Colum­nist Casey Mcpike on the dif­fer­ences be­tween life be­fore and af­ter kids

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At risk of com­ing across as a bit neu­rotic and high main­te­nance, I think hav­ing ba­bies has made me a bit neu­rotic and high main­te­nance. Pre­vi­ously mun­dane or ev­ery­day sit­u­a­tions have taken on a whole new mean­ing now that there are two tiny hu­mans in our life. The lit­tle things have be­come big things, and moth­er­hood can feel a bit like one of those re­al­ity TV shows where peo­ple have to make it through ob­sta­cle cour­ses cov­ered in soap while big padded gloves throw un­ex­pected blows. Ex­cept there’s no cash prize, and in­stead of an ex­cit­ing pur­pose-built course, the ob­sta­cles are things like long queues at the su­per­mar­ket. For ex­am­ple: Hol­i­day traf­fic with the hus­band be­fore kids: “Oh rats, traf­fic is at a stand­still. Never mind, let’s lis­ten to some mu­sic, have a chat, and share the choco­late bar that’s in my small and tidy hand­bag”. Af­ter kids: “Noooo! I’m down to the last three crack­ers for the bored tod­dler, and then there’s noth­ing but a half-empty packet of crys­tal­lized raisins some­where in the depths of my enor­mous bag. If the car stops mov­ing the baby will wake up and want to be fed, so we’ll have to pull over and get even fur­ther back in the traf­fic, which means we’ll be late home and late to bed, then the kids will in­ex­pli­ca­bly wake up two hours early to­mor­row, so while I find the Wig­gles play list and break the crack­ers up into tiny pieces to make them last longer PLEASE JIG­GLE THE GOD­DAM CAR TO KEEP THE BABY ASLEEP”. Choos­ing a restau­rant be­fore kids: “That one looks nice, let’s see if they’ve got a ta­ble at 7pm – we can wait at the bar and en­joy a drink if there’s a wait”. Af­ter kids: “Do they have high­chairs? Do they have a kids’ menu so that we can pay slightly less for food that they prob­a­bly still won’t eat any­way? Is it noisy enough to drown out the sounds of po­ten­tial melt­downs, but not so noisy that it causes a melt­down? No no, we can’t go to that one – last time we went there the tod­dler stuck a dec­o­ra­tive berry up her nose and I had to block one of her nos­trils while shout­ing ‘blow! Blow as hard as you can!’ un­til the snot-cov­ered berry shot out onto the ta­ble. Okay, that place looks good, and they open at 5, so if we or­der the sec­ond we sit down it should be fine. Or we could just stay home”. Day­light sav­ing be­fore kids: “Yay! Long evenings! Leisurely walks af­ter work be­cause the sun is still high in the sky! Awww, Day­light Sav­ing is fin­ish­ing now? Oh well, those first few days will feel like we’re get­ting a sleep-in”. Af­ter kids: “I’ll or­der some black­out blinds as soon as I’ve fin­ished ex­plain­ing why it is ac­tu­ally bed­time even though we ap­plied another layer of sun­screen just a cou­ple of hours ago. Day­light Sav­ing is fin­ish­ing now? Ah, so this is the bit where the kids don’t cot­ton on to 5am be­ing the new 6am or is it the other way around? Ei­ther way, it’s too early, please go back to sleep and let me revel in the pseudo sleep-in”. Pro­cras­ti­nat­ing be­fore kids: “Wow, I’ve left it a bit late to get this done. I can fin­ish it this evening, though”. Af­ter kids: “This is a bit close to the wire, but if I start the sec­ond the baby falls asleep I can get it done by mid­night. Wait… is that? Yep, that’s def­i­nitely an ‘I’ve got an ear in­fec­tion and we’re go­ing to spend the next four hours at A&E’ cry”. Hear­ing neigh­bours drag­ging the wheelie bin down the drive­way at 11pm be­fore kids: “Must be bin night. Is ours even full? It can prob­a­bly wait another week”. Af­ter kids: “What kind of mon­sters bang and scrape their bin right un­der the kids’ win­dow? Why didn’t they take theirs out when they saw me at the curb forc­ing the lid down on our over­flow­ing bin well be­fore 7pm? Ooo, but now their bin is out and it’s dark, do you think we could sneak in a few nap­pies that I couldn’t cram into ours?” I’m sure my thought pat­terns will re­turn to nor­mal at some point, maybe when the girls are teenagers. There’ll be a whole new set of ob­sta­cles then, but per­haps we’ll be able to dis­cuss them at a restau­rant late one sum­mery evening af­ter be­ing stuck in hol­i­day traf­fic.

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