Allow me to explain: there’s a myriad of issues to contend with where a newborn is concerned, all involving your offspring screaming at you. Where Laura sometimes finds Finn’s high pitched yodelling utterly oppressive, I find myself feeling quietly proud that our boy can sing a bit. The problem, of course, is figuring out why he’s crying, and how to remedy it. That’s the upsetting part: knowing he’s not happy about something. But, fuck, it isn’t difficult. Apart from a problem that may require medical attention, there’s basically a standard list of reasons why your offspring is whinging. Is he windy? Burp him. Does he need his nappy changed? Clean that shit up. Is he hungry? Get your tits out. Once you’ve figured out what it is, more often than not the little sod will shut his gob. Unless he has reflux or can’t have a shit for some reason. Both of these things our son has. At the minute he chokes himself out when he’s trying to back one out. It’s a harrowing scene. I know how I get when I can’t shit so Christ knows how this little blighter is feeling given that he doesn’t have a sodding clue what’s going on. I just let him squeeze my finger and pull that face the Incredible Hulk pulls when he turns into the Incredible Hulk.
Of course, this parenting lark can be frustrating and utterly bewildering. But so is going for a shit and realising there’s no bog roll left. Ultimately you just get on with it and fashion some shit wipes out of a flannel, the cardboard inner from the toilet roll, or your hand. You muddle through and deal with it. You can call parenting a great many things: loud, tiring, smelly, annoying, completely shit. But it isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is waking up in the morning and realising you’ve woken up. What’s difficult is learning to drive when you’re thick as pig shit. What’s difficult is going into work every day doing your utmost to not end up as one of those, ‘and then he turned the gun on himself’ kind of people. What’s not difficult is feeding, changing and entertaining your new born son or daughter. Granted, it kind of exhausts you which makes you moan a bit. But so does skulling nine pints while watching your beloved football team ship four goals every week. It tires you the fuck out but you do it anyway because you have to.
Which brings me on to the first of the two truths to this article –
Truth #1: parenting is easy. That’s been established. What isn’t easy – what’s excruciatingly difficult – is other. fucking. people. Don’t get me wrong, people mean well: they want to help, they want to visit, they want to buy your offspring clothes, they want to hold him for half an hour so you can go for a shit. Which is all great. The difficulty is trying to appease everyone’s sense of entitlement. While it’s wonderful having visitors in the hugely exhausting aftermath of the birth of your child, sometimes people forget that all you want after a night swimming in human faeces with a soundtrack that resembles a human torture chamber is not have another human being knock at your door with a pitying smile on their face and gifts that aren’t for you. Sure, you can ask them to come another time owing to the fact you can’t be fucking bothered with the small talk after a night on the shit but be prepared for a fully grown adult to spit their dummy when it should really be your kid doing all the dummy hoying.
It’s very apparent to me that the main problem is the actions or reactions of other people when you have offspring, not the baby itself. As I’ve mentioned, a baby does stuff it’s meant to do and you deal with it. Easy. What’s difficult and wildly disconcerting is adult human beings doing stuff that would be extremely uncomfortable or offensive if it was in a normal social context. I’ve had random strangers approach me on the street, perversely touching my arm and stroking my son’s head as if he was a dog while making cooing noises and saying how much he looks like me. I’m 6’4”. My son’s mere inches in length. I don’t wear babygros. My son doesn’t have size 12 feet. I have green eyes. My son has blue eyes. We look nowt like each other. Basically the only thing we have in common is that we both can’t grow a beard. I don’t need human beings – whom I dislike at the best of times – greeting me in the street as if we’re long lost pals, having completely forgotten what a social boundary is.
If my son completes any sort of normal human function such as crying, smiling, farting, shitting, grumbling, making a cup of tea, having a pint or doing the dishes, the knock-on effect and consequent overreaction of other adults is astounding. The level of unfettered fawning is just cloying. My son – as handsome as he is – looks like pulped mincemeat when he’s trying to push out a shit and no amount of sickly sweet-nothings will convince me otherwise. Trying to keep a fixed grin on your face while human beings spout shite about your offspring is utterly debilitating.
All this while trying to ensure everyone’s had enough cuddles with him, everyone’s chipped in their two cents with the parental advice, and they all know when they’re next going to see him. Christ on a crystal meth binge. At least with a baby there’s only one human to look after.
So let me be clear: looking after a baby – easy. Looking after grown ups – not easy.Truth #2: all of the above (with the exception of other people ruining things – this rings true for both parents) only applies to the father. For the father, parenting is a fucking doddle. This is because the father barely has to lift a frigging finger. Of course, there are standard parenting duties that all parents must adhere to: changing nappies, feeding, hearing it scream in the night, telling it to shut the fuck up etc etc. But mainly, the dad pretty much gets off Scott free.
If the bairn is crying to be fed countless times during the night it sure as fuck isn’t going to be the father who gets his flabby tits out to feed it. He’s going to slumber like the saggy ape he is and leave all the difficult work to the mother. If the baby is crying its arse off, there’s only so much a dad can do to placate the thing before he hands it over to the mother to sort out with her boobs or the TLC that the father hasn’t evolved enough to acquire. Basically, any excessive drama with their offspring and all dads know that the baby is going to end up in the mam’s arms until it’s fed or calmed. Spoiler alert: this is an intrinsic knowledge that all fathers have and know about. They’ll ultimately know that there’s going to be no final burden on them because it’ll always fall to the mother to sort things out. And they can go off for a shit, a beer, a sneaky tug in the bathroom, whatever.
With Laura breastfeeding, we’ve fallen into a routine where I get to do all the sleeping during the night while Laura has to stay up feeding, burping, changing and rocking Finn to sleep. Of course, I hear him shouting and squirming but I have the luxury of turning over and snoozing while she puts the graft in. So I get at least five hours sleep a night while she gets barely any. I suspect this is the case for most fathers with a breastfeeding partner. And if you’re a dad reading these past couple of paragraphs and deny these facts then you’re a liar and your penis is going to come loose.
If the stress of the 9 month pregnancy, the mood swings, the hormonal changes, the actual birth itself and the emotional days post-pregnancy weren’t enough for the mother, then the following months of unadulterated horror are truly excruciating while the main problems for the dads are moaning about only having six hours sleep, and missing the football on a Sunday afternoon because they have to spend it pulling faces at their offspring while covered in shit.
So there you have it, dads. Be thankful you have a (small) penis, and a deep voice. You’ve drawn the long straw. Now stop being a whinging piss-pot and rub her back more.