New Rules

Ok, so cutting a long, fairly painful long story short, Mark and Ned came back from New Zealand and showered us with gifts and Whittaker’s Jelly Tip blocks of chocolate (three – I ate them in less than a week) and perfume and some terrifying new ideas about leaving London for good at Christmas without jobs to go to, without a clear idea of which city to live in, without plans other than getting there and hoping for the best. Blunt hammerish unilateral non-plans that we were all supposed to just get on board with, because that’s what people do when they feel pushed into a corner – they flee or fight, and Mark was ready to fight.  Things got icy and uncomfortable, there were words, and tears, and then some sort of sulking silence and two weeks of that thing you do when you Really Want The Other Person To Notice That You Are Angry/Powerless/Desperate whereby you won’t do much eye contact, and you slink onto the opposite sides of the hallway lest you touch or even get near them. And after two weeks of this sad, mean, unkind coldness the dam broke and we talked in the dark in the early morning about the terrible impasse that can’t really be fixed – an impasse where two people legitimately want two very different futures for themselves and their family and there is no middle ground.

So it’s counselling for us, apparently, once I work out how to be referred by the stricken NHS, just so we can learn to deal with our big uncomfortable ugly stinking opposite-ways-of-thinking problem – and maybe what you do with residual resentments once we make a decision about our future, and how not to let that turn everything poisonous and ruinous to your otherwise quite nice marriage. And in the meantime, much more sensitivity towards each other about the threat that each other poses – no stupid unfunny jokes about the torrential rain in New Zealand, no ignorant musings about how the kids wouldn’t get allergies there, no more subtle manipulation of the children (“In New Zealand we will build you a treehouse!”, ‘If we stay here, you’ll get a proper education!” etc etc).

IT’S SO BORING BEING A GROWNUP

Also this week, some truly awful school reports about three out of four kids – apparently the joys of parental reading aren’t always picked up by osmosis, and it seems that my spelling skills haven’t just been passed on as easily as my myopic eyesight, and that there is a strong undeniable gene trait of laziness that pervades the eldest three when it comes to using their brains. Homework isn’t getting done, and one kid reads worse than the kids whose parents don’t speak English. SO.

This guy is doing ok, mostly because he is too young for anyone to notice any gaping holes in his basic learning yet. In non-academic-related successes (because I have to claw back some parental belief in myself in a week that seems to be all about our combined shameful accidental casual screwing up of almost all of the kids’ chances at getting jobs one day, etc) we did make him a very nice Easter Bonnet for his nursery parade with help from a glue gun and so much Easter-related paraphernalia from Tiger. Why did I take twelve long years of crap crafting with glue sticks and tape when a glue gun sorts that shit out in seconds? No matter the burns when a hat can look this fantastic:

And look! It’s not all swear words and the inability to write their names! There’s Easter jaunts to National Trust properties and hook-a-duck and egg hunts and actual fondness for one another!

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There are also new rules now that Mark and Ned are back. Those three weeks of calm and cleanness and less TV made me decide that we have been doing things wrong. Changes include:

  1. I will no longer cook on the weekends. I don’t care if they come at me, crawling on all fours, crying a bit and asking about Nutella. I don’t care if at 5pm they look a little sweaty about the brow, questioning me about the possibilities of hamburgers and convinced they are suffering from low blood sugar levels. It is no longer my problem. Tonight, they are making toast for themselves and I no longer care. This feels both good, and long overdue.
  2. There will be chores. Chores are boring to organise and the details are dull and if you accidentally and rashly tell them that their jobs will be worth a fiver each at the end of the week, you will soon became very poor. Here is the third amended list which kind of works and I realise I have been shielding both them and me from helping around the house. And what kind of young men am I raising if they think picking your own stuff up should only be done by people with vaginas, paid or otherwise? I hope it isn’t too little, too late:IMG_2566
  3. I am going to leave the children with Mark when I need to and not feel guilty. Like I did yesterday – a full day in Brixton eating and drinking and buying welsh wool rugs and returning home when I felt like it, knowing dinner wasn’t my problem anymore and that any guilt I might be feeling was misplaced. This includes weekly yoga classes and planned nights away with lovely girlfriends in the New Forest and Babington House because this year I turn 40 and so it’s time.
  4. I am going to make some more money of my own and so can both contribute and start to feel that I have some choices available to me. This means I have to try to get work by meeting people and pitching and making contacts and putting myself out into the world – I’ve never done this before and it is terrifying, but not as terrifying as being pulled back by the hair to a place I don’t want to go – so there is some proper motivation RIGHT THERE, fellas.

