My latest line in work is that I’m a reflector. I’ve no idea really, I’m good at answering on the hoof. When I have the answer. But other questions I know the answer but I’m not sure why. So when I was asked the question “Are you really happy?”, in some ways I imagine it upset me more that someone would think I’m not happy.
I admit, I get cross and I get exasperated. But mostly, this is likely to be at work. Where our meetings are renowned for the laughter and a feel of demob happy. I take strength from not knowing when I last cried at work, there were times long ago when this was a frequent occurrence.
And, I’ve spent time reflecting on why I know that I’m really happy. And this isn’t a boast. It has taken a ridiculous amount of time to get here. And it could all be taken away from me tomorrow, such is the fragility of life.
But these are my reflections, my truths, my reality.
My childrenThey are a starting point. Words will not convey how difficult it has been bringing up three children so close in age. I now take great humour in responding when people ask the age of my children: “Yeah, I’ve got a seven year-old and six year-old twins.” It’s a difficult one to beat, but when you do find someone with a similar family make-up it’s even better, the feeling of appreciation, knowing that you both know what it took to be here.
The first few years were a challenge. The sleep deprivation may be a distant memory, but it’s one when relived can still reduce me to tears. There was relief in the moment it became possible to tandem feed. Making CM do laps of the garden on the days where getting us all out of the house was just too much.
The first few years were also a challenge for Mr J. The move to Wales and the role of Daddy Daycare were not easy transitions, far from it. Add to that my nights away with work. Throw in my mummy guilt. It was tough.
I’m not sure when it got better, and there are still days when I get sick of the sound of my own voice. But now, life with three is good. On our infrequent lazy mornings, it is a joy. They will take themselves off and play. And I can hear them, sometimes in hysterics, sometimes talking earnestly, other times confusing me completely playing families, realising I don’t have to respond to the “Mummy” questions in their conversation.
My children overwhelm me with their kindness. It makes me so proud to see tiny moments move me to tears. As E chooses to remember Nana Windows at a Christmas Eve service, as CM decides to give up her place in the class assembly to someone who wants it more, when B gives up his turn because his sister wants to be first.
My three children make the world a better place. A happy place.
If I hadn’t been through the redundancy process I don’t think I’d ever consider my work makes me happy. But a process of considering every option, every possibility, every aspiration has resulted in me knowing, for as long as I remain in my role, I am happy.
I found through the redundancy process what is important to me, what type of organisation I want to work for, what I enjoy doing, conversely what I am good at doing. And what I definitely don’t want to do.
I also became a sad realist. My hopes and dreams are defined by the people most important to me. An aspiration of using my redundancy to run a bookshop which serves awesome tea and coffee isn’t congruent with wanting to maintain a parent to be at home for our children.
I have a job which means we afford a stay-at-home parent. It makes our life work. My job is making a social contribution. No matter how far away that feels some days. And that works for me. I can cope missing my children if I know it’s because other people’s lives are being improved.
Creating a family comes with so many compromises. It goes without saying that having children is all-encompassing. I realised recently we’ve never left our children with anyone other than my parents. Our children moving to school full-time did open up opportunities. One of which was realised when exploring redundancy. On my list of hopes and dreams was a doctorate. This was one which was within my grasp. And I’m six months in. Learning so much outside of my norm. And yes. It makes me happy.
Home is a place of compromise. I know how much Mr J gave up to move here. We are fortunate. Finding an area which offers our family so much. We are surrounded by family and friends, and we are supported by family and friends further afield.
The compromises mean as a family we are better off, it is appreciating the compromises which makes our family stronger.
We may not have decided whether this is our forever home, but I can’t imagine not being able to walk out of our home and stand inhaling sea air. I cannot believe the sense of calm it creates in me.
There are so many cities, towns and villages which I love. But this one is the one I love coming home to most.
This is the most difficult one. The one no doubt at the eye of the question. My husband is not ‘the one’. My husband and I chose to be together. Every day we choose our relationship. I love my husband, I am convinced he loves me.
He is the man who consoles me when I am unhappy. He is the one who helps me solve my problems.
We are ying and yang.
We really couldn’t be more opposite.
It works. Now.
My husband left me once. When the children were young. It was so difficult.
I am not amazing, yes, I know. I have you fooled.
My husband is not perfect, it’s hard to believe.
With three young children, and both of us acting unreasonably, it was a likely conclusion.
If you know me, you’ll know what this will have meant. To suddenly be alone.
Beyond the emotional, trying to be a working mum with three young children- childcare doesn’t appear just because you need it.
It was all the kinds of crap you might be able to imagine.
But, in that time, I coped. We were still breathing at the end of every day. We were fed, warm, and we made happy. Our home had never been as clean and tidy.
And this is the truth about the two of us. We don’t need each other. We will both be fine without each other.
More so we know that we will always put our children at the centre of our family. What family looks like will always be what works for us.
We choose to be together. Our marriage creates ‘us’ but our rings do not bind us.
We know our individual weaknesses, and strengths. And together we make complete.
You may never look at my husband and I and ‘get it’.
And that’s just it, it’s about our reality not anybody else’s perception.
We are happy. We have everything in our lives to make it that way. And we work at this every day.
So yes, I am happy. I have everything in my life which makes me complete. We cannot ask for any more.
I will be tired, I will be exasperated, I will be cross. Even worse, sometimes I might have envy.
But all of these are temporary states. Underpinning everything is a belief that for every thing I may want, that nothing will mean any more than what I have.
“I am really happy.”