A child is for life, not just for Christmas. And lasts a lot longer than a dog. Two reports out this week have chilled the marrow. The first showed that babies do not necessarily bring happiness. A third of mothers questioned were no happier having had their children than they were when they were childless.

Well, that's what sleepless nights, a reduced pay packet and a blob of baby sick on the shoulder does for you.

But what did they expect?

Our attitude to children has altered dramatically in recent times. Babies get more like designer accessories every year, or dolls to be dressed and paraded in expensive labels. We're sold the dream, the ads, the Mothercare catalogue, the gorgeous naked man with the tiny naked baby cuddled up to his chest.

And life ain't like that. Especially at three in the morning when the manly chest is snoring his head off while you stumble about trying to feed a fractious baby. The trouble is that as families get smaller, fewer of us have any inkling of what babies are really like, so no wonder it all comes as a horrible shock.

And it gets worse.

The second report showed that nearly seven million adult children are still living at home with their parents - two million of them are over 30. What's more, parents are charging them little if any rent AND forking out vast wodges of dosh to persuade them to get out and buy their own place. All this and worthless pensions.

Doesn't bear thinking about, does it?

When proud parents have a baby, that's what they think they're going to get. But in fact, you have a baby for only a very short time because soon you have a toddler, a tweenie, a teenager and now, it seems, a great big adult cuckoo in the nest. You might all be very happy about the situation, but it's not really what you expected, is it?

Time, maybe, to re-think those birth congratulations cards. Instead of an angelic baby, maybe there should be a picture of a screaming toddler, a sulky teenager or a thirty-something still demanding a hand-out.