Debbie Leigh: We’re going to party like it’s not even nine

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At the end of yet another hectic social whirlwind of a week, I experienced a lightbulb moment.

To cement its importance I scribbled a mental memorandum to myself which read something like this: “From this day forward, I do hereby solemnly declare that any partying I participate in will start at 3.30pm, thereby ending by 7.30pm and enabling me to be back home on the sofa, in my PJs, daughter in bed and dvd on by 8.30pm.”

Having put this approach to the test I can assure all sleep-deprived mothers out there, this is the way forward.

Forget leaving the house at 8.30pm and getting home after midnight.

Late afternoon knees-ups are where it’s at.

That way you can still get glammed up and catch up with your friends over a few vinos AND enjoy a Saturday night movie AND get a good night’s sleep.

Of course, it helps when the event in question is a birthday party for a brother and sister with a combined age of six.

At least, the invite appeared to be for a children’s party.

When I turned up I discovered it was more of a Yummy Mummies convention.

We’re talking wall to wall totty, by anyone’s standards – not just women who look good, considering they’re mums.

Everywhere I looked there was a blonde ‘glamazon’ dressed in skinny jeans, boots and a stylish top.

You couldn’t tell anyone had ever seen inside a delivery room but one had three daughters, the youngest just seven-weeks-old.

I needed the first few glasses of fizz just to get over the shock.

Then there was the magician’s performance, the grand unveiling of three birthday cakes, each one more lavish than the last, and finally a firework display that went on so long we had to retreat inside for more refreshments halfway through.

After all that excitement, mother and daughter were both feeling pooped and ready for Mr N to chauffeur us home.

And after whipping off my gladrags and slipping into something more comfortable – ie. my bright orange trackie bottoms, supersized grey hoodie and striped ski socks – I had my epiphany.

The thing is, it’s not even my diary that’s jam-packed – far from it.

As highlighted in my last two columns, the highlights of my social life these days are parties for 70-year-olds and two-year-olds.

Hardly rock ‘n’ roll. But anyone who thinks mums sit at home all day watching Heir Hunters and Homes Under the Hammer are way off the mark.

I practically need a separate mobile to keep on top of my daughter’s play dates.

Just to give you some idea, here’s her most recent “diary entries”.

Monday – Northern Ballet production of Ugly Duckling; Tuesday – grandma’s; Wednesday – nursery; Thursday – nursery; Friday – haircut then playground then friend’s birthday celebration at Xscape; Saturday – the aforementioned children’s birthday party of the year.

However, I do realise that a busy timetable – always having to be somewhere or do something – can do more harm than good.

The pressure of being a working mum and trying to pack too much in to those precious days off can make life stressful for us both.

I know children need unstructured free time and predictable schedules in order to thrive.

And with this in mind, I’ve had another lightbulb moment.

This winter I can spend my days off snuggled up under the duvet with my daughter, reading the entire works of Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson; or building dens in the lounge – being her mum instead of her PA.

I think slowing down will do us both good.

WATER TREAT: The river at Otley full of people in pedalos and rowing boats.

Neil Hudson: Hire boats return to Otley’s river for first time since 2001