Someone asked me recently how children change your life.
I know some people talk about this rush of love, or how your priorities change overnight, or being miraculously
fulfilled; that sort of thing. For me, I never felt as though my whole identity shifted when I had a child, or that my existence suddenly became meaningful.
However, it’s fair to say that children change your life, and you may need to make some small adjustments to your daily routine. For the purposes of illustration, let’s consider a Day in the Life of Sally, 2001 and Sally, 2010:
2001: Before Children
2001 Sally lives in a great one-bedroom flat in London. It’s opposite the dodgy mosque in Finsbury Park but it has oak floors, white walls and acres of bookshelves.
There’s barely any furniture, but Sally just took delivery of a new bed from Heal’s and a sofa from Ikea. Every morning, she takes a hot shower in her shiny chrome bathroom, and carefully puts on the make-up she bought from the Mac counter at Harvey Nicks. After blow-drying her hair, she runs across to the tube station and gets the train to Oxford Circus.
Walking down past Liberty’s and along Carnaby Street is one of Sally’s favourite times of day. Some days, she stops off at the gym to meet her personal trainer, other days she pops into the Italian coffee shop on Lexington Street for a cappuccino. She works in a busy office with small windows and a mean boss. It’s sort of soul-destroying.
After work, Sally tumbles out of the office with all the other journalists and designers in Soho. They drink pints of Hoegaarden outside the Blue Posts, sharing tips on good parties, jumping into cabs headed for Covent Garden or Mayfair. If it’s a quiet night, Sally picks up some dinner at the M&S Food Hall and heads home to crash on the sofa with her cats, Basil and Parsley.
2010: After children
In 2010, Sally lives in a Victorian terraced house in Britain’s oldest, whitest town. There’s a wonky kitchen floor and a plumbing system that provides a plentiful supply of boiling or freezing water – but nothing in between.
There’s still not much furniture, but that’s because Sally had to give away the dining table when the dog ate one of the legs. The TV makes a funny sound if the picture has too much white on it, and the fridge door sometimes falls off. Also, the handle for the dishwasher lives in the cutlery drawer.
In the mornings, Sally showers in 60 seconds, trying to avoid hyperthermia and third degree burns while saying things like, “Yours will look like that when you’re older,” and “No, it doesn’t count if you don’t use toothpaste.”
At 8.30am, Sally can’t find a bag, but needs to take her laptop to a meeting. She borrows Flea’s Spiderman backpack, ushering her daughter into the garage, apologising because they have to crawl into the car – Sally parked too close to the wall (again). Clambering into the driver’s seat, Sally manages to spill Flea’s smoothie down her top. Looking in the rear view mirror, she spots two new grey hairs. Marvellous.
At the meeting, it turns out the backpack was a waste of time because Sally forgot to charge her laptop. Also, Sally’s purse is still in her handbag. At home. Sally is parked in the shopping centre, and can’t get her car out. She phones her brother and asks him to come and lend her £2 for parking. He arrives and admires the Spiderman backpack, before hilariously asking if she needs any extra pocket money for sweets.
After a day of working on six different projects, and chasing invoices from six other clients, Sally collects Flea from school, and they arrive home. There’s nothing in the house for dinner, so Sally makes a bowl of popcorn, and serves it on a tray on the sofa, together with an Easter Egg and a bunch of grapes. They watch the new Scooby Doo DVD they’ve been sent to review and Flea tells Sally that she’s the best Mummy she knows, although nobody else’s Mummy insists on sharing their kid’s Easter Eggs.
So there you have it: life before and after children. If you’re wondering how children change your life, I hope this helped.
Sometimes you’ll miss that old life with an ache you can feel in your gut, and which takes your breath away. But with a bit of luck, someone will tell you that you’re the best person they know, and even the odd grey hair feels worthwhile.