Never has this family approached a weekend so organised. The fridge is stuffed with three days' worth of meals cooked in advance, birthday presents and cards for the next three weeks are wrapped and written: I even finally remembered to order the nametapes ready for my son starting preschool. Why such uncharacteristic smugness? Because I was going in for some very minor routine surgery. It wasn't until I fell into bed late the night before going into hospital that I realised what it was really all about. There's something about the anticipated whiff of anaesthetic that does trigger an awareness of one's mortality. Perish the thought that I might die without having bought my nephew's birthday robot.
It's ridiculous, I know: embarrassingly melodramatic. But it made me realise that if it had all gone horribly wrong, my regrets - apart from the big unthinkable one I can't even talk about, the one about leaving a motherless child - wouldn't have been about the book I've only half finished writing, or any of the other big stuff. They'd be for little things. The friend I travelled with in my gap year whose message I've been meaning to return for weeks but haven't. A conversation I've been meaning to have with another close college friend. Not having seen my oldest friend's new baby yet, although she nearly died having it. This despite telling myself that one of the benefits of working part-time would be to have more time for the people I loved outside this family as well as in it.
Do friendships just inevitably slip through the cracks when you have children? There was some research recently suggesting you lose roughly one friend per two kids (although since parenthood tends to bring a new circle of friends, perhaps that figure hides a greater loss of old friends replaced by newer 'mummy' ones).
But while tiredness and lack of time are bound to take their toll, I suspect this narrowing of the social circle is also about how easy it is unwittingly to prioritise the urgent but dull - work emails that have to be answered, lunchboxes that have to be packed - over the important. You could always phone a friend tomorrow instead of today, and so the call keeps getting crowded out by something more pressing but often less rewarding: friendships are accidentally squeezed out by things that actually matter less. Bugger sewing in nametapes. I think I have something less urgent to do.