Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Postscript to The Family Way – and Having It All………

I reflected, as I do, after posting The Family Way, and the old mind meandered off towards another path. I felt I had perhaps done a disservice to people who “have it all”. I am so grateful for what I have, and mindful of my good fortune, that I sometimes overlook the challenges along the way. It seems a little ungrateful to dwell on them! But that does a disservice to others who work hard and manage complex lives in order to stabilise their families and support them. We have complex lives in our family, and have had some histories to get to where we are. We are fortunate and have what we need, have a nest and the life support systems that keep us afloat. But we have worked to get there. Without boringly baring all and sharing too many dull details, perhaps I should explain.

Before we had our family, for whom we waited eight years after we married, we lost a number of babies before they were born. Does that mean we cherish the ones we have more than others? I don’t think it does – families love their babies however they arrive. But perhaps it means we have a lively appreciation of them! When the babies were small I worked nights for some years nursing in many different places good and bad, in order to support us. Being part of that system and witnessing it was a part of the reason for me starting my own company some years later – to make sure that we did our best to ensure that good practice happened and bad practice was not tolerated, that people had the best services and the best means of enjoying their lives that they could, regardless of postcode, disability, age, cost or any of the other factors that often reduce a persons quality of life. Our drivers are equality of opportunity and the right to a Life.  It was a difficult time but ultimately lead us in a positive direction. Losing a job later on meant I took some time out, did some painting and writing, took a good, long look and reassessed what I actually wanted and where my strengths were, and my life took off in a hugely exciting and fulfilling direction. A bad thing turned into a good thing. And when my parents died, within 3 years of each other, in hospitals that were shameful, and outrageously and obviously so , it once again took me down a challenging path that had some beneficial outcomes despite the enormous pain of that time, effecting some changes and leaving a legacy for my Mother to be remembered by. And when I became disabled a couple of years ago it was a period of real development for me – I blogged at the time about how it had taught me a new and honestly better way of managing and leading. I was genuinely grateful. And I freely admit to having experienced depression from time to time, and learning how to manage and actually use that experience has taught me a great deal. Life has been stunningly good!

I suppose what I am saying is that sometimes “having it all” can set people up for the envious and the sad, who might deride people who have good lives and feel they do not deserve it or have not earned it somehow. One of the online forums to which I contribute has a thread doing just that at the moment –  a few sadly envious people are having a massive pop at anyone, particularly those in the public eye, with some wealth or success and ignoring the fact that in most cases considerable hard work and experience have contributed to that status. Now, we don’t have oodles of wealth or extravagant “success”, but what we do have is sufficient, it is what we need, and who needs more than that? We have what we need to allow us to have some choices and be ourselves without reducing the meaning that supports our lives – we do not have enough to make us lazy! And we have learned so very much along the way, growing together and weaving our branches to create a support for the new shoots.

It has been a blast – and all those who have it all, who have developed their lives so that they can be themselves and support their families, should be proud of that. There is no pathway without brambles, but learning how to climb over them is a major cause of success and fulfilment. And to be honest, aren’t they one and the same thing?


The Family Way

Thank you Nicola Horlick for once suggesting we could have it all. No advice about what to do with it all once we have it, but hey ho, that’s liberation for you.

Cards on the table and no fudging the age thing: I am about to become a grandmother for the first time. I am at an agreeable age for grandmotherhood – not too young so that I have to find excuses for grandchildren and not too old to enjoy a bit of energetic childcare. Of course, my daughter thinks it is all about her, but as all other grandmothers will know  – and as we speak will be nodding wisely – it is about us. I am an incredibly lucky woman. I have a gorgeously  lovely husband, beautiful and diverse children (and the ones who have partners have chosen terrific partners), a great house and a job that I am enjoying to bits, capacity for choices about work and a room of my own which houses my piano, paints and canvases, banjo, books, and other bits and pieces that keep me very nearly sane. It is also right next to the kitchen………. I have a good life. And into that life another life is about to step.

I remember as clearly as if it were last week the births of each of my children. I remember that my Old Man watched the World Champion Athletics on the telly in the labour room as my son was being born, and that in frustration at my pains at one point he grabbed the TENS machine and turned it up to full strength. I can feel the collective winces of all those women who have used TENS. Yes, ladies, I did hit him once I had been peeled off the ceiling. I remember on another labour day the midwife going to fetch a beanbag to support my back thinking Molly wouldn’t be arriving for a while and Molly arriving almost as soon as she had left the room, and my sight taking a brief holiday as my blood pressure hit the roof. I remember my firstborn experience: a patronising junior doctor leaned over me and reminded me sharply that I had “precious cargo” inside me. I told her I had, until that moment, thought it was a bag of f***ing sugar and was grateful to her for pointing out my mistake. I can be a little irritable. (Memo to self: try to remember not to piss off people who are either preparing my food or delivering my care……) And my lastborn – an enormous baby of almost ten pounds who decided to get stuck with her knees around her ears and attempted to arrive bum-first. She was my little Caesarean, as she is fondly known. All different from the word Go, and so different now. I wonder what this first grandchild will be like? So many genes to choose from!

Whichever genes are uppermost, whatever shape, gender, pedigree or colouring my grandchild turns out with, she will have a particular advantage: an extended family who will love her and care for her, and for her Mother and Father, whatever happens – and no mistake, we never know what is going to heppen; a family who will nurture her talents and indulge her fancies,  notice and enjoy her quirks, and cherish her forever. I am reminded today of all those who do not have what we have and in my own fortunate world I regret those lost chances for those lost children. Wherever you are, and however you live, perhaps you could join me in supporting Barnardos   , CAFOD , Fund It (because arts and culture are also important to children) , Save the Children , the NSPCC , Action for Children , Demelza House,  the Big Issue    and UNICEF Please feel free to add some more to this list.

As I grow older I realise that, in almost every aspect, there but for the grace of God (and for those atheists among us, there but for the grace of Circumstance) go I. And you. I have been privileged, genuinely, to work with some of the most vulnerable and abused people in our society, and there is a mere hairs breadth between us. Don’t ever think, as I have heard people say, “I would never allow myself to sink so low”. You simply do not know what you might do given a particular set of circumstances, most of which are not within your control. And most certainly the children who are there have not chosen it.

I “have it all”, and I am grateful. I do moan a little about how to manage “having it all” because it is damned hard work, but I don’t moan much. I know how lucky I am, and I also know that having it all has been my choice. Having a first grandchild on the way, from a dearly loved and cherished daughter and her lovely partner, has reminded me of all that I should value, and of all that is missed by some. It hurts me deeply to know that my own parents, who died within the last few years, will not see Mollys baby, but  it is wonderful that all my In Laws and her fathers family will be here to see her and that she has such a loving and diverse family to join.

As the Big Issue says: a hand up not a hand out.  Supporting organisations who support people to move up and out of their circumstances rather than simply throw money at them, who return the power to where it belongs empowering individuals to regain control of their lives, is the best possible way to return some balance to society and promote success.  We will support and cherish our grandchildren but, as with our kids, we will expect them to work and share the jobs out, to earn what they have and to remember to value it. That way they will be less likely to take it for granted or chuck it away, and will be more able to face the inevitable challenges along the way.

I look forward to meeting our new family member. It matters that while doing so, I also remember others. Loving my babies makes loving other babies so much easier, and not taking action is not an option.

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