I remember a friend of mine – a mother of twins – bemoaning the lack of time she had for herself, as she told me on the telephone: "Some days I don't even manage to put a brush through my hair!"
I knew exactly where she was coming from because, at the time, I was wearing an oversized sweatshirt, some faded black leggings with a hole in the knee and, I do believe, odd socks.
Yes, yes – I know some of you will be shocked to the core, and probably some will say things about how dreadful it is, women letting themselves go just because they've had children.
But I also know that my friend and I are not alone.
It's an 'hours in the day' thing, and it's a 'running on empty' thing – so many mothers I know put every ounce of energy they have into their children and their homes (and their work, too, if they're managing the superhuman trick of doing all three).
It seems we have very little time, or energy, left for a daily dose of self maintenance.
Interestingly though, we do seem to know how important that is – and yet we still don't always make the time.
Well, I have decided it's high time for a style spring clean – what's needed are quick, simple solves. So I asked a few other mums about how they perk themselves up (in a style sense, as opposed to a pint of coffee / large Pinot Grigio sense).
An old friend and colleague Jo M, who has a boy and a girl, aged eight and five respectively, couldn't manage a sensible reply, because at the time of writing she was covered in icing sugar (note to self: school holidays will probably never be the best time to attempt to update one's sense of style).
Rebecca told me all it takes to perk her up is some perfume and good make-up (but, you see, this is also a lady who exited the house this morning with chocolate milk down the back of her trousers – "Oh, the glamour!" Ha!)
Jo H had a good idea though: "I always treat myself to something new on pay day," she said. "Even if it's just a £10 top, it makes me feel good and that's enough to last me for the month."
And why not? I reckon if we all could treat ourselves to a little something every now and then, we'd be sunnier inside and out.
For Helen, it's more out with the old, in with the new – all in one go. "Twice a year, I chuck out all my old T-shirts and tops which have faded, got holes in them, been stained by pureés and so on, and buy new ones. Nothing expensive, but the difference it makes to be able to put on a bright, white, brand new T-shirt is immense!"
Andrea also thinks that de-cluttering is key: "I realised, after four years of storing my pre-pregnancy clothes, I was probably never going to fit them again – I've lost the weight but I'm a different shape.
"So I considered what my 'uniform' is – I bought new jeans and leggings, jumper dresses and long tops (which are flattering), but also I made myself buy some colourful accessories. It helps because I can wear what I feel comfortable in, but if I just I add a red scarf and belt, I feel I've made an effort. It feels different. Better."
Anya agreed the key is with simplicity: "A bright necklace and a sweep of blusher does the trick for me. Full make-up is risky as I never apply properly – and the horrors are only discovered later!"
Hmm, I've been there. Have you ever, through sheer tiredness, accidentally done one eye wonky and then had to do the other eye wonky as well? I know two wrongs don't make a right, but two wrongs do match, and who has time to do their make-up all over again?
Anyway, I digress.
Sal is a lady after my own heart: "For me, it's got to be footwear," she says. "Oh alright, and handbags. None of my pre-baby clothes fit (and neither do they appear very practical – what was I thinking?).
Stretchiness is where it's at these days – the ability to be able to sprint after a wayward child without looking like a constricted walrus is the factor here.
"The pounds seem to stick to my butt (and other undesirable places) BUT my feet are the same size – and a new pair of shoes or boots does it for me. Top that off with a glitzy handbag (and a bit of lippy) and who cares if the 'middle bit' looks a bit worse for wear?!"
Kelly also goes for lovely feet, among other things: "I put on the most expensive outerwear and accessories from my pre-baby days. I always feel better with a killer coat, pretty shoes and good sunnies."
Well, my lovely coats from the olden days are, for want of a better word, shot and I haven't been able to afford gorgeous replacements since having the girls and going part time. But Susan is unperturbed by such things.
"Go to a trash and treasure party," she says, "or, go to a charity shop in a really posh area, because you can pick up some excellent designer bargains. I got some D&G jeans which fit like a glove for £8 last year."
I like this, all of this sounds doable. And I resolve that with the arrival of spring, whenever it graces us with its presence, I shall chuck out the grisly items that bring my style down.
They shall be replaced with bright new tops. I will wear a fabulous pair of heels at least once a week. I will accessorise. And I will not apply my make-up until I am fully awake.
There is one remaining question, however, one which is quite key to my new found sense of style: can anyone tell me how to get through a day (or just a morning would do) without becoming covered in icing sugar or paint or yogurt or, indeed, chocolate milk?!
Jo M and Rebecca, you're excused. Everyone else, answers below, please!