At the time of writing this, my firstborn child is due in 10 days. Here come the sleepless nights and nappy changes, the middle of the night feeds and the cleaning sick off my face. I need to be prepared to never be able to use the loo in peace, and for my ‘exciting’ social life to mostly come to a halt.
In all honesty, these words are painful to write. Not because there’s truth in them; I’m all too aware that being a mum won’t be easy. But instead because these are the kind of tongue-in-cheek little quips and remarks that we’ve received over the whole of my pregnancy, mostly from strangers. Even in my antenatal classes pregnancy was jokingly referred to as a ‘mess we had gotten ourselves into’ and we were told we had ‘21 years of sleepless nights to come’. Hilarious. My eyes have been opened in a new way to a biting and negative cynicism that seems to permeate this culture.
I got the same kind of jokes when I got married, and I hear them all the time. The kind of jokes that we almost expect to come up in small talk; those sarcastic little phrases that we come to expect of each other. ‘Well that’s British weather for you.’ ‘25 years of marriage…I deserve a medal.’ I used to see this as a small problem; I now wonder if we aren’t constantly robbing each other, and ourselves, of happiness.
Granted, there is a huge place for being real, and I’m the first to say we need to be open about our problems. I also love British wit, sarcasm and dry humour, I think it has its place and…well… it’s funny. But I think there is a dark side to these cynical tendencies.
The UK has been ranked 16th in the world’s happiness index (2013), but is among the highest in opportunity and welfare. Something is out of balance here and I think it has a lot to do with our outlook. From looking at what we don’t have instead of what we do. From downplaying success and expecting failure.
For me, the battle is to say the unexpected in conversation. When asked how my pregnancy is going I often fall back on the classic small talk tendency to make a joke of it, to speak about the sickness, the sleepless nights, the discomfort of it. I forget to mention how in awe of this whole process I have been. The fact that my body just seems to know how to do this, the fact there is a life being created inside me. It’s one of the most miraculous and fascinating things.
I don’t want to be negative when my son arrives, and I don’t want to do this when I speak about my life and marriage and work. Yes, I want to be real and raw at appropriate moments, and I don’t ever want to be overly positive and cheesy. But I do want to see the beauty in life. I want to remove these grey-tinted glasses and speak about all that is good. I want to encourage those on the verge of new life experiences.
And the more any of us do this the more that positivity will become a habit, and the more, I think, we’ll find richness and happiness in life.