A colleague and I were chatting about our weekend, and he mentioned having had a rare night free night out with just his wife. My gut reaction was jealousy and “who did you get to babysit?” Then I realised that the last time we’d worked together was when the little man was no more than a tentative concept in a vague future – but my colleague had had two very young children at the time.
A few things struck me. The last time we’d worked together we were doing big, big jobs – his bigger than mine, and he was far more committed. I had nothing going on at home more pressing than a shopping habit and a holiday schedule: his youngest was the same age as the little man is now, and he had another boy, two years older. This makes him an utter hero. And a complete and utter idiot. No wonder he burnt out of the job within a year.
These past weeks I’ve been reflecting on who I am. On how having a child has completely changed my own sense of who I am. I existed for 32 years before becoming a mother: if I now had to pick only one wish it would be that I spend the rest of my life with this new title. But some days, my identity is definitely still catching up with this shift.
Back to this conversation. Before having the little man, I thought I “got it”. I had close friends and family with young children – I thought I understood what I was in for. I was a fucking idiot. I’m surprised nobody punched me in the face. I wouldn’t have understood how a single meal out to a mid-price, local restaurant with the love of your life could feel like utter luxury. I had absolutely no concept of how much your home life could have its tentacles wrapped around every decision you made.
Sometimes it’s easy to focus on what I’ve lost since the little man changed my life. But it’s opened up a whole new group of people that I can start to understand. It’s closed the door on some things – I can imagine, but not know, how it feels to be a 30 something, 40 something, 50 something without children, for whatever reason. I can envy and pity in equal measures; I can love my child-free, single friends; but I cannot know what their life is, any more than they can really know mine.
I was surprised today because of how much I liked this new knowledge. I’m always affectionate towards the younger, dumber me – she was a bit of a tool at times, but she was very earnest and kind. Today, I felt very affectionate towards the older, wiser, tireder me. And fuck me, she is tired.