kind of money – they would have a heart attack on the spot!
You survive their teenage years (just), and put up with their aggressive ‘finding themselves’ attitude, moodiness, and development into sexual adults (and panic about the girls in particular & hate their boyfriends – while your boys are always attracted to a little scatterbrain). Then, there is their choice of ‘further education’, apprenticeship, or perhaps a first job (where you are the prime motivator) – there you are again sweating blood to push them the right way.
The next stage is even more painful for us– they are going to get on with their own lives. Often they move well away from home. You breathe a sigh of relief – to no avail! They want to live in the most unsuitable area, or buy that really dreadful & incongruous property, or take the worse job imaginable. You try to help. You have given up by now assessing or approving or otherwise their intended partners – but you still get dragged into their emotional problems!
They meet a partner of their choice – you daren’t approve or disapprove (as long as they are happy, you see). Then they cohabit (your own parents would be mortified!), and often have children. Finally they announce that they are going to marry their partner (respectability at last you think!). Your joy will be short lived. They want a BIG wedding. How the heck do they have over a hundred friends? For some obscure reason we think that we should pay!
Don’t worry though – there is worse to come! They beget their own child or children, what do they do? They come back to live close to you – free babysitting you see, then access to 24 7 child care, meals on wheels when required, a refuge when tired or bored, and sometimes a shopping companion. You find that your house has now got made-up spare beds, you have travel cots, sleeping bags, and more toys cluttering your rooms than you ever had when you had your own children. You have a permanent car-seat and booster cushion in your car – as well as a scooter, skateboard, or a bike in your boot. You have to have your central heating on whenever the babes are there. Then these grandchildren become a major strain on your financial resources – you see, they keep growing requiring new kit, and having Celebrations, Birthdays, Easter-times, Christmases etc (all requiring presents galore).
Once again you find yourself standing at the school gates – dropping kids off or picking them up (armed with a letter of authority of course). Other Mums and Dads look at you thinking ‘they are a bit old to have a toddler’. You need as well to have ‘something special’ for the child in the car – but they mustn’t tell their Mum (sweets are strictly controlled, you see!)
That’s how you get to a stage when a thirty something year old mother of two, an ex professional director, is telling her Mum she is going to cook a ratatouille for her husband for their dinner (she has an aubergine) – then asking “do you have a pepper, an onion, a courgette, and some ripe tomatoes, I can have?”. She wasn’t asked though “do you want me to cook it for you as well!). Or a forty something son, who needs you to take his boy to the Park to practice his football – and you also have to go to all his training and matches (even though he is still only a young kid). You as well then have to resurrect the School assessment and selection process for all these grandchildren – it is a bit easier this time round though! Minor tasks are cake baking, scone making, and providing morning coffee and afternoon tea for different ones each day – well, at least these are things you didn’t have time for when you had your own kids!
See that is what it is like having children! But who would change it? The only saving grace to this is the knowledge that your own parents went through the self same process and spent their wealth on you!
Equally, you know and can rest assured, that your children are going to go through the same process with their kids – what goes round comes around!
[No one ever tells you about all of this, or even some of it – do we think we would be so keen and proud to have kids if they did eh?]