This all feels rather serious and joyless, doesn’t it? Its fine, really – just look at my face nearly exploding from the inner happiness:

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Nothing that a gin and tonic won’t fix.

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17 Responses to New Rules

  1. Al says:

    Ah dear it sounds like you’ve hit an impasse. I’d say having at least a job lined up would be a good idea? (call me silly!) I lived in London for many years and came to Sydney ten years ago. It feels like a good combo of city and beach lifestyle for me and the kids. Property is horrendously expensive though.

    Best of luck, it’s sad to see you down (I can tell even under the lovely lipstick.)

    • theharridan says:

      Thank you! Yes, I’m a bit glum, but feel optimistic about getting help. I would LOVE Sydney. Will moot….!

  2. mrsp84 says:

    Oh, maaaan. This sounds tough. I hope therapy helps you to come to some sort of decision. The list of chores and enjoying some more ‘you-time’ sounds great though and like you definitely deserve it.

    • theharridan says:

      Thank you! No doubt I shall document it all, so we can all see if it helps. Definitely spending all day in stylish enclaves drinking wine and scoffing cheese was a great start.

  3. Jo says:

    Really feel for you, tricky times, sounds like you’re handling it in a sensible grown up fashion tho. good luck with it all xxx

  4. Twinmum says:

    Ach Jodi – I feel for you. My husband and I are at a similar impasse of (him) wanting to leave Italy for our home country with no real plan (or jobs) in place. He’s always been the breadwinner but is miserable in his big job. Having no financial leverage automatically makes my arguments weaker. I wish I had words of wisdom for you and promise to share if we ever resolve this.

    • theharridan says:

      Thank you! It’s comforting to know that this is a common-ish problem. Best of luck to you too xx

  5. Will says:

    Some of this is long overdue (not feeling guilt about leaving the kids with their own father? Wow). It’s always difficult reconciling different dreams and goals with a partner and to be honest we’ve managed this through common projects and supporting the other with their own wishes, but there is sometimes a compromise…I just don’t know what that would be here. What’s halfway between NZ and London? I made it either Oman or Sri Lanka, using Google maps and my hand. Maybe that’s not the right approach. Just keep talking to eachother, you’ll work something out.xxx

  6. Crone says:

    Simply sending support and good wishes. Such divergent ideas of where and how to live and raise your children makes for tough times. It is not about right or wrong but about people and differences; and life on vacation is different from full-time living. I care. This is not easy.

    • theharridan says:

      Thank you. It’s really not something that can just be fixed by reductive simple platitudes and it’s not about blaming anyone. Thanks for your kindness x

  7. raccontando says:

    It is really tough, isn’t it? I had a similar situation – although when push came to shove, I didn’t get my way and my husband got his. I have more or less made my peace with him now – it only took about ten years of seething resentment! Hope you do better than us!

  8. theharridan says:

    Argh.

  9. Me says:

    Whitakers have a new flavour this week. The Toffee Milk bar. I don’t know if you remember the toffee milk but it was an unwrapped slim bar about 16cm long of very thin toffee covered with chocolate and if you got a fresh one you could break it easily but if it was slightly older stock you would hold one with your teeth and pull and pull and it would stretch out and all the chocolate would crumble off but it would be deliciously chewy.
    Good luck with whatever decision you come to.

    • theharridan says:

      Oh my. OH MY! I’ve just raided the cupboards for old cooking chocolate. This Whittaker’s lark sounds TOO GOOD…care packages always gratefully received, ahem

  10. Sally says:

    I love your blog and empathise with both of you. I do believe that both are good options – there are wonderful things about bringing your family up in NZ and different wonderful things about London. Both are now expensive places to live sadly. Good luck.

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