Accepting and celebrating your life choices

Divorce|Relationships|Stowe Family Law|April 20th 2009

Don’t dwell on what can’t be changed

Like many people I’ve taken advantage of the Easter break to take a much-needed holiday. Unlike previous years, my time in Eilat – a stunning Israeli resort town on the banks of the Red Sea – was spent relaxing poolside. Because of the ongoing knee saga, walking was difficult especially in over 30 degree heat, and running my usual route was out of the question.

So like it or not, (which I didn’t) I had more time than usual to spend by the pool. This naturally didn’t stop my brain whirling about, so I decided to “people watch”.  It’s a pastime of mine, when I’m switching off and relaxing. I look around me and try and work out what’s going on in people’s lives. My imagination runs riot!

Lying hidden and shaded by a parasol and palm trees, with a view down the Red Sea, I watched people entering and leaving the glamorous swimming pool. Because I was in the heart of the Middle East, unsurprisingly, most of the people were Middle Eastern: Israelis, Moroccan, Persian but there were also lots of French and Italians. We were the only English people in the hotel.

It was holiday time in Israel and I met quite a few older children staying at our hotel, who had literally flown from their own bases in the USA, London, Paris and all over the Middle East to join their parents to celebrate the festival of Passover.

I was particularly interested in the mothers who looked roughly about my age, they all had at least four children in their early twenties and none of the mothers worked.

With the exception of one effortlessly beautiful, French mother, the mothers all seemed pleasantly plump. They spent most of the time chatting by the pool or in it, and not exercising at all. I never saw any of them in the gym. They had no problem sunbathing in great big swimsuits, unconcerned by revealing their cellulite. I couldn’t see any evidence of plastic surgery – not one had pumped their face full of Botox – indeed they were simply ageing as nature intended, and looked wonderfully ‘normal’ middle aged women.

I overheard one of the French mothers chatting to her husband. An Israeli chef and winner of Israel TV’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ had opened a restaurant in the hotel and this couple loved the food. She was describing her main course of rack of lamb stuffed with dates in great detail and suggesting she would cook the dish for him. The husband was enthusiastically agreeing also requesting the “Trio of Chocolate” and they went off laughing, holding hands. They left their four daughters swimming in the pool and me feeling rather deflated that I wasn’t sure what ‘trio of chocolate’ was let alone how to cook it.

One afternoon when the temperature soared over 40 degrees, I went to watch TV. For a few minutes I watched an American actress talking to a chat show host about her latest film. She was talking about how much she “identified” with her role as the powerful female head of a New York-based corporation.  It was all about “her” getting to the top against all the odds, including her “struggle” with raising her child. I switched off.

Then I began to think. Why had I switched off that programme? Hadn’t I made similar choices in juggling work with a family-life? Didn’t I always complain that domesticity was just another part of my struggle?

A few days later, we caught the early plane from Eilat to Tel Aviv Airport, and we had to wait a few hours for the London flight. My first thought on arrival at the airline lounge was to grab a coffee, access my blog and write a quick post.

By the time I arrived at Heathrow airport, in the arrivals hall, my husband and I were stacking suitcases on the trolleys and juggling our Blackberries, e-mailing our respective offices.

As we headed home in the car, thinking of the mothers round the pool, I started to wonder whether I made the right choices. Could I have done things differently? Taken a different path in my life? Been far more of a contented housewife?

The happy, contented lifestyle I saw in those mothers and their families, was a pleasure to see and I wondered if all too often in the struggle for a career, working harder to gain more and constantly striving for ‘perfection’ that I had missed out the simpler things in life.

I considered how different my marriage would be if I had decided to stay at home, I concluded it wouldn’t have lasted. I can’t turn back the clock – I’ve made my choices. Even if I wanted to, I can’t transform overnight into a brilliant cook and domesticated housewife.

For me, relationships that endure do so because the couple recognise what makes them fulfilled together. It suits some couples to agree that either the wife or husband stays at home. Others, that the wife and husband go to work. But the quality of their partnership is what is important. Sometimes its easy to yearn for what never in fact, was meant to be. But there’s no point dwelling on what can’t be changed.

When new clients come into my offices, I discuss their relationship with them and they invariably open up in great detail about its failings – as well as their anger, hurt and frustration. Instead, I give them a one word piece of advice – acceptance. It’s a powerful word because it’s very difficult to do.

Many of us will consider at one point or another whether the path we’ve chosen is the right one – some will try to change it. I prefer instead to consider why I chose this path and whether those reasons are still valid.

For me they are – so instead of advising others, this time, I advised myself and accepted that the decisions I made all those years ago, still work for me and my family.

Author: Marilyn Stowe

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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