But before long I discovered that there was far more to this role than was ever hinted at on the job description. Here are just a few of the apparently necessary attributes for parenting that I wasn't warned about in advance:
1. Social Calendar OrganiserI have one of those calendars with a different column for each person. Mine is virtually empty. The children's columns, on the other hand, are a veritable cornucopia of appointments, playdates, activities, commitments and fun. And one of these children is only a few weeks old! It can only get worse! Keeping track of this ever-shifting timetable is a job in itself, not to mention that not one of the things that are written on there will ever actually happen unless, in a supreme administrative effort, I make them happen. Before I had children I never had a calendar, or even a diary. I could actually remember everything I was committed to in my own head. Ha! If only!
2. Pack HorseIt's bad enough with a baby, or a toddler. But combine the two, and I'm seriously thinking that someone could make a killing if they invented buggy clips that worked on arms. I can regularly be seen struggling out of the house with several bags hanging over my shoulders, one arm looped through the baby's car seat, the hand of that arm trying to carry more things in such a way that they don't all drop onto the baby's face, the other hand free for restraining the toddler. Invariably, before we've reached the car, everything that is on my shoulders will have slipped down into the crooks of my elbows. This usually happens at the moment where, forgetting to turn sideways to make the exit, I crash the car seat into the front door frame and bring us all to a juddering halt.
I have this distant but delightful memory of a time when leaving the house meant simply picking up car keys and bag, donning coat and then, just, you know, getting into the car and driving away. It took two minutes. Now it takes twenty and elevates my blood pressure to dangerous proportions.
3. Toy-darSince OB left the world of baby toys, his play weapons of choice have become ever more complex, with ever more accessories that must always be exactly where he wants them at any given moment of the day. Where's the Bob Builder? No, not that Bob Builder? That's the big Bob Builder! I want the little Bob Builder that goes in the Bob Builder Building Site. Where's the trailer for this lorry? Where's the ladder that goes with the farm? Where's the Playmobile giraffe's leg? Where's the tiny triangular lego brick that is sort of see-through? Where are the 200 things that I hid somewhere yesterday and now desperately need?
Thankfully, the toy-dar seems to develop with use. Yesterday I managed to find a set of lego car wheels under a pile of CBeebies magazines in just a few minutes. Unfortunately, I have yet to develop a dummy-dar. I bought Baby Girl five of these which she rarely uses. This is a good thing as now I only have one. When I ask OB if he knows where the dummies are, he will only reply that he didn't hide them. Hmmmm.
4. FixerAnd as the toys have got more complex, the possibilities for catastrophic breakage have become increasingly varied. I had never used super glue in my life before I became a parent. Now I have about 9 tubes of the stuff (used to be 10 but I accidentally got one stuck to the kitchen worktop in my old house). I am also a big fan of duct tape. Why can't toymakers just create things where the doors don't fall off every two minutes, or where the wings don't snap off, or where the rubber tyres can't 'accidentally' get pulled off and rolled over finger ends nearly necessitating a trip to A&E?
5. CostumierOf all the rude awakenings I have had since becoming a parent, this has been the rudest. I mean, seriously, how many fancy dress opportunities does a toddler need? Today was World Book Day, so apparently it's the law that all children everywhere dress as characters from books. I didn't get this memo pre-parenthood so it came as a bit of a shock to me when I found out about it on Tuesday. Two days is really not enough time for me to get my head around fancy dress!
I asked OB who he wanted to go as. To my very great relief, he chose the protagonist from "Edward Builds a Rocket". Why was I relieved? Because Edward WEARS NORMAL CLOTHES! HOORAY! I managed to find a suitable striped top and shorts and completed the ensemble with some safety goggles from the toy tool box. With amazing serendipity, we had recently created a small space rocket out of random boxes and egg cartons (another skill that isn't mentioned in the job description!) so he was even able to go with a rocket he had actually built himself.
I was pretty pleased with myself until we arrived and I saw that virtually all the other children had full-sized, shop-bought costumes. Is this something that all other parents just naturally do? Or is this another memo that I missed?! I'm familiar with the ease of costuming girls when all the shops are full of cheap-as-chips Disney Princess dresses, but even the boys were fully kitted out this morning, including a particularly impressive dinosaur.
Maybe if it was just once a year on World Book Day, that wouldn't be so bad, but no! It's all the time! Themed birthday parties, nativities, colour day at Playgroup . . . yes I know that only involves wearing clothes in a particular colour but sometimes I just don't have a purple t-shirt in the drawer!
Of course, it's obvious why they don't put any of these things (and many others I could have mentioned) on the job description - we'd run a mile if they did!
But then again, the job description really doesn't convey the utter awesomeness that is parenthood. Because beneath all the frustration, exhaustion, terror and incomprehension, the joy and the love and the wonder are always there. No matter how many times they tell you that, you won't really know it until you've done it.