Archive for the 'Til Death Do Us Part' Category

DIY deficiency

NS November 5th, 2013

(This post is for K and N from the CC massive — you know who you are. Thanks for the inspiration and kick up the backside to dust off the ol’ blog). :-)

The Noble Husband and I are both hopeless at home repairs. This house (and any house we live in) has a perpetual list of DIY tasks that need doing but which have been relegated to the homeowner graveyard called When I Have Time, Money and Motivation. But the truth is, we just cannot be bleedin’ bothered and are useless at home maintenance.

To be fair, NH is not too bad at screwing things into walls (don’t even go there, you dirty-minded heathens) and I’ve become a dab hand at fixing the leaky toilet and stripping wallpaper, yet we have not bothered to put a proper cover over the exposed lock on the bathroom door since we moved in…six years ago. It almost seems a point of principle not to do it now. What would it say about us if we up and bought a lock cover for the door and our guests starting thinking we were all fancy and stuff? I don’t want anyone to think I’ve abandoned my roots and gone Tory just because I once thought it would be nice to have a door handle to grasp upon leaving the loo. How bourgeois.

Just tonight, NH was patting himself on the back for finally sorting out a new storage shelf for the fridge door after one broke awhile back. He ordered it online, picked it up from the post office depot and even slotted it into the door all by himself. I high-fived him as I admired our newfound ability to put bottles of drink in the fridge. “It only took you 18 months to sort that one out — not too shabby, mister!” He beamed with pride at his efficiency.

We could never live in Germany or North Korea.

Further evidence of our laziness:

  • We are still using the children’s toddler table (wooden table with two chairs) as our living room coffee table.
  • The children’s curtains are currently being held up by a series of nails and electric cables, even though a brand new set of blackout blinds sit on the office floor, waiting to be hung.
  • A few days after Noble Boy was born at home, we still hadn’t got ride of the biohazard-labelled and blood-stained placenta bucket in the garden, resulting in an embarrassing incident with our neighbours
  • When we lived in the States, we had a gorgeous silver-framed mirror that we bought from a funky local shop when we first arrived and were furnishing our new apartment. It sat on the floor for three years in two different apartments, serving as a very good shoe mirror but not much else, because we never managed to prioritise buying a hammer, nails and picture wire. It finally found a respectable home with my sister when we moved back to the UK and gave her most of our possessions, where it still hangs today. The mirror had finally fulfilled its reflective purpose (reflecting faces, not feet) and is much happier for it, I imagine

As I’ve been studying genetics lately on the midwifery course, I’ve begun to wonder if perhaps NH and I both have a DNA link missing somewhere. Is there a supplement one can take for DIY deficiency?

Crossroads

NS August 27th, 2011

Gosh, this blog is gathering a rather thick layer of dust, isn’t it?

For the past few months, I have been mainly consumed with:

  • My volunteer work
  • My doula work
  • Planning our holiday in Spain (from which we recently returned)
  • Reading books
  • Wondering why I haven’t felt like blogging and if I will ever write my much-dreamed-of book
  • Contemplating the mass deletion of all my blogs but never bringing myself to do it
  • Feeling more drawn to fiction writing but being too lazy and scared to try it
  • Losing weight (15 pounds so far)
  • Getting back into running and going to the gym
  • Spending time with my family
  • Falling even more in love with my husband
  • Contemplating a third baby and then immediately ruling it out, and vice versa
  • Daydreaming of faraway places and feeling a strong desire to move
  • Looking into the possibility of becoming a midwife
  • Shitting myself at the thought of becoming a midwife
  • Mentally redecorating the children’s bedroom and my office, looking at catalogues and sketching out ideas
  • Knowing I need to weed the garden and do some DIY but not being arsed to do so
  • Moaning about the weather
  • Wondering when I will finally sort out the Spanish, guitar, photography or knitting lessons/courses I so desperately want to take

I feel both lethargic and energised with possibilities. I dream of so much but actually achieve so little. The bulk of the work I do is unpaid. More and more, I don’t mind.

