One would think that as newish parents, who are still figuring this out, other veteran parents would have some useful, worldly advice to share with us. Perhaps they’d deem it helpful to share with us the secret of potty training in under three days, or how to get a toddler to sleep through the night, or how to cook nutritious toddler meals for the entire week over a maximum of two hours at the weekend. That’s the sort of unsolicited advice I’m looking for.
Instead, all Mr T and I ever hear from those who have been parents longer than us, or those who were daring enough to have more than one child, is the usual stuff: “Make sure you make time for yourself” and “Make sure you schedule date nights”, followed by, “Don’t spend your entire date night talking about your child”.
Easier said than done. As Baby A’s No 1 fans, it’s very hard tearing ourselves away from the topic of our firstborn. Even if she’s right there with us, engaged in play, or distracted by something or other and affording us those coveted, rare, stolen moments of quiet, we usually spend the time assessing her cuteness factor in relation to all the other babies in the vicinity (usual verdict: very high).
Once Mr T and I confessed to one another that: a) we are obsessed with our child and b) there’s no way we can stop Baby A from monopolising at least 40 per cent of our conversations, we took it a step further. We decided to list the other topics that have taken to dominating our conversations because marriage, if anything, is inevitably a routine. Here is what we think couples talk about throughout the duration of their marriage.
• So, 40 per cent of the conversation is about the child and/or the pets, along the lines of “Oh she’s so cute!” or “Did you hear what kiddo said today?” or “Awwww!”
• Around three per cent of the time is spent saying: “I love you.”
• Another three per cent is taken up by “You’re insane, you’re driving me mad, what’s wrong with you?”
• A minimum of four per cent of conversations centre around the couple’s current TV show obsession.
• No less than 10 per cent would fall under the topic of Complaints, such as “You left the lights on (again)” or “You forgot to pick up the dry cleaning (again)” or “How can you have possibly lost the car keys (again)?”.
• No more than five per cent of chit-chat between spouses would have to be about work, except if either of them works for some sort of intelligence unit or is unemployed, then the percentage drops significantly.
• Let’s say seven per cent is labelled Indecisiveness. (“Where shall we order dinner from? Where do you want to order dinner from?”)
• Another seven per cent is spent talking about finances, which sounds something like: “Did someone buy yet another pair of shoes today?”
• Eleven per cent is basically gossip about other family members.
• The final 10 per cent of conversations turn into arguments over someone’s (the man’s) tendency to get lost and inability to read directions.
So, in conclusion, it is virtually impossible to spend any significant amount of time with your spouse, with or without your child, and avoid talking about said child. Which further proves what I have been saying all along on these pages: babies take over your world.
Hala Khalaf is a freelance writer living in Abu Dhabi