I can’t say decision-making is particularly a forte of mine, but never have my decision-making skills been so actively used as since becoming a parent. From the moment of becoming pregnant, life becomes a series of decisions flying at you thick and fast. Should you tell or not tell before the three month mark? Should you find out the sex prior to the birth? Private hospital or public? Have genetic testing or not? Three-wheeled pram or four? Bassinet first or straight to cot?
The decisions only keep coming once the baby does: What’s its name going to be? Are you going to breastfeed? Will the baby be in your room or their own? To co-sleep or not to co-sleep? Which high school are you planning to send them to because you should really have their name on a list by the time they’re a month old… (and please, make all these decisions while in an advanced state of sleep deprivation, if you don’t mind?)
Some women transition into motherhood instinctively knowing exactly how they’re going to parent. They have all the answers and they’ll happily share them all with you should you ask (and often when you haven’t). But for the rest of us, floundering around out there in mummyland trying to work out what the hell we should be doing, it’s easy to feel bogged down by indecision. Not least because more often than not, we’re having to choose between two pretty shitty options. In fact, I’ve come to realise that parenting is the ultimate game of ‘Would you rather…?’ Here are 20 examples of parenthood decision-making 101: the devil or the deep blue sea?
Would you rather:
1. Risk waking your baby who’s finally fallen asleep in your arms after three hours of screaming by moving them into their cot/a different position? OR Allow them to sleep in peace while slowly losing all sensation down one side of your body?
2. Buy your child the Frozen dress they really, really want with the full knowledge that you’re now going to have an argument with them every morning because they’ll refuse to wear anything else? OR Don’t buy them the Frozen dress they really, really want and have to put up with them telling you how much they really, really want it for the next six months?
3. Spoon feed your baby until they’re two years old and say goodbye to ever having a hot meal again during that time? OR Pass them a plate and let them feed themselves, spend an hour cleaning up after every meal and risk getting mashed potato hurled in your eye?
4. Flee the supermarket with your tantruming child kicking and screaming in one arm, leaving behind a full trolley of groceries that you’ll have to go back and shop for again later? OR Stand awkwardly next to your tantruming child for an hour until the tantrum passes and you can carry on?
5. Send your child to school when they say they have a stomach-ache, only to get called to the school later that morning because they’ve vomited all over the whole class? OR Keep them at home where they spend the whole day doing cartwheels and asking for ice-cream?
6. Co-sleep with your child and spend the entire night having tiny feet thrust into your hip and flailing elbows almost breaking your nose? OR Have your child sleep in their own bed and have to wake up and go to them five times a night because they keep crying out for you?
7. Not give your child a dummy and have to spend hours patting and shushing them to sleep every night? OR give your child a dummy and have to get up 10 times a night to keep putting it back in, including crawling around under the cot trying to find it?
8. ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ and live in a hovel? OR Restore some sanity to the house but spending the entire day feeling (and looking) like the walking dead?
9. Change the baby’s/your clothes every time they get thrown up on (ie 12 times a day) and deal with a mountain of washing as a result? OR Walk around all day in soiled clothes that smell a bit vomity?
10. Walk to school to pick up your child in the pouring rain and spend the whole trip back listening to them complain about it? OR Drive to school and deal with school pick-up hell in the rain?
11. Refuse to cut your toddler’s baby curls off and have to spend half an hour each day combing out dreadlocks? OR Cut off your toddler’s baby curls for them to never return again.
12. Give your child fish fingers for dinner and feel guilty that you are a lazy mother poisoning your child with processed food? OR Cook an elaborate meal of quinoa and chia seeds (or indeed, any meal that takes time and effort on your part) and have them refuse to take a bite?
13. Spend half an hour every morning and night chasing your child around the house and wrestling them to the ground, before prising open their mouth and ineffectually poking around in there with a toothbrush for a couple of minutes? OR Give up and just let all their teeth fall out?
14. Delay potty training as long as possible in an attempt to make it as easy as possible and spend three years dealing with changing nappies? OR Only spend 18 months changing nappies but then spend six months toilet training and having to deal with finding wees and poos in secret locations throughout your house?
15. Avoid eating at a restaurant for several years? OR Eat out at a restaurant and spend the whole time picking up coloured pencils off the floor and avoiding the evil eye from other restaurant goers?
16. Refuse to take their favourite teddy out of the house and have to listen to them shrieking ‘I want pink bear!’ on repeat for the entire day? OR Take pink bear with you and then spend an additional hour at the shops retracing your steps to find where they dropped it?
17. Spend 40 minutes driving them around in the car as it’s the only way they’ll go down for their midday sleep and give you one measly hour to yourself all day? OR Keep them up and have them be feral all day or accidentally fall asleep at 4.30pm and then stay up until midnight?
18. Buy your child a train for their birthday even though they already have 39 trains and don’t play with all the ones they already have? OR Buy your child a bunch of really fantastic toys and then have them sob for half an hour after opening their presents because all they really wanted was a train?
19. Clean up the house several times a day only to have your children destroy it again a moment later? OR Never clean up the house and spend the time instead prising Lego pieces off the bottom of your foot?
20. Have to cook two different meals every night – one for the adults, one for the kids? OR Only cook one meal a night and have the diet of a two-year-old (that means you, spaghetti bolognaise and macaroni and cheese!)?
21. Have your child start school as one of the youngest in the year and risk them being picked on, fall behind and not be able to go to nightclubs in year 12 with their 18-year-old friends? OR ‘Hold your child back’ until they’re one of the oldest in the year and risk them being bored, on top of having to pay another year of child-care fees and worrying about them wanting to go to nightclubs all through year 12?
I could go on and on… I mean lordy, I haven’t even touched on breastfeeding v bottlefeeding, going back to work v staying at home, attachment parenting v crying it out and all those other very large cans or worms. Of course, the biggest ‘would you rather’ question (and the one people without kids might well be asking themselves after reading this) is, would you rather not have kids than have to make all those difficult decisions? Well, that’s something I’m not remotely indecisive about.
What are your experiences of the ‘would you rather’ parenting game?