Getting Priorities Right – Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Sue woke with a start and glanced at the clock. It was 5.33 am, the usual time to start her daily activity. Mentally her routines clicked into place. Put the kettle on to boil, take a shower, complete her girly repair job for the day, prepare the usual breakfast snack, following which they’d head for their cars to make a separate dash to work.

Wait a minute! It was Saturday, and there was no need to rush; she wasn’t scheduled to work on Saturdays. Tom’s position allowed him to work flexi-time, so he usually worked from home weekends. She recalled glumly that he seemed to work every day of the week, even when home.

Sue wondered how her morning routines would change in a few weeks when the baby made its presence felt. Then she remembered the sequence of events following her announcement to Tom the previous evening. Poor Tom! This was his first introduction to the complicated feelings a woman can have during pregnancy. Sue gave a chuckle as she remembered the look on Tom’s face when she’d started to cry. Well, he’d have to get used to it; that was going to be the norm for a few months.

Tom was not in bed when Sue woke up. No doubt he was out hunting for his newspaper on the front lawn. That newspaper!

“What’re you laughing at Sue?” Tom appeared with the newspaper tucked firmly under his arm.

“You should’ve seen the look on your face when I started to cry last night!” Sue took his hand and gave him a mischievous smile. Tom took her hand and gave it a squeeze looking rather sheepish.

“I guess I don’t know what’s expected of me now. I’ll have to try and stay focused from now on when we’re together. I don’t want to risk another misunderstanding like that and spoil our happy anticipation.”

“You’re OK! I guess I was a little sensitive last night. Sorry! I’ve been thinking about the months ahead. I suppose we’d better have some kind of understanding about my work, the implications for our budget once the baby arrives, and the plan we had to move. Can we afford to do that now? Judging by my outburst last evening I think I’m going to need a bit more attention from you than you’ve been able to give with your heavy work program. This is all a bit unexpected and I need space to create the new me. Am I making any sense?”

Tom smiled. “Look this is new for me too and I’ll need some time to think it through. You know me, I’m the spreadsheet king. I had our finances all worked out clear through to an early retirement, and they didn’t include a baby at this time. I’ll have to spend time reworking numbers and we’ll decide what to do then.”

He glanced at Sue with a worried look as he remembered how he’d messed things up the night before. “I’m really glad we’re having the baby though!”

All that morning Sue luxuriated in thoughts of her coming motherhood. She’d enjoy being a homemaker! Then a melancholy mood overcame her as she started to inventory the downside of impending changes. Even though she’d been involved with her job, there’d been time to meet with long term friends to share a snack and some gossip. She remembered telling Tom that she’d no time to do anything, but that wasn’t really true. There were time pressures but she’d been able to keep up contacts with some of the old University gang. She’d miss those contacts. She’d also miss her job. A real estate agency is an interesting place to work. She’d met all kind of interesting people, and sometimes the back office staff actually got to visit houses listed for sale. It was a lot easier for her to find a place for them to buy than Tom had imagined, but she wasn’t going to tell him that. It was nice to receive his appreciation.

Her teaching assignments and charity work were drivers that promoted a feeling of well being and fulfilment too. No doubt the baby would substitute for most activities she cared passionately about, but she knew there’d be a grieving process for what she had to give up. Visits with Mum would be more fulfilling than they’d been, as Elizabeth and Sue would bond further in their enjoyment of the baby. Sue would have other reasons to visit instead of her overbearing tendency to want to do everything for her Mother. So many sacrifices!

Tom was having difficulty concentrating on his work that morning. Dinner at the Harbour Light had put him behind in his work for the week, and he desperately needed to catch up. He groaned as he looked out the window and saw what a glorious day it was. When Sue and Tom were courting they would’ve been out hiking in the country, or down at the beach on a day like this. Ambitious as he was, there were times when Tom longed for the more relaxed lifestyle of his younger days. Somehow he couldn’t get enthusiastic about his work today, and kept thinking of personal budgets he had to rework now there was a baby on the horizon. With a deep sigh, he pushed the work aside and went looking for Sue.

“Let’s get out of here and go to the beach.”

Sue dropped the washing basket on the floor and stared at him in amazement. “The beach?”

“Yes, the beach!”

“But you said you were behind in your work. I feel bad that you’ve had to work harder because I guilt tripped you into a date at the Harbour Light Thursday evening. Won’t you be in trouble at the office if your work’s not done?”

“You didn’t guilt trip me, I thought it was a good idea when you suggested we meet. We have to make some decisions, and I think the beach is a more pleasant place to discuss our future today, so grab your beach things and let’s go. I’ll be able to concentrate on my work when we’ve made some decisions.”

They’d luxuriated on the beach for sometime before Tom brought up the subject. “Sue, we need to rethink goals we’d talked about before we got married. Once we agree on these we can realistically think about how you and I relate to them as we move forward. Where we live and work will depend on our overall goals. Let’s start with you. What do you want to see our marriage accomplish?” What would give you a feeling of fulfilment as you look back on life when we retire?”

Sue sat up and watched seagulls circling over the ocean while she thought the question through.

“I was thinking about fulfilment this morning,” she mused. “I know everything has a price tag, but if it were possible I’d like to see us bring up two or three children, giving them the education and personal care that would produce eventual stable maturity. I’d like to be there for them as they grow, which means I’d have to temporarily quit work until they’re established and able to fend for themselves. Then I’d like to go back to school and pursue educational interests. I’d love to teach, and find fulfilment in that. I also feel good about my charity work. Perhaps I could do some charity work while bringing up our kids, but I may have to leave that until they fly the coop as well. I guess that’s it! Does that sound reasonable?”

“If that’s what you want, I’d like to help you with your dream.”

“Do you still want to be number one in the company Tom?”

“Yes I do, but as I listen to what you’d like to see happen in your life there may have to be compromises. It’s going to be tough on my hard driving nature, but when the chips are down I’d rather have a happy fulfilled wife than be right at the top of the company and have an unhappy marriage. I guess I see myself having time with the kids as they grow, and helping them establish themselves as adults. I’ve been thinking about our lifestyle and feel we’ve lost some of the magic of courtship days. We need quality time together, and I don’t know how we can do this at the moment. Obviously we need to have a house, so that’ll have to be an immediate consideration as its part of our long term goal. You’d better settle on the house this week.”

“Tom, I’m glad you suggested we discuss this at the beach. It’s so peaceful here and nice to think these things through away from home. It looks like we’re committed to our objectives. Our personalities and work preferences are different, but as far as really important stuff’s concerned we’re in agreement.”

“We’ve only dealt with the high level stuff Sue. The reality is that to raise a family we need a lot of money, and you only get that when you work at a management level or both of us continue working. I don’t know how I’m going to match family goals with management responsibilities, no matter which company I work for. I know my habit of budgeting everything amuses you, but believe me, you need a plan to achieve what we’ve both placed on our dream list and still stay solvent. I guess I need to think carefully about my continuing relationship with this company. I know after the last board presentation they’re thinking of moving me up the corporate ladder another notch. Obviously this won’t diminish my work load, and both of us agree we don’t spend enough quality time together.”

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2011 All rights reserved”

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