An unexpected side effect of becoming a parent is unnecessary smalltalk. As an introvert I probably languish in silence for longer than other people find acceptable.
Now I’m not a knob (like Matt) I’m quite willing to go along with whatever bullshit chat / make believe Emily’s ‘new best friend’ at the playground wants me to go along with. But I also don’t see the point of mundane parent chat with a stranger for the sake of it. If my child is happily hanging with her new mate and doesn’t want me I would rather waste my attention on the black pit of social media, thanks.
Matt doesn’t agree, I can’t even remember what boring chat Matt got into with me…just that he can’t for shit make a decent job of pretending to eat the ‘chips’ our daughters had kindly cooked for him.
What I do remember is that Matt and Matt’s wife were tag teaming parenting that day.
Oh man I get jealous of the parent tag teamers. They get to go to the toilet when they want to, they get to drink coffee inside when the other one is on duty in the rain, the joy! I was quite happy when Matt tapped out and I got new best friend’s mum instead. She could role play, she could hide and seek.
The girls were having such a good time that Emily got promoted from new best friend to sister after just a couple of hours (my daughter is excellent company). I thought this was super cute but it seemed to trigger a load of only child guilt in new best friends mum who seemed fucking knackered by parenting and entirety unenthusiastic at the prospect of doing it all again (I hear ya).
I obviously never miss a sob story so when I was asked if Emily was a single child I said yes, my husband moved out when she was a baby. I got the initial ‘oh wow you’re doing so well’ thing which suddenly got flipped into a ‘lucky you at least you don’t have to parent a man and a child at once my life would be easier without him’ speech. Wow.
I don’t normally shy out of the self pity Olympics / my life is more tiring than yours / I sleep less competition. I actually refrained from the desperate urge to point out all the time she spent in the peace of the indoor coffee area of beautiful silence while I stood in the pissing rain playing make believe with woodchips.
Instead I did a VERY BAD THING and excused her husband on the basis of it being hard for all mums as toddlers always want mum first. Which is a shit move on my part as:
- Not all toddlers want their mum over dad, that’s massively sexist and a result of the fact mums tend to do more parenting. Some toddlers prefer their dad (granted, a minority)
- If her toddler prefers her to Matt (as do I) then maybe Matt should do some other fucking work instead, rather than having his hard working baby mama feel like she is caring for both a toddler and man child.
- I should have pointed out that what she described is absolutely not cool. She should only be raising her actual child and if she feels like she is happy with one child then that’s the only child she should have (no more babies, no more Matt).
- The fact her little girl is so capable at making friends suggests she is doing just fine as an only child, that contrary to popular belief only children do just as well (if not better), in almost all respects than their siblinged up counterparts (see One and Only by Lauren Sandler)
- The fact that it isn’t an absence of siblings that damages little girls but the normalisation of a loveless, resentful relationship becoming the benchmark of what to aspire to. That mummies do all the work and that’s just what happens.
Being a single parent is hard but if you genuinely think that your partner makes life even harder than that then seriously, buh bye Matt.
I know I am coming from a place of privilege in that, even as a single parent, I earn enough to afford childcare so that I can work. Also I live in a house I own and other things lots of women won’t benefit from if they were to go it alone. But seriously, an unhappy marriage will destroy your soul.
Now I know souls aren’t measurable but life expectancy is and marriage increases a man’s life span but knocks a year off a woman’s life see here if you don’t believe me.
The bastards steal a year from us! And yet men who don’t marry are bachelors, when we are spinsters or left on the shelf? Errm, shall we rephrase that single men are prematurely aging and single women are winning at life?? We are literally winning more life.
(by single I mean non-cohabiting, as Katherine Ryan cleverly points out we are all far too young to have men in our homes. Sex is still non life threatening as far as I’m aware.)
And the one year life loss is just an average, stats are still pending on how much life they sap out of you when things get so bad you start slagging your man off to strangers at the playground.
So now I’m a guilty feminist again. The avoidance of social awkwardness won out, I should have told you to leave your baby daddy (or at the very least insist he acts like a parent/adult). Hopefully the next mum she complains to is both a feminist and an extrovert with a higher capacity for brutal honesty than me.
My wholehearted apologies to my daughter’s sister’s mother.