I have always said that being a parent is the hardest job in the world and yet in recent years I have discovered that actually, being a wife is even harder.
Being a parent has always come naturally to me. I love my children beyond all measure, would accept them and their choices, their actions and the repercussions, and forgive them indefinitely. I have never questioned my love for my children, nor theirs for me, never doubted my happiness at being their Mummy or imagined a future without them. Being a parent is hard work, but being their Mummy is easy.
But being a wife, or indeed a husband, is a whole different ball game, even more so when babies come along and life is suddenly very much about the children. For Gaz and I, there was Lewis from day one, and yet three years and four children later, our priorities had completely changed.
When you have three children under three, haven’t slept for the best part of three years, are dealing with screaming, crying babies and dirty nappies day in, day out, there is very little time for each other. There would be times when Gaz would call me on his lunch break and I would be knee deep in nappies and would tell him I didn’t have the time to talk. There were times when he came in from work and I didn’t even raise my head to greet him, to ask him how his day had been, so consumed I was in the children or in my own exhaustion from a day with them all. There were times when we would get into bed at night, facing opposite directions, and go to sleep without a single word of Goodnight, without a kiss or a cuddle or the slightest reassurance that we were any more than two strangers merely existing in the same house.
And I think that it is very easy, particularly now with social media, to believe that everyone else is living the perfect marriage. People are very quick to tell you how wonderful their other halves are, how happy they make each other, how perfect their lives are together. Facebook is littered with photos of happy couples cheek to cheek, beaming at the camera, posing with champagne in expensive restaurants or lying on adjoining sun loungers in an exotic holiday resort. If social media is to be believed, then nobody is fantasising about suffocating their husband in his sleep or plotting to change the locks while he is out at work. Nobody is rolling their eyes at another “hilarious” joke they have heard for the ten billionth time, or dragging their husband home by the scruff of his neck after too many vodka shots at a quiet, social gathering.
Because nobody talks about marriage, not real marriage anyway. Very few people will tell you that they are experiencing difficult times, that they are stuck in a rut, that there are times when you are both simply limping along, riding out the highs and lows. Very few will admit that sometimes, their partner drives them to the verge of insanity or that they find themselves
threatening divorce bickering over the best way to cook a chicken, fold the laundry, load the dishwasher.
Nobody gives you a manual as you walk down the aisle, a step by step guide on how to make a marriage last regardless of what life throws at you. And life can throw all kinds of spanners in the work, things that we can never foresee, prepare for or even bear to consider could ever happen to us. My marriage has seen more than its fair share of hurdles, more than some ever experience in a lifetime. From day one we battled with my own issues, so deeply etched from my previous marriage, my fear of falling in love again, of giving my trust to someone, of believing in happiness, in love, in forever. We have ridden the waves of my depression, my eating disorder, the countless times when I have pushed Gaz away, when he has been unable to understand the workings of my brain, the times he has felt helpless as I have plunged deeper into my illness. We have lived through multiple miscarriages, through the heartache and worry of countless tests and hospital appointments. We have coped with three high risk pregnancies, through the fear of history repeating itself, the nine months of agony until they were safe in our arms and the subsequent time that they spent in hospital. We have battled through those early days with three under three, through a blur of sleep deprivation and the never ending cycle of nappies, bottles and tantrums. We have made it through post natal depression, through anxiety, panic and countless therapies. We have clung on through eighteen months of illness, through my endless hospital visits, scans, test results and the on-going quest for a diagnosis. And we have told ourselves over and over again, if we can survive this, we can survive anything.
And we did. We survived it. Because here I am, still married, sat right here telling you that marriage is hard work. Being married to my husband is hard work. But being married to me is hard work also. It is so easy to become complacent in a marriage, to become so consumed by life, by the children and by the exhaustion that they bring, that you forget who you were before they came along. I think that we are all guilty of that to some extent, of forgetting that we are more than just parents, more than just Mummy and Daddy. We are a couple who, at one time, in what may feel like a lifetime ago from now, stood up in front of all of our family and friends and swore to love each other forever.
And so this weekend we shipped in my parents, and we took off for a weekend in Harrogate, just the two of us for some much needed time together. We relished in leaving the hotel without the nappy bag, without the double buggy or the sound of the children screaming in stereo. We explored cobbled streets arm in arm, ate in beautiful restaurants and drank in nice bars. We talked, we laughed, we held hands and kissed on street corners. We took the time to remind ourselves of the reasons why we fell in love in the first place, the reasons why no matter how hard it has been, our marriage has always been, and always will be, totally worth it.
Because in all honesty, I am very much in love with my husband. When I look at him, I genuinely still get butterflies in my tummy. When I spot him in a crowded room, he is still the one whose eyes I seek out, he is still the one whose voice I want to hear when I pick up the phone, he is still the one whose arms I want to hold me after a long and tiring day. He is still the one that I want to grow old with.
He is still, The One.