Children are a Massive Nuisance

Or are they? Yes, they are. But, like all things that are a Nuisance, (Death, Love, Intelligence, Breastfeeding, Dog Poo on my Shoes – well, maybe not dog poo on my shoes* - ) they are also an Opportunity.

The nuisance of children is also an opportunity to care. I think caring is good, although I’m aware that not everyone agrees with me. The people, for instance, who refuse to give up a seat on the tube for a pregnant woman because “she chose to get pregnant”, they would probably prefer a world where nobody had to care for or about anybody. The thing is, all of us need care at some point: some people need care throughout their lives, and the rest of us, whether you be house-spouse, businessperson, President, or even Charlotte Gainsbourg, need care when they are a baby, and in old age, unless you are lucky enough to meet a sudden end by car-crash/heart attack/assassination, in which case I’d better get my congrats in in advance as well as a thank you for minimizing the nuisance.

This photo, which I’m calling Not-A-Problems, sums up my Summer 2017, the seemingly endless days before my eldest child started school. A summer of caring, playing, and, because we like sunshine and don’t have a garden, being a nuisance in the parks and streets. I didn’t notice the ‘Men Problems/ Women Problems’ behind them until long after I took this, but it does seem pertinent: gender politics was on my mind, childcare and emotional labour, gender stereotyping of children…and I love that the doll’s lack of genitals is on display. And as we whiled away the long days, staying as long as we could get away with before being told, sometimes with looks, tuts and sighs, sometimes explicitly, to move on (“for Health and Safety reasons you understand…”) I had to keep reminding myself that they – we - were people, not problems; citizens, not nuisances.

To be fair, we possibly aren’t the most upstanding of citizens. The youngest one enjoys licking those large pictures of food on shops, particularly ice-cream signage. Local food stores probably despair at the removal of the light air-brushing of pollution that lends a greyish soft-focus to their images of giant edibles. They both lick the occasional lamppost too. Don’t ask me why, but I bet there’s a few local dogs that are furious at the unorthodox introduction of toddler-spittle into their complex territorial marking system.

But I think it’s fair to say we weren’t really hurting anybody, and one of the things I’ve found hardest since having children is the sense of becoming part of a massive nuisance, a problem for men, and particularly women, to solve.

Caring is hard work. It is a nuisance, I suppose. (And it’s certainly not a 24/7 profession in my own personal utopia, it’s something best shared with other roles.) But it’s a nuisance that gives us our humanity.

I’ve been moved to blog by association with a crowdfunding campaign for Mothers Who Make, a grassroots initiative that helps mothers to continue their creative work, which can be surprisingly difficult when you’re dividing your time between doing two sorts of work that seem to be represented in general as boring necessity/nuisance/indulgent/pointless.

Why has it been useful for me? To be disgustingly personal for a moment; because It gets people together at a time that can be isolating, and talking about stuff that often feels familiar but un-speakable. Lots of the things I’ve thought since having children feel outrageous and perverted admissions. Things like “I like breastfeeding” or “I’d rather look after my toddler myself”. Things that I still feel are both too dangerously radical to be admitting in public and also strange things to feel so taboo, considering that I am in fact a mammal. But I’d probably never even have said them out loud to myself if it wasn’t for Mothers Who Make. It has also reminded me that every almost-satisfactory piece of work I’ve loved creating has been through collaboration with the troubled misfits I call my friends. Without the nuisance/alchemy of relationship, for me, there is no work.

And there’s no Play or Caring either. Mothers Who Make promotes the values - and the actuality - of Caring and of Playing, values that I think are important for any human. Matilda Leyser’s blog of December 3rd (shared below) is eloquent on this subject if you need any more convincing. Giving a small amount to the crowdfunder will help Mothers Who Make bring our massive nuisances together and turn them into an opportunity to enhance our humanity.

*You know, Dog Poo on my shoes is an opportunity. It’s the opportunity to clean my shoes with an old toothbrush. When do I ever get them that clean otherwise? Please note: I am not comparing having children to having dog poo on my shoes. And nor should anyone.