A friend of mine, about to become a dad, recently asked me for some advice about parenting.
I started to write down a few things, based on my experiences during the past seven months with my daughter/adversary Mary. I set out to write a brief and funny account designed to reassure my pal, but instead – three hours and 2,500 words later – I appeared to have penned a rather lengthy, quite bitter and twisted account of fatherhood.
Following the first instalment last week, here is the second half of my words of advice for all those men about to have a baby, and those who’ve ever raised a child. This is what happens.
19. Your hygiene standards slip
The first time the baby vomits on your duvet cover, you’ll strip the entire bedding and put it in the wash.
After a few days, you simply accept your duvet cover will from now on be covered in human sick and you sleep quite happily in it.
20. You cherish every minute you’re not with your baby
However, you can’t admit this in public because it makes you sound like a bad person .
People with grown-up children who have gone through this hell and emerged from the other side will take great delight in telling you just how bad it is.
There will always be, at some point in the exchange, the standard gag from them: ‘Don’t worry, it gets easier... in about 18 years’. You laugh politely and pretend you haven’t heard that line before.
21. Don’t under any circumstances tell your wife she’s not yet lost her baby fat
If your wife breastfeeds, bosoms will no longer be a part of the body to fantasise about. Instead they will mildly horrify you.
22. You spend hundreds of pounds on toys
You then realise, with crushing disappointment, that your baby is equally as happy – if not more so – playing with the outer peeled-off layer of a leek or some pasta shoved in a Tupperware container.
23. You will, at some point, pull a muscle in your back fiddling with an Isofix car seat base
It doesn’t matter if the guy in the shop assured you it is ‘incredibly easy’ to get in and out.
24. Don’t, under any circumstances, go on Facebook and look at friends’ pictures
You’ll end up hating that young childless couple travelling around South America for a year posting photos of themselves swimming in a lagoon looking tanned, joyous and carefree.
You, meanwhile, are sat bleary-eyed on the settee, taking a paracetamol for your headache, attempting to rock a baby suffering from colic back to sleep.
25. People will say: ‘Ooh, doesn’t he/she look like you?’
You 100 per cent won’t be able to see it.
26. Your house becomes a tip
There is clutter everywhere. When you get home from work, you’ll have to clean.
If you dare raise this or complain, your wife will say dramatically: ‘What, you expect me to clean as well as keep a baby alive?’
To answer ‘yes’ at this point would be an error.
27. Used to enjoy reading books? Bad news
It will be about half a year before you read another. If the baby sleeps in your room, in its Moses basket by the bed – as most do for the first six months – you aren’t allowed the light on after 7pm.
You will also get to know every single floorboard in the house that creaks when trodden on and will creep to the toilet in the middle of the night with the care and caution of an SAS soldier on a high-risk mission in a particularly hazardous district of Afghanistan, lest you wake the baby.
28. If you have a pet you no longer really care about it
I last stroked the cat in late March. Instead the pet now sits dolefully in the corner thinking: ‘I just don’t get it, they used to like me’, while leafing through the Yellow Pages for the RSPCA number.
29. At home, you are happy to let your wife do the lion’s share of caring for the baby
Yet in public places, you become weirdly proud of your offspring and demand it’s you who carries her. Obviously if it needs its nappy changing, you hand it back to the wife.
30. When you go to a restaurant, you no longer book a table for 8pm but instead go at 5pm
You’re scared stiff your baby will start screaming and every single diner in the place will stare icily at you and mutter under their breath how stupid and selfish it is to bring a baby into a restaurant.
31. If your wife breastfeeds be prepared for her bosoms to be on view most of the time
She will whip ‘em out anywhere and everywhere, without hesitation or embarrassment.
You will implore her to ‘cover them up a bit’ because you can see a sleazy-looking chap a couple of tables away in the coffee shop looking over. She takes no notice.
She is also privately desperate for someone to challenge her about breastfeeding in public so she can have a row about how it’s the most natural thing in the world and you have no right to tell me when and where to do it you outdated dinosaur.
32. Before long, she’ll get broody and talk about wanting another baby
The thought of going through all this again horrifies you.
Within months, she’ll start talking about nurseries and schools. She will suggest moving house to get into ‘the right catchment area’. You think she’s bonkers but can’t say this.
33. Colleagues where you work will say: ‘Bring your baby in, we want to see him/her’
Don’t do this, for they don’t really mean it.
It’s important to remember at all times that the only people who care about your baby are you, your wife, and immediate family. No one else is really mithered, so it’s best to avoid telling too many baby-related anecdotes:
‘Our Mary ate her first solid food today.’
‘Really? That’s great, but could you get a move on photocopying those files? I need them in the next 20 minutes.’
34. You’ll dress a child in outfits you can’t stand to keep a relative happy
So you’ll stick him/her in that ridiculous outfit Aunt Barbara bought just because Aunt Barbara is visiting. After that, you drop the outfit off at a charity shop.
35. You’ll want to kill, in gruesome and violent fashion, the bloke who invented poppers on baby grows
No matter how many times you put your child in a baby grow you will inevitably miss a popper – usually around the crotch area where it gets more complicated than a NASA design for a new space shuttle – and have to start all over again.
36. You’ll spend a fortune on the pram
Looking for a pram is mind-blowing. There are more makes and models than in a car showroom.
As a rule of thumb, just do what the wife wants. If not, you’ll still be blamed in a year’s time.
Finally, friends about to become parents will seek advice and ask you what it’s like to have a baby. Never be honest – just tell them it’s great.