Saturday, 12 June 2010

Do your children bring out the best or the worst in you?

It's been fascinating watching the effect having children has had on my friends. Some step up, their best qualities shining through the sleep deprivation, frustration and abject terror at becoming a parent. For others, those character traits that you have always managed to overlook - like selfishness, an unwillingness to listen, a tendency to be judgemental - take over and swamp their redeeming features.

One set of friends' rampant materialism is suddenly much more noticeable and unappealing now they're ploughing all their energy into buying the lastest bells-and-whistles accessory, toy or gadget for their little one, while we're struggling to find the money for the mortgage each month.

The competitive streak that has always been in the background of our friendship with another couple can't be so easily laughed off when we're faced with a barrage of, 'how many teeth do they have', 'how much do they weigh', 'what sized clothes are they wearing' questions.

The attitudes of our male friends have most surprised us. Some approach fatherhood with a delight and enthusiasm that is a real pleasure to see. But others see their sole role of father as a provider for their family. They work long hours, go to the pub for a drink after work and enjoy lie-ins at the weekends, completely oblivious to the fact that their girlfriend or wife may be in need of a break too, or that their baby might actually want to spend some time with their daddy. I've found the stereotypical gender roles and lack of appreciation for how hard it is to be a stay-at-home-parent to be one of the most difficult things to come to terms with and it's made me so angry with some friends, we've had to stop seeing them for a while.

And I guess this will  just keep changing as our babies grow older. I imagine that how you choose to discipline your children when they reach the appropriate age will bring out differences once again.

So has having babies made me a better person? I like to think that my positive traits dominate my personality - my loyalty to close friends, my sense of fun, and my determination. I have definitely learned to be more flexible, more patient, and to let go of my need for control. But I do have a tendency to envy others, and the force of this can often turn into bitter resentment. Having the babies has brought this back to the surface, though I'm more aware of it now so am getting better at managing it.

Has having children brought out the best or the worst in you? Have friends changed for the better or worse? How have you coped with this?
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