Baby maths

This weekend we went to an NCT picnic. For those not familiar with the term ‘NCT’, it is a group of expectant parents who pay large sums of money to sit for hours in a room together, admitting how little they know about raising children. It’s essentially an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting, except at the end they give you a litre of tequila and tell you to have a great time. But unlike AA meetings, it’s not your sick you’re covered in when you wake up in the gutter 48 hours later.

So anyway, the picnic.

It’ll set the scene: six couples. Six babies. All making pleasant small talk, the adults cooing over one another’s crotchfruit, the babies punching each other in the eye. One of the dads turned to me and asked about my going back to work. “It’s going okay, super early days so just feeling my way around still”, I smiled, in a ‘you wanted mindless small talk? Well, here it is!’ kind of way. “So it’s a new job?” he probed. “Yeah, my old job was incompatible with having a young child“. “Did you have it lined up or did you job hunt whilst on maternity leave?” he asked, looking deep in thought. “The latter“, I nodded, hoping the conversation might turn to something more exciting if I completed his ‘Mothers returning to work‘ questionnaire. “Gosh, that must have been hard work” he stated saying, looking perplexed. I glowed. Yes, but I got a great job so it was worth it, I was about to say when he interrupted me: “Your partner must have been very supportive...”

“MY PARTNER MUST HAVE BEEN VERY WHAT NOW?!” I wanted to scream. “I WAS THE ONE WHO JUGGLED WRITING LENGTHY APPLICATIONS WITH CHILDCARE. I WAS THE ONE WHO HAD TO TRY AND PREPARE FOR INTERVIEWS AT 9PM WHEN I WAS ABSOLUTELY KNACKERED. I WAS THE ONE WHO HAD TO ORGANISE A BABYSITTER (EVEN IF THE ‘BABYSITTER’ WAS DADDY ON OCCASION) FOR THE INTERVIEW DAY AND COULD ONLY TAKE A COUPLE OF HOURS OFF BEFORE RACING BACK HOME TO RIP OFF MY SMART CLOTHES AND PICK UP WHERE I HAD LEFT OFF. ME. ME ME ME.”

Instead I smiled politely and calmly: “Yes, sort of like how I was supportive by taking maternity leave so that he could keep building his start up when I would have preferred to split parental leave equally“. His wife’s eyes lit up and she squealed with delight. Once again, I had had a glimpse of the world through a man’s eyes and I didn’t like it one little bit.

Anyway, on that note:

T, my partner, and I decided to have another baby. I’ll just let you take a few moments to digest that.

All done? Great.

So sixteen months ago we found out we were expecting Whoopsy and our worlds, as we knew them, collapsed. We split up. We got back together. We fought. We fell more in love. We went through labour, one of the worst experiences either of us has had the misfortune to survive. We swore we’d never have another child. We surrendered our social lives, most of our money and our spontaneity. We had several shit incidents that no human being should ever have to see first hand. We starting building a life that resembled a new normal. And then we decided to go and fuck it all up again by having baby number two.

If anyone has read earlier blog posts, you may have sensed that a second baby is my idea of an inescapable hell. No wait, that’s what the first baby was. The second baby is my idea of a self-made inescapable hell. And yet here I am: suggesting to T that we start making babies again in a year’s time. Why, you may ask…

Let me explain:

Baby maths is the calculation you do when trying to work out what the most financially efficient way to add a second child to your family is. I read in the contract for my new job that the company offer six months of full pay maternity leave (JACKPOT!). Whoopsy gets subsidised childcare from age three. Therefore if we theoretically had a baby six months before that period begins (i.e. when Whoopsy is two and a half), I could look after both children at home for those six months and we would save over £6000 in nursery fees. Ker-ching. And when baby goes to nursery, we’ll only have to pay full nursery fees for one child. It’s simple economy of scale: a proportionate saving in costs gained by an increased level of production.

In an ideal world, I’d choose when the time was right to have a second child. But this world, built by men who think that a woman securing a great new job should celebrate her supportive husband for enabling her to do so, does not offer all women that luxury. I do take into account the argument that if you choose (or if the baby chooses you, as was the case with us) to have children it is your responsibility to care for them. I do not dispute that. However, what I do dispute is the UK government leaving childcare to market forces and not subjecting it to regulation that makes it affordable for parents at all income levels. I’m not going to go over old ground regarding how lack of government support punishes mothers and economically deprives them, but I’ll tell you this: I didn’t appreciate just how financially crippled many working families are by childcare costs and how women can be blocked from the labour market until I was in that same position.

On a lighter note, T and I sat this evening trying to work out how to generate extra cash. We used to do Airbnb – racking up a healthy sum over just a few months – and we figured, if baby sleeps in our room, we could still do it a couple of weekends a month. He suggested that we can rent out some useful things we have lying around such as our professional grade drill. I suggested cooking and do take out service for our neighbours, although we decided that, on balance, they probably don’t want half a burnt microwave meal. T suggested we offer home based babysitting whilst we looked after our own child. I suggested we list Whoopsy on ‘Borrow my Doggy’ and charge people to play with him like a puppy. Apparently that was “unhelpful” and I should reevaluate having a second child.

UPDATE: Almost as soon as I pressed ‘publish’, my period started. My body literally saw this blog post and tried to violently crush any chance of a second pregnancy by breaking into bloody self-sabotage.

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