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18 Dec 2008: This Time It Will Be Different

A picture

I See You

What comforting words of advice could Joel Now give to Joel Three Months Earlier? It would probably be this: there's something about having a child you cannot truly understand until you have a child. You can speculate, but you cannot know.

It's like life is neatly divided into two (Note: It's probably divided into three, but another topic, another time). There is the time Before Baby and there is the time After Baby, and your whole existence, your domestic culture and social environment is entirely different.

I am not talking about how you can't go out nor planning holidays differently - out with the backpacks and in with the papoose. I mean, just everything changes. It's not immediate; you might not notice for a few weeks. But you will.

Before Baby, you thought of yourself as independent, self-reliant, able to get stuff done. You didn't like to think about family life, what it would do to you. You thought about the things you could achieve. People with children didn't make sense. Their conversations were in a different language, translation impossible.

After Baby, you think of yourself as attached, enmeshed, complex. Planning is impossible, yet everything must be planned. You are family life. Achievement is making it through the day with the relevant domestic chores and personal responsibility boxes ticked. People with children are the only people who talk your language. People without children suddenly appear less, almost childish in the sense that they do not understand your situation.

It is like you have joined a private club, learnt the secret handshake of the Freemasons, without actually asking for the invite. The world is no longer about how efficient you make your life and how much money you can make, it is about the containment of chaos and dealing with unrealistic expectations. You cannot see things the same way anymore; you recognise swathes of society as being inherently family-unfriendly. You were blind before, but now you can see.

And the light is blinding.