Some days it feels like I am standing at a crossroads and I need to just choose a path and start down it. On others, it’s nice just to stand there and survey the different options available to me. Knowing I have the luxury of even contemplating these choices humbles, excites and even sometimes embarrasses me. So many others have not one iota of choice in their lives.

I often feel both stifled by my duties and empowered by the freedom from ‘the working world’ that they give me. Reconciling the part of me that used to feel worthless for not earning money or having a prestigious job with the ever-growing part of me that actually feels BETTER for it has been a lesson in self-actualisation and in assessing my own worth instead of depending on external sources to put a value on me and the contributions I make to my family, my community and my society.

Increasingly, I feel more and more grateful to Noble Husband for going out to work in the 9-5 rat race every day so that I don’t have to. Knowing that he understands how it depresses me, how it stifles my creative urges and humanitarian socialist tendencies, makes me love him even more.

I used to think I was the one doing him a favour, staying at home to raise our children and keep our household running efficiently. But now I see the favour he’s done for me, too. He has gifted me with possibilities; wonderful, endless possibilities.

After our children, it may be the most wonderful thing he’s ever given me and for that I am eternally grateful. I just hope I can fulfil at least some of my dreams and make him proud.

In time, the path will become clear to me, I know. I will make a choice, step off a cliff and make that leap of faith. Whether success or failure waits for me at the bottom, I don’t know. But at least I will have tried to be and do some or all of the things I’ve always wanted.

Image credit

Lucky 13

NS June 13th, 2011

Dear Noble Husband,

The first thing I ever learned about you was that you didn’t like Americans. This was conveyed to me by a third party, our mutual acquaintance, just before he introduced us at a beer festival in Germany.

I was about to turn 19 and had been in Europe for less than a week. I was a dreamer, a firecracker, a poet and all around wildchild…or at least I liked to think so. Despite my desire to blend in with the natives and distance myself from the white-sock-wearing, flag-waving tourists, I felt annoyance or perhaps even patriotism flush my cheeks. Fiercely determined to prove you wrong, I engaged you in half-hearted conversation, hoping to convey the effortlessly cool nonchalance of someone much older and more experienced.

To my surprise, you didn’t brush me off as a silly, naive, American girl and we kept chatting.  A few days later, you invited me and my friends to the pub. By the end of the evening we were the only ones left at the table, so absorbed in conversation that the others had left. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Dear Little Sis,

Your birthday is June 13th. You would’ve been 30 today had you ever made it past 7.

You know that I stopped believing in God not many years after you left, but for some reason I still imagine you up there on a fluffy white cloud, eating lemon drops, doodling in your sketch book and watching my life unfold. I don’t know if you had anything to do with making mine and Noble Husband’s paths cross that day 13 years ago in Germany, but I like to believe that, if not cosmic design, it was a coincidence that had your name on it somewhere.

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Now here we are, 13 years since that June 13th day. We have experienced the difficulty and yearning of a long-distance relationship, the tumultuous nature of international moves and the maddening but exhilarating nature of learning one another’s cultures. You’ve held me many times over the years while I cried tears of desperate heartsickness for those I left behind, listened silently as I railed against the British way of life with which I had a love/hate relationship for the first few years, and have always done everything within your power to help me maintain my connections to ‘home’, even though this is my home now. You are my home.

Together we have survived the upheaval of creating and parenting two small humans, our past lives picked up and shaken vigorously like a snow globe, each flake a tear, an argument, a broken night, a hole we never thought we’d dig ourselves out of but always did. Now the flakes have settled and all that lay beneath our feet is a beautiful blanket of snowfall, the years of their childhoods stretched out before us in what seems an endless landscape right now but which we both know will melt away much too quickly. When they leave home, the bubble we have created will be picked up and shaken again, setting us off on another rollercoaster of emotion but also, I hope, on another great adventure.

