At the beginning of the month we celebrated our Silver Wedding – 25 years of married life. Of course, as a modern young couple in the 1980s we spent a couple of years together before the wedding. when I came to organise a celebration I was finding most friends from the original wedding were divorced or had not married/settled down with a partner until much later in the day. To make matters worse, going to the card shops to look for Silver Wedding printed invitations was demoralising. Apparently there isn’t much call for them any more.
Still, I felt that it was an achievement sufficient to merit a journal entry, and yet for the past 2 weeks have been unable to come up with the words or phrases to describe the milestone as I wanted. This made me suspect that I was trying to prepare an "ought-to" entry, and my suspicions were confirmed when I watched a performance by Tim Minchin which described pretty much how I felt.
Now, I absolutely do not want to imply that Himself is not the One I Love and so on. The principle point for me in the song is that a relationship is not some magical fairytale or karmic imperative, but requires patience, persistence and working together to grow something enduring and worthwhile. But it is true we married at an early age and looking at my own offspring now, as they approach (or in one case, pass) the age when we married, I can see why various members of the family thought we were absolutely bonkers. No jobs, no money, no experience of life. Idiots!
Then we started a family.
So now we were all of the above with a baby to support as well. Parenthood is a shock, especially when you are barely out of the parental home yourself – and 3 years at university is hardly good preparation for developing parental coping strategies. But we did get through it all. It may have been down to good luck, hard work or a fundamental lack of imagination. I certainly would not pretend that it was always easy, or that either of us didn’t come close to calling it a day. We often felt isolated, living far away from family. We struggled to pay bills each month; I remember having to make hard choices in the shop about what we could afford to eat. Later we found ourselves getting into debt after each child was born and my maternity leave meant we had no income for a few months.
You will probably be relieved to hear that I am not about to go into the "we were poor but happy" routine. We weren’t. We were poor and frequently miserable, or at least stressed. I would not recommend this path to anyone as a better way, but if you are on it, know that you can get through. On the whole I regret none of it, and am glad I took the option I did, so that I could have the children when I was young enough to manage physically. This does not mean it is the better way, only that I think it was the right way for me, and as it turned out, for Himself as well. No one can tell you which way is best. Sometimes you don’t even know until you try it – although I would suggest that if having babies is involved you do try to do as much research as possible. Babies are not an accessory, end of story.
At our milestone, I felt a weight lifted. We had been talking about it for months, and it felt worse than the wedding (that was a very easy affair in comparison – hen night spent making sandwiches before a quick pint in the pub, most of the fancy stuff such as flowers and cake provided by friends as their gift, re-used mother’s dress etc). But now I feel we can get on with our life. The best bit is that we can now manage a Sunday paper each week, so we get to do the crossword.
For me this is important. We are now able to spend more time together as two adults, and maybe other couples do this bit earlier on. But as we have grown together over the years, now we do not find each other a terrible shock or challenge to our worldview. We got this far together and now we can enjoy the result.