Someone at some point in time gave me some travelling advice to ease the transition back to reality. If it was you, thank you. Never go back to work for a full week after a holiday Within your budget, treat yourself on the final night. And so I write this from a cute Italian restaurant on Halifax’s waterfront. I’ve got a glass of French Rose, a bottle of sparkling water (because I ain’t fancy, but gosh I prefer it over tap) and I’ve got spaghetti ai frutti di mare on its way.   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Life is full of seasons. You enjoy many of the same for a long while and then you hit your twenties and it starts to change. People get married. People buy houses. People have kids. Me? I chose to run move away. My friends? My Instagram feed is evidence enough: weddings + babies…or those delaying either/or = travel. I had a bit of a crew through my late-teens and early 20s. I was innocent, overconfident and opinionated. They were good to me (read:patient). But most were Christians and so they married young…and then bought houses. We had a place to hang out. Win! But two years ago, just before I was drawn in to the (sun)light, the first couple had an adorable baby. And in the two years I’ve been gone, the procreation has continued. Last week I spent a few days with 6 married couples and 4 babies under 2 (+ few extras). I abandoned plans to travel to Scandinavia ($15k on travel in 12 months is probably a bit too much) and instead took annual leave to spend time with 15 adults + 4 children + 1 teenager under 1 roof. And it wasn’t that chaotic. Although some things have changed. Because holidays (including those involving 2000km) = thinking time, and my friends love to feature in my little corner of the inter webs… here’s my not so comprehensive list of what happens when your friends have kids. New titles. Everyone becomes an Aunty or Uncle. You ignore your friends and greet their miniature humans first. Detailed bowel movement discussions. Birth stories. “Is that yours or mine?” is not referring to a mobile phone but baby monitor. You see the traits/personalities of your friends in minature form Movies are turned off half way. Surprisingly even babies can discern Jurassic Park isn’t as rosy the Peppa Pig farmyard. Noise travels. Noise matters. Driveways are filled with soccer mum mini SUVs instead of mum’s old, hand-me-down dinged early 2000s hatchbacks P plates parks are now pram park ups An afternoon where all 4 children were asleep at once was like all the planets aligning in a once-in-century occasion PDA is everpresent in kisses, hugs and sniffing nappies. You see patience in practice. Discipline in action. You get endless cuddles but freedom to hand them back when they poop, scream or fight you off. You’re watching who’s drinking to see who’s preggers on the sly. Baby line ups are mandatory. Along with ridiculous attempts to get all children looking remotely in the direction of the camera. Time schedules are fluid. Departures can be timed to either keep the baby awake, but also to ensure the baby sleeps. “How did you sleep?” will be answered as if this were the question: “how did <insert child’s name> sleep?” Did you say Wiggles? Yep, kid tunes reign. Of course they could most certainly comment on the child-less life too. I willingly woke early to exercise. I enjoy abs still joined at the centre. And my car was sans extensive miniature person paraphernalia. Moving away isn’t the easiest. I’ve missed pretty much all the baby showers, first birthdays, dedications etc – often by only a week. And being the single, childless one is often the topic of discussion (It took a grand total of 3.5 hours before I was asked about my dating life). The above is a list of largely funny takeouts from a relaxing week away. But really it’s a privilege to see my friends turn into parents. Life is best done together. I took joy recieving a face covered of saliva care of new raspberry blowing skills. And they enjoyed the extra set of hands. The village life. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Me, myself and I Earlier this week I returned from a holiday seventh-wheeling. Seventh-wheeling, is that even a thing? Probably not, but imagine going away for five days with three married couples in a three bedroom apartment. Yep, I know what you’re all thinking, ‘Woah, that would be weird.’ It wasn’t. This morning this article came through on Relevant Magazine’s weekly newsletter: “Being the third wheel is underrated.” It made me reflect on why I so often find myself in the company of married friends without a second thought. Hanging out with friends does not have framed by their/your relationship status. Although each couple ended up in a bedroom each, and I joined one of them, we tossed around the idea of an all girl room and an all guy room. (If I remember correctly one of the guys objected because another snores too loudly). Further, on car trips and activities, the group was flexible. Car trips were a random mix or sometimes gender-segregated – an opportunity for the women happily blasted Beyonce and talk unashamedly about Taylor Swift. ‘Married’ does not equal joint at the hip and in hanging out with couples you realise they are more than happy to leave their spouse behind.   My married friends are conscious of the struggle singleness can be. Being a close to 24-year old single, Christian woman, I’m a regular ‘third-, fifth-, seventh-, ninth-wheeler.’ Christians get married young. I did not. Hence, I find myself on holidays, in movies and hanging out on a Friday night surrounded by married couples. I’m thankful my married friends remember that sometimes singleness is hard. Sometimes I do feel lonely. Most of the time I’m too occupied/spontaneous to think/care about the fact I do not have a significant other. While away a friend made an effort to ask me away from the group how I felt about the sleeping arrangements. While I genuinely didn’t care, I appreciated my friend’s thoughtfulness in asking me. I also do not forget their regular dinner invitations, their invitation to join them on holidays or their request for my thoughts on any given issue.   