As I have gotten older, I have become increasingly aware of the oxymorons in life. I’m unsure whether this is a result of becoming a parent and therefore having the best intentions resulting in the most catastrophic outcomes, or whether this is just part of being an adult. I will share with you some of the contradictions of late, in the hope of some reassurance that I’m not the only one.
(I know terms relating to irony/paradoxes/contradictions/oxymorons/catch-22s can be grounds for grammar keyboard warrior trolls to vent – please none of that today lovies, my brain is mush already!)
- Time away from the monsters – No, I’m not talking about internal monsters, I’m not that messed up (yet). Time away from offspring. We (Husband Dearest and I) complain about the incessant nature of parenting (though really we do get a lot of breaks), yet when help is offered, we, without fail, go through the ‘Oh but should we?’, ‘It’s just I feel bad’, ‘It not fair on the boys/my parents/the cats/next door’s aunt’s tortoise.’ We literally fantasize about what we could do if the boys went out for a few hours or had a sleepover. Then when the offer arises we turn to gibber and question our entire moral being in order to establish Are We Doing The Right Thing. Never mind the fact we’ve spent the last three hours complaining about what we need to get done, snapping at the boys and cursing them for not staying glued to the sofa long enough for us to check Facebook/Instagram/BBC Sport/Pinterest.
And still, when we ‘relent’ (as we all know we intended to do from the off) and take up whatever generous hooligan fielding offer it may be, we do not do all the things we said we needed babysitters in order to do. The glossing is still not done, the door is still off its hinges, the fucking skirting boards are still fucking filthy. No, we convince ourselves we deserve a Netflix and Chill session (but actually netflix and chill, no vag pokery in this house). Because we never get the opportunity to ‘enjoy time, just us’. Not like we do that every single sodding night once the miniature dictators are finally in bed.
And then, even though we did a little euphoric boogie when we closed the door on our sprogs and their unwitting minders, within 15 minutes we’re reminiscing about them as though they have moved to university: ‘Ahh, today Monster Minor did the cutest little fart that sprayed a bit of shit on his new white John Lewis shirt and it was the sweetest moment of my life…’ And then, invariably, one of us will say we miss them, usually around an hour into the free time. That one of us needs punching in the dick.
When they return to us, the grins and the hugs are worth the hours of tv-bingeing and we have that lovely, life-affirming warmth. For about 15 minutes. And then I will admit, I’m the one that mutters ‘FFS, I don’t want to be a parent today,’ whilst rocking back and forth and flinching at returning to my post as a human climbing frame.
2. Going out – In a similar vein to above, another incessant contradiction I find myself making is with regard to social plans. We, parents in particular, complain at the lack of opportunities to go out and
get shitfaced and eat a kebab actually enjoy being young, yet strangely, when the hour to begin getting ready looms, the sofa seems strangely appealing. Your mind morphs into Martin Lewis mode as you calculate the expense of a taxi/meal/drinks/dessert/shots/dirty burger/fine for vomming in the cab, against the money you’d save having a take away, bottle of red and a cheesecake each from the Co-op. What is even more bizarre is that the promise of those few sacred hours of freedom is what has got you through the week; chanting ‘I can get through this, I get to be normal on Friday night’, whilst you shove your knee into an unbending child’s abdomen to get them the frig into the car seat (not as violent as it sounds, promise), is a regular feature of pre-night out days.
And so, it most likely goes one of three ways:
- You go out – you’ll think you look, smell, sound like shit, but, provided you’re in good company, you soon forget about it. You laugh, talk about something other than giving birth, food refusal or the most bizarre place you’ve found child excrement, and you’ll generally eat, drink and be merry. You will most likely get steaming drunk, embarrass yourself stupidly, and perhaps the Mr might get a drunken shag when you get home. We’re all winners, good times. (Until 5.17am, when the soulless little bastards go bat shit crazy because they lost a sock and their teddy winked at them funny and two weeks ago you gave them cheerios not porridge because they asked for cheerios and you didn’t know that actually meant porridge.)
