Twenty-two years ago today I got married. At the time I was working in the IT department of a bank, having left the company where I met my husband-to-be just a couple of months before. I had worked hard and was eager to further my career. Colleagues who knew us both had expressed surprise when we announced that we were to marry; I had no such doubts.
One piece of advice that I remember being given was ‘Don’t marry because you believe you can live happily ever after with this man, only marry if you don’t believe you can ever live happily without him.’ Over the last twenty-two years there have been times when I have not felt as content as I would like, but there has never been a time when I have felt that my life would improve if he were not by my side.
I do sometimes think that he may feel a bit short changed with how things have turned out for us. He married a determined career girl and we spent five years working hard, socialising with colleagues, doing up our home and taking many weekends away to walk the hills and dales of our beautiful land. He could not have foreseen how I would change when the midwife placed our baby daughter in my arms.
I had fully intended to return to work. By the time we felt ready to have a child I was back at the company where we had met, and had pre-booked a full time place at a local nursery close by for when my maternity leave ended. I envisaged us sharing the drop offs and pick ups whilst still being able to meet the demands of our jobs. How naive I was about parenting.
From the moment I first held our daughter I trusted nobody else but my husband with her care. I left her for the first time when I went into hospital to give birth to her brother sixteen months later, returning the same day that I could continue to care for them both. Two years later I gave birth to their little brother at home. With three pre school children to look after it was clear that I would not be returning to full time work any time soon.
The children consumed my life. Just as I had poured my all into progressing my career, now I determined to be the best mother it was possible for me to be. My husband provided support and balance in parenting style; he has always been fun parent to my more serious approach. We have worked as a team and raised three amazing kids of whom I am very proud.
There were suggestions over the years that I could return to outside work. For a time I was able to log some hours for a client at home; I even did a few weeks at their site. These tentative steps ceased when I took the decision to home school my youngest son prior to him starting secondary school. Our local village school had failed all three of my children, but he had suffered the most. That year and a half as his teacher was exhausting, challenging but incredibly rewarding.
Life is a series of chapters, the experience of which changes us as people. I have been happier married than I was single, yet I am glad that I had those few years on my own that I may compare and recognise the improvement. I would not have missed parenthood for the world, despite the fact that the exhaustion of the early years has left me scarred. It was right for us though not to rush into having children. Those first few years of marriage are happy memories.
Parenting teenagers is another chapter as our children assert their independence and we are able to spend more time together as a couple again. Having spent so many years capitulating to the demands of my family I now find myself emerging from the shell of motherhood with demands of my own. At times it feels cathartic, at others quite scary as I wonder at the person I have become.
Still though, how can I be anything but grateful to have a husband by my side who, as he left for work this morning whilst I slept on, left me this card with a cup of tea by my bedside.
I know that I am blessed in many ways, and I never stop thanking God for granting me so much more than I deserve.