Hanging out with married friends gives you a look into the joy, patience and frustration of marriage. Spending four nights in a small townhouse with one living/dining space gave me a fairly good insight into married life. Likewise, when they invite me round for dinner, I experience their generosity, support and wisdom. There are arguments. There are early morning wrestle fights. There are tender moments. There are moments of self-sacrifice. There are moments of finance hardship. I have learnt so much from hanging out with married couples. I see my friends love and support their partner in tiredness and stress. I see their patience in resolving disagreements in public. I see their love in painstakingly picking glass out from their spouse’s foot after they’ve dropped a case of beer. Marriage is deeper than the smiles you see on their wedding day and the not-so-secret sex lives Christians so often pretend is not the reason Christian couples marry young.   Remember marriage is not elevated above singleness. It is easy to think the grass is greener on the other side. Instant company, physical/emotional intimacy, two incomes of save money for a deposit, a non-awkward photo buddy (I still find posing for a photo alone is weird. What do I do with my hands?!). The struggles of marriage are widely written and so are the advantages of singleness. When feeling less valued, confused or lonely, I remember the time, freedom and flexibility on my side. Yes, I will stay out late with a friend for spontaneous drinks. Yes, I will buy this $300 handbag without guilt or asking permission from my partner. Yes, I will consider making plans for working overseas in the future. Yes, I will spend an entire afternoon planning a bible study and/or church service leading. Yes, I will toss and turn and shove the doona to the side, because hey – I didn’t have to share my bed with someone in 30-degree heat! I also remember in those odd moments I find myself driving home or walking alone that it’s okay. It’s okay not to be in the company of another at all times – partner, spouse, friend or otherwise. Solitude is okay. (I find myself having to assure myself of the last point just for the reality of my 100% extroversion!)   My married friends support my hope to eventually marry and have a family without matchmaking at every turn. The apartment we were staying on holidays had previously facilitated another couple in our friendship group’s relationship. The location has history so on the fourth day away when a single guy who moved away a few years ago but remained friends with all of us came down to join us I expected some jokes. I expected the subtle (read: never subtle) car shuffling to force the two single people together. I expected the forced coupling up on a walk somewhere. I expected the sly comment. In actual fact, I didn’t expect it. While my married friends might appreciate the joy of marriage, they don’t force my hand. (Although I also appreciate it would take a lot to force me to do anything!). On the contrary, they ask about recent potential suitors and encourage saying yes to the coffee request. They are considerate while also having a crack – but only once. Hanging out with married friends isn’t weird when the situation isn’t forced to be weird.   I totally get that I am potentially in the minority. I have an amazing group of friends for whom I am very thankful for. But I have also pulled them up in situations where their words, actions and prayers have made me feel uncomfortable. And they too have pulled me up with unrealistic expectations of what things should or should not be like. Relationships of any kind take work to get right. The single/married divide is way too prevalent for my liking. Don’t just wallow in the weirdness, take steps to make it not weird. If you’re married, I encourage you to ask your single friend if they feel uncomfortable hanging out with married couples. If they say yes, listen to them and learn from the above. If you’re single, I encourage you to reframe the way you think about your married friends and the time you spend with them. Sometimes there weirdness is all in our heads. I also encourage you to bring up some of the areas in a helpful and considered way. Sometimes it takes naming the consistent joke isn’t funny to make it stop. 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I’m not very good at doing nothing. My ideal holiday involves people, activites, museums, sightseeing and the like. The typical picturesque sit-by-a-beach and relax is torturous. Add waterskiing, sailing, beach cricket, kayaking and you’ve got my attention. Last week I took three days annual leave and went camping with a group of friends from home. The camping trip is a yearly, if not more, trip from the group of 80% teachers enjoying their holidays. My previous life of vomiting words on to a computer screen during the holiday period is no longer and so they invited me into their fold. By the afternoon of the first day (the morning involved driving, setting up a comfortable campsite and lunch), I was making activity suggestions. Frisbee. Kayaking. Tennis. Anything?! A dear friend sitting across from me in our circle of chairs joked, “Mel, you do know how to do nothing, right?” I laughed – it’s what I do when I don’t know what to say. As the three days ensued, my usual pace of life took a dramatic shift. I become familiar with ‘doing nothing.’ A how-to guide for people who don’t know to stop and do nothing: Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)