19 March, 2014 / Family
‘At this stage in our lives,’ my friend Sarah said cheerfully, ‘loads of couples split up.’ She pointed out that our kids don’t really need us any more (apart from to ferry them around and give them money). ‘So,’ she concluded, ‘not that I’m talking about you of course – but lots of couples decide there’s no reason to stay married.’
To me, this seems wasteful. You’ve weathered those baby and toddler years, without sleep or proper nutrition. You’ve bickered over whose turn it is to stand in the park for three hours, in the pouring rain, and spent romantic evenings sand-blasting dried Weetabix off the high chair. Surely you’re now due some fun together? Deciding to split up now would be mad. If we were going to do it, it would have made a whole more sense when we were ashen with sleep deprivation, and never went out, and when I was still blaming him for impregnating me. Why divorce now, when we can do whatever we want?
Well, that’s not going to happen. I may be jinxing things by even writing about this, but I have a plan, and it feels very exciting. Here it is.
Staying together when the kids leave: my strategy
– Talk to each other. Admittedly, this can be scary: what if the only thing we can think of to say is, ‘Did you put
the bin out?’ We may have to practice getting the conversation flowing again. Alcohol will help.
-Try to be rational. Looking back, when our twin boys were babies I wasn’t quite myself. Jimmy only had to make an innocent remark for me to fly off the handle or run upstairs screaming. ‘This is a nice ham salad,’ he once had the audacity to remark – my cue to throw a velour sleepsuit at his head and start sobbing (my reasoning being that a ham salad couldn’t really be ‘nice’, and that his comment was really a criticism of my domestic abilities). Thankfully, we are now living in more rational times, and should therefore get along better. Plus, most argument triggers are child-related: who’s being too strict/soft, why don’t they help more in the house and whose fault is it that they don’t, etc. Remove teenagers from the equation and what is there left to fall out about?
– Get the heck out of the house. Although we haven’t needed a babysitter for years, we still tend to forget that we can go out, pretty much whenever we want. We need to remember that teenagers are capably of cooking, putting a wash on, walking the dog and taking themselves off to bed. No one needs to be tucked in. And J and I no longer need to be perpetually on call.
And that, I think, is the crux of it: we were only together for two years before I got pregnant, and it feels like there’s a whole lot of catching up to do. Cinema, restaurants, fancy bars and weekends away… there’s so much we can do, the choice is boggling. My only worry is that, by the time we’ve decided, everywhere will be shut.