One of the things I love most about you, what I have always loved most about you, is your kind and gentle heart. Though you are a ‘man’s man’ in so many other ways, you have never been afraid to show emotion when it comes to your family. You tell me every single day how beautiful I am and how much you love me and, more importantly, you say the same to both our children. Your affectionate and playful nature has blossomed since you became a father, increasing your confidence and assurance of your place in this world. I cannot imagine feeling more content and silently joyful than when I watch you play with and care for our children.

Last weekened, we all went for a walk by the river. It was meant to be a sunny day but in typical British fashion it turned cloudy and began to rain just as we started to unpack our picnic.  I grumbled and wondered if we should eat in the car. You said, “Nonsense!” and found a cluster of trees that would give us shelter while we ate. Afterwards, once the rain had stopped,  you excitedly led us on a riverside walk. We took it in turns to carry Noble Boy on our shoulders and answer the dozens of daily questions posed by Noble Girl, about anything and everything. Finally, we all grew tired and cold and turned back. You joined hands with Noble Girl, who in turn grabbed her brother’s hand. At your suggestion, he then offered me his grubby palm so that we’d all be linked in a line. I twined my fingers around his and looked down at his beaming face, his enjoyment of our family hand-hold so innocent and perfect to behold. I smiled back and then looked up just in time to lock eyes with you. It was only for a second and we didn’t say anything but in that glance we shared identical sentiments: unconditional love for our children and eternal gratitude that we found each other and were sharing this experience together.

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul but I never knew before that moment how remarkably accurate that saying is.

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The bittersweet truth is that if you were still here, I wouldn’t be where or who I am today. Would my life be better because you were still in it? Undoubtedly. But in some ways, I wonder if the only reason I found this happiness I have now, the one I hold in my heart right this very moment, is because your death gave me the strength and the determination to make things work, to make my relationships count and to treasure each moment I have with those I love.

I wish it could’ve been different. I wish you were walking into a room filled with a thousand balloons, all your closest friends and family shouting out ‘Surprise!’ and proffering a candle-laden cake with your name written in hand-piped icing, along with something jokily derisory about being old now. I wish I knew what your face would look like today and what our relationship would be like. Would you be an artist? Would we be close? Would you be taller or shorter than me?

But also in that picture in my mind, I know that when you entered the room and smiled at me, I would be with a different husband, with different children. Or perhaps no husband or children at all. Hell, maybe I wouldn’t be there either.

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If I ever allow myself to wonder what my life would be like if we hadn’t met 13 years ago, on that 13th day of June, I draw a complete blank. Sure, there may have been exciting alternatives, a parallel universe in which I led either a completely different life or one much the same as I have now but with different characters. The beauty and agony of life is that I will never know. But frankly, I’m enjoying this life, the one I have with you, too much to care.

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There’s not much point trying to imagine a present or future based on a past that can’t be changed, I know. Like in those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books we loved as kids, once you’ve chosen your path (or the path has chosen you), you must see it through to the end. No skipping around, no cheating, no regrets for the course not taken. And if you go back and do the same adventure again after you’ve seen all the possible answers, you’d always know in the back of your mind that you made those choices because they were mapped out for you by others, not because you felt them in your gut.

Fate is what led us to the place we are now, but Future is where we go from there.

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Thank you both for making my life indescribably richer than it ever could’ve been if I hadn’t known you, even for a little while.

Two or three? Finalising a family

NS February 15th, 2011

Over dinner the other night, Noble Husband and I somehow fell into discussing whether we are done having children or if we would like another at some point.

I’d always vaguely surmised that I would decide by the time Noble Boy turned 3 as I wanted to leave a bigger gap this time if I did decide to have another, but not too big to where it would feel like starting over again. He’s now 2 and a half so if I was to begin pondering it, the time would be soon(ish).

