Posted in busyness, me, parenting, toys

yummy mummy, letting things slide

Recently I scanned one of those ‘what’s hot/what’s not’ columns at the front of a lifestyle magazine. Under ‘what’s not’ I was interested to read that ‘yummy mummies’ were on their way out, because they were more prone to depression than ‘working mums who let things slide’. Oh dear, I thought. I’m a stay-at-home mum who lets things slide. Where does that leave me? My house is one dusty, crumby, snot-filled backdrop for a toy-bomb which explodes daily – and I don’t even have a paid job I can blame.

Seriously, stuff just gets deposited round my house and I know not how. I spend my days tidying and tidying, only to find that at the end of the day the house looks worse  – or, at best, the same as when we woke up. A friend recently told me how she feels most of her days are spent keeping mayhem at bay. Nothing really moves on from the start to end of the day, but nothing gets significantly worse. That’s a win.

Our bedroom, successfully illustrating my point. It’s always the last room to get attention!

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Much as I love the decision I’ve made to stay at home with my kids, it doesn’t come without sacrifice. The last thing I want to do in ten years’ time is look back and regret this period of my life. If I’m going to forego my career for a while, I don’t want to forego my children too.

And the truth is, some things have to slide. I just can’t spend proper time with the kids whilst also keeping up with all the housework. As part-and-parcel of Al’s job, we get a large house – a great perk, but totally overwhelming in terms of keeping it immaculate. There are enough times in the day when I have to say “Not now, Joel”, “In a minute…”, “I just have to do this first…” because of housework that needs to be done (preparing meals, loading/unloading dishwasher, laundry) that engaging in any additional hoovering, dusting and general cleaning would surely be at my children’s expense. Things I clean today will be dirty again tomorrow, whereas time I spend with my children today will reap huge benefits tomorrow. It is massively important to me that my children and I have a good, communicative relationship. If I don’t sow the seeds now – then when?

So, on the one hand, I’m riled by the assumption that it’s only (salaried) working mums who let things slide. But on the other hand I’m comforted by the suggestion that this more laissez-faire approach to life has its advantages. Whoever we are, mummies or not, setting overly-high expectations for ourselves is not likely to result in much peace.

Oh, and for the record – I dislike the term ‘yummy mummy’ in most contexts. If you think I spend my time shopping, lunching with friends and frequenting spas, while my husband earns mega-bucks and someone else cleans my house, then I have two words for you. Clergy wife.

The happy little monkeys. They don’t mind a bit of dirt.

I love the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph. Take a read if you don’t know it – it’s short and funny, even if you’re not usually a poetry fan. It’s a snapshot into how the writer wants to live when she’s old.

I like it. I like the idea of doing slightly eccentric things without caring what others think of you. I like the idea of not taking oneself too seriously, making up for the “sobriety of my youth”. I also like the idea of abandoning the status quo, what’s expected of you, after a lifetime of having to behave (“But now we must have clothes that keep us dry…”).

But. When I am an old woman, I want to:

* realise that others will think things of me, and therefore make sure that my words and actions are wise

* make up for the cowardice of my youth by saying things of worth which really matter

* abandon the status quo that suggests seniority excuses negative attitudes or statements

I may not get very far! But do you see my point? For Christians, there’s no stage in life where it’s acceptable to settle for the world’s comforts over Jesus’ promises. Not even in old age.

Recently we spent a lovely evening with an older couple from our church. They are full of positive things to say about everyone. They are kind, generous and thoughtful. They are wise, and have a wealth of experience from lives spent wholeheartedly serving God. They have a great sense of humour, know what’s worth taking seriously and what isn’t, and are fun to be around. They pray. Without exception, every younger person I know who knows this couple wants to be like them when they’re older.

Warning: the closer I get to reaching my heavenly home, the more outspoken about God I might become…

when i am an old woman…

Posted in identity, marriage, me

lucy rycroft is ten

Last week, I turned ten. Or – more precisely – Lucy Rycroft turned ten. Lucy Baynes had existed for twenty-something years before, but on 13 July 2002 she became a Rycroft. Here’s a picture of us looking young.

Last Friday was a good day of celebrating. Coincidentally, we happened to be in the place where we got married, so it was nice to return to the church for a couple of pictures. The churchyard has changed lots in ten years – not least with the addition of Robin Gibb’s grave. RIP. Anyway, here’s us looking older and more haggard. I blame the kids.

We spent the day in parks, on bouncy castles and receiving emergency dental treatment – all the usual ways to celebrate a wedding anniversary. In the evening we ate here. (It was alright. I mean, the food was nice and everything, but the bill was double what we’d pay at our favourite York restaurant for just-as-good grub. If having a Michelin star means you get to overcharge, then I’m not sure I want to bother. To be fair, our only other Michelin experience has been L’Enclume, regularly regarded by the critics as one of the top restaurants in the country, so I guess we’ve only got ourselves to blame.) Oops – please excuse the foodie aside – got a bit carried away. The evening was, of course, lovely, regardless of my opinions of the restaurant. As any parent will understand, time out for just you and your spouse is a rare and wonderful thing. And, as anyone who knows my spouse will understand, the opportunity to have three courses and an alcoholic beverage without being berated for the cost of it all – well, that’s another rare thing.

