What I thought: That we’d take the kids along too! We’d rock up, the children would behave beautifully and the other party-goers would be delighted by their company. Then at some point in the evening, the little ones would fall asleep and we’d continue to have fun until the small hours. The adults would say ‘it’s so cool that you bring them along too!’ and we’d feel like we were winning at parenthood.
The reality: I have an addiction to the sofa and Netflix. And on the rare occasions I have the energy to leave them, we have a babysitter.
What I thought: That the baby weight would fall off as soon as our first baby arrived. I had visions of parking his pram at the end of the swimming pool while I swam laps, cooing and waving as I got to the end of the lane. He would give me a big smile as if to say ‘carry on as you are Mummy! I am quite happy here! That mummy tummy is my fault, after all!’ and in no time, I would have the physique of a swimwear model.
The reality: In last 3 years, I have been on 2 runs and completed 6 days of the 30-day shred. I have every intention of climbing back on the exercise bandwagon. I even bought some new leggings and a pair of snazzy trainers after a few too many glasses of wine one evening. After two children, however, I will never have the physique of a swimwear model.
3. Our Home
What I thought: That the living room would remain an adult space, with furniture and décor in pale, neutral shades. The floor would be visible at all times and surfaces tidy. Yes, the children could come in and play, but toys would be returned to the nursery after they had finished playing. I would share pictures on social media of my children in this perfectly styled space and people would think ‘oh yes, I can tell she reads interior magazines. Her house is beautiful!’
The reality: I’ve styled my living room rather successfully in ‘brightly coloured plastic tat’. On the rare occasions you can see the beige rug underneath the piles of toys and half-ripped/half-eaten books, you would notice a blue handprint and section of matted dried play-doh that I tried to cut out (but failed).
What I thought: That it might be a bit of an ordeal in the early days. I’d arrive for meet-ups with my mummy friends wearing big sunglasses, exclaiming: ‘LAST NIGHT WAS AWFUL! ORDER ME A DOUBLE ESPRESSO!” But a few weeks later, baby would be sleeping through the night in his nursery – and on the weekends, he’d treat us to a lie-in.
The reality: For the first year of motherhood, I woke up from three-hour stretches of sleep, looked at the time, and thought ‘Wow! Three hours! That wasn’t so bad!” And just when those three-hour stretches extended to four, then five, then six hours, we decided to do it all over again. Three years later, I’ve started ordering triple espressos.
What I thought: That we’d still get to go on relaxing beach holidays, reading novels on sun-loungers as our little darlings played at our feet. Between chapters, we’d join them for a spot of sandcastle making or dip in the sea, before returning to our base. And in the evenings, we’d say ‘Oh let them stay up late! We’re on holiday!” and we’d stroll through Mediterranean towns with our sun-kissed children, enjoying long dinners and good chat, with a bottle of wine – while our children sat quietly at the end of the table colouring with wax crayons.
The reality: We researched far-flung holidays abroad, trying to find the perfect combination of kids club, pool safety gates, baby-proofed accommodation, and evening babysitting services – before picking up the phone and inviting ourselves to stay at the grandparents.