THERE may be those who huff and puff about parenting classes being the thin end of the nanny state, but if you ask me the drive to educate tomorrow’s mums and dads about what they’re letting themselves in for should start long before the little one arrives.
Let’s take it as read, for starters, that any government that presides over economic meltdown or is stuffed with chancers who can’t claim out of pocket expenses without filling their boots is hardly in a position of strength when it comes to advising others how to behave. Let’s move on.
There’s a successful project that runs in US jails which you’ve probably heard about – little tearaways are bussed in to maximum security lock-ups where the inmates delight in telling them exactly what they’re letting themselves in for if they don’t wise up.
Getting the cold facts from a shaven-headed sort covered in prison tatts is guaranteed to hold the attention, it seems.
Yes, it’s tough on the teens, but it certainly opens their eyes about the years of misery, anxiety and waiting in vain for visits that is the lot of a long-term convict.
And, let’s be honest, there are many parallels there with parenthood.
That’s why the best people to pass on tips about parenthood are not midwives and other professionals – it’s people who have been there, done that and been thoroughly disenchanted by the experience.
We may as a species be hard-wired to yearn to perpetuate our kind, but most of us who have been through the parenthood experience will confirm that there are plenty of cons to outweigh the occasional moments of joy.
Though we’ll tell ourselves and others that we wouldn’t have it any other way, that’s mainly because we’re stuck with it – you have to look on the bright side and make the most of the hand you’ve dealt yourself, but what if you could turn the clock back?
The easiest lesson to drive home would be an economic one – kids cost an arm and a leg from day one, and you’ve got to accept that all those little luxuries you’ve become accustomed to are going straight out of the window.
Holidays are immediately more expensive, the bill for a meal out balloons and you end up dining in the sort of places where lollipops, not a fine brandy, are the preferred digestif on offer.
But money’s not everything, is it? Personal freedom is much more highly prized, and rightly so.
When you become a parent, you’re shackled for the best part of two decades of your short span. You can’t go where you like, sleep where you like, stay out with friends, lie in on a Sunday morning – all those pleasures are now for your little ones, not you.
So let’s recruit a hard-bitten crew of sleep-deprived, penniless, frustrated and frankly peevish parents to tell it like it is, and discourage would-be mums and dads from venturing down the same road without all the facts at their disposal.
Follow that up with an invitation to sign up for some kind of surefire contraception, and the baby boom and all the problems that come with it could just melt away.
And if that doesn’t work, introduce a baby licence and an annual parent MoT.