When a child goes to sleep only if you play Gorillaz' Kids with Guns 14 times while rocking him at precisely 106bpm, your evenings will never be the same again. When a child, nappy-free and proud, leaves an extra present under a table at a posh wedding, your social life will never be the same again. And when a child stumbles bleary-eyed into your bedroom and says, quite angrily, "Daddy, dop doing dat to Mummy," well, that's your sex life in the bin as well.
Do I regret having children? I'm trying to consider the question but I can't because Child B has just had a very long shower, deliberately leaving Child A without hot water because an argument about phone chargers has survived the night. Child C is saying he can't go to school because his phantom sore arm has returned. Do I regret hav … "Take your wellies off before you go upstairs!" Do I reg … "Who used all the milk?" Do … "How am I supposed to wash your games kit if you've left it in your bag?"
A scurrilous YouGov survey reveals that 1 in 12 parents — 8 per cent — regret having children. A further 6 per cent say they did regret it but don't now. How did those parents have time to complete a survey? How many of the 11 in 12 without regrets are lying?
The truth is that life is about two thirds as awful as a parent than it was when you weren't one. The awfulness does ebb and flow. The early years are physically relentless — the newest family members can't speak, they are wildly incontinent and they have an Eddie the Eagle sense of self-preservation. There are a few weeks in the middle that are delightful — the children are full of wonder, they want to help with the cooking, they can do up their own seatbelts. But then come the teenage years …
"How was school today?"
"Do you have any homework?"
"I don't want to eat fish any more."
"Can you unload the dishwasher?"
"Don't you think it would be better if humanity just abandoned monotheism altogether? I need a lift to Sam's house."
I once spent a month as an Uber driver for this magazine. Now I'm an Uber driver again, only without being paid or thanked (so not a million miles off). I have a one-star rating and my clients are infuriating.
"Can you give me another half an hour, Dad?"
"I'm already in the car park. Come now."
"My phone's almost dead. I'll be there soon."
It takes a village to raise a child, but for those of us mad enough to have three you need a medium-sized town. That's not how it works any more. You might have a helpful grandparent or a neighbouring family to job share the child-rearing. But really, once you've stopped hanging out with the NCT group, you're on your own — barring a few childcare vouchers.
Do I regret having children? Of course not. Life might be less let's-go-to-Paris-next-weekend, more let's-pick-wet-towels-off-the-floor. Your income might be disposed on disposable nappies, then fruitless piano lessons, then bus passes, then, oh God, tuition fees. ("Are you sure you need a degree?"). You might lose track of the thin line between being a parent and being a partner and it might be hard to keep the romance alive when you have to arrange conjugal visits like a Danish lifer. But I'm with the 11 in 12. There are at least 17 moments that make it all worthwhile. The first time they look at you. The first time they laugh, they walk, they speak, they can run faster than you, they teach you something you didn't know. And so on, loads more, can't think of them right now because Child C has to learn his lines for the school play or the whole world will implode.
Yes, I am a birther. That's what we're called now. We've reproduced with no regard for the planet. But last year the death rate outstripped the birth rate in the UK for the first time in 40 years and I don't want to be looked after by a robot dog when I'm old. And anyway in the blink of an eye they'll be gone, won't they? The nest will be empty, along with the bank account. My sons will be off into the world, self-sufficient, tucking away part of their earnings to ensure Harriet and I are secure in our old age. That's what's going to happen, isn't it?
Written by: Matt Rudd
© The Times of London