Happy Hangovers! The Downside of Having Young Children During the Festive Season

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The festive season is a cruel mistress: she seduces us with the lure of parties, mingling with friends old and new and the promise of a night of fun that we can’t refuse – go on, you deserve it, she silently urges us. We think ‘no, no, what about our responsibilities?’ and then we our resolve weakens, we succumb, we forget who we are, don’t even care who we are anymore. The evening flashes by in a swirl of laughter, confidences, flashing lights, cocktails and dancing. We feel invigorated, exhilarated and invincible. Thank you kind mistress for mulled wine, tinsel and Noddy Holder.

But fast forward six hours and her merciless hand has lifted off the top of our skulls and poured a double amaretto directly onto our brains. The liquor has soaked into the mechanism and interfered with the wiring. The alarm is beeping, the sun’s rays are coming through the curtains, a baby is wailing from the other room and a toddler is bashing you over the head with a Tommee Tippee bottle. We raise our heads from the pillow, amaretto still sloshing around our skull, Sauvignon Blanc stinging our eyes and the best we can manage is a throaty ‘meh?’

There is only one thing worse than a difficult day with the children and that is a difficult day with the children and a hangover. Long gone are the days when our hangovers were fed, watered and indulged. Ten years ago, even six years ago, I would hide a weekday hangover behind a computer screen or by resting my head against the toilet roll holder for forty winks in the loos (classy). A hangover never saw a weekend before noon, and then spent most of the day buried beneath a blanket, a takeaway and the newspapers on the sofa. I staggered to the shops for provisions early one Sunday afternoon in April and saw a woman staggering towards me. It could have been me, I thought, until I noticed that she was in running gear and had a London Marathon medal around her neck. I briefly wondered whether I should be doing something better with my mornings, but the hangover coaxed me back to the couch before I had time for regrets and self-recrimination.

Nowadays, I feel as if I have done the equivalent of the London Marathon by midday. Young children are utterly dependent and devoid of pity. Worse, they are like tiny parents, punishing their adult children for dancing on tables at midnight. The baby awakes at 6 o’clock and I fumble around in the dark for milk, before my two year old climbs into bed, manoeuvres his wee-soaked nappy into my face and demands to watch Paw Patrol. Eleven episodes later, I stumble around in a panic, trying to put a nappy on my four year old and school shoes on the baby, while they fling bits of marmite toast and raisin wheats around the kitchen and my hot tea slowly cools untouched on the side. I am wearing sunglasses indoors even though it is 8.30 a.m. on a December morning.

So what is the solution? Stay at home and be tucked up in bed by 9 o’clock so that we are always ready for the next day? Go out but only have one drink and leave when the party is just getting going? Everything in moderation, as they say, but isn’t this a bit, well, boring? If we are hopeless at refusing that last glass of white wine, the only option is to grin and bear the hangovers and try to remember, when we am sitting in a heap and the children are swinging from our hair like mini-Mowglis in the jungle, that we are now in fact doing something better with our mornings.

‘Tis the season to be jolly (fa la la la la…)

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On the town age 18: could life have been better twenty years ago?

Hurray for Christmas party season; the time of year when I imagine myself to be the picture of sophistication in sparkling earrings, perfectly coiffed hair, immaculate make up and a flattering festive dress. Except nowadays the challenge is simply to get out the house without blobs of cheese in my hair and snot on my trousers.

Rewind ten years (twenty is too long ago for my baby-addled brain to recall) and the picture was very different. Here’s what I remember about (rose-tinted) pre-children party preparations compared to the current challenges of exiting the building in the evenings without three children clinging to my ankles.

Getting ready for a night out aged 28

5.30 pm – choose uplifting mood music; try on 14 different outfits with a variety of shoes, scarves and jewellery.

6 pm – relax in decadent bubble bath with a wide array of posh smellies; use deep conditioner; face mask; pumice stone and complete a thorough shave of all the necessary areas. Rise from the bath wrinkled, hair-free and smelling like the perfume counter at Debenhams.

6.50 pm – brush teeth, pluck brows, slather body in expensive scented moisturiser, then crack open a chilled bottle of Sauv Blanc.

7 pm – apply make-up carefully using serum, primer, concealer, foundation, powder, blusher, intricate eye make-up and lipstick.

7.30 pm dry and style hair whilst dancing to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.

8 pm – after 17 texts and calls to finalise the sartorial decisions, finally leave the house in chosen party dress and glamorous fake-fur jacket, 4 inch heels, a cloud of Coco Chanel and a sequined evening bag bursting with make-up for mid-evening reapplications, folding flat shoes, cash, bank card, keys, phone.

Simple, huh?

Getting ready for a night out aged 38

5.30 pm – feed whining, snotty children beans on toast and Petits Filous, then get baby yogurt hands in your hair when on all fours wiping the kitchen floor with a paper towel.

6 pm – relaxing bath-time (for the 3 children): do laps of the landing as you chase the hyperactive toddler who is screaming ‘no bath, no, no NO, don’t want it BATH’; dunk three of them in the bath and pour a jug of water over their heads and stick a toothbrush in their mouths; stop the older two drowning the baby and poking him in the eye with the toothbrush handle; get weed on by the baby as he sits on your lap in a towel; retrieve pyjamas and nappies after the toddler throws them over the bannister and finally wrestle them into their night-clothes after a bribe of ten episodes of Peppa.

6.50 pm – stick on Peppa Pig and while they are momentarily distracted brush their hair, wipe their noses, apply Vicks to coughing chests and crack open a carton of blue-top milk.

7 pm – during the quiet TV time: stop the oldest two from kicking each other; ask your daughter not to pull down her pyjama bottoms and pretend to do a poo on her brother; pick up all the puzzles and toys that the baby has pulled from the cupboards and dodge the plastic balls that the toddler is chucking around the room.

7.15 pm – drag them up to bed with the lure of stories, dummies, extra milk and cuddly toys. Read the Gruffalo, the Gruffalo’s Child, What the Ladybird Heard and Room on the Broom.

7.30 pm – explain to the crying four year old that you’re only going out for your tea and the babysitter is LOVELY; placate crying toddler with third bottle of warm milk and change crying baby’s 4th pooey nappy of the day.

7.50 pm – dig out a pair of moderately clean jeans and a crumpled sparkly top (which you wear over a thermal vest).

7.55 pm – wash pits with old flannel; clump mascara onto eyelashes; dry shampoo hair; change pants; locate some old earrings; run toothbrush over front teeth and in your haste spray Coco Chanel in your eyes.

8 pm – offer babysitter a glass of Sauv Blanc and run from the house as if from a crime scene in a pair of comfy boots, with some tissues, an old lipgloss, keys and bankcard shoved in the pockets of your winter coat. Text babysitter from the taxi to check that everything is ok.

Ah, life in my late thirties. Wouldn’t change it for a moment (ha!).

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