At this point, I feel I should make some deep, reflective and mind-staggeringly original comment about marriage – what I’ve learnt, how it’s been, blah-di-blah. But if I’m honest, I feel a bit of a fraud. Al and I have bumbled along quite happily for a while, and now suddenly we’ve been married for a length of time which sounds impressive. Many marriages are tested by external factors which are no fault of the husband or wife, but add strain to the relationship: perhaps a bereavement, job loss or child-related issue. We’ve had none of these to contend with – in fact, I feel so blessed by the last ten years that I sometimes wonder when the bubble’s going to burst.

The next decade may prove more difficult than the first. If it does, I pray that Al and I have built up the resources to deal with it. But right now – for I believe in living in the moment – I’m going to be very, very thankful for an amazing husband, and a marriage that has released me more and more into becoming the person God made me to be. I offer no wise reflection, for I still feel like a novice.

But perhaps that’s the point?

Posted in church, me

holiday church?

Before I’ve finished boring you with details of our recent time away, I want to say a word about going to church on holiday. This seems to provoke strong reactions amongst Christian friends. Some seem genuinely shocked that we would consider church when we’re away from home. “You’re on holiday. Surely you have better things to do!”

But this reaction genuinely shocks me. If going to church is so stressful, so dull, such an effort, then why do we go at all? Yes, holidays are supposed to be a break, but when I go to church on holiday it is a break. The things that can make church stressful are usually eradicated at a different church. I’m not on any rotas, I’m not chasing so-and-so to discuss this-and-that, I’m not filling pigeon-holes or trying to remember what I need to collect before I leave. I get to sit with my husband (a novelty for a clergy wife) – or, possibly better, he takes the kids out so I can enjoy the rare treat of an uninterrupted sermon.

I have some great memories of holiday churches from when I was a kid (plus a non-memory of apparently attending the church I go to now when I was 14, en route from Scotland). I’m incredibly grateful that my parents, in a very unassuming way, demonstrated that corporate worship was important, whether at home or away.

On our recent holiday, we ended up at Crossroad Christian Fellowship. Ignoring the small oversight of not putting their service time on their website* (we guessed, and hit the ’20 minutes either way’ rule), we found them to be an incredibly friendly bunch. Actually, ‘friendly’ doesn’t go far enough. I walked in and immediately felt like we’d found some long-lost family. For two hours, our brothers and sisters opened their lives to us. Lots of people chatted to us, we got invited to a barbecue, one man gave us his phone number should we need anything during the week, and one lady ran creche just for our kids. I also really enjoyed the worship and teaching, but this is kind of irrelevant to my point.

My point is that if we only ever go to our own church, we’re missing out on what God wants to teach us about his family. By sticking to the safety of our home church, with friends who love and accept us because they know us, we’ll never experience complete strangers loving and accepting us, despite not knowing us. And we’ll never learn to realise that actually they aren’t complete strangers, they’re Christian family members with whom we’re destined to spend eternity.

It’s tempting to walk into a new church and think everyone’s a bit bonkers, purely because we don’t know them. But God’s family is brilliantly bonkers: joyful, messy and full of hope. When I try and pre-judge Christians I don’t yet know, I need only look to my own weakness, and God’s incredible grace towards me, to start joyfully loving and accepting others.

* I’ve looked again, and service times are in fact on the website! They’re in a table form, which I couldn’t see when viewing the website on my phone. Apologies to Crossroad!

Posted in daddy, me

holiday

As an antidote to the photographic diarrhoea brought on by digital photography and/or Facebook, I’ve challenged myself to tell you the story of our holiday using just one photo from each day. We’ve just returned from a lovely week-and-a-bit in Dorset/Devon, which started and finished with a wedding. Look on…

Day 1: a rainy journey down south.
Day 2: the wonderful Ed marries the lovely Emily!
Day 3: enjoying the trampoline of our kind hosts in Dorset, before moving on to Devon.
Day 4: a ride on the Seaton Electric Tramway. We saw cute rabbits and all sorts of birds en route!
Day 5: sitting by the sea at Budleigh Salterton.
Day 6: Taking a goat for a walk at the World of Country Life. (This was EXCELLENT. Much better than the flyer suggested. And plenty of things for our pre-school-aged kids to do.)
Day 7: playing croquet in the garden at A La Ronde. The house was designed by two female cousins, predominantly for them to display the things they’d brought back with them from their travels abroad, mainly shells. When not sticking shells onto walls, they managed to find time to evangelise and look after Messianic Jewish spinsters.
Day 8: I had to include this picture of Lyme Regis in the fog, complete with a good number of optimistic British holiday-makers. Were we mad? Or had we just checked the weather forecast? Within an hour, all the fog had cleared, and we were sitting underneath clear blue skies with a temperature of 20-25 degrees. As I’m only allowed one photo a day, you’ll have to imagine the scene.
Day 9: view of Beer, where we were staying, from the coastal path.
Day 10: The amazing Matt and Lizzy get married!