One of the best things about being a parent? You don’t need to go out there tonight.
Bringing a child into the world brings you very many joys – you know the ones: Their first smile. Their first word. Their first tooth. Their first day at kindy and their first at school. That look in their eyes that simply says that they love you. And, even better, that look which says that they’re sleepy, and will very soon leave you in peace.
And peace, of course, is what we’re wanting. “Going out” these days tends to mean going to the lounge room (so long it’s safely within earshot), and a late night means 11pm. My party drug of choice is a now a glass of dry Riesling (followed by a bottle of dry Riesling). And – unless you want to count all those nice people that I see on the television – I more often than not drink them alone.
Being a parent may mean loving your children unconditionally and all that guff, but it also means having no social life. “Being there” for your kids means not being at the latest restaurants and bars, and rarely seeing anyone other than family members and a few close friends.
If you had presented me with this scenario a decade ago, I would have contemplated a vasectomy right then and there, or maybe even gone the whole hog and hacked off my genitals. Having 300 close and personal friends is simply everything when you’re in your 20s: going a week without seeing half of them would have been like going a week without oxygen.
It didn’t matter that you barely knew any of these people. Or that, when you thought about it, they barely knew you. The point was that you didn’t think about it, because you were too busy organising your next outing, or buying Panadol to get over the last one.
Now it’s different.
Think about the last time you organised a babysitter and hit the town on a Saturday night. Think about how the lights were flashing and music was blaring and the dance floor was packed to the hilt. Think about all the laughing and chatting and swapping of stories. All the old friends you hadn’t seen in years.
Now think about how glad you were to get the hell out of there. Life is very different once you been at the top of the hill, and started to tumble down the other side: a large circle of friends ceases to be like a large, golden crown, and instead becomes a big, brown burden. A burden that you have to bloody talk to. And a burden that expects you to listen. I still like all those 300 people, mind you, but I cherish every moment that we’re apart.
Is having kids the cause of this phenomenon? Are young parents just too busy to socialise? Or is it, perhaps, the effect? Did we all just decide to have children because the thrill of popularity was beginning to pall? Was it because our lives were starting to feel empty that we made babies to make it feel full?
Who knows? All I can tell you for certain is that having children is a great excuse to leave early. “Sorry, gotta go,” you may hear me pronounce at the pub one evening, “that babysitter charges like a bull.”
“It’s really annoying,” might be my offering the next week (along with a grimace and appropriate eye roll), “but I really need to get some sleep. Auskick kicks off at 9am.”
And even when I’m not able to leave that hellishly dark, crowded and overpriced bar quite yet (because my watch insists that it’s only 8pm), the “kid-scuse” will still come in handy, time and time again. “Sorry I’m being so boring here,” I will say whenever conversation falters – or, in other words, every five minutes. “I’m just exhausted at the moment. The kids kept me up all night.”
Or what if some old friend wants you to see a new play that they’re in, or drive two hours for drinks at their house? “I’m so sorry,” the canny parent can lie, “but I don’t think I’ll be able to get away that night. Our babysitter is going on holidays.”
“What did you say? It’s not ‘til December? Oh, well, I think that she’ll still be on holidays then.”
“Or maybe she’ll be sick or something like that.”
Do you use your kids as an excuse to hibernate?
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