While you’re catching those precious few hours of sleep every night, your man is wide awake worrying, says Giles Coren
I don’t know what you think the father of your child is thinking about while you’re sleeping. Perhaps you think he’s thinking about football or sex (as all the clichés would have you believe). Or maybe just what he’s going to have for breakfast in the morning (‘Boring muesli for the sake of my health or a bacon sarnie, just this once?’).
New dad nerves
Well, he isn’t. What he’s really thinking goes more like this: ‘What’s that smell? Is that burning? Is that coming from outside or inside? What’s on fire? Did someone leave the iron on? Is the whole kitchen in flames? No, wait, it’s just some bloke in the street smoking a fag. Phew.
‘But wait… What if the house were on fire? What would I do? Whom would I save? Little Clytemnestra is upstairs asleep – I should run up and get her. But what if the flames trapped my wife in the meantime and I couldn’t save her? Whom do I save? Daughter or wife? Wife or daughter?’
You are to save me, not Kitty
My own wife, knowing me very well, guessed from the outset that I was probably worrying about this. And, when our daughter Kitty was still only a week or so old, she gave me strict instructions. ‘Darling,’ she said. ‘I hope you know that, in the event of any possible fire in this house, you are to save me, not Kitty?’
‘Really?’ I said. ‘Really,’ she replied. ‘Kitty is just a blob. It would be terribly sad if we lost her, but we can always have another baby. I haven’t gone through the last nine months, and the birth, just to be left roasting in a house fire while you save Kitty, then live to have loads of sex with young women because you’re a pitiful single dad. You save me and we’ll start all over again.’
Change of heart
‘OK,’ I said. And I resolved to do as I was told. But, privately, I was a little horrified at the ruthless, unmaternal streak my wife had just revealed. Months passed and Kitty grew. She sat up. She spoke. She liked crispy bacon, blueberries and milky coffee. When we opened her curtains in the morning, no matter how dismal the weather, she shouted, ‘It’s sunny!’
One evening, I turned to my wife and said, ‘You know that thing about the fire?’ And she replied, ‘I know, I know. Save Kitty. Obviously, save Kitty.’