Life is a funny old thing. We've been really struggling since last year when my hours and pay were cut by half and my husband lost his job shortly after. There's a lot of ranting I could do about the financial crisis and how Cameron's government is strangling the voluntary sector, but I'll save it -this is a positive post. Anyway, it's a terrible time in so many ways; there are massive blows to finances, to confidence, to hopes and dreams. Feeding and clothing everyone becomes a worry, even a week away in a tent seems excessively decadent (wait for the positive, it's coming).
BUT (here it is) two really important and life-changing positives have come out of all this worry and stress, and for that reason, I've found to my shock that I'm almost thankful for it.
The first is that we have found that when the chips are down our family and friends gather round to offer support, love and belly laughs - and what more can you ask from your friends and family than to know that when times are hard they will be there to pick you up and then make you fall down again in fits of uncontrollable laughter?
The second is a surprising but unspeakably valuable and precious thing: time together. We previously worked four days a week and full time respectively, which meant that with the best will in the world, our time with our children was limited to evenings, weekends, and a week in summer, a week at Christmas, and a few days around the annual vomiting bug. This is not unusual, most of us have to work to make ends meet. But there's always the guilt, the feeling that you have these precious critters and then abandon them to the care of others. It isn't, you tend to feel, in any way fair.
So, hard as it's been in many ways, it suddenly occurred to me (I'm a bit slow on the uptake) that we've had nearly seven months of walking the kids to school and nursery in the morning and home again in the afternoon, often hand in hand like soppy teenagers. We've been able to spend long hours with the little one that we never had with the big one playing with playdough, drawing and cutting, chatting, and praising his mega superhero skills. We've been able to spend time listening to the big one's rambling stories about everything and nothing, teach him how to make stuff like puppets, foster his enthusiasm for reading, and so many other things that are tiny but also really huge. And we've gone to parks, made dens, and generally been utterly silly all together. In a way I feel like we've learned to be a proper family through all this.
I think both children will look back on this time as a very important part of their early lives. I like to think it's brought them closer to each other, and closer to us. I hope it's given them time to really know and feel how much we love them and like to be with them. I also think it's been good for us adults to spend so much time together, with and without the kids (and usually I'm the one pushing him into his garage so I can write in peace). I think it's a real pity that we could never have found the funds to take a year out and make this happen in a nice way. But hey, you count your blessings where you find them.