Last Monday at 3am I sat checking Eurostar prices for tickets home for me and the kids. After a long night of hushed screaming (don’t wake the kids but do want to exhibit strong outrage!) I was ready to throw in the towel. The beautiful artist’s studio we were staying in, with its glass ceiling and vast open plan spacious living had become like a prison. Tony and I were following each other around throwing accusations at each other ‘whose stupid idea was this?’ ‘why did we think we could all live, work and school together?’ the possibility of a speedy divorce felt all too imminent and so checking out felt like the right thing to do.
It hadn’t started well – our first week was riddled with tension. The husband was giving up smoking and incredibly moody which made me want to stick pins in him. He kept shrieking ‘Di, it’s like being pregnant!’ which he may have thought might curry favour with me or ignite some compassion given my own mental instability in my recent pregnancy, but it only makes me want to stick pins in him more. Theo had become a giant whinge bag. I hate Paris! I hate maths! I’m not writing anything! I want more cake! Tessie had decided to change her sleeping schedule to be the opposite of ours. And me? I was tired, disorientated and wondering why being in Paris wasn’t making me feel all the joys of spring. So all this mounted tension boiled up and exploded on this one fateful night.
The next morning, instead of waking blameful as is usual in these situations, Tony and I both felt forgiving. It became obvious that a new plan had to be sought. Trying to get a new life and a new rhythm to our life set up wasn’t obviously going to be so easy (No shit Sherlock, some might say). Starting homeschooling, working together, growing our business in a dramatic way whilst being with the kids, being in a new city where we have no friends or family… Tony and I are both easily overwhelmed and if we didn’t do something fast our plan was going to go down the tubes.
We decided that we actually needed to relax a lot more into the experience. If Tony and I are super stressed it defeats the whole purpose of why we are doing this. Theo would be better off at school and little Tessie with me not working or at a childminder. Blending these two entities that are rather at odds with each other – work and family – was going to take some practise. And it was going to take time to get good at. So a few decisions have been made – when either of us were with the kids, we were with the kid’s full stop. No checking emails, taking phone calls, adding to our epic to do lists. And whilst one of us is with the kids, one of us works. We are going to have a schedule of tag-team parenting/business but also recognise that it was going to constantly be deviated from and that’s OK.
There are now signs of promise. Now that we aren’t badgering him Theo has dropped his anti educational stance and is his usual curious, voraciously hungry mind. Tessie is almost back to sleeping properly. Tony is in a good flow with his photos and producing some achingly stunning images. I am less tired and managing to enjoy Paris. Tony and I had our planning meeting in the sun in our local park yesterday morning whilst eating achingly buttery croissants and watching Theo play football with some local boys. We’ve got a new website in development, some long worked on projects are coming to fruition and next month sees us start our spring and summer program of photograph workshops. We’ve had great explorations around the city, discovering areas new to us like Canal St Martin with its cool, trendy cafes and art shops and Belleville and it’s Chinese shops and markets. We’ve had sunset walks up to Sacre Coeur, creamy chocolate éclairs for breakfast and long broken French chats with locals. It’s beginning to feel like more of an experience than just a holiday.
The neighbourhood we are in is densely African – north African to the right, Senegalese to the left. It’s not fancy fromageries or charcuteries but markets with plantain, preserved lemons and African fabrics. People are friendly and talk to us all the time – they coo at little Tessie and ask Theo about his Greek football shirt. Although the shops are totally different you look up and the buildings are exactly the same. The neat, chic apartments with delicate balconies. A little more worn around the edges than some other areas, but the buildings have the same uniform Parisian architecture. We chose this spot because the apartment we are in – a huge painter’s studio with glass ceiling and funky little apartment incorporated into it – is perfect for us; Theo plays football and has started on some giant paintings on the walls. It oozes creativity, paintbrushes stacked in the corner, cool music, piles of art books. It’s quite and we are listening to lots of old jazz.
It’s been a rocky start for sure, but the benefits are emerging. And I’m still, thank god, excited.