Children keep you young. I don't know who came up with this, but they were lying through their dentures. Children make you old before your time. My wife was talking to Annie, our seven-year-old, about her cousins.
"They're my nieces and nephews," she explained. "And I'm their auntie."
Annie wrinkles up her nose. "You're an auntie?"
"Yes," says my wife. "Of course."
"But you don't look like an auntie."
"Because you wear tracksuits."
The aunties she had in mind are my sisters, who clack into the house in heels , latte in one hand, iPhone in the other and sweep Annie off to the shops in a flurry of pink feathers and clouds of perfume. As far as Annie is concerned, the auntie is not your da's sister, she is the high priestess of girliness.
Aunties do not drag themselves from the bed after two hours sleep, put on the nearest available clothes, which may be anything from their husband's grottiest fleece to a pair of curtains. Aunties do not allow their eyebrows to become bushy or their legs to grow hairy. They do not have a band of grey growing daily thicker along the parting of their hair.
Sure I've heard of yummy mummies -- even seen a few climbing down from SUVs from time to time, but these are a rare bird in my neck of the woods. I know few yummy mummies, but plenty of gammy mammies.
My mother-in-law raised six boys as well as my wife during the '80s. In the few pictures that have survived of this time, she looks like she's on heroin. Sure, she was on 30 fags a day, but frankly, if I was rearing seven kids I'd have been on the heroin as well as the fags. She frequently relates the story of the time, pushing her seventh kid around the supermarket, someone congratulated her on her first grandchild. These days, free once more of the shackles of parenthood, the same woman is bouncing around the place, neither a bother nor a cigarette on her. No heroin either, as far as I know.
And, of course, it's not just the women. Far from it. I've another friend, now in his late 30s. His daughter recently found a picture of him in his early 20s and refused to believe that this was the same guy. How could this cocksure young buck with a twinkle in his eye bear any relation to the wrinkled, saggy, grey-haired old sack that constantly refuses her requests for chocolate sandwiches?
It's not just that you stop looking after yourself. You don't get enough beauty sleeps anymore. You don't get enough sleep of any kind.
When our child-free friends go on about being exhausted and busy, we're smiling and sympathetic, but really we're thinking, busy? Exhausted? Hah! You wouldn't know exhausted if it came up and stabbed you in the arse. We have to do all the things you do AND cater to the whims of three totalitarian despots (the children). But we don't say this 'cos all we're thinking is please, please, please offer to do some babysitting.