Hi, folks. Sorry I haven’t been pressing words lately. I’ve been very bizzy. And hot!
Without further ado, here’s a guest post from my friend and fellow blogger over at sweettenorbull, who has an axe to grind about something i wrote a little while ago (“Why I Don’t Want to Have Children”). Apparently, he does. (I’ll give you time to heave a prodigious sigh of disbelief.) But seriously, I think he’ll make a great father, especially with such airtight reasons to reproduce.
In Defence of Fatherhood
Stew, I read with interest and enjoyment your argument against having children at the beginning of the month, but felt that the counterarguments deserved an airing too. There are many good reasons to bring children into the world – and I’m not talking about benefits to society, or to the environment or even to your spouse, but benefits to you, yourself and you!
1. Nobody else will listen to you. Sad but true. Much to my surprise, I can talk to my wife about subjects that she considered deathly boring when we first started going out, notably bird-watching (she can tell a buzzard from a kite and knows a dipper, a wagtail or a dunnock when she sees one, impressively); but there are still subjects she runs from like the plague – anything sporty, for example, or the heroes of early Northumbrian history, or the travails of Irish saints. I have the same trouble with friends: sadly, none are particularly interested in my opinions on the redefinition of county boundaries (I want the old pre 1974 boundaries back, since you ask); and no one I know can stand to talk about poetry for more than say 10 minutes, which is why I blog about it instead.
Things are different with kids. For them, your stories have the quality of epic myth, even if they’re just about a misadventure on the way to the takeaway. I boasted for years to school friends just because my Dad had had an altercation with the guy out of ACDC once, when they were both trying to park outside a curry house. To whom else but a son or daughter would that be even remotely boast-worthy? Moreover, your opinions have the authority of Old Testament pronouncements, and will be your kid’s own default opinions until he’s in his early teens – or even longer if he’s dull-witted.
2. Somebody to visit you and take care of you when you’re old. If nobody is listening to me now, I can’t imagine who would want to when I’m old, decrepit and befuddled. But my kids, I would hope, might – if only out of guilt or a sense of duty (or, to put the world-weary cynicism aside for a moment, love). Otherwise, it’s you and the minimum wage care assistant with a hangover, texting her boyfriend as she bathes you in tepid water, and the other geezers in the old folks’ home who will put the snooker on the TV and turn the volume up to full while you’re trying to read the latest Douglas Copeland.
There are other ways to ensure a comfortable old age, of course. The first is to make yourself absolutely filthy rich [insert canned laughter here]. The second is to marry a younger wife (I see you took that route yourself, Stew, you old dog! No wonder she tires you out etc. etc.). However, see reason 3.
3. You can do what you want and your wife still (probably) won’t leave you. Until you have children, your wife can leave you for any old reason – you don’t earn enough money, you drink too much, you smell of cabbage, and so on. She’ll get half of your savings, and probably the house, and probably most other things. In these computerised times, you no longer have to worry about dividing the CDs, but on the other hand, she may spitefully post pictures of your testicles all over the internet. Also, you’ll be lonely, and, unless, you’re one of these handy in the kitchen types, you probably won’t eat like you used to.
Once you have kids, however, unless she’s a heartless witch, she’s just not going to leave you, not unless you do something really bad. The threshold for her walking out suddenly gets a lot higher. You can quit your job, take up a dissolute lifestyle, coming home late and drunk every night and vomit on the newly vacuumed carpet and still she’ll stand by you for the sake of the children. No stress! I’m not suggesting fathers ought to be doing any of these things, of course, I’m just saying: it’s an advantage, no?
4. You can do fun childish stuff without appearing suspect. My wife gets this ‘Fun things to do in Northumberland this weekend’ feed to her Facebook, and invariably the most fun looking activities are ones you can do with your kids: Badger-spotting evenings at Gibside, star-gazing at Kielder Observatory, archery afternoons at Alnwick, that sort of thing. Of course, there’s nothing to stop childless couples and single people doing these things, except: a) you’re quite likely to spend most of your time being annoyed by other people’s children, and b) the default attitude towards childless adults in Britain since about 1996 has been paranoid suspicion: either you’re a parent, or you’re a paedo (unless you have a CRB check handy). Are you really here just to watch the badgers, wonder paranoid, tabloid-reading mothers. I’m exaggerating, but not by much.
5. You can pass all your failed dreams and disappointed hopes on to them. So, you never managed to write that epoch-defining novel, or get into Oxford or Harvard, or make that ground-breaking scientific discovery, or get a job, or whatever your greatest ambitions were when you were young. The older you get, the less likely that is to happen, too. But with kids, you needn’t despair – you can simply project all your great hopes and ambitions on to them. Have them reading Latin in playschool, or playing tennis from dusk till dawn, or learning piano, horse-riding and oil painting after school, to spread your bets. And you can relax – because it’s much easier to tell someone else to do something great than to do it yourself. And if they fail too, never mind – by then you should be wise enough to have realised the vanity of such dreams; if not, you can always hold out for talented grandchildren.
I wonder if I’ve convinced you at all, Stew? – I think I’ve convinced myself at least. You’ll be invited to the christening, naturally – there’ll be booze. But if you’re really dead set against having kids, all I can proffer is that time honoured advice given to reluctant men with broody wives: have you thought about buying her a dog?
If I weren’t marooned in a dysfunctional marriage in a state of perpetual arrested development, I’d have to say–you’ve sold me!