A friend of mine peered over my shoulder as I began to write this blog, read the title, and said, “Are you writing about Gogglebox?” I must have looked blank for a moment, as he said, “For god’s sake, Matthew, don’t you know any cultural references? Gogglebox? On the TV.”
Then the fog began to clear, albeit slowly. I’m not a TV watcher, but I’d had to be blind and absolutely shut off off from everything around me to not at least have heard of the series where people watched in the act of watching TV. Apparenly, my title reminded my friend of Gogglebox, and I could see what he meant when I reflected on it. But then I decided to leave it as it was, just because I could.
All that’s a digression from the main point I plan to discuss in this piece; how people reacted to the news of my plans to become a parent. It’s certainly a valid way of having child, but it’s also in the minority, so it’s covered in mystery to a lot of people. It was to me until a couple of friends went through the process, which then gave me a lot of insight into it when I began; I was slightly ahead of the curve, although I hadn’t lived and breathed the emotional aspect of it all in the way they had.
But I’d also spent most of my twenties – all of them, in fact – being resolutely child-free and content being so. A friend of mine, ever so slightly older, had her first two children young, so I was around kids from a similarly-young age. They were cool, for the most part; I was guiltily relieved when I could get away from the tantrums, although I did everything I could to give my friend every support – practical, emotional – I was able to.
I was also quite vocal about my lack of desire to have children. Why wouldn’t I be? I was as certain as certain could be; I did not want children. Some people don’t have children for their entire lives, and that can be either heartbreaking or a huge relief; some people know from a young age that they don’t want to be a parent, and never change that view for the rest of the time they spend on this tiny ball of rock.
I have changed my mind, however, although I really struggle to remember the precise moment when. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose, but I became aware of this disconcerting change in my early thirties. It took me some time to adjust to this new worldview; I needed to understand how this had happened – I like to understandm the why in everything – but sometimes it’s just not possible. My mind had changed without any objective input from my consciousness. Such is life.
I like to think, however, that I am flexible enough to go with the flow; it can take a lot to change my mind, but when it’s changes, I’m willing to go with it. So there it was; my desires had changed, but at that point, I was the only one to know. How should I tell everyone that my previously vocal decision was now entirely 180 degrees away from where it had been? My parents, I suspect, had almost accepted the fact they would never have grandchildren, and now I was toying with their emotions – or would be if I ever found the confidence to tell them and my circle of friends.
It took me a while to think about this; I had to really consider how I would present this new decision to people I cared about. They deserved the truth, but I was worried about reactions; I was a single man, for one thing, and certainly not rich; would people accept me and my decision as the right one for a child? I hoped they would.
When I had eventually found the right language – and I can’t remember precisely what I said – then I gently “came out” to people who deserved to know. There was some surprise, certainly, and lots of questions – questions I couldn’t fully answer, not at that stage. Was I confident I could raise a child well as a single dad? At that stage, no, I don’t think I was. Is anyone fully confident they’re going to be the perfect parent? If they are, then they’re a liar or merely overconfident. I feel better about it now, but I still accept that there’s a lot I need to know; I’ll learn some of it as I go along.
But the news went down well, all things being equal. I can’t tell you the relief when I finally told my parents; for me, that was so important, and once they got past the initial shock, I was glad to know they were utterly supportive. They were probably quite excited as well, I suspect, at the thought of having a grandchild at last; they’re both excellent with kids, and I know they’ll be looked up to by my son.
Telling people I appreciated was key, and I was so glad it was out in the open; it meant I could start going full steam ahead. That was the final hurdle, but that just shows how much I know. I’ve had to experience a job loss and delays in the adoption process; neither of which were overwhelming, but frustrating. What has made it managable has been my support network; those people around me who clearly care and want to support me. If I had tried to keep it a secret for whatever reason, then I would have felt like a poor friend or relation in any case.
The main concerns people raised were around me being a single parent; it would absolutely change my life in a different way than if I was in a relationship where I could share the load. That concern has been entirely valid, but what’s particularly intrigued me is how people haven’t often wanted to ask me directly; a couple of people have, but most have gone the long way round – asking my mum, usually, or asking a friend. It always gets fed back to me, so I’m never worried about missing anything – and everyone knows my views; that I am confident about having a support network who will help me when I most need it. That’s what family and true friends so for each other; when you talk, it make things feel so much better, Bring your friends and family into your confidence at the first opportunity; it’s the best way, believe me.