"I knew love. What I didn't know before I became a parent is how annoying children can be." Photo: Getty
I've never understood people who say they didn't know about love until they had children. What had they been doing up until then? Pretending to love their own mothers and pets and Corey Haim posters? Faking it with their boyfriends, best friends and chocolate fudge topping?
It must be incredibly annoying to hear people say they didn't know what love was until they had children if you're one of the many people out there who doesn't have kids of your own. What, you don't know real love because you didn't walk down that path? Bah. Some of the world's great lovers never had children. It's utter nonsense.
I knew all about love before I had kids. I knew what a broken heart felt like when I was nine years old! And I learnt all about pain and death and suffering when my pet guinea pigs died, followed shortly by River Phoenix. Love is pain. Life is pain.
"Ah, motherhood. It's made me tough" … Yumi Stynes. Photo: Damian Bennett
I knew love. What I didn't know before I became a parent is how annoying children can be. Some of them complain ALL OF THE TIME. Some of them have strange odours coming off them. And not because they haven't showered. They are completely hygienically bathed, sleep in clean beds, yet they still have this musty funk of humanity arising from out of their skin and ears upon awakening.
Don't get me wrong, because I do love them, but sometimes children have breath that makes them smell like they've been reared on a diet consisting exclusively of Hungarian sausage and blue cheese.
Children are greedy, they can be mean, they can manipulate you into taking them ice-skating even when you, the wise adult, know you'll all hate it (HATE it). They will force you to sit through the latest Pixar film even though you know it will be full of loathsome stereotypes and hackneyed plot conventions, and no amount of carcinogenic popcorn will stop you from wishing you were elsewhere – anywhere – other than seated next to your Hollywood-gobbling offspring.
My two daughters have graduated beyond climbing into my bed and demanding attention on a Sunday morning. Now they climb into my car and demand to be allowed to tag along if my husband and I seek to venture off in search of a fancy cafe breakfast. They ask me to order food for them, complain if I get it wrong and insist I explain why that article I'm reading in the paper is making me guffaw, which kind of ruins the fun.
The problem with kids is they think they have the right to total access to you at all times, including in your sleep, during toilet visits and, worst of all, during sex. My youngest daughter once walked in on me while I was learning more about my then fiancé. We froze like two hugging cadavers. She chatted away to us and tickled his feet, which were dangling out the bottom of the bed. I now know what passion feels like when it's dying. (And also, I had to get a new bum because I laughed my arse off.)
Sure, I learnt a lot about laughter and love from having children, but I also learnt how to feed four people from one buffet plate, how to pretend a goldfish is an actual real pet and how to check an eight-year-old for threadworms. (It involves sticky tape, her bottom and a torch. I'm not kidding.)
Just these past two days, there's been a mysterious, high-pitched continuous beep emanating from under the front passenger side of my car. Was it the fuel warning on the car? Or menopause, maybe? I tried to drown it out with loud music and my own crazy muttering, but it turned out the battery-operated nit comb I keep in the glove-box was running low on juice. (Well, you never know when you might be stuck on the freeway and need to get involved in a bit of high-speed electronic head-lice removal.)
Ah, motherhood. It's made me tough, I tell you. Motherhood has made me tough and resourceful. I am steely. I can say to my daughter, "No, you are not going to the Rihanna concert", and hold firm in my resolve. (Although I may be tempted to take her to see Pink, who seems like a better role model and has that great song about alcoholism. And that other awesome one that likens a relationship to getting sick from prescription medication. And that great tune about the walk of shame the morning after a one-night stand. And ...)
I am strong in other ways. I can squash my own terror and panic when one of them runs to me bleeding and, with a calm expression, bathe a wound and kiss a forehead. I can resist the urge to howl in fear when one of them takes a stack off her scooter and, for a moment, lies still on the ground. And when someone bullies or threatens my children,
I can feel my latent powers rising up like the fur on a lioness's back. I feel the destruction I could wreak with the swipe of a paw. But as I am a grown-up, I can still take a breath and opt for some lovely conversational conflict resolution. That's where my power is.
I have to set the best example I can, all the time. I did know about love before having children but I didn't know that motherhood would make me so goddamn tough and cool. Like Pink. Kind of.
Catch Yumi on the Sami Lukis & Yumi Stynes breakfast show from 6am to 9am weekdays on Mix106.5. Follow her on Twitter @yumichild.
Styling by Sarah Bonnett. Hair and make-up by Wayne Chick. Yumi wears Rachel Gilbert "Jemima" shirt, Coop skirt, Sportsgirl bracelet, PeepToe heels.