Chloe

Turning 31

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Birthdays with small children take some getting used to.

After six years, I’m pretty happy with how I celebrate my birthdays post-children.

There are the years when I’m pregnant or just too knackered with a young baby to bother doing anything more than spend time with my family, except maybe have a take-away, and cash in on a guilt-free lie-in.

There are the years when my babies have become toddlers or older, there is less breastfeeding going on, and I’m usually keen to spend my birthday seeing friends, and being a grown-up in the pub.

Then there are the very rare years when it’s a big birthday, and we go all out, like my 30th trip to New York.

It used to feel a bit of a cop out on the years where I couldn’t be bothered to do very much at all for my birthday. Was I giving up? But now, knowing that the super fun birthdays have their time and place and DO come back around in my more energetic years, I am PERFECTLY content having a lazy birthday. I’m so knackered, I couldn’t think of anything better than having a genuine excuse to do absolutely nothing.

This year, with Sam away until the day before my birthday, and the children missing him quite a lot, all I wanted to do was something fun for the whole family to enjoy.

And, well, one thing we do msot definitely collectively enjoy is eating. So, Sam booked a surprise totally-non-knackering day out for the day after he arrived home. Starting with brunch and ending with afternoon tea.

Unfortunately, the day before, Arlo decided to total the sofa by projectile vomiting all over it with a completely inadequate one second warning. He proceeded to spend the rest of the day with his head in a bucket, all three of us bundled up on our old cot bed mattress on the living room floor. (SO looking forward to having two sofas in our new house. Also, top tip: keep the cot bed mattress after you upgrade to big beds – it comes in super handy for taking the occasional kip on your poorly child’s floor).

So, we cancelled all our reservations and spent a rather glum Sunday at home, instead. After spending a week under enforced house arrest, as I am used to with Sam away so frequently, I had been really looking forward to our fun family day out, or just getting out of the house, really. Especially when Sam was going to be away again the next weekend and following week.

I think I’ll be safer to just assume that vomit will be a prominent theme of all my birthdays in the near future whilst we have small children, then there won’t be any nasty surprises. It was, after all, on my 30th last year that Arlo infamously passed on his tummy bug to the rest of the family – waking up at 5am and proceeding to empty the (very alcoholic) contents of my stomach for the rest of the day after a night of heavy cocktail drinking, whilst Rory simultaneously went down with the bug too, was memorable. For all the wrong reasons.

Yet another reason to love a January birthday. If it isn’t Dry January and being broke and unmotivated after Christmas, you can usually count on a good dose of illness to get in the way of your plans.

(I realise I’ve spent an extortionate amount of this post talking about vomit, and I haven’t even got on to part B of my birthday yet.)

My birthday treat was eventually rearranged, and there was an additional surprise element of the day that was just for me. Bonus points to Sam for remembering that time I mentioned the Charlotte Tilbury Covent Garden store with it’s downstairs boutique and makeover area.

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My session was with one of the lead make up artists, who works on Charlotte’s models and on the red carpet, so it was the more pricey option at £55. But a better value way of trying out lots of the products or even just having your make-up done really nicely for a night out, you can also choose an 30 min “Express Look” with an In-House artist for £25.

I’ve never had my makeup done professionally before (one of my smaller bucket list items), and it was a great way of getting to try out every single Charlotte Tilbury product that I’d been curious about on my actual face rather than dabbling with foundations and wonderglow on the back of my hand at the concession stand in Selfridges.

I went for the “Rock Chick” look, mainly because I was curious to see how the pros do flicked eyeliner. Answer: A lot more efficiently than my failures at home.

On we went to our afternoon tea, with me now looking more like I should be going on a big night out. As suspected, the kids loved this part of the day. There’s just something about a tower of cakes and treats that seems super special to a two and a five year old.

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Finances have also played a part in determining the sort of birthday celebrations we opt for. There have been years, especially the first two or three after having children, where we did nothing, and bought nothing for each other. In recent years, our finances have become a lot more stable, and that has definitely been reflected in the choices we’ve made for our birthday and Christmas celebrations in the last few years.

