With the New Year comes a certain amount of reflection, good intentions and decisions

It could be that you’re joining a gym or getting married or taking up golf.

For some people they decide that this is the year they’ll try to have a baby. It’s a huge decision to make and, occasionally, childless couples will look to their friends with children for advice. They will also examine the differences in lifestyle and how it compares to their kid-free own, in an attempt to understand how things will change. They will scrutinise the parenting, the children’s behaviour and how the parents interact with each other. And will also vow not to make the same mistakes.

Now I’ve read a bit on this and the information seems to consistently show that childless couples have, statistically, a better quality of life than those couples with children. They have more money, more time, less arguments, amazing holidays and a way better social life. Couples with children tend to be skint, tired, at home on a Saturday night, stuck in a caravan and often quite stabby with each other, because it doesn’t matter how much you love each other you will argue when you’ve had a baby.

When you have children, any disposable income is now spent on them instead of treats for you. If you do have a night out, you pay for it at 6am the following morning. Holidays no longer mean lounging on a sunbed but stressing about do they have car seats abroad, where can you buy baby food and oh my gosh the toddler is too close to the pool. Children change your life completely and this is what the couples without kids are weighing up.

But any childless couple, asking their friends with children for advice, will often be told that they’re really happy, life is great and they wouldn’t change it for the world. Which most often is the case. However, there are two things at play here that the statistics don’t reflect:

A) A divine satisfaction with raising children that can’t be accounted for in percentages, such as the joy of your kid understanding their first joke and being told “I love you, Mummy.”

B) Denial.

Parents have a huge capacity for denial, which allows a person who has had four hours sleep, spent their day changing nappies, cleaning up mess, hasn’t had sex in weeks, now food shops at Aldi and whose idea of fun is Saturday night TV, to say that they’ve never been happier. Denial is a wonderful thing because it makes us believe that we’re having the best time of our lives. Even though the day-to-day reality can say otherwise. Denial means that we can enjoy all the precious moments because we’re blind to the fact that we’ve been wearing the same clothes three days straight. Denial allows us to walk around town with bags under eyes. Denial filters the crappy days from the good days – heck, it even helps us survive.

It’s true, because I’ve never been happier.

People without children, however, aren’t as blind. They can see what it’s really like to have children without this filter of denial. They see us covered in baby sick, craving sleep, tetchy, endlessly picking up toys and with no decent social engagements on the calendar. They know that we have no answer when they ask politely “So, what’s new?”. They hear the arguments over who has had more sleep and it’s absolutely your turn to change the nappy. They even smell our desperation to have an adult conversation. Because we still like to invite our childless friends over because we believe that they’ll enjoy being around our children.

And even if we’re honest and say it’s occasionally tough, they will examine our parenting style and decide that the toddler’s behaviour is down to not having boundaries and the six year old is just spoilt. They will nit-pick, behind closed doors, and decide that if they do it, they won’t do it our way. We’ve made big mistakes that they can see and they won’t repeat.

I know this because I did it.

I watched and analysed and judged. I said things like “Well our child will never sleep in our bed”. I decided that no child of mine would ever speak to his mother so rudely and that they would be grateful, humble and generous. I vowed to not have the life that my friends with children had because I would do things differently. And, oh! How those friends would chuckle and snigger because they knew how things would turn out. It’s the biggest “I told you so” waiting to happen.

To be honest, the very best and only way to decide whether or not to have children is to babysit your friends’ children. For, like, three weeks at a time, during the summer holidays. It can truly help in the decision making. Plus, the couple who the children belong to can then scrutinise your parenting skills before you’ve even had children and that will make them very happy indeed.

I wish you Happy New Year. And Happy Procreating.