|Painting by Brid Finnegan - owned by Frances Brennan|
At some point in my twenties I knew that I didn't want to have children. My then husband had made it abundantly clear that he hadn’t the slightest interest in the whole baby thing either, what with the three hourly feeds, constant nappy changing and later, the school run and the whole mind numbing (to us) life that lay ahead.
As to the actual birth; I always felt there was a conspiracy of silence to make it seem the occasion was a mystical experience, with hardly a wince of pain.
A friend, a mother of two, was honest enough to admit that both occasions were awful, perfectly hideous experiences. No romantic stories of being a real woman, husband at the bedside and heavenly feelings for each other. On both occasions it was searing pain and screaming from the word go.
Apart from the birth, I (and also my then husband) considered the next eighteen or twenty years of organising children, without help with the housework and childcare, would be enough to drive us completely nuts.
The endless washing and cleaning up, Sunday night checking school uniforms, constantly keeping them up to scratch. The homework, then later the nagging at teenagers to keep their clothes tidy, bedrooms tidy, kitchen tidy, bathrooms tidy, pick up towels, wash ring from around bath. And in the end, doing all the bloody work yourself.
Then there’s that huge shop each week for all those essentials and tall, gangly sixteen-year-old youths in school grey trousers standing beside the fridge, asking 'is there any food?’
I am extremely happy, enjoy and have enjoyed a terrific life without children, a life packed full of excitement and some mad adventures. On hearing of this happiness, some people appear to lose their minds and immediately begin to impress on me how their lives would have been considerably less without their children. How can they possibly know this?
On and on they drone about their children, what they are doing, are going to do, what they have done, how their college is going, how their job or lack of it is going. Sometimes these people don’t turn out to be exactly model citizens, but instead give their parents pure hell, despite all their efforts. Often, I notice now, they still live at home as they sail into their thirties. How bizarre is that?
Worse; their offspring having reached middle age, some parents, only in their sixties, have a desperate need to become grandparents. Is this to fill in the rest of their lives?
In spite of having a happy family life as a youngster, I felt that without help, the whole ‘mother of the family’ existence looked like a living hell to me. From what I’ve observed over the years I have no reason to change my mind.