But the fact that I’m getting really into my new career and am putting a lot of my energy into it as of late has prevented me from even considering it. Another baby at this point would put the brakes on all of the wonderful momentum I have going right now and, honestly, I’m not ready to let it (and me) take a back seat again.

Plus, the sleep! Oh, the lovely, sweet, nearly-uninterrupted sleep. The ease with which both children now go to bed and how long it took to get to that point. I can’t give that up!

The leaps and bounds by which our marriage and our finances have improved and the ability to leave them with grandparents or friends while we go out on a date or paint the town red…it’s done wonders for our souls.

I finally got my office back just last month after successfully moving the children into one room together. That would all have to be dismantled and put away to make room for a cot if another baby were to grace us with its presence.

I’d be a fool to give all that up, right?  And 90 percent of me knows, deep down, that I am happier right now than I’ve been in a long time. To possibly screw that up for the 10 percent of me that daydreams of how lovely it would be to experience pregnancy again, to give birth and breastfeed a newborn again, to love another human being so fiercely and completely again…Well, when put like that it does make me pause. So what do I think about having a third?

I shrugged at NH from across the table and said I’d decide for sure in a couple/few years, by which time NB would be starting school. But then he had to go and make the valid point that he’s getting close to 40 and that if we were going to have another he’d want to do it sooner rather than later. He doesn’t want to still be parenting teenagers in his late 50s/early 60s, which is fair enough. He’s perfectly happy with the two we have and that’s what feels right to him, coming from a family of four himself. So if I want another, he’d want to do it in the next year or two, not in 3 or 4.

We talked over some of the pros and cons and he asked, What do you want, what feels right?

I’ve always imagined myself with three, I found myself saying.

Huh, that’s interesting. Any particular reason why?

I don’t know why, frankly. I’d always put it down to being one of three myself, though since my younger sister died when I was 9, it was only me and my older sister for the latter part of my childhood. I’d been happy enough as part of a sibling twosome so why, even though I’ve had no particular yearnings for another baby, does two not feel complete, somehow?

And then words came out of my mouth that I’d not stopped to piece together, let alone internalise. Until I said it, I hadn’t even realised it was there.

Because if something were to happen to one of our children, god forbid, I wouldn’t want the other to grow up alone.

I was as surprised as NH was. We sat in silence for a moment. He looked at me sympathetically.

I had no idea you felt that way, he said.

Neither did I. But maybe now I’ve said it the very idea automatically vanishes,  like an exorcised demon abruptly leaving a disturbed home, relieving its occupants and leaving behind a tangible peace and calm, the kind that flows through you in such a rush that it seeps into your bones.

Still, not exactly a good reason to have another baby, is it? It’s all a bit morbid and irrational. But now, having said it out loud, I can have an honest look at myself, at my life, and whether another baby would fit in or whether it feels more like an expectation I’ve placed on myself.

I’m leaning towards the latter but have put off making any rash decisions either way. Perhaps in another six months to a year I’ll be in a place to bring some resolution to the matter.

And if we decide that our family is complete as it is, I’ll be buying a large bag of frozen peas for NH with the words ‘FREEDOM!’ and ‘Your turn, SUCKA!’ written across it in marker pen.

Noble Husband on fatherhood and work

NS November 5th, 2010

I read this article in the Guardian today about how fathers are supposedly happier if a) they have two children, b) their partners work and c) they share the household chores.

More cynical women than me might think it a load of hogwash, but, personally, I found it heartening and heartfelt. If 82 percent of working fathers would like to spend more time with their families, as this survey found, then that is a fantastic thing.

But.

How much of this professed desire to be more domestically involved is all talk and how willing are men to put some action into making it happen? I really want to know!

So, under strict instructions not to be afraid that I would use his answers against him in a personal capacity, I asked the Noble Husband what his thoughts are on this subject. Here’s the result of our ‘interview’, which took place over email and IM. Note: I tried not to refer to myself in the first person because I wanted him to think objectively, though I slipped up a couple times in the IM conversations.

