Why looking after my baby makes me feel like Caligula

Remember Caligula?

Ruler of the Roman Empire between AD 37 and AD 41.

Fervent orgy-goer.

Prolific feeder of Christians to lions.

Popularly viewed as the most debauched and profligate of the Roman emperors despite some heavy-duty competition.

Ring any bells?

Recently I’ve been thinking that I have a lot in common with the bloke. Not that I’m about to begin claiming divinity or instigating relations with my sister (for one thing I don’t have a sister), but taking time off work to look after Mina has left me feeling distinctly, well, decadent.

Before I grossly offend any mothers I’m not claiming that raising a child is child’s play; if you look at the number of people who mess it up it’s clearly a pretty damn hard thing. However, being off work for almost half a year is enough to make a grown man feel like all his cares have been lifted and scattered to the wind.

The last time I had so much time out of the office was my honeymoon to Thailand – and that only lasted three weeks and involved far less sitting around in circles singing Wind the Bobbin Up. So you can see how five months of non-employment might seem positively hedonistic.

When I wrote for the transient New Day newspaper about my parental leave (if you missed this and in any way care about anything I have to say that doesn’t directly relate to Roman emperors you can read my musings here, here and here) I received some telling editorial advice. They asked me to adjust the tone of my articles to “get across some of the chaos and the mishaps and the struggles as well as the lovely stuff…. It needs to have a real feel about it and not just have readers saying ‘oh, what a lovely life he has’.”

Ah, yes. People wish to read about suffering. They don’t care about how pleased you are with yourself. In other words, the paper wanted their readers to read about my situation and feel better about their own.

Well I’m not in the business of massaging the emotions of other parents; that’s what NCT groups are for. This is why, if you choose to read on, I make no apologies for the fact that you’re going to find out precisely what a wonderful life I have at the moment (although there is a twist in the tale – or a sting in the tail if you prefer).

I am well aware that my life at the moment is, by many measures, enviable. My days are devoid of any sort of sense of urgency or notable pressure. My only deadlines are Lola’s school drop-offs and pick-ups. Beyond that I can do whatever the hell I like. Much like the aforementioned Roman tyrant.

I find myself with hours to fill. I dawdle at the school gates after Lola has gone into her classroom, shooting the breeze with the other parents as if I’ve nowhere to be (I haven’t). I spend an inordinate amount of time sat in the House of the Two-Tailed Mermaid sporting a latte and the air of somebody who is deliberating life’s big questions.

I wander around parks aimlessly. I make conversation with strangers in the street. I am basically economically unproductive but it doesn’t matter because I possess a baby in a pushchair which is the sort of justification that nobody can punch holes in.

Now and again I’ll do a spot of ironing or stick some washing in the machine if the mood takes me. More often than not though, I spend my time making up stories with finger puppets for Mina or swinging her around the living room to A Little Respect as if we’re celebrating the longest freshers’ week in history.

And it’s on these occasions that it dawns on me that life really doesn’t get much better. Surely this is what we’re on the planet for. To enjoy the time that we have with those that we love.

Yet this is when I invariably suffer a bout of melancholy. This is the choker.

But why? Time for another summary lesson I think. Linguistics rather than ancient history. As any classicists out there will know, the word decadence derives from the Latin decadentia which denotes decay. Hence decadence is inextricably bound up with decline.

So like Caligula’s reign, like the Roman Empire itself, my time with Mina and Lola will decline and fall. It can’t last. This small enclave of carefree gaiety that we’ve built together over the past few months will crumble. Very shortly real life will muscle in, wrench us asunder, roughly haul me from the warm heart of my kin and plant me back in a swivel chair, binding me to the desk and computer screen once again.

My life right now is idyllic and I will look back on these days as the best I’ve ever lived.

The best I’ve ever lived and perhaps the best I shall ever live.

I seek no sympathy, yet this is the sting in the tail and how excruciating it is.

—————–

As someone with too much time on their hands, I have a habit of  getting carried away when I write these posts and end up with too many words (see above for a case in point). If pictures are more your thing, do take a look at my Dad vs Daughters Instagram account.

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