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.