So my maternity leave is finally coming to an end and I am coming out of the mummy-cocoon - four months of bone-tiring, emotionally draining but oh-so-fulfilling work. Four months that exist as measurable physical time, but that are going down in my personal history as my son’s milestones – his first smile, when he doubled his birth weight, first giggle… you get the picture. Four months when time seems to oxymoronically stand still while it zooms past at the same time. But I am coming up for air now and actually venturing out without the baby, which means I am catching up with friends.
Over one such catch-up, two friends said almost the same thing about the experience of creating their families. One said he wished that he could just meet someone, fall in love, get married and have the whole ‘blissfully married’ thing fall into place easily. But that it had taken years of dating the wrong women before he finally found his wife and felt sure she was it. The other friend lamented a lack of blatant honesty from married people regarding what it took to convince a reluctant partner to get married. She thinks married people and especially women, strive to present a fairytale love story instead of telling the truth about cold feet, unimpressed in-laws and other hurdles in some men’s shambolic walk down – a very long aisle to matrimony. She said: "I wish these women would say 'it took seven years to convince him and even then I had to buy my own ring' or ‘after 10 years of dating our mothers had lunch and started planning the wedding’".
I think the reasons for reticence are self-evident, especially for women. A guy who keeps proposing after several rejections is thought of as romantic, perseverant, determined and knowing what he wants; while a woman who exhibits similar behaviour is a scary and crazy stalker who should just move on. Even Kate Middleton was nicknamed ‘Waitey Katey’ by the British press after dating Prince William for eight years, and they met in university, a point at which most people wait to get married.
That said, I agree with my friends. Just as sharing professional and business success stories encourages and inspires others, so too would stories about creating families and endurance in marriage. I’d love to know how marriages survive infidelity or forgive irresponsible spending that lands a family in crippling debt. Fighting addiction, coping with devastating illness or the public humiliation of corruption charges… I wish someone was talking about these things.
Life does not come with a manual. The didactic black and white ideals that were presented to us as children congeal into a grey mass by the time we are 30. Other people’s honest accounts of their experiences would give a peek at how they were able to give their amorphous mass some structure and shape that worked for them. Because there is no universal right way to live –simply what works for you and does the least harm to you and those around you.