“My friends who are mums are the worst,” said my friend K. She was talking about partying, and when she said ‘worst’, she could have said ‘best’; it all depends which way you look at it.
When it comes to letting our hair down, it seems us mums have the edge. This is down to three factors: one, we were hardened by years of sleep-deprivation; two, we came out of the post-baby bubble to discover that aside from a little collateral damage, we weren’t dead or even old; three, we came out of that baby bubble like tigers from a cage.
This combination of factors is potent. After years of pregnancy, breast-feeding, night feeds, teething, colic and reflux, mothers are as hardened to lack of sleep as any specialist-trained SAS operative, or indeed, any hardcore raver (or whatever kids do these days). Dancing for six solid hours is nothing compared to waking up every two hours for six solid months to feed a mewling infant. We don’t even need alcohol, such is the high of being released from this twilight world. It’s no wonder that when the lights come on at the end of particularly good night, it’s the gang of school run mums who are shouting, ‘No! It can’t be over! We’re not even tired!’
When planning a family (or peeing on a stick after that tipsy wedding fumble), we can’t anticipate what’s about to happen to us; we don’t even know about the baby bubble, let alone think about what it’ll be like to emerge the other side.
Before children, the only baby-bubble survivors I knew were proper grown-ups, i.e. my mother, aunts and grandmother. It was therefore a shock when I emerged from my baby bubble no more of a grown-up than when I did that first positive pregnancy test. Just a fatter, greyer version of my 25-year-old self, often surprised by how I seemed to be driving an MPV containing three people of my own making, and by the fact that CDs were no longer a thing as they’d surely only just been invented.
Fatter and greyer, and yet not deterred from tight jeans and an undercut. I’m not skinny, even in my Spanx, and I’m not my 19-year-old self. But here’s the thing: I may be twice the age, but I don’t look half as old as 38-year-olds looked when I was young.
Once we’ve slung our spent bosoms into our best bras and tucked the caesarean overhang into our pants, us mums look hot! In its immediate aftermath, the post-partum damage is A Thing. I’m not sure if it becomes less of thing because it gets better, or because we give fewer shits, but by the time our youngest children are out of nappies, we seem to have reacquired our mojos.
We sometimes look at each other and ask ‘is this a mid-life crisis?’ I don’t think it is. It’s a life stage where our children reliably sleep, and parenting is less intense. We’re just picking up where we left off; ditching the mum uniform of snot-encrusted jeans, t-shirt and a quick pony-tail and the coffee and cake, and experimenting with clothes, make-up, an ostentatious haircut and espresso martinis.
Having children does change you, sure it does. But it’s not as profound as I expected. While inside it, the baby-bubble was all-consuming. Its intense highs and lows, the emotional and physical tax, the sweetness, the exhaustion; I felt like I was being changed, like it was some sort of cocoon from which I’d emerge like a butterfly from a chrysalis. But instead I came out a bigger, bolshier caterpillar with slightly wild eyes, a caffeine addiction and a penchant for not giving a fuck.
Maybe that is growing up. Maybe the teen stage will earn me wings. Who knows, but one thing’s for sure: when it comes to partying, us mothers do it best.