Every woman will understand what I mean when I refer to my secret knickers; the ones that never see the light of day, pushed to the far reaches of the drawer and retrieved in the dark; worn under thick, dark clothing and kept well-hidden. They’re the ones you never see on the washing line; they’re the ones that are bought when you’re on your own; they’re the ones you definitely don’t want your partner to notice and ask, ‘Oh, is that new?’ and he’d better duck if it leads on to, ‘they suit you’.
The children are starting to notice that there is one particular week every month when they aren’t asked to help with the washing and ironing, one particular week when Mummy spends more time in the bathroom than at any other time of the month, one particular week when Mummy never wears pale, tight clothing. My daughter is scared that she too will one day inherit this week of mad behaviour, when her father will tiptoe around her if he isn’t able to ‘work late’. I have explained the logistics of coping with this time in her life, the pitfalls and the moods. To her credit she hasn’t run screaming from the room. Instead, she asks, ‘if it’s that bad can I stay home from school?’