herald

Wednesday 19 December 2018

One of my friends has been depressed about her weight, her husband and her life. Who isn't, you might say

Having two small children is not easy. Her two- and four-year-olds are blonde and blue eyed, and she looks wrecked.

I now live in the land of more sleep, but she's still stuck in the nightmare of being up half the night and a daytime zombie chasing after energetic children.

She harks back to the days when she was free: 'I used to be this, I used to be that'. This is how a lot of parents feel. Identity is smashed to smithereens and you search in the wreckage for the black box which carries traces of your old confidence. The prize for going through this hell is the privilege of raising the next generation and the sacrifice is knowing you are never going to be carefree again.

But there was a dance to her eyes yesterday. Her shoulders weren't drooping and she'd even recovered her cryptic sense of humour, which creases me up. She was wearing a 'wow' dress.

I thought she'd tell me she'd had counselling for post-natal depression or some sort of family therapy. She was her old self, but kinder. Before she had her babies she used to be caustic and, frankly, insensitive. She had no issue saying what she thought about every damn thing. Yesterday she spoke about that.

"I used to give people a hard time much more. Now I've had one I can see I didn't listen as much as I spoke."

This made me smile. I asked what flicked the switch and she smiled back. "I can see I'm going to end up in that column! I feel like a lab rat." Traces of the old her still evident, then.

The basic tenet of her conversion is realising that not everyone gets everything they want all at once.

"I had no idea how much I had to give up when I had the girls. Now I know why all those boring drones who had kids before me, like you, went on about no sleep and no fun and still didn't pack the children off to an orphanage. It's crazy love and crazy tiredness all at once. Took me ages to get used to that. And having no sex."

She's having sex again. "I never realised how shattered your sex life gets when you have children. The idea of it even exhausted me along with the fear of getting pregnant. Now I have more energy and he's had the vasectomy it's like we just met! I don't care that I'm jaded. It's free and we haven't got any money.

"It's great because we had it so rarely in the past four years it's new to us again but we know each other inside out so it's intimate and exciting. And I'm not stressed and wearing a cheesy dressing gown in the morning, barely able to face my day."

No one likes to admit just what children do to a sex life. They take over where your relationship used to be. Therapists recommend boundaries but they're not there at three in the morning with a screaming, teething child. I'm amazed at how wonderful a panacea a night of lovemaking can be. But without it we might as well be lobotomised. No matter how the tasks mount, be with the person you love and forget the alarm clock.

Enjoy your weekend.

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