- You cancel. You massive disappointment. You wallow in the disgrace of your own lack of coolness, whilst secretly enjoying watching Corrie in bed, pizza grease oozing down your chin. You feel guilty, you worry about what people might think about you but those feelings don’t quite match up to the relief when taking your bra off (jokes, I can’t let these bad boys swing unsupported), shutting the kids’ bedroom door and opening the door to the take away man. Yes, you’re a massive let down, but, by god, you’re a comfortable, pizza-filled, asleep by 9pm let down!
- They cancel on you. Hurrah! I think this is the outcome everyone wishes for. You get to say ‘Oh no, I was all ready to go’ even though you’re still tweezing out your greys in the mirror, and pretend that you were fully willing to lead the pack in going out and getting wankered. You’ve no concern about appearing a flake and no one need know that you’d pressed the confirm button on your JustEat order, literally 3 seconds before the cancellation text arrived.
3. Spending – ‘I never buy things for myself any more*’ is something commonly groaned in our house. (The cappuccino at soft-play doesn’t count; that was for survival and so that I had an excuse to say ‘HOT’ to Monster Minor to give myself three and a half minutes peace from being climbed on.) Purchases generally fall into one of four categories: food, for the boys, for the house, for birthdays. This leaves little room for my clothes, make up, jewellery…. or in reality, scarves to hide my lumpy bits and dry shampoo to make it look like I’ve had more than a baby wipe wash that week. Yet, if I do ever get carte blanche to spend on myself, I just can’t. Sometimes, nothing seems worth it – it’ll either end up smeared with fish pie or be so fancy I’ll never get the opportunity to wear it (see point number 2). Other times, it just feels so wrong to be spending on myself when the boiler needs servicing/the soles of Monster Major’s shoes are so split they have conversations with one another/the sandpit has been without sand for 2 years. All of the possible other worthy uses for money flood into my mind and drown the need for the unladdered, tummy-control tights. And somehow, the flipping sandpit is still sandless and Husband Dearest has been serviced more times than the boiler (and that’s saying something)!
*Alcohol doesn’t count. It’s in the same field as utility bills and car insurance. It’s a legal must.
4. Sex – I’m sure I’m not alone when I say sex is a bargaining tool in our house. Kind of like a trade-off, you need to ensure that when you put out, you’re gonna reap the gains. I’m speaking in the singular now, no ‘we’, as, for Husband Dearest, sex is sex and he never doesn’t want it, the rampant little goat. I, however, find myself in a perpetual pendulum swing of: ‘Get your fucking bell end away from my thigh,’ to ‘Ah, but I can probably wangle a lie in if I endure a quick rodgering,’ to ‘Oh, but I am so tired and I really can’t be arsed get in the mood,’ to ‘Then again, if I allow a little penis pokey now, it means he won’t sex pest me for the next few days.’ I constantly contradict myself when it comes to sex. I act like it’s second to tickling Donald Trump’s balls on the scale of things I really don’t want to do, when really, it’s one of the most primitive, carnal pleasures people can have. I talk about it as though the very idea of it repulses me, yet I have a very good looking husband who, in spite of what I may tell him when his hand ‘accidentally’ grazes my arse in a more than accidental lingering way, I’m actually pretty attracted to. I kind of think it must be a rites of passage for sex to become the inevitable weighing up of a few
seconds minutes of ectasy vs knowing you’ll be tired, sweaty, sex-smelling when the children wake you up in the morning. For me, I’d take starfishing on my two-thirds of the bed whilst sleep-drooling onto my pillow, any day. At least, I think I would.
I’m used to contradicting myself now, and I’ve said before, I think it’s something I must learn to get used to as a parent. But, at the same time, it was nice when I had an idea in mind and stuck to it. When did life become the constant weighing up of what the least damaging option is? When did the norm become knowing what you want to do but feeling obliged to do the opposite? I hope it isn’t just me that feels this pull of loyalties, this habitual tug-of-war between what you think is the right thing and what the right thing may actually be. I think the conclusion is that we may never get it right. Parenting seems characterised by the feeling of guilt over making the wrong decision. But then, when the monsters come racing in, faces lit up because they haven’t seen you in 4 hours and 13 minutes, and give you the biggest squeeze ever, it kind of makes your contradictory world ok again. Until it’s followed by the words ‘My done a wee wee,’ and you’re back to reality with a massive ‘FFS’.