Guilt and worry.
That’s what parenthood brings you. In huge, heavy bucket-loads from a bottomless well.
Yes, yes; there is untold joy too.
And a love like no other. Your child is the person you would die a thousand agonising deaths for. Walk over hot coals for.
It never ends, that all-consuming adoration. You might end up hating your husband so much, you dream of shoving him onto hot coals, head first.
You love your pet, but when it dies you bury it, cry for it, then replace it with a sprightlier model.
But your children? Till the day you die, they will dominate your head and heart. You will worry about them whenever they are out of your sight. Even when they are 22. You will strive to put them first. And when you don’t, you are doomed to carry the guilt of it ever-more.
I look back over my son’s early years and wish I’d been there more. I didn’t do anything bad; I didn’t bog off to bingo twice a week and leave him home alone playing with a box of matches. All I did was go to work five days a week to keep a roof over our heads and him in peanut butter and Pokemon cards.
OK, so I DID deposit him with his grandparents and jet off to the Caribbean. But only twice - and it would have been too hot for him anyway.
Just in case you thought a mother could abandon her child and kick up her heels in silver St Lucian sand without a care, every day I was there, I was riddled with guilt that he wasn’t. I have the ‘are you doing your homework’ emails to prove it.
Mother and I were discussing guilt the other day. See, both of us carry the heaviest one of all; we each deprived our children of the right to live with both parents. I split my little family when my son was just 14 months; I told his dad to go.
There were reasons. Many. And I still look back and wish it could have been different; that my child could remember a time when his mum and dad were as one for more than just parents’ evenings and birthday parties.
But then, I know how hard it is to be left with a single parent when you’re a teen. Mother left when I was 17 and my younger brother 14.
I remember our life being turned upside down. Of going out for the day, knowing that when I got back, mum and her belongings would be gone. I remember going straight to her wardrobe and inhaling her perfume in the empty air.
Our family routine changed from that moment on. In all sorts of ways, but the one that in my eyes succinctly symbolises a family left motherless was that we started to have our tea at the coffee table in front of the telly.
There were reasons. Many. But mum told me she still agonised about the damage she’d done by leaving us, and I didn’t know that. I thought it had gone under the carpet years ago.
So we talked. About how much it had hurt. And about how there can never be a right time for parents to split. Not really; not from the child’s point of view.