Everything changes when you have kids. And never is this more obvious than on your birthday. Before kids, birthdays were an excuse to indulge, to slack off and to drink. After kids, only one of those is still true.
The Birthday Bash
Before kids: On your actual birthday, you have a boozy lunch at work and a “quiet” dinner for 12. On the nearest Saturday, you throw your Birthday Bash. You exchange roughly 200 emails about it and worry you won’t be able to find a venue that will hold enough people and stay open late enough. You are asked to reach a “minimum bar spend” to guarantee your reserved corner of some sweaty hole – you scoff and exceed it within the first hour. Fancy dress is obligatory – the only trouble is choosing a theme that hasn’t been done recently. Your hangover is an annual legend.
After kids: You don’t want to do anything. Then a week before, you decide you want a quiet night out, just the two of you. The day before your birthday, you decide you will not let another year of your blessed life go silently into the night! You go crazy and book a table at a local restaurant. Your old friends are still in the city or in their own corner of the commuter band. So you ask your lovely new friends. They chorus, “Yes! As long as we can get a sitter.” You get mellowly drunk with the few that make it and are delighted to be home by bedtime. As you stumble into bed, the baby wakes up.
Before Kids: You’re touched to receive them. You leave them in the pub.
After Kids: You hover near the door waiting for the postie. Surely someone will have remembered? You check your Facebook page again to see if anyone has noticed it’s your birthday on their timeline. You say you don’t really mind that your husband didn’t get the kids to make you a card. But you do.
Before Kids: Spa days, wine-tasting, fun fashion from your friends, well-chosen books, a weekend away, jewellery, posh toiletries – your birthday was your oyster.
After Kids: What you want for your birthday is simple: time and space . But that will have to wait a couple of decades. Meanwhile, you're happy if someone else takes the bin out.
The Birthday Cake
Before Kids: You buy M&S’s Colin the Caterpillar cake for the office. It's ironic. The restaurant sticks a sparkler in your tiramisu that night. At your Bash, there is no need for cake. A friend may surprise you with one - which nobody eats and is later used as an ashtray.
After Kids: You may not want a cake, but telling the kids that is like saying Santa doesn’t exist. The birthday cake IS the birthday. You have to make it yourself. You have to let the children help. It is chocolate with jelly diamonds and marshmallows. You hate chocolate cake, jelly diamonds and marshmallows. But birthdays are no longer about “me, me, me”. They are about the kids. But it’s OK, you get a new day for “me, me, me”. Like the Queen, it’s the second birthday of mums everywhere: Mothers’ Day.
Before Kids: You don’t give your mother much thought, except to loudly thank her when she rings you in the pub for the card and present she will always remember to have sent.
After Kids: You ring her and try and convey in one call how amazing she is, how much you love her and how much you now appreciate all she has done for you, ever since the day she brought you into the world. Your birthday. She cuts you off. You now know how she feels. You have given her more than she could ever have dreamed, that special day in time. Your birthday.
Make my birthday wish come true: nominate me!