I think I’ve talked before about Sam and I aiming for our “Year Zero”. The point at which we pay off our debts, can live comfortably within our means, and make choices for our future.

We both feel that the past year has felt like a distinctly new start for us. We cemented this just a few weeks ago by finally paying off an extortionate amount of credit debt – the result of the last half a decade of not being able to pay all of our basic outgoings after starting a family in London and sizing down to just one £20-something-k income.

Now, for the first time ever, we can start saving for a rainy day, rather than having to dip into credit resources for emergencies.

On a lesser note, it feels like we’ve finally reached the same stage as our parenting peers – not only are we now closer in age now to your typical first time parents, but we are financially there – conversations about moving house, family cars, planning holidays, or costly days out with the children have relevance now .

We used to feel like we were just pretending at being grown ups. We were no longer doing what our twenty-something friends were doing, but yet we were definitely not doing any of the things our London parenting peers were doing either. Of course, all of the financial things I’ve listed above are superficial and unimportant in the grand scheme of things. After all, money isn’t everything. But having that element of choice and security that just wasn’t there before does make a difference to how I feel.

Perhaps if you are a millionaire, the saying “Money doesn’t make you happy” has more relevance. But having the means to pay all our bills, to occasionally give our family great experiences, to be in a position to decide to have one more child and all the car and house upgrades that come with that decision, is a privilege that feels very good.

Sorry About The Mess is a personal lifestyle and family blog. documenting the life of London blogger and photographer, Chloe. This is our family story.

Comments (7)

  • Chloe, I always identify so strongly when you post about financial matters. It always amazes me that we managed to exist – albeit only just – on a 20k-something income in London, admittedly at the very higher end of that, at times even managing to help out family. This year my income has more than doubled on that and it’s taking some mental adjustment to be able to plan ‘real grown-up’ things, because with funding private IVF and children and all we’ve never been able to do that before and it feels so strange, so much more adult than this frantic-underwater-paddling thing that we’ve been doing for years. A house instead of a flat! Going overseas! I just keep thinking, are we ALLOWED?

    It’s strange not to have to worry so much. To be able to treat ourselves without pretending later to ourselves that we hadn’t. To look at the bank balance two-thirds of the way through the month without cringing.

    I’m really excited for us both, to see what we do with this change in circumstances. I think I’ll probably take a lot of inspiration from you over the coming months.

    Reply
    • Yes that’s exactly it, you’ve described the frantic-paddling feeling really well. I don’t really have any grand plans for this year, just excited about planning a family holiday and being able to redecorate and renovate our new house…I guess those are quite grand plans!

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  • I really love it when you discuss finances. I like to talk about money because I hate that it’s so taboo, yet it’s so important that we realise that no, people aren’t earning three figures and we don’t need to keep up with them, there is just sometimes a keeping up with the joneses vibe online.
    I think it’s fantastic you’re so honest about it.
    And happy birthday!!

    Reply
    • Thanks Alice. Worrying about our finances has been such an overhanging part of our lives for the last six years that I can’t NOT talk about it. I am very aware, however, that whilst there are lots of people who these posts will resonate with, there are also lots of people who will read it and wish they could achieve the sort of financial state we were in for the past six years. It has been a struggle, but we were still lucky to be able to start off in the position that we did.

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      • I think it’s brilliant how far you’ve come, how you’ve managed to live on a tight income with a small family in London. I don’t think I’d have managed anywhere near as well and with such grace!

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  • I vaguely remember us talking about money when I first ‘came out’ with our debt story and I have always looked up to how you have managed to raise a family in London on a tight income – admittedly using debt at times and it’s great you have now managed to pay that off and are feeling like you’re on a level playing field with your peers now. It must be nice to be able to relax slightly and plan the next stage in your life and the little treats each month too. happy belated Birthday – your make up looks lovely! x

    Reply
    • I wouldn’t look up to us! To be honest, we were failing massively. 20K of debt in 5 years, and all we were trying to do was keep our car running and afford any emergencies that came up. It was not a sustainable way to live. The only reason we have been able to stabilise our debt is by increasing our salaries and by using equity from our house sale to pay it off.

      Reply

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