For a long time, it’s been just us doing the family thing among our friends.
Whilst I often longed to have a friend or two who were at a similar stage in life, most of the time I have just been really bloody grateful that I’ve had the best of both worlds where my social life is concerned. I haven’t experienced that social drop-off when everyone starts having babies. My friends are mostly still in London, readily available for a good chat over dinner, and there is always something going on if I fancy a big night out.
Friends have remarked enviously that I don’t have to worry about being single in my twenties, with no hope of ever securing a deposit for a mortgage. I don’t have to worry that I’ll be 35 with no sign of a partner to make babies with. All those questions that plague our twenties and early thirties were answered for me a long time ago.
But I don’t need to spell out the huge drawbacks of starting an unplanned family in your early twenties. Life since then has been one big game of catch up, sprinting to keep up with a rolling ball of challenges – career, finance, living costs.
Now we are thirty and the engagement announcements and wedding invites are seriously piling up. Friends are buying proper family homes, and, most exciting of all, there are quite a few babies on the way.
Now our friends are catching up. And they are doing it better.
They are planning family life properly. Choosing where they want to live. A good location for settling down. An appropriate sized property. Calculated moves that need valuable time to execute. The proper way to do things.
Proudly displayed on the walls and in frames in their new houses will be the pictures of their travels and their weddings.
It is a weird thing, watching friends embark on this life-changing experience.
We all get moments of missing our ‘old’ life once you have kids. Now imagine knowing that you missed out on a substantial chunk of that life. When friends shake their heads and say “I can’t imagine having a baby back then”, I feel the opposite of angry, because it validates my feelings. It’s an acknowledgment of the challenges and major adjustments we’ve experienced.
Whilst I celebrate friends’ news with 100% excitement, separate to that, I know I have my own hang ups about my sudden plunge into parenthood that I’m honestly not sure I’ll ever fully process (*I love my children disclaimer*).
I don’t have much advice on maternity wear, antenatal exercise classes, or private scans. Questions that have Sam and me reflecting on a time when we were scared and counting every last penny. I didn’t have that surprise moment of realising someone was choosing to spend the rest of their life with me. I don’t know what it’s like to choose a dress that makes me feel special, to stand in front of everyone we hold dear and talk of new beginnings and adventures to come.
But I LOVE the weddings. And I can’t wait to meet the babies and get broody all over again. Being on the other side of things has made every wedding speech or pregnancy announcement that bit more special for me to watch. I didn’t experience all the adventures before, but I know the ones that lie ahead.