The past few Saturdays we've been out. And I mean good out. With great company, lots of laughs and a sense of freedom - even though we've had to be back by midnight for the babysitter. Bloody babysitter. I'm still struggling with the fact that no matter what fun I'm having and I'm a grown-up now, I still have a curfew. A set time that means the end of fun and the beginning of real life. Around 11.30pm I get twitchy because I know the time is coming when we have to hit the road and any minute past 11.45pm sends me into a cold sweat, as if being late will get me told off. Reprimanded for having the fun and not dealing with the responsibilites, like the adult I am supposed to be now. And what makes matters worse is that the babysitter is usually a teenager. The roles are reversed for a few hours and I love it. Take that, Teenager!
These nights out are a gift because it's the one time I can truly let my hair down and be ME. I can flirt and be hilarious without a small child interrupting or clinging to my leg. I can dance like my kids aren't watching and have the Holy Grail of Parenthood - an uninterrupted conversation. Although there's the shitty morning after, a good night out can recharge batteries and make you remember the person that you actually are. Remind you that life isn't just about the school run, the homework and the day-to-day looking after children.
Last night I didn't go out. There wasn't much going down in da hood as our friends had family commitments and if I'm going to spend time alone with my husband, I might as well do it in front of the telly. But I'm suffering today far more than after a night tripping the light fantastic. I've got a hangover from hell - not from too much drink, but from too much adulthood. I've had far too many shots of housework and I never should have inhaled that last bed change. My shakes are due to immaturity withdrawal.
And I'll tell you why else I've got this hangover. Because instead of my batteries being recharged they've completely run flat. I feel old, boring, a slave to the three birthday parties I've taken my daughter to and eaten alive by the washing/ironing pile. In fact I feel like a proper Grown Up - and it's shit.
Remember when you were 12 and you wanted to be 13? Then 16? Then 21? 30 was great because it felt like the cusp between being young and being mature, like life suddenly takes you seriously. Hell, 40 was even okay because it was such a massive joke. But now, 43 is freaking me out because there's this crazy pressure to be responsible and it's not how I feel.
You'd think at age 43 I would be pretty used to being an adult, but I'm not. I can't get my head round the fact that I remember my mother when she was 43 and I don't think for a minute that she felt the way I do. She certainly didn't act it. Because I'm not 43 in my head. Heck, I'm not 43 in my personality. It's just MATHS, surely? Because it's not ME. Yeah I've got a husband, three kids, a dog and a house. But deep down, I still feel like a kid.
The other day I was wearing a pink hoody, woolly tights with tiny Uggs and my friend commented that it was like being with a 17 year old. I was surprised because, at first, I thought BUT I AM SEVENTEEN. But clearly I'm not, even though I seem to be suffering from a bizarre body dysmorphia every time I look in the mirror because I don't see a woman, I see A GIRL. I'm not sure how a woman would dress but, looking at the 'women' in the playground, I'm pretty sure it involves maxi skirts and high heel boots, sensible jackets and certainly not my collection of hats. If I wore clothes like that, not only would I look ridiculous but I'd spend the whole day feeling like I was attending some bizarre fancy dress party. "Come dressed as a grown-up" the invitation would read - and I'd damn well make sure I was washing my hair that night. Or putting it in pigtails.
I don't think I'm mutton dressed as lamb. I'm just a very lamby person. I feel bouncy and spritely when I'm out. At home, not so much, because I have children and, well, somebody has to be the grown-up around here. Being 43 and a parent, I have to take that responsibility on the chin, which I do, but not only do I not feel it, I'm actually not very good at it. I often find myself day-dreaming about what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up. I check out what my friend's teenagers are wearing and make a mental note to buy the exact same outfit. I often realise with shock that if we are ever going to have clean clothes around here, I am going to have to, gasp, wash them.
Whereas my parents decorate their house on a rotating basis starting from the kitchen and going round each room until they're back at the kitchen again, I haven't decorated in five years. When my mum decides it's time for a new sofa, she'll go out and buy the exact same sofa from the exact same shop where she got the previous one. I can't even decide where to put the cushions on ours. Our dishwasher was broken for two years before we bought a new one and even then we bought it on interest free credit because we'd spent our 'dishwasher' money on that night out in London. All in all, I belong in the Common Room rather than my own home.
And yet there are mums my age who aren't afraid to look and act like responsible adults. They have set days to do specific jobs around the house. And they don't even spend most of that time dancing to One Direction and fannying around on Twitter. But I suppose by the weekend, they're all done with the housey jobs so it frees them up completely for fun family stuff, and I expect that's where I'm going wrong. I'm stressing and procrastinating so much about the grown-up stuff that I'm stretching it out for far longer than it needs to be.
Being grown-up does have its plus side though. If you want to eat Kit-Kat for breakfast, you can. Nobody forces you to wear a hat, coat and gloves. You can have dessert, even though you didn't finish your dinner. You can buy alcohol without fake ID. You can decide who is in your life and who is not. And, above all, you can boss little people around.
When I hear my son say that he feels like he's ready to be a grown-up, I laugh to myself. Why? For What? Stick with school, mucking about with mates, rocking to The Wanted, the Wii and your carefree days - you'll be a grown up soon enough, I want to tell him. Having choices and control ain't all that. Because, often, adulthood sucks. And you never get to crawl down a ladder to get out of bed.