It’s a common question to new parents: what is it like to be a parent? I find the answers tend to fall into one of two categories. The first is the category that reflects the love of the parents to their offspring. It’s usually profuse, and magical sounding: ‘It just amazing, I couldn’t imagine how much I love them. You just can’t understand it until you have your own’. The other response is the one that reflects the difficulties: ‘I’m so tired, it’s so demanding, I had no idea how many nappies they go through’. The real truth is somewhere in between, and I’m going to attempt to illustrate it with an example…
Imagine you got a job as a personal assistant to a musician you love. You adore this person, their music really speaks to you and you feel they are a genius of their time. Despite the crummy salary, you are overjoyed to have this opportunity to work with this person. You turn up on the first day, and are completely overwhelmed at being in this person’s life. You soon realise though, that this artist has NO concept of a routine life, and is completely egocentric. As the day progresses it becomes very clear that they expect you to be at their beck and call all day. You go to the toilet and they start yelling for you. Hastily you wipe your bum, and exit to see what the huge issue is only to find their special blanket fell off, and they wanted it back on, just so. You adjust said blanket, and start organizing their lunch (apparently you are now a gourmet chef too – no extra pay). You prepare an amazing meal, and are convinced your adored artist will be so pleased at your efforts, but all of a sudden they are not hungry. You return the untouched meal to the kitchen, and head home for the night. Exhausted, a little disillusioned, but still in love with your idol.
At 3am, you get a phone call. You are needed immediately. You throw on your old T-shirt and head over to their hotel room. Your much adored musician has gotten totally high and is having a meltdown. They are screaming, yelling and completely inconsolable. They are also covered in vomit and their own shit. You calm them down, clean them up and eventually get them off to sleep. It’s now 5:00 and you are exhausted. You finally get some sleep on the couch, only to be woken an hour later by a bright-eyed and chirpy person who is completely oblivious to the drama of last night. This repeats on a regular basis.
Your friends tell you to quit, but the truth is you adore this person. They are inspired and interesting. For every shit-covered meltdown there are amazing moments when you sit around listening to them make music, and you are pulled into their magical world. Just when you think you can’t handle the yelling and tantrums, they turn their full attention onto you and smile in a way that you know how important they are to you.
So you stay in the job, and as much as you never want to wipe shit from someone’s bum even again, you truly wouldn’t want it any other way.
THAT’s what it is like to be a parent.