Today’s newspaper was already on the mat when I arrived home last night, or rather this morning, just after 3am. I felt a surge of The Fear when I saw it there, reminiscent of the feeling I used to get fifteen years ago, arriving home from impromptu Wednesday beers and realising that there weren’t a whole lot of hours left before Thursday was well and truly up and running.
But the fear of going into work after a night out was minor compared to the fear of being in charge of children under similar circumstances. Early morning children. A night-waking toddler. These thoughts filled my head as I stepped over the newspaper. Perhaps this had all been a big mistake.
The night out was planned a month ago – one mum from the school suggested it, and I was one of the flurry of “Yes” responses that quickly followed. We’d had a few Thursday nights out, and had agreed that it was time to branch out into Friday – safe from the looming spectre of work or the school-run or both.
And these days, agreeing to nights out isn’t the big deal that it used to be. My husband and I are no longer first-time-parents. We no longer have two under two or three under five. I’m not in newly-back-to-work hibernation mode. We’re proper grown-up parents now, who can take nights out in our stride. Except for the non-sleeping toddler. But the night out was a month away – surely he’d be sleeping by February.
Only he wasn’t. He paid no attention to the open letter I wrote begging him to sleep. He insists on coming into our bed every night and flailing around for an hour before finally going to sleep. So as the night out drew closer, the fear factor increased.
I hatched a plan with my husband. I’d sleep on the couch, and he’d take the toddler into the bed. To aid with the initial bed-time struggle, we’d tell the child that I was going to work – not because I think lying to children is a good idea, I don’t, but because he doesn’t know what “night out” means, but does know that “at work” translates to “mum isn’t here right now but will be back”. And he’s too young to question what kind of job would have mummy working at 3am on a Saturday morning. The final part of my plan was that I’d have two, or at most, three glasses of wine with dinner, and come home at midnight, glass slippers intact.
The first part of the plan to fail was the wine; the waiter thwarted me by topping up my glass frequently and I couldn’t keep track. I may take some blame here too. But it was one of those nights – you know the kind. All but five of the class were there (I mean the mothers, not the six-year-olds) and everyone was in the mood for a Big Night Out. Hair was being well and truly let down. Conversation was flowing, wine was flowing; food was something we did in between.
Suddenly it was midnight, and I was ordering a cappuccino while agreeing that we definitely needed two more bottles of each wine.
At 2.45am, we realised that we were the only people left in the restaurant (well, realised that the table beside us were not actually customers – they were patient staff waiting for us to stop talking for long enough to check our watches)
And so it ended with stepping over tomorrow’s newspaper today, so to speak.
At 3.30am, I was lying on the couch, wide awake, waiting for sounds of toddler. Wine and fear coursing through my veins in equal measure. Regretting the midnight cappuccino. Regretting the last glass of wine (though I had been drinking water like a woman possessed since 1am)
Eventually I dropped off, in spite of my contorted position on the couch, and at 5.30am, the toddler decided it was time to wake the house. I lay listening to him for what seemed like three weeks, while his dad went in and out trying to settle him in his cot, and then in our room. Sleeping on the couch was largely pointless at that stage, but I stuck it out. Finally there was silence and finally I fell asleep (caffeine still doing it’s thing) until the toddler and four-year-old got up at 7am. And came down to me, to hug me and chat to me and ask for breakfast. Seven hours out in a restaurant followed by three and half hours sleep – there’s an inherent problem with that equation.
Was it worth? Oh yes it was worth it. Seven hours with a group of smart, wise, funny women, who found they had much more in common than six-year-old daughters – it was definitely worth it. Nights out aren’t as frequent as they were fifteen years ago, but now it’s about quality over quantity (that might go for the wine too)