Drinking, Parenting and rubber ducks

I’ve never been the kind of person to give something up, either in the post-Christmas ‘flabby phase’ or for Lent.

I’m more of the ‘eat what you like and pretend that running after a one and four-year-old equates to proper exercise’ camp. But this year I decided to put the plonk on hold, not as some smug convert to Dry January you understand but really to see how long I could last without it.

(Besides I had a glass or two on my birthday at the start of the month and a small serving at lunch out this past weekend so I wouldn’t fit the proper criteria anyway!)

The result so far is that I’ve managed to pretty much go without my usual nightly glass of wine for more than three weeks. Pretty astounding for me…

One of my early memories back at home from the hospital with Blue-eyed boy is the visit we were paid by our health visitor.

Amongst asking questions about jaundice and feeding she also quizzed us about our drinking habits and how many units of alcohol we consumed on a weekly basis.

We looked at her like she was a bit mad, after all we now had two children under the age of three. Shouldn’t it be obvious then, we thought, that having ‘the odd glass to take the edge off’ was probably going to become a therapeutic – if not medicinal – necessity?

And unlike with Mini-me, I had absolutely no shame second time around in working out exactly how long it takes for a small glass of white wine to work its way out of your system so I could factor this into the feeding schedule. I know, Mother of the Year!

I’ve never really thought much about how becoming a parent has affected my drinking habits. Apart from making the connection that it’s probably gone up as a result.

But when Mini-me started school in September I started to notice that the occasions on which I’d pour myself a glass ‘a little earlier than usual’ were becoming more frequent. Let’s face it sometimes you need a little pick-me up to get through a whingeing bath time episode.

And as one friend said this week, it’s not like we’re out at the pub every other night any more. Vino in the company of rubber ducks can actually constitute a ‘good night’ these days.

Something about juggling even more than I’d been used to in the past though – homework, PTA bits and pieces, reading all the school paperwork, trying to organise regular playdates for Mini-me – with work and, well, just life, meant I’d started to rely on wine perhaps a little more than I should to help me relax of an evening.

Don’t get me wrong. The most I ever drink is a couple of glasses, even on the rare occasions when I am out. And I can’t even remember the last time I had a hangover because, frankly, it’s just not worth it. (God I sound boring!)

I once edited a story at the women’s magazine where I used to work about a mum who hid neat vodka in the iron. If I’d reached this stage I would be worried!

But what’s been nice over the past few weeks is realising that if I can push through the 6pm slump, I’m usually fine with a cuppa come 8.30pm.

(The fact that I seem to have filled the alcohol void with more chocolate and cake-type treats is by the by!)

How long my uncharacteristic drinking behaviour continues for remains to be seen.

We’re moving house in a few weeks so all that lovely packing will probably drive me to drink.

But honestly if I can get through some evenings without reaching for the corkscrew (or more often these days the screw top!) then I’m not going to worry about those days when I text my friends asking whether it’s ‘wine o’clock’ yet.

Because I’m only human – and the fact remains that I have absolutely no desire to become Gwyneth Paltrow.

Not getting better with age…

They say a fine vintage only improves with the passing years.

Probably not the case with buying whichever white is on offer in the supermarket eh?!

Anyway, wine consumption aside, it’s been a ‘prop those eyes open with matchsticks’ sort of week in the Neat Freak household.

Mini-me has valiantly fought, and scratched, off ‘the pox’ and we now wait with anticipation (more like total dread) for some sign of the small, itchy little sods blooming on poor blue-eyed boy.

Hubby’s friend, who has children almost exactly the same age as us, regaled him with a heart-warming tale yesterday of how they thought they’d got away with it with bubba number two. Until the pox re-appeared, like some sort of scary Jim Carrey sequel, when enough time had passed that they’d allowed themselves to relax.

‘Now he’s been exposed he’s bound to get it,’ said the voice of doom.

Oh goody!

More lack of shut-eye and passing out on the sofa because I’m so exhausted then, before blearily staggering up the stairs at 2am.

Last Sunday I woke up on the sofa at 4.30 in the morning. It was light outside. Birds were singing. Ridiculous!

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to read a news article about how, if you get by on only six hours of sleep a night, this will play havoc with your health.

Think dark circles hovering like bean bags under the eyes and skin a flattering shade of grey.

One expert said six hours of snooze time was the equivalent of driving your car over the same pothole every day. Apparently we should be getting eight or nine!

Now, correct me if I’m mad, but I thought six hours was pretty good when you have pre-school age children?!

