8 things to look for in your co-parent

I now have just over three years’ experience as one half of the parents of a small person.

One of the things I discovered early on is that it is quite important that the person you create a new human with is pretty decent. Of course, sometimes you pick a dud and the sooner you identify that failing, the better. But if you get a good one, everything is so much easier.

Here’s a list of things I think you should look for in a co-parent.

Ability to function on no sleep

When I first met the children’s father I despaired at how he could stay up until 2am and then want to get up at 8am the next day. He actually said to me once: “Sleep is a waste of time.”  I, on the other hand, preferred to stay in bed as long as possible. Now I see what a blessing it is that he can function  when sleep-deprived to levels that are banned by the Geneva Conventions.  When you first get together, see if you can pull a few all-nighters, then spend the next day indulging in some sort of endurance event. Perhaps run a marathon or shift house. This should give you a good insight into what it will be like when your baby arrives, and whether your partner will turn into an unhelpful, grumpy mess at the first sight of a sleepless night.

Ability to improvise

No matter how well you plan and how organised you think you are, things will go wrong when you are wrangling children.  Most of the time when you leave the house, you will forget something important. You might be out and realise you are short by one nappy. Or you will be on a long car ride and realise you have no toys and not enough mobile data to play kids’ songs on Spotify. It is going to help enormously to be with someone who can fashion a nappy out of a box of tissues or toys out of the detritus left on the floor of the car, all while making up silly songs, pulling faces at the children – and focusing on driving.

Similar taste in TV

Since number one child was born, I have watched more TV than I did through the rest of my life combined. I’m not sure if it’s because we can’t go out as much, or just because we are awake a lot more hours in the day now, but we seem to spend a lot of time binge-watching Netflix, hoping the noises we can hear aren’t our kids waking up. It has turned out to be important that we share similar TV interests, and that he’s decent company to hang out on the couch with. Imagine if I had discovered too late that he was a TV commentator, an open-mouth eater, or a remote-control obsessive. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Ability to eat quickly

This has turned out to be much more important than I expected. Going out for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffees, snacks or whatever becomes quite a different proposition when you have a small person along for the ride. Usually, this involves one person eating quickly while the other holds the child, then switching. Extra points, then, to a parent who lets me get to my lunch before it goes completely cold. By the time the children are teenagers we’ll be eating so speedily that no one will even notice the food was ever there.

Willingness to carry a bag

You can’t have any of this nonsense about men not carrying bags. There is no sense in only one half of the parenting couple being a packhorse when you venture out of the house. You need nappies, wipes, changes of clothes for all of you, toys, food… then all the stuff you’d normally carry, too.  It’s only fair that the load is shared – and everyone looks equally tragic carrying a nappy bag, anyway.

Strong stomach

You can’t faint at the sight of blood or vomit at the smell of vomit if you are going to be any use to me. My husband has had to put up with increasing levels of rottenness since our first one arrived on the scene. I’ve had him checking stitches, he’s inspected nappies for foreign substances, held our little one while he had a tummy bug that had both ends going constantly, and done the sniff test to work out whether a stain is peanut butter or… you can guess.

Willingness to be interested in anything

Related to the above, I never thought bowel movements would be a subject of conversation in my life but now I send text messages about them. Or phone to tell him about the contents of our daughter’s nose. He has to at least pretend to care.

Sense of humour

Sometimes, both kids will be shrieking at us, we will be covered in bodily fluids of unclear origin, we’ll realise we haven’t had a shower in 24 hours and we both have bags under our eyes that would take all our belongings if we could ever have a holiday again.  But I’m never quite as sure that I picked the right person to raise these gorgeous nutbars with as when he points out that something that seems awful is actually a little bit hilarious.

One day we’ll get our bed to ourselves again, a clean change of clothes and the chance to shower in peace. Until then, here’s to the wonderful dads in the world (or mums, step-parents, co-parents of any description).



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