Monday, December 6, 2010

The Great Divide

Albeit with a few notable exceptions, parents and singles might as well inhabit two different countries. You definitely get a new passport on the birth of your first-born and there's no such thing as joint citizenship. Generally even the most well meaning of friends simply don't get it. They come to visit in the first few weeks post-baby, arrive an hour later than they say they are going to, don't bring food, and stay for three hours. When discussing holiday plans they suggest that it might be worth the saving of the budget airline ticket to fly at midnight and that you could wake the baby up to go to the airport because "it will go back to sleep won't it?"

Before going any further, I readily admit falling into the completely clueless category prior to E's arrival. I remember a friend and I going to visit another friend in hospital when her baby was about 48 hours old. We stuck around for something like two hours because we thought that  the new mum was probably bored when no one was visiting and would appreciate the company. The fact that the baby was probably feeding every two to three hours at that stage and that the lucky mumma was squeezing eating, showering not to mention sleeping into the gaps in between obviously didn't occur to us.

But every time I think that I've accepted that the haves and have-nots reside on different planets, another example crops up and surprises me. I ventured out to a colleague's birthday party on the weekend, leaving Little E at home with D. I wasn't sure I'd have a good time as I didn't know how many people there I'd know, but I thought I should take the chance to go out and engage in some adult conversation. I wound up quite enjoying it - it was at a beautiful house with a pool and outside bar, fancy catered food and I did know enough people that I wasn't standing around awkardly looking for someone to talk to. 

Early in the evening I spent a little while chatting to another colleague and then drifted off to talk to others. By about 9:30 I'd had enough - I'd enjoyed being out, but it was cold, I'd spoken to everyone I wanted to, and I thought there was a chance E would wake at around 10:00 and be difficult for D to re-settle. (It's funny how, having not been out for ages,  the anticipation and planning of going somewhere are as important as the event itself. By the time the  event rocks around, a little time away seems like enough).

I stopped by the colleague I'd spoken to first to say goodbye. The conversation went as follows...

Slightly-drunk-childless-colleague:  What time do you call this? (Half-laugingly). 
Proud-of-having-gotten-out-of-the-house-new-mum: Time for those of us who will be up at 5am to get going...? Slightly-drunk-childless-colleague: I'll be up at 5:00 tomorrrow and you don't see me piking!"**
Proud-of-having-gotten-out-of-the-house-new-mum: But how many times will you be up in between now and then?
Slightly-drunk-childless-colleague: (Pause, then look around at the  eight or nine surrounding people so they can all join in the comedy) How old is the baby? Nine months? Time to wean!***
Slightly-flabbergasted-proud-of-having-gotten-out-of-the-house-new-mum: Um, no, not yet...
I still can't decide if I regret not saying all the clever replies I thought of on the drive home.

** (an early morning cycling enthusiast)
*** (incidentally, "the baby" is eight months old)

Image credit


_vTg_ said...

The World Health Organisation's "breastfeed to 2 years" is always a good kick-where-it-counts when people who are not the parent of your child tell you to wean- either factual punch or the shock factor! (Unless of course your child is over 2!)

I was also guilty of not understanding the life on the other side of the divide. I work with someone who was very social pre-baby and tries hard to keep up her social life. She spends her life being frustrated about not being able to make every event and annoyed that she is constantly exhausted trying to live up to her "I have a baby but nothing's changed" persona. Better to just be happy in a downsized social life!

I missed a riverside Christmas party for work last week and had well-meaning people telling me that because the venue had "fences on three sides" it would have been easy to keep the kiddies out of the water. Obviously children respect the majority and hence wouldn't consider the option to duck out through the fourth side?

Maternity wards should have brochures or posters in the lifts. "Friends should view the baby, say "how cute" and leave, preferably leaving behind something yummy. Only stay longer if the parents beg you to or if you are offering to do the ironing." "Back off with any opinions about breastfeeding if you haven't done it (recently)" "Just because there are occasions that people happily babysit other people's children doesn't mean that every time you want a parent to come out they will be willing to use a babysitter".....

That could be a whole blog meme- five things people without children should know about people with children!

ANB said...

Thanks V - I think for the most part I am happy with the downsized social life! I was surprised to learn recently that the world average age for ceasing breastfeeding is 4 years. I suppose countries like China & India with big populations and high rates of poverty = lack of other suitable foods account for it. I know all the clever stats I was just a too flummoxed to come out with anything coherent when someone (especially a childless someone) apparently thought it was appropriate (especially in a social setting) to lecture me about when to stop breastfeeding (and apparently with the sole benefit being that I could stay at parties longer!)

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