And it’s even worse news for hubby, as when I finally do lumber into bed I’m a notoriously heavy sleeper, so more often than not he ends up getting up first with the kids.

Yes even kicking me in the ribs doesn’t work so I’m told…

I’d never really worried about obvious signs of ageing until mini-me approached her first birthday.

By then the inherent exhaustion that goes hand in hand with parenting had set in, and since then there have been (many) more grey hairs, more crinkly lines on my face and more ‘middle-aged spread.’

Yes, I’m clearly transforming into exactly Bradley Cooper’s type of woman. (Probably only if he actually was the Elephant Man… and even then he’d trade me in for someone younger, and firmer.)

The good news of course is that hubby will have to get over his Jessica Alba fetish as well!

The final insult hit home though, like a verbal punch to the chops, when mini-me was playing ‘families’ with her dolls and stuffed animals.

‘I’m the mummy, Mummy,’ she explained. ‘Baby brother is the baby and Moo Moo Cow is the daddy.’

‘Lovely. Who can I be?’ I asked.

She pondered for a few seconds.

‘You can be the granny,’ she beamed.

Fan-bloody-tastic.

If anyone could send me the number of a reputable face lift surgeon I’d be much obliged.

The Mum-slide into middle age: The top ten signs you’re ageing

Today is a ‘go slow’ day in the Neat Freak household, but for once not of the toddler variety.

Last night was a rare night out in London catching up with old friends and colleagues where more than one drink was consumed.

Don’t get me wrong I didn’t hoik up my dress and dance on any tables or anything – in fact the ‘wildest’ thing I did was to almost snooze through my station on the train journey home – but I’m still feeling somewhat jaded today.

You know what it’s like when you have a rare taste of the social speed life used to move at – before the West Wing box set and an M&S dine-in deal became your idea of an ‘exciting’ evening. (Especially if you manage to stay awake until the end of the episode!)

I was never what you’d call a party animal, have always preferred a nice meal, few glasses of wine and a good chat to anything that might constitute wild clubbing. But still it’s amazing how a good night out can remind me just how much life has changed, and frankly just how many grey hairs I now have.

As (slightly younger) hubby loves to remind me, it’s not that long until the big FOUR ZERO… But what’s even scarier than the thought of turning 40 is how it doesn’t even feel like that big a deal these days.

So in the spirit of mums everywhere growing old disgracefully, here are the top ten signs that I’m officially, almost, middle-aged.

My love affair with Radio 2

Other ‘trendier’ mums I know listen to Radio 6 Music. I on the other hand love Graham Norton on a Saturday morning and Sara Cox’s Sounds of the ‘80s on a Saturday night. I knew my listening habits had hit the ‘grey factor’ when mini-me started singing the station’s jingle. She now frequently bursts into song with: ‘Bee bee ceee, radio tooooooo.’ Tragic.

The fact I’m turning into my mum

It used to really bug me when she’d say: ‘I’m just sooo exhausted.’ Now I do it too. At least I can still laugh at myself though – one of my mum’s best qualities.

Crying at reality TV

Supposedly you start sobbing at everything after having kids. And when not breaking down over the ever-breeding laundry pile, I can now be found tearing up over Frankie and Kevin performing on Strictly.

Coveting everything in John Lewis

Picking up some new cotbed sheets followed by coffee and cake in the JL eatery is now my idea of a happy Saturday afternoon. Mini-me concurs on all things café of course.

Checking sell-by dates in the supermarket

I really must stop this immediately. But isn’t it amazing how the dates at the back of the shelf differ?!

Checking for wrinkles

Counting them is becoming depressing. I find applying make-up in bad lighting works wonders.

Having hands like sandpaper

This is a weird one but I have a vivid early childhood memory of feeling how rough my mum’s hands were compared to my own and how much this surprised me. Now my hands are rough, dry and covered in nicks and scratches from washing them so much. Maybe mini-me has even noticed.

Turning off Geordie Shore

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I used to find watching this quite entertaining but now I just wonder how people could happily live in such a filthy house. I’d rather tune into Question Time.

Making sure mini-me is wearing a vest

It used to really annoy hubby when my mum-in-law would ask his vest status, well into his twenties I’d like to add. Now we ask each other if mini-me is layered up against the cold. At least we’re not wearing them ourselves I suppose.

Realising I fancy people young enough to be my son

Hubby informing me how old Aaron Ramsey was t’other day was a real low point. I do draw the line at Harry Styles though – hasn’t he heard of shampoo?