Thursday, 22 March 2012

The rest of my life

What a very profound title.

Really though - what to do with the rest of my life?

Tomorrow marks a significant development. You see after almost 5 years of having at least one child at home all day, every day, I make my first steps back to independence when my youngest (Jamie) begins spending every Friday with a childminder.

Why am I doing this when it is not like I have to go to work, you may ask? It's not like I've got anything better to do all day? Wrong.

As anyone (mostly mums) will tell you, when you have full time responsibility for young children in your care, your life is effectively put on hold for a few years. Yes, obviously you are not completely isolated, there are still nights out, still holidays, day trips, etc, but the simple fact of matter is - well in my case at least, I am no longer contracted to a company for 40 hours a week and can do what the hell I want the rest of the time. I am on constant call to my children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

And you do not have the freedom that you used to have to go off and do things at the drop of the hat. For example, right now, my wife is at work and will be home at 10pm. Both of my children are asleep in bed. I am effectively a prisoner in my own home. OK, that's an extreme way of putting it, but many of my friends will be on the way to the Kings Arms now for karaoke, I can't. I feel a bit hungry as I stayed so late playing with the boys in the garden I did not have any tea. But no nipping round to Wah-Hong for me.

And all those activities I used to do - and a lot of the socialising, well that's fallen by the wayside too. As Claire has a random shift pattern, I cannot commit to doing anything on the same day each week, as there is always the possibility she will be working. So classes, slimming world, aunt sally, all that sort of thing just isn't an option. And of course, I frequently have to also turn down weekend invitations, because those are the nights I work - so when someone says "hey we've having a barbecue Saturday, starts about 4, come round and bring the kids", it's always a case of "No sorry I can't, I've got a wedding disco to go to, have to leave at 5:30 to set up".

Eventually they stop asking. Sadly no-one ever has a barbecue at noon on a Tuesday afternoon, now those I could invariably attend. The hours I keep don't fit in with everyone else's.

Now this might sound like it's coming across as a moaning blog entry, or you may be thinking, yawn yawn, we've heard all this before, but really it isn't moaning.

Seriously - have you ever really heard me moan that much about any of this? But seriously, I don't want to live a boring life and little by little I am doing things to get my life back, many of which I have already started, but I have more plans in the pipeline.

I'm a happy, bubbly type of person, I try to see the good in all, and I like to let the simple things in life make me happy. So when I bounce into the playground of an afternoon, and Laura and Claire, two mums I'm friends with ask me why I'm so bouncy and bubbly, I just say "I'm happy". It's spring time, my favourite time of the year, I have a life full of wonderful family and amazing friends, what's to be miserable about? OK, things may not always go my way, and I like anyone else face difficult choices in my life, and problems to overcome but I face them all with a smile on my face, a cheeky grin, a few flirty near the knuckle remarks to help brighten others who may be having a darker day, well, that's how I see me, would you go along with that description?

And everything I have done in the past two years I have done to try and improve that happiness. I have rid myself of a lot of the people who were in my life who quite frankly were going nowhere and dragged me down. I can read most people like a book and have no desire to enter into relationships with people who are users, selfish, liars, wasters, I can spot them a mile off. Those that are around the fringes of my social circle, or that I encounter through work, I tolerate, but that is all. I have very carefully built up 3 or 4 very very close friendships with people that I have the utmost admiration for and would trust to the ends of the earth, and there are at least another 10x that amount of you out there that I am proud to call "friend", each and every one of whom I love you for who you are, and I would do anything for any one of you, any time.

I'm taking a long time to get around to the point of this blog aren't I? Well I've got my friends in place, I have my family happily sorted too. Whilst I have been building and developing these friendships, I have also been nurturing my boys, spending hours playing with them, teaching them, not just words and numbers but also how to be polite, how to treat other people, and all about the world around them. But I need time away from them too, both by myself and with Claire. With Claire it's weekends away (London), meals out (Denis), day trips like we went on Valentine's Day, and this trip to Paris if we ever get there. If you are married and you want to stay married you have got to find time to do these things or you might find in a few years when all the kids are safely off to school and you finally have time to think about things you look at your spouse one day and realise you don't know this person any more. And a year or two after that a little piece of paper with "decree absolute" comes through the post and you wonder where it all went wrong.

So friends - important, kids - important, spouse - important. Who have I left out. Oh yes...

Myself.

So - what about me? Well this is me time now, writing this blog, but I want more. So tomorrow when Jamie goes to his childminder for the first time will be the first day of the rest of my life. What am I going to do? Ermm...actually I haven't worked that out yet. But it certainly won't be sitting around the house all day on the computer, watching telly, or that other thing blokes do when they are on their own in the house. Well, that only takes 5 minutes anyway, so that still leave 4 hours 55 minutes.

One of the things I used to do when I had days free before I had children was get on to my bike and ride off round the villages, something so refreshing about cycling along round the rural roads around Launton, Poundon, Stratton Audley etc. Exercise and fresh air and an exhilirating air of freedom. Only problem - no bike. But that can easily be remedied.

What will I do on my other Fridays? I can go to Oxford, Milton Keynes, Banbury, wherever. On my own, or with a friend if anyone wants to come. I can go to a cafe or restaurant for lunch with a friend and talk for hours without the constant pressure of having a screaming toddler with me. I can be "Jason" again rather than just "Ollie and Jamie's Dad".

I'm looking after myself better, eating better, losing weight, and it's all helping with my feelings of positivity.

And I am going to find more things to do. I saw a sign in the bed shop window today advertising for members to join a golf society which meets once a month on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. Now that's something I used to do but it was always on a Sunday - doesn't fit with my work or with looking after kids. But Wednesday - once a month, perfect. I am going to ring him up and get Claire to ensure she gets that day off every month. I am absolutely rubbish at golf, comically so, but it's just like the bike riding, it's a chance to get out into the country for a few hours, and that has got to be good.

A few images from my average round of golf.
Bad Golfer Looking in Weeds    

Two other long term issues to consider. Do Claire and I have another child? The jury is still out on that one, both of us do want to have a 3rd, but equally we are beginning to realise just what a commitment all this has been, and it has not always been easy for us. I'm not going to lie in my blog, it can put pressure on a marriage. Would tying us up for another few years put too much pressure on us, or rock what at the moment, despite Ollie's issues, is a stable, functioning, family unit. Well, no need to make any rash decisions at the moment, I guess we will see what the next few months bring. It may be that both Claire and I, as things get easier (she is doing stuff too, like going to the gym) might start finding we are enjoying our increasing freedom a little too much, and decide not to, but then even if we do, we have done our duty to the continuation of the species - two people have produced two replacements.

And finally - what about work? I would gladly go on running karaoke in the White Hart until I drop if they'll have me, but I am not sure I can still see me doing discos in ten years time. Equally there is no way I will ever be going back to a 9-5 in an office. I'm smart, motivated, and like doing things for myself, so I can only ever see me either running my own business or working very closely with someone else with complete freedom in a very small business i.e. one with 3 or 4 employees at most.

But there's plenty of time to think about that and when the time's right (at the very least when all children are full time at school so September 2014 at the earliest) I know that I'll find or make an opportunity and seize it with both hands.

I know what I want from my life and I am going to take it. Nothing and nobody is going to stand in my way.

Hope you enjoyed reading this my friends, as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Jason xx

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