Rachel Bell on the trials and tribulations of parenthood 


Nervous stares, obstructing doors and passageways, high-pitched awkward chat and frantic hand gestures. Any of this sound familiar to you? If your first thought was ‘Freshers’ you would usually be right. But in this case I’m referring to another kind of desperate person that frequents the union in Freshers’ Week: the wannabe parent. A species whose uncomfortable, frantic behaviour often leads to them being mistaken for Freshers. I should know, I am one.

I know, along with most of my fellow third years, that Raisin Weekend was one of the highlights of my first year. I had a fantastic weekend carrying on the time-honoured tradition of running about St Andrews half-cut, photocopying my face, collecting random objects and generally breaking the laws of human decency. However, and I’m sure many of my fellow parents would agree, with that experience comes the desire to give your children something that beats it.

The unspoken fear resonated around Freshers’ Week – What if I’m a bad parent?

In a way I envy the people I know who have chosen not to have kids. They were the ones relaxing in the pubs whilst the rest of us were trying (and failing) to casually spy potential children in the Union in Freshers’ Week. I term this ‘Fresher stalking’, a sport pretty much all older years indulge in at one point or another.  Kids just came to some lucky people, alcohol obliterating any sense of embarrassment. However, in my experience, most of the time it was the Freshers looking comfortable as slightly worse for wear third years came bounding up to them asking the time honoured ‘Do you need a mum/dad?’.

What would follow would generally be ten or fifteen minutes of awkward chat whilst the potential parent sold themselves for all they were worth; generally with promise of epic Raisins and drunken family get-togethers. This would be followed by an equally awkward exchanging of numbers, which would then either be wiped the next day when sobriety would remind people what a tosser the person they had talked to the night before was, or followed up on with a casually worded text. Sometimes things worked out nicely and a family connection would be made. Other times a meeting would confirm that, yes indeed, that person you spoke to last night was a creep.

As the week went on the level of ‘Fresher stalking’ became more and more desperate. With the ‘good’ kids getting snapped up at speed (did anyone else notice how cocky some of these first years were with their ten offers of parenthood?) prospective parents became increasingly desperate. More common were the occurrences of mistakenly asking someone in older years, or heaven forbid a postgrad, if they had parent only to be scornfully told ‘Do I look like a Fresher to you?’. During Freshers’ Week I saw copious first years being plied with alcohol, not to mention other substances. I pity the poor ones who never strayed out of the Union the entire week. I for one still remember the feeling of being bombarded by people every single night; it was extremely tiresome after awhile.

It’s with great relief we now settle into the routine of term. Most people have satisfied their urge to gather children. Now all the evil planning for Raisin can begin in earnest, which, let’s face it, is the part of having an academic family we all look forward to most. Even I am in the middle of conjuring up evil tricks to play on my children come November. Good luck to all Freshers out there, if you thought your parents could be intense during Freshers’ Week, wait until they are in the spirit of Raisin…

Let’s just say I’d recommend writing your addresses on your arms.


Rachel Bell

Image credit –  Justin Ornellas