Before I had Oscar, I thought of myself as a responsible, upstanding member of society. I wasn’t an angel, but I did try to be a ‘good’ citizen according to my definition of the concept. I listened to Radio 4’s Today programme every morning and watched the 10pm bulletin every night (and sometimes even Newsnight or Question Time after that), meaning that I knew what was going on in the world and even had an opinion about it. I was a stickler for recycling, washing empty glass jars, baked-bean tins and milk cartons to get rid of any smelly residue, peeling the recyclable parts of supermarket packaging from the non-recyclable bits, and remembering to pack my Bag for Life on shopping trips. And I was fairly good with money, window shopping on the web for the best deals before committing to a purchase, cycling everywhere to save on the cost of the Tube, and watching what I spent on food by lunching on leftovers at work. Unfortunately, since having a baby, all of that has gone out of the window.
I know important things happened outside of the walls of my flat during Oscar’s first year but, if pushed, I could only sketch a vague timeline of world events for 2014. In fact, if anything relating to that year comes up in a future pub quiz, I’ll be screwed. After 12 months of being completely off-grid newswise, I have finally started listening to Today again, but because of our chaotic morning routine (when Oscar and I have to be up and out of the house by 7.30am in order to get to nursery then work on time) I can’t take much in. John Humphrys will be talking about NHS whistleblowers, or corporate corruption, or the decline of a particular bird species (what is Radio 4’s obsession with ornithology, by the way?), and I will be listening with half an ear while desperately caking my spot outbreaks and under-eye bags in make-up, hysterically hunting for my mobile and barking ‘Have you got his hat?’ or ‘Can you pack his eye drops?’ at Juan, who gets Oscar ready in the morning. By the time I’m ready and properly disposed to tune in (while I down the dregs of my tea), it’s time for the sport slot. Cue hurried exit.
In terms of recycling, it’s not like I completely abandoned the practice as a new mum (the middle-class guilt would have overwhelmed me). It’s just that at the end of a long, tiring and perhaps frustrating day, and faced with 24 hours’ worth of washing up and other mundane chores still to get through, I would more often than not chuck the used yoghurt pots, ketchup bottles and anything else that could lessen my workload defiantly in the bin. Of course, this rebellion was a drop in the ocean compared to the tens of kilos of soggy and dirty disposable nappies, baby wipes and cotton wool balls that we still plough through on a weekly basis – all of which go straight from our house to landfill. Suffice to say, my green credentials are a little flaky these days.
And then there’s the money we’ve wasted through a combination of tiredness and lack of time. The winter days when I turned the central heating up to 11 for hours on end. The lights I left on overnight to guide me to his room for night-time feeds. The things I could have done myself that I paid other people to do just to free up a bit of mental space. The stuff I bought on impulse in an (often failed) attempt to make life easier. The bowls and bowls – and bowls – of food that Oscar used to decline to eat (or would just throw on the floor). Not to mention the world of pricey deli sandwiches, salted-caramel brownies, cold-pressed juices and posh coffees that has opened up to me now that our leftovers are used for Oscar’s next meal and I’m working in central London for the first time (kid; candy store – ’nuff said).
I also used to be a better friend, checking in on my mates, remembering birthdays and inviting them over for dinner. I still try my best, but the days blur into months and suddenly it’s been ages since I last saw the people I care about and used to see all the time. Perhaps they think I’ve forgotten them, but really I’m trying to find an elusive minute or two to sit down and compose that text or make that phone call.
Meanwhile, Oscar carries on growing and developing, fat and happy and unhampered by any of my guilt or worries – exactly as he should be. He smiles when he sees me, knows I will answer him when he calls for me, and grumbles at me safe in the knowledge that I can take it and that I’ll always have his best interests at heart. I can be happy that (on the whole) I’m doing this part right, at least. But although – hopefully – I’m in the process of creating a future good citizen, it does mean that my hands are too full to police my own behaviour. How’s that for irony?
What’s changed for you since you had a baby? What bad habits have made your halo slip?