Well & Good
I wrote a piece about six annoying things that new parents do, and offered some advice on how to avoid them. The majority of comments said something like "you don't realise how hard it is", "Yeah, well, non-parents are really annoying too, so there!" or "Suck it up, princess". I think my favourite comment was "Clearly, you don't have kids yourself." Mmm, d'you think?
Reading some of these responses made me want to add item number seven to that list - "Don't lose your sense of humour". If new parents are so sleep-deprived and on edge that they can't take a modicum of affectionate ribbing, then having children is even more challenging than it looks.
Either that or the piece wasn't as thigh-slappingly funny as I'd hoped. Which seems unlikely.
But it's important to be balanced, especially during election season, so I thought this week I'd list six things that are wonderful about new parents. Give yourselves a slap on the back, guys! If you can somehow muster enough energy to even lift an arm, that is.
1) Reduce crowd numbers
If you've ever looked for an inner-city parking space on a Saturday night, or tried to book a reservation for a hot restaurant, then you'll know that our cities are becoming far too crowded. And if you've tried to buy tickets to events like Splendour in the Grass that sell out in a matter of minutes, then you'll know - there are just too darn many of us.
But you know who isn't out there, booking the last tickets to that new blockbuster movie the night it comes out before we can, or making the last day of a big art exhibition so crowded that we can't even see the paintings? New parents. They're at home, diligently minding their kids. Bless them.
Of course they have their own overcrowding issues at adventure playgrounds and big shopping malls and IKEA, but who in their right mind would want to compete to go there?
Admittedly, this problem is ultimately parents' fault, since they're the ones who are breeding and making the population increase. But at least they're doing their bit to solve it, too.
2) Making childless people feel cool
I've never been cool. At parties in high school and early uni, I was always a bit of a wallflower. But you know what happened to all those dudes who were heaps great with the ladies? They went ahead and married those ladies, and then their social lives dwindled away to nothing. So, who's the one hitting up the nightclubs on a Saturday night? Little ol' me.
Well, I used to be. Now I'm just too tired. But still, I could go if I wanted, in theory. My point is this - when I talk to my friends with kids, they make me feel like my entire life is spent sipping champagne in a succession of VIP limos, just because it's objectively more fun than theirs. Unless you count the fun they apparently have hanging out with their kids.
3) Boost herd immunity
There's one thing I've learned since young children became a regular part of my world, and that's that there is no better medium for the rapid dissemination of illnesses. In an era when lots of children go to childcare - a very welcome development in many respects, of course - real viruses can spread as rapidly faster than a video of a One Nation candidate who thinks Islam is a country. (I won't bother linking to it, because you've seen it already.)
On a superficial level, this is annoying, because it means that you'll catch every single influenza strain doing the rounds. Some parents I know have even recently contracted retro ailments like mumps. And tummy bugs will constantly attack your entire house, not only confining you to your bed of pain, but then forcing you to leave it at regular intervals in order to do endless loads of laundry.
But this is ultimately a good thing, because it leads to more robust immune systems. The more antibodies that develop in a population, the more resilient it becomes. By turning your homes into biohazard units, you are the guinea pigs that are developing resistance for all of us.
4) Guarantee the future of the human race
By putting themselves through the exhausting rigmarole of having children, new parents are ensuring the survival, and ongoing superiority, of we humans. The rest of us are benefiting from the hard labour of those who bathe, feed and protect the leaders of tomorrow's world. Without the parents' efforts, cockroaches, rabbits or pigeons might take over as the dominant species on the planet. Just remember when you're cleaning up yet another filthy disaster - you're not just doing it for your kid, you're doing it for the whole of humanity.
Although, while we're talking about survival - if there ever is a killer influenza pandemic, the parents will be first to drop, for the reasons mentioned in point #4. - if there ever is a killer influenza pandemic, the parents will be first to drop, for the reasons mentioned in point #4.
5) Excellent entertainment content
Harry Potter, Pixar movies and the Super Mario Bros games are just three examples of content that I, and many adults, enjoy which could not have been produced without a constant supply of children to provide a market. In this sense, many grown-ups are sponging off the efforts of parents everywhere, and I and my fellow immature grown-ups are truly grateful.
6) Simulate a zombie apocalypse
Thanks to new parents, we now know how to deal with listless, drooling, wild-eyed drones, shuffling amongst us. We childless folk also know how to deal with parents trying to convert us to their way of life - just as zombies bite non-zombies, parents constantly try and convince us non-parents that our lives won't be complete until we have a child, and are shuffling listlessly along the street, pushing a pram. This, I am convinced, is the perfect preparation for life once the true zombie takeover begins. So thank you, parents/almost-zombies.