I was recently chatting to a reader. She said that whilst she loves our online magazine, it gives the impression that Grace and I live perfect lives and never have any problems. Of course, that is not true. However, we try to always be positive in our articles. We don’t think our readers want to hear our problems.
Then it got me thinking about the difference between generations. I suppose my parent’s generation, much like the Queen, was from the ‘Never Complain, Never Explain’ generation. They never bared their souls or washed their dirty linen in public. The generation below us, i.e. our children, tell everything, warts and all, which I find brave and admirable. However, we are the in-between generation. I wonder if silence is golden or if sharing one’s problems in a public forum truly helps. The reader is right, though; reading about perfect lives can also irritate one.
The fact is we are all the same. We all have lives filled with ups and downs. This last year, there have probably been more downs than ups. I am not about to tell you all about my downs. OH and I have 4 children, one I inherited and three together, plus another little boy who sadly died.
Being a stepmother is so much more difficult than being a mother. In fiction, the stepmother is usually wicked, which doesn’t help. When I was aged 28 years, overnight, I was asked to become a mother to a 6-year old whose own mother had died. I didn’t have 9 months to prepare, nor did my new son, so it was learning as we went along. I got lots wrong and hopefully a lot right. It is still a work in progress, and he is now 39 years old.
The other three also have their ups and downs, but we have ridden the waves successfully. When you have 4 children, there is always one that, at any given time, needs a bit of help or care. Sometimes your time is severely stretched between them all. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way as family life is a lot of fun.
However, in the moments of crisis, it is to my girlfriends that I often turn. Inevitably, they have all had similar problems in their lives, so we share our experiences and give advice that always makes us feel better. Girlfriends like family are a blessing, and I couldn’t do without them. Honesty is the best policy with them, though, and the joy is they are never judgemental. Your girlfriends know you are doing your best during difficult times.
Families are special too. They are also fascinating – the interaction, the diversity. But, just as you think you are getting it right, there is an add-on, an addition to your family as a partner to one of your children. So there has to be a bit of a shift and shuffle as you get to know him/her. Plus, of course, you have to learn to share your child with their partner’s family. That can be a tricky one.
Being a parent never ends. Perhaps that is why we are often fascinated with other families, particularly dynasties. For example, the Kennedys, the Kardashians for the younger generation, and our own Royal Family are closer to home.
Let’s face it; if you take the word ‘royal’ away from the royal family, they are just a family like any other. However, in the 21st century, they are unable to hide their flaws and dramas. Inevitably they have the same ones as all of us. Divorce, division, sibling rivalry, family members who opt out of the whole family responsibility – in their case, it is a job of work. So again, they have the Queen, who keeps all her thoughts and feelings to herself, and Prince Harry, who is currently sharing everything, whilst Prince Charles, who is caught up in between looking like a rabbit in the headlights. It may be helping Prince Harry to let out all his mental anguish, but I worry who it may be hurting.
So perhaps it is a generational thing that Grace and I steer clear of writing an article detailing our current problems. We don’t want to hurt others with the fallout. Maybe by saying nothing, everyone assumes all is fine in our world. However, would it be fair for me to share problems I have as inevitably there is someone else involved, a relative or a friend, and so they would be hurt when they found out? I am not sure there would be anything to be gained from this exercise. Anyway, there is always someone who has bigger problems so mine might seem rather incidental.
Meanwhile, as humans, we are always fascinated with other people’s problems and the more famous the people, the more fascinating the problems. So there has been a lot of press interest in the breakdown of the Gates marriage after 27 years and two children. Would you have been interested in reading an article about their perfect marriage? Of course not; reading that others are having a tough time makes us feel better about our lives, especially when a couple as rich as Bill and Melinda can’t make it work. Clearly, money doesn’t always help; it just makes it more complicated.
I know this past year has been a leveller as Covid is not discerning who it will infect. Rich, poor, famous, infamous and ordinary people have all been the recipient of this virus. In the first weeks of Covid, I read about Tom Hanks and his wife who had caught it. So at a time when we knew very little about Covid, it brought it home that anyone could catch this virus; money and success does not protect one and nor does being a decent person as I am sure Tom Hanks is.
So believe me when I say that when you see pictures of me with a big smile on my face, sometimes that masks what is happening inside my head. However, I have always wanted to cheer people up, to make them smile with me. So that is what I often try to do when writing articles for A&G. However, I will take a leaf out of the younger generation’s book and try to be a little more open without hurting anyone, I hope.