1) Do you believe that childcare is primarily a mother’s responsibility or are both parents equally responsible?

It isn’t necessarily any one parent’s responsibility, but in a relationship where one partner earns the bulk of the family’s income it is likely that the other partner will predominantly take on this role, certainly during the weekdays. At the weekend, it should be much more of even split, perhaps even swinging more to the breadwinner.

2) If you believe that it is both parents’ responsibility, how is the childcare divided between you and your partner? Are you happy with the current arrangement?

I try to spend time with the children when I get home from work, even if it is just half an hour. They like to play before bed, cook, watch a bit of a movie or read stories with me. At the weekend I try to take the kids out of the house, usually on my own, to give my wife a little time to herself or with friends. Alternatively she may carry out a few tasks that are hard to do when looking after the children during the week.

I wouldn’t say I’m entirely happy with it as I tend to only spend a couple of hours with the children during the week but this is unavoidable when commuting to a job in London. At least I catch up with the kids at the weekend.

3) Current research suggests that men with two children whose partners works full-time and childcare is shared are happiest and least stressed. Why do you think this might be? Are you happier when your partner works?

Spending time with my children is a great way of winding down from a stressful day or week at work. When I’m with them, any thoughts about work instantly evaporate. Thats not to say the thoughts don’t return after they have gone to bed, but children put me in a better mood the moment I walk through door.

[After submitting this answer via email, I asked NH on IM if he could talk about how he feels about my work, which is part-time and done from home]

I’m happy that you make a contribution to the household income and that you’re “using your mind” a little too. I remember how just dealing with kids day in day out almost drove you mad.

Me: So you think I’m happier for working [at a paid job] a bit?

No doubt

4) In an ideal world, and if work/financial constraints were not an issue, how would you balance your professional, personal and family commitments? Would you like to spend more or less time at work and with family?

Ideally, I would work at home 2/3 days a week and be more active in taking/collecting them from school and spending more time with them afterwards e.g. playtime and homework. However, I would still feel part of “the team” at work though, by being there on other days.

5) We all know that women have had (and still have) numerous struggles within the workplace and balancing their careers with their families. Do you see men having the same struggles within the home, trying to spend time with their children and be accepted as adequate parents?

If I did work at home, I too would worry that colleagues without children would be favoured for career opportunities.

6) In your view, are fathers genuinely interested in having greater flexibility between work and home?

I’m not sure. I think most men would like the idea of being more active at home during the week but may shy away from it a little if it actually became a reality. I can imagine how hard it would be to carry out some of my work from home with the distraction of children – its the old joke that men can’t multi-task. Also, detaching oneself from office interaction and culture would be quickly missed by most men as well.

[I asked NH to expound upon this by IM]

Me: Do you think women are less inclined to find working at home difficult and miss office life, or just that they’ve had to get used to it?

They are better at juggling work and kids. A stereotype perhaps..or maybe they do learn to deal with it.

Me: Yes, that’s what I was going to ask, if you think ‘juggling’ work and children is something women do naturally or only do because they have to? Of course, I think it’s the latter but am fine if you disagree. Be honest!

I don’t really know. I suppose it depends on the person rather than the gender but on the whole, I’d imagine that women would be better. I’m certain that you would be better than me. I know I get easily distracted and would really struggle to work on a complex report if I had the “Daddy, Daddy” treatment from the kids.

At this point he had to get back to work, as did I, so our conversation ended. I would have liked to explore a couple points more in-depth, particularly how he imagines I get my work done while looking after the children if he believes it would be a struggle for him. I guess he doesn’t realise a) how much I shout and b) how much the TV is on when I’m working. Hey ho, another day, another interview. Until then…

Your intrepid gender relations investigator,

NS (with special thanks and love to NH)

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