Picture it - a happy family day out with three clean children, a proud dad and a neat, well-groomed mum. Now crumple up that picture and stamp on it. A lot. That's more like it.
My reality on such days out en famille is a parallel universe version of this. A universe where everything is dirtier, shoutier and more mismatched. I call it our Beautiful Chaos. My husband calls it Bedlam.
Given we have three little ones under the age of six, these weekend adventures are often very unpredictable. But one factor remains constant - I come last. I spend time doing elaborate hair styles on the girls but do my own make-up in the car mirror (It is no one's friend).
But before you ask where you can send the medals, let me point out that this is just what happens when we become mums. Basically, we don't have a choice even if we happen to be the most monumentally selfish cow that ever lived. The minute that wrinkly little blob of pinkness is placed on your arms it instantly becomes the priority.
But let's be honest, the real master of this selflessness is Granny. Not only do they do it for their own children, but the minute they get their own life back, BOOM, grandchildren arrive. These days, some Grandmothers have stepped in to become the childcare, the driver, the cook, the second mum and, in my own personal experience, the confidante. Now I consider my children lucky to have such a fantastic female role model.
Here are my favourite reasons why we couldn't manage without Gran and I'm sure you can relate:
1. You teach me that selflessness trickles down the generations and you are now reaping the rewards by seeing your children put your grandchildren first.
2. You are my confidante when I am insecure about my parenting skills. You reassure me I am doing a good job even when I am clearly not (In my defence, the mittens really looked like socks).
3. You back me up when my husband forgets The Ways Of The Woman: "She doesn't need you to FIX it, she just needs you to hug her and tell her everything will be fine".
4. You don't mind if I bombard you with pictures of the children. All. The. Time.
5. You make my marriage stronger because you take the children overnight and let us just be us for a bit (and to get drunk).
6. You mind the children to let us work and make a better future for them.
7. You secretly cancel appointments you have made that clash with a time when we need you.
8. You tell me hilarious stories about my husband when he was little. Like the time he got extensions to look like David Beckham but ended up looking more like Victoria.
9. You spoil them just enough and as you should.
10. You love them as much as I do.
So basically my message to you is this:
1. Yes, they are warm enough.
2. No, I don't think I should grow out her fringe.
3. Thank you - we couldn't manage without you.