I've done my fair share of moaning about redundancies and dropping house prices and struggles since the recession first interfered with my own life back in August 2007 (when we tried to sell our Garnethill flat). But maybe the start of a new year is a time to look at a couple of positives it has brought.
I feel that for the first ten years of my motherhood I was on a fast track, running from work to school, commuting, endlessly commuting. I needed to make enough money for the house, the car, the after-school care, the clubs, the birthday parties for the whole class, the hundreds spent on Xmas. Twelve years on paying for a divorce and to restart my life had almost bankrupted me, I started to slow down and realize what was important in life. I resigned, not to be a stay home mum - but to work in a less stressful manner. Now I work the hours my kids sleep, or when they are away at school. Working ten hours less a week, and commuting another ten less left me with twenty more hours with my loved-ones but no money less because I didn't need to pay the crazy nursery costs. It meant I didn't need to lie awake worrying where to put my kids on days they woke up sick or during the long summer holidays when the holiday club wanted £25 a day to look after each of them. I know I moan on nights I start work at 9pm and am still at the laptop at 2am because of a publishing deadline but that let's me bring up my family instead of leaving that to someone else so I also secretly celebrate it. I worry on weeks when I don't get any work, I worry on weeks I get too much but all in all life is better.
When Thomas was told his level of management was being made redundant (when I was four weeks pregnant with Amaia) I probably stayed awake and cried in a panic for about a month. And when he decided to start a company from home at the worst point of the recession, I thought he was brave (but insane). But he did it and he now works from home. We can spend all day every day together sometimes just with the babies, usually with all the kids, taking part in everything we missed out on during the commuting years. Now my dad is ill, I don't need to beg a boss for time off to be with him, I am that boss and I can prioritize what is truly important. I love my life.
We make less money but we've also realized what really matters. On the kids' birthdays the day starts with a nice breakfast with siblings and candles. Our five year old is actually happy with a birthday cake and three friends home after school to share it, happier even than being overwhelmed by 50 acquaintances in the town hall, with Coco the clown, jugglers and a face painter. Kids' birthdays don't need to cost £300 to make the kid happy. Xmas is the same. I look back at old videos and see my kids opening gifts for 30 minutes straight piling them up and then collapsing from exhaustion. Now they open three or four, get a cuddle and a kiss and look just as happy.
If the business takes off and we go back to the earnings of five years ago or more, I will be thrilled to go back to long foreign holidays and a bigger house, but I won't be going back to the crazy parties or Xmases of the past, especially not if I have to sacrifice family time for it.
I may not be able to afford a matching couch and armchairs the way I once could but I get to be with the ones I love. What could be more precious?