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Why child-free still trumps child-friendly

Published Oct 26, 2011


I’ve long been an advocate for not having children. My reasons for not multiplying are multiple: the poo; the snot; the nights awake; My Little Pony; the udders; the teething; suppers at the Spur; mother and baby groups.

Then, as the sprogs get older, there are the BlackBerrys, the monosyllables, the picking-up from parties in pyjamas, the lunch boxes, the I-Hate-Mushrooms, and the dodgy friends called Brett.

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Not to mention the fact that the world is overflowing with people and any holidays further than Cavendish will be out of the question for at least 10 years. It’s all a bit sies.

However, a recent report made me (almost) reconsider. Apparently, while having kids wreaks havoc with a woman’s hormones, it also has an impact on men. If the Daily Mail is to be believed, and the findings aren’t the result of some phone hacking scandal involving a birthing cult in Liverpool, having children apparently makes men nicer. Imagine that. While we’re turned into stretch-marked harridans with vomit epaulets, having a baby turns our spouses into saints. It’s a novel thought. I may have to lie down.

According to a study by Northwestern University in Chicago, men experience a drop in testosterone when their child is born. Thankfully, the reduction isn’t enough to bring about man boobs or a predilection for Meg Ryan movies, but it’s enough to turn hard-assed blokes into soft, blubbering egg yolks. Which is nice.

We might be able to cash in on foot massages, persuade our newly delicate halves that cotton sheets are so much better than polyester, discuss the subtext of The Hours, and watch sympathetically as he whimpers about how guilty he feels about eating sushi/leaving pans of hardened chicken for the cleaning lady to wash/not walking the dogs/being too hard on the new employee/not being able to breastfeed/the rose beetle that went legs-up in the sink.

Then there is the impact having a baby allegedly has on men’s brains. The scientists reckon the connections between the cells in the prefrontal cortex – responsible for planning and memory – improve. Which is very nice.

They might stop asking us where the doodat for the TV is. We could be released from grocery shopping lists. “I’ll do it!” he will declare, “I’ve got it all written down here… Weetbix, milk, a new thingee for the Hoover, salt, floral bouquets, dark chocolate…”

Perhaps if the baby is really awesome and the birth incredibly hard, the brain cells will be doubly melded and, suddenly, menus will appear on the fridge, birthdays will never be forgotten and the doodat will have its own hook somewhere near the itinerary for a Really Awesome Child-Friendly Holiday with optional naked masseurs called Thor.

The scientists also say that men gain an average of 6.3kg during their partner’s pregnancy. Bless the scientists.

When we resemble a cross between a whale and a giant Lindt ball, who wants to be around someone with the love handles of a minimalist Nathaniel cupboard?

Add to that the fact that expectant dads often experience symptoms of pregnancy, including contraction pains and nausea, and are less likely to take up with the interesting, un-whale-like floozy at work, and it all seems too good to be true.

But there is that final finding that negates all the positive effects: baby blues. The East Virginia Medical School found that one in 10 fathers – the same ratio as women – experience post-natal depression. Couple that with the man’s new sensitive state, and all hell could break loose.

“Waaaaaahhh, I can’t go out like this. I’ve definitely got man boobs,” he might wail, hiding under the sheets. Or “Waaaaaahhh. What if little Noah turns out to be a serial killer?” Or “Waaaaaahhh. What if we can never go on holiday again, or if little Grace Lira brings home boys called Brett and never learns to talk because she’s been brought up by BBM?” Or “Waaaaaahhh. What if she hates mushrooms, when I love them so much? What have we done? What have we done?”

Indeed. That’s why I “almost” reconsidered. Having children is a personal choice and I admire those who do it, but I’m not nearly grown up enough to undertake it myself. And even though I do the grocery shopping, walk the dogs, have un-massaged feet and know where the doodat is, I like my husband just as he is – even if he thinks Virginia Woolf is a character from True Blood. More than that, I like us just the way we are.

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