Been ruminating the last few days on all the different life choices we make and how they affect our lives - for better or worse.
At Nielsen we used to categorise people into demographic groups by age, which mean I fall in to the 35-44 year old age range. As do the vast majority of my friends.
With people generally doing things later these days, it's by no means unusual for men to enter this age group still living the single life, but find their lives completely changed by the time they reach the other end.
I always wanted to settle down and have children, but at the same time I was so busy having a good time, out drinking all the time that it was easy to put it off. At 30, it was "yeah, I'll do it when I'm 35", but by 35, it was, I want to do it, but is my partner the right person?
No - she wasn't, our relationship was foundering and ended when I was 36. Now this was a crucial time for me, a lot of life changes going on, and I was becoming increasingly aware that the gene pool was shrinking. What do I mean by that? Well during my months of being single, I received a lot of female attention from women around the age I was. However in every single case, these women came with baggage. Some were divorced, some had never been married, but in each and every case, all of these women had already had their children. And whilst that meant they were good fun to spend time with, and all that goes along with it, in the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to have a family of my own. And even if these women were willing to have more children, I didn't want to take on any extended families. So I knew there was no future with any of those women. They enjoyed the fact that I had my own place and was completely free to see them whenever they wanted - but quite honestly, they would have been better off seeking someone in a similar position to themselves, i.e. a man who had already had his children and wasn't looking for any more.
Yes, the gene pool was shrinking there were not many women left of my age still baggage-free so I began to go out with younger women. Because I wanted a woman who did not already have children that I could make my own. I don't mean I was looking for a virgin bride, let's face it, what's the chances of that around here, just someone with whom I could start with a clean slate. And then I met Claire and all fell into place. I was 36, she was 21, within a year we had our first baby, and it was all good.
So now, as I move towards the other end of my 35-44 demographic group, life is very different. I am glad to be in the position I am, because I never want to be one of those people back on their own, with children, because I can't imagine I would be a very attractive proposition to the opposite sex if I was. I realise that some people are left in this situation through no fault of their own e.g. bereavement, an irretrievably broken marriage and so on and so forth, but I must imagine it's very hard back out there in the market, when you've got so many responsibilities i.e. the children who must always come first.
Unless there are no children - at least none they have responsibility for, because the other partner has them, because they have screwed up so badly. I see a lot of people, both men and women out there, in their mid 40s and beyond, we all know the ones who drink round Bicester pubs night after night and go home with whoever they can get, you all know the ones I am talking about. That's a very sad state of affairs to get into.
Several years ago, an ex lover of mine who I won't name, once said to me "my relationship with my partner will always be more important to me than my relationship with my children". I just could not believe it when she said that. Gobsmacked is the best way I can describe it. But then, that's just me, maybe, I guess other people have different values to me.
Like I said, I do feel for people who are left on their own with kiddies, particularly women, many of whom get unfairly judged by people who just assume that if you are a single mother you are a benefits scrounger. Of course those people do exist, but it's wrong of people to automatically make that judgement without listening to the back story. It's also very difficult to find much to offer a new partner. The younger blokes, like I was at 35 who want a family aren't going to be interested, and even if you find someone, it's very hard to make time for them. One thing that single people find it hard to understand I think is that we as parents cannot just drop everything on a whim and go out for the day, go out on the piss, or anything really without careful planning. Makes us sound dead boring at times I imagine. Can't imagine that's particularly attractive to the opposite sex.
What would I do if I was left on my own suddenly, at the age I am, with my two boys? Quite frankly, and I'll know you'll never believe it, but I don't think I would bother having another relationship. No-one could replace Claire in my eyes, how we are together, and the problems with finding time to see someone when I've got the commitment of looking after the kids every night would be bound to put a strain on things. I would always be worried I think that she might get bored and go off with a single bloke who could show her a better time.
So I think it would be the celibate life for me. But thankfully - I don't have to worry, it's all good here. I know we can't control what life throws at us, and life is never certain, but things couldn't have turned out any better for me than they did.
I get so frustrated at times, because I feel so trapped by my situation over really silly things like not having the freedom to nip out to the shops even for 5 minutes to get a packet of stuffing for the Sunday lunch because one of the children is asleep. Or being dead hungry at 8pm, mere yards from a range of fast food outlets but cannot go to get anything because the children are in bed. Or not being able to pop into Oxford for the afternoon because I have to pick up Ollie from school - but, crucially that is the life I have chosen! And all those little frustrations add up to nothing in the negative column where there so many positives from living in a loving caring family. I've given up virtually everything I used to do for before I had my family - the golf, going to the races, aunt sally, boozing, the gym, you name it. And you know what, it's all worth it. Because if I hadn't bothered having kids or screwed it up and lost them, and found myself in my mid 40s heading down to G's as a last chance saloon in a desperate bid to grab hold of one of the many other Bicester shipwrecks for a night of self-validation, I think I would rather be dead.
And you know what - all those things I have given up? I can get them back. The kiddies won't be little forever, and all the time I've invested in them, well it will come to fruition (hopefully). I already have a little mathematical genius on my hands so all those hours spent with books, teaching, counting when he was little were not wasted. And offspring #2 is showing lots of promise too.
So - I've talked about lots of scenarios, types of people, ways lives can go. The conclusion? Well we all have to what's right for us - and what I am doing is right for me.
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Jason x x