couples

Five reasons I envy my childfree friends

Yes, I am so very lucky to be a mother. But you know how the grass in always greener? Well here’s what sometimes makes me green about living in Parent Land.

This is a story that needs a great deal of introduction. Not because it’s complicated, or tricky, but because when any mother parent expresses any less-than glowing sentiments about being a parent, the following announcements must be included.

Largely because they’re true:

a) I adore my two children. They had me at ‘hello’ (or more like, ‘bleaurgh’.)

b) I would never be without them.

c) They bring me a great deal of slightly sticky joy, and make my life a good deal richer.

And:

d) I know how unimaginably lucky I am to have two healthy, naughty kids driving me crazy, when so many people in the world (many of whom I know, or have known) wish they did, and don’t.

BUT. Sometimes, just sometimes, when you’re up to your eyes in chaotic kid-business,  you remember a time when that your life was sooo different, and you think. Oh.

In those fleeting moments, these are the things – yes, all silly, first-world problem things – that make me pine for the good bits of a childfree life:

1. A holiday's a holiday

We just got back from a week away. It was great. But here's what a holiday is like with small children: They don't like to sleep in a strange place, so getting them to bed turns into a four-hour battle of wills. They don't have all their favourite toys and friends around, so they need constant entertaining. They get sick - because HOLIDAY - and you end up alternatively unable to leave the house and charging around trying to find doctors and chemists in a strange place. My partner and I spent the whole of the holiday sleeping in separate beds (near a child each), woken four times a night and up for good at 5am. Cocktails, anyone?

2. After work drinks

Sometimes, as I rush from my office to the bus that will inevitably deliver me to wherever I need to be 10 minutes after I need to be there, heading back to the daily shitfight that is Dinner-Bath-Books-Bed, I catch sight of my childfree peers sitting outside small, interesting pop-up bars. Talking to each other about important things. Maybe deciding to have one more drink. With little bowls of nibbles and all the time in the world. And I hate them.

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3. Lie-ins and sneaky afternoon 'naps'

Getting up really, really, early is a feature of parenthood that I had not fully counted on when I signed up to join the team. If my kids ever sleep past 6am it is cause for not just reward stickers, but a full-blown, ticker-tape parade. Alternate weekend lie-ins for my partner and myself mean that once a week I get to sleep until 7am, at which point one or other of the kids will really, really need me for something urgent, like discussing where monkeys come from. And the key word there is 'alternate'. My partner and I never get to lie in together, which is when the, um, magic used to happen. And as for a sneaky afternoon nap, the great joy of a tired parent's life, forget it. When the kids stop napping, you stop napping. The only window for 'snuggling' with your true love comes when you both fall, semi-comatose, into bed at the end of a very, very long day. My child-free mates? At it like rabbits, I bet.

4. They don't have to pay for childcare.

You have no idea how precious that disposable income is until it's gone. With two kids in childcare a few days a week, and the cost of someone you trust looking after your children seemingly rising every day (as it should, no-one wants resentful, crappily-paid workers in charge of their kids), there are no cheeky, pay-day purchases, no shoes you don't desperately need, no splurges on a big night out that wasn't planned a month in advance. You suddenly have to be VERY responsible with every dollar, and if that doesn't come naturally to you (um, me), watching your friends show off their on-trend impulse buys makes you want to cry. Just a little bit.

5. Time. Just time.

For me, this is the mothership. In a busy family life, there is no time. The idea of being bored hasn't occurred to me in five years. Every minute of my every day is accounted for, filled to bursting, over-scheduled. On top of all those crammed moments, there's a rolling to-do list of Things That Are Not Getting Done. At this point in my life, my absolute ultimate fantasy - the most luxurious thing that I could imagine - would be to lie on a couch and read a book. A book that I wanted to read, that did not have more pictures than words, and that I could sink into for hours at a time. It's never going to happen. There's no time for reading books. There's no time for anything. So you, there, my friend, who just spent a whole weekend watching back-to-back eps of House Of Cards? You are my sworn enemy.

Phew. That feels better.

But like I said, they had me at hello.

Do you ever envy your childfree friends?