Over Time

 

It’s March. I’ve been back at work full time for 2 months, Samson turned one and we are house hunting. Our current flat is a tip. The dust has dust and the garden looks like a vacant lot. Never before have I felt the need for another hour in the day or day in the week. Shit just does not get done. And being the A type, ENTJ type, or control freak if you must, not getting shit done is not  an option.

Except it has to be.

I caught up with a friend at work who has also just returned from mat leave and she asked me what was ‘still standing’.

‘You know what I mean’ she said counting off on her fingers, ‘out of Baby, Work, Marriage, House, Friends… what’s still standing, because you sure as hell won’t have all five’

Most of us can’t have all five, well certainly not all running on optimum all of the time. Right now I can say we have Work and Baby firing on all cylinders. Samson is learning to climb, walk, talk and cause havoc so he is more than fine. I haven’t fallen asleep at my desk at work or absentmindedly replied all with an emoji so we’ll call that a victory.

As for the rest? I have seen a handful of my friends, but chances are if you don’t work in my office or live next door I probably haven’t seen you since October. I rely far too heavily on social media to keep in touch which really doesn’t cut it.

As for my long suffering husband who is getting his head round the daily grind of full time childcare – he’s a marvel, but a marvel I see for about 45 mins every week day and a few hours on the weekend. When I drag him around London looking at dreadful flats we can’t afford.

We tell each other its not forever. It will get easier. Its just a phase, and I really am sure that all of that is true. Thanks to my sleep shy son we all learned to function on 4 hours’ sleep so surely anything is possible right?

What I am a little more concerned about is the silent number 6 in all of this. The self care bit. Finding time to recharge when there are a million other demands that need to be met. I’ve always been good at prioritising, but in this area I am appalling. I can’t seem to justify the yoga class at lunch when there are meeting to be prepped for, or the run on the weekend when the dog needs vaccinating.

There is always something. And everything needs to be negotiated.  The run on the weekend in return for the other half’s lie in, the week night dinner for picking up the dry cleaning, the midnight trip to 24 hour tesco for.. hell anything you want if I don’t have to go. Every moment counted and weighed and bartered to keep the balance right and resentment to a minimum. Never has there been a more misused phrase than that of ‘free time’. What are you doing with your ‘free time’? No. Such. Thing.

I suspect too that it will all get a whole lot easier when I stop obsessing over the dust on the bookshelves or the weeds taking over the patio. Because ultimately everyone is fed, clothed and not too grubby so I am taking that as a win.

The Wedding Question

Last Friday R and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary. Which I believe is Cotton having asked Those That Know These Things (and google). Having married a man who sees the marketing con in everything, this was met with much hilarity.

Tell you what‘ he says, ‘you get me a framed picture of Dot Cotton and we’ll call it quits‘.

And for that little quip I have sourced this little gem which I may just surprise him with after his next 3am shift.

We’ve not been terribly traditional in our approach to dating, weddings or anniversaries. We didn’t get engaged, mainly because we decided to get married spontaneously while on holiday in St Lucia, so I was only ‘engaged’ so to speak for two days. There was no diamond ring, no moonlit proposal, no fussing over table plans or choosing flowers. Just an off the cuff conversation at breakfast about what the wedding package might be at the beautiful hotel we were staying at. This resulted in a casual query at reception, to which the answer was, ‘Well, you two have been with us for over a week now, so we could arrange it for Wednesday or Thursday – would you have a preference?’. We went with Wednesday.

Having been together for over four years and co-habiting for 3 of those, it didn’t come as a surprise to our friends and family that this was on the cards. In fact, we had been talking about it seriously for about 2 years at that stage. But with the logistical challenges of having family on different sides of the planet, the huge financial consideration and the stress and planning which would be involved we couldn’t agree on a place or a time that made sense for us both. I couldn’t get my head around not doing it in South Africa. R couldn’t face not being in London. The classic tale. So we parked it. And parked it. And parked it some more.

As any therapist, coach or counsellor will tell you, compromise is key to a partnership of any kind. Even ahead of our dream holiday to St Lucia, we had both agreed we didn’t want a big white church wedding, and had we decided that if we were ever going to go ahead we’d both have to give up the family attendance element. And it was a big give, but we agreed if we both couldn’t have it all, which was impossible, we’d both go without. All or nothing.

In the end, throughout all of our discussions, our marriage was about us. Making that commitment official was a very personal and private affair. So when the opportunity to the sign those papers and make that commitment presented itself in tropical paradise, it all fell into place very quickly.

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Just the two of us – St Lucia June 13 2012

Shunning tradition can have its benefits. We got to get married the way we wanted, in the sun, having a laugh and eating cake. We did it without any pressure from family, friends or wider societal norms (although this will not stop people adding their two cents worth – there was a lot of chatter about rings, and some genuine shock that I had no ‘proper’ wedding dress or a bouquet weirdly). We avoided the needless stress and genuine drama that weddings can bring, and, although this was not the main objective, we saved a bucket load of money.

But there is a reason why certain practises have become tradition. There’s often a very good idea underlying the tried and tested conventions, and with weddings its the people. Its the community that knows you and loves you and wants to celebrate with you, to share in your joy and be part of the memory. Because these are the people you are going to need when the going gets tough, when you are raising a family, when crisis strikes. It can’t just be about you and you partner, that would be too much for any two people.  As the saying goes, It really does take a village, not just to raise a child, but to support the whole family. So we threw a few parties to mark the occasion.

As we were from two very distinct and very different ‘villages’ we threw two very different post wedding parties to celebrate. One in Jo’burg (sunshine, south african cuisine, family galore) and one in London (on the Thames, under the Millennium bridge, friends who are like family aplenty) . Essentially we upgraded our first wedding anniversary to include just about everyone, on both sides of the ocean. In a way, although we eloped on our own, in actuality it felt as though we got hitched 3 times over. So what originally felt like a compromise turned into a celebration that lasted months and spanned two continents. We just about got, the best of both worlds.

 

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My Joburg Crew: Pippa, Sekwa, Isaac and Olivia

 

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The Tate Modern presiding

Letting go of conventional expectation, trying something brave, and going with our gut instincts actually ended up being bigger and better than anything we had thought it could be. Just not in the way we had expected. Its a lesson I’m trying to take forward in other areas of our lives

Two years does not feel like a long time, and although we’re classed as newly weds (ish), we are actually approaching a far bigger milestone having been together for nearly seven. That’s longer than high school, a medical degree and the maximum term you’d serve for possession of a sawn-off shot-gun (what Omar would have got.. if he hadn’t… you know…).

That brings new challenges and the distance between London and South Africa isn’t getting any smaller. But we’ve weathered the first seven years without too many battle scars, and with a few official documents, a new place to live and exciting plans on the horizon, we’re in good shape for a few more yet.