Child-Free in the City

Last weekend, my life turned into a real life episode of Sex and the City, far more so than when i’m actually at home in London, when life is never even remotely glamorous enough to compete. Remember the baby shower episode, where Carrie and co head out to the Connecticut to attend said baby shower and were unbelievably out of place and uncomfortable? Well on Saturday, Rai and I got up close and personal with a life outside London, and we couldn’t have looked more wide eyes and alarmed if we tried.

This Easter, Rai and I went to Hastings to see his mum, his sister and her husband, and their two children. Thanks to the two kids (aged 6 and 9), a lot of time was spent doing child-friendly activities. On Saturday, we went on an Easter Egg hunt in a park, and to my surprise, there were many, many children there. It turns out there’s a whole community of families who know each other and regularly hang out and all of them have children aged between 1 and 6 (ish?), but things got kind of weird when we went back to one of the women’s houses for a BBQ.

I have never been in a room with so many toddlers. The toddlers outnumbered the adults, it was sheer madness. They were rushing around everywhere, tripping over toys, screeching occasionally, necking Fruit Shoots like they were tequila shots on a Saturday night. Rai and I spent our time gawping, literally gawping at the utter chaos that had ensued around us. The other adults in the room however, were completely at home. The high pitched shrieking didn’t bother them, nor apparently did being climbed all over mid conversation, or interrupted with “mum, muum, muuuum.”

Despite being roughly the same age as Rai and I, they seemed far more grown up. They talked a lot about babies, births and pregnancy, and about what a nightmare it can be to keep a house clean when you live with young children. Never has there been a more fish out of water moment than that. We handled it a little better than Carrie, Miranda and Samantha. We got stuck in and taught a few kids how to play Piggy in the Middle, which we dutifully played for about 30 minutes before deciding we desperately needed a drink.

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Of course, being around the “cult of motherhood”, as Miranda would say, questions were asked about our relationship. There were several occasions this weekend where he was told to hurry up and propose to me, and I have no doubt that if I did have a ring on my finger, the questions would’ve turned to “so are you planning on having children soon?”

Admittedly, the older I get, the less I hate children indiscriminately. I used to be immediately repulsed by anything under the age of 12, but now I think i’m only alarmed by anything particularly small and unpredictable or particularly noisy and/or messy. I’ve grown to adore my niece and nephew (they’re not really but they kind of are), and i’ve found that once i’m around a child and get to know it a bit, I start to like it more and more. But still, one of my own? No bloody thanks.

Living in London feels a little like living in Neverland. Of course everyone grows up a bit, we all work, pay bills and whinge about the price of living, but that’s about as “adulty” as it gets. The idea of any of my London-based friends having a child is utterly laughable. Where on earth would they live? After all, nobody can afford anything much bigger than a medium-sized cupboard. And what would happen to our careers? Is it even possible to spring back and work full time immediately after popping out a kid? And what about the social aspect? Everyone is always drunk, how on earth is anybody meant to raise a child while constantly inebriated? It feels incredibly impractical to have a child in the city, which perhaps offers me a brilliant excuse not to think about any of this stuff for a very, very long time.

I am not remotely maternal. I’m sure there are wooden stools that feel more favourably towards children than I do. Fortunately, Rai is on exactly the same page; he is slightly better with kids than I am, but ultimately is irritated by the mess and noise they create. Sitting around the mums, I couldn’t help but bask in my freedom; my delicious cider that I was drinking with the knowledge that I couldn’t accidentally kill any offspring by drunkenly falling on them, the knowledge that Rai and I were going home to sleep in our glorious king-sized bed and would not be rudely awoken by anything loud at 5am, that popping to the gym after work or to dinner with a friend is no big deal because nothing is counting on me to get home to look after it. The idea that we can move anywhere in the world because we have nothing tying us to one place.

Seeing such love between a less selfish twenty-something and their child was really quite heartwarming, and it’s admirable that people my age actually can look after children and avoid poisoning and/or dropping them. But to be honest, the entire experience made me want remove my own womb. Cute as some kids are, i’m very happy being the fun aunt who comes to visit, and I can’t see that changing any time soon.   

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