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About that happily ever after

I’m all for reading to children and there’s nothing better than a classic fairytale to get the imagination flowing. But the problem with fairytales is that pesky happily ever after. Girl meets boy, boy isn’t a total waste of space. Birds sing, animals talk, cutlery dances and they all live happily ever after.

Meanwhile back in the real world…

In the blink of an eye, the little girl who read the fairytale grows up. She’s a dreamer, a romantic and a go-getter. She knows all about hard work, and she knows the course her life will take. She’ll travel around the world, get her dream job and meet her soulmate. They’ll get married, have a couple of children and they’ll all live happily ever after. Won’t they?

About that happily ever after - is there ever really a fairytale ending?

Er, no. Sorry. There’s no such thing as happily ever after. And do you know what? That’s just fine.

I was that little girl who read the fairytales and back then, they meant nothing. I didn’t want to be a princess, I certainly didn’t want to get married. And children? I didn’t even like those when I was one. And when my siblings came along, that was the last straw. Children were an inconvenience. Well okay, I was right about that.

But somewhere in the back of my mind, those fairytales must have made an impact. Because in my late teens and early twenties, I wanted it all. I got a degree, bought a house and applied for an exciting job. It all came together on one fateful day. In the morning I picked up the keys to my own home. Then I went to an interview for that dream job. After the interview, I put everything I owned into my car and drove to my new home. Then the phone rang. I’d got the job. This fairytale life was even easier than I’d imagined.

But then…

I had just enough time to fit in some travelling before throwing myself into grown up life. A whistle stop tour of Australia and New Zealand. Arriving home a few hours before starting my new career. And it was everything I’d hoped for. Exciting work, amazing colleagues and a role that suited my abilities and my life.

But over time, I wanted more. Promotion, a greater challenge and, quite frankly, being allowed to think for myself. It turned out my dream career was also a hotbed for old boys’ networks and misogyny. I fought it but I wasn’t willing to walk over others to further my dreams. And slowly, it became stale. Getting up for work each day was a chore and I knew this part of my fairytale was coming to an end.

And about that soulmate? Yep, he turned up eventually. I started a new job and within two days, I went on holiday to Venezuela. While I was there, I met someone who had based jumped off Angel Falls. No, of course he wasn’t the man I married, that would be too perfect. When I got back to the office, I started working with someone who I couldn’t stand. Hate’s a strong word but it was a close call.

Anyway, that was 2007. By the end of 2008 we were travelling around New Zealand together on a motorbike. We’ve been together for 9 years now and married for 5. Whoever said romance isn’t dead was lying, it’s been cremated in our house. And it turns out Mr Right is quite frequently wrong.

And what about that happily ever after?

I mean seriously, who is really happy all the time? I’m a mum, not a Buddhist monk. And am I happy? Well, sometimes. Against all the odds, I’ve got everything I ever wanted. My own (unreasonably messy) home, a (tolerable) husband and two (excessively noisy) children. But I think the main thing that has made me happy is adjusting my expectations.

When I was younger, happiness was wrapped up in external factors. The person I was with, the house I lived in, the clothes I wore. Being successful at work and having amazing holidays. These days, it has all changed. I’m with the least romantic man I’ve ever met and I’ve pretty much dropped out of the career rat race. I’ve got a roof over my head in a half-finished DIY disaster that is littered with children’s toys. Holidays are a tame affair involving less extreme sports and more buckets and spades.

And most of the time, I’m pretty happy. I’m happy with tea in my hand and children playing quietly together. Their little achievements make me smile, and that grin when they see me turning up to collect them from school or nursery – that’s the best. I’m happy when I’m drinking gin or out walking with the dogs. And I’m happy spending time with my long-suffering husband.

Life hasn’t been perfect. It turns out that after the fairytale wedding, you don’t get given a key to happiness. Instead, you get more obstacles thrown in your way. I still have ambitions but they’re different now. Bringing up two happy, well adjusted children. Continuing to work from home and eventually travelling frequently if not permanently. Perhaps I’ll even buy a boat. It’s good to have a dream.

About that happily ever after - is there ever really a fairytale ending?



  1. May 6, 2017 / 8:20 am

    Loved the post – I feel the samend too. At some point in your life the happiness is more about your internal happiness – not how others might define it!

  2. May 6, 2017 / 8:32 am

    What a great post. I wanted to be the princess I’m afraid but I swapped my tiara for wellies and happiness comes in other things now-like you said.
    Let’s dream of that boat together (but in my dream, the boat is a family holiday ha ha)

  3. May 6, 2017 / 8:33 am

    Yes to all this. I truly believe that happiness comes with accepting where you are in your life and embracing it – the mess, the chaos, the noise, the lack of romance and all. “Happily ever after” has a lot to answer for. No-one lives happily ever after all the time. A wedding is just the start of another adventure together, full of ups and downs like the rest of life x

  4. May 6, 2017 / 9:16 am

    What a brilliant post Nat. There’s a reason the romance novels end at the first kiss, no one wants to read about what comes after as it would pop that starry eyed bubble instantly! Lou xx

  5. May 7, 2017 / 9:25 am

    This is such a beautiful post. My happily ever after has changed too and now I’m happy with things being enough. I want to travel one day so I’m starting small – one or two countries a year with my husband and Daisy. I’m off to share this on Twitter!

  6. May 7, 2017 / 10:56 am

    Lovely post. All so very true! Real life isn’t a fairytale, but it’s good enough! Here’s to more twists and turns along the way… X

  7. May 8, 2017 / 12:04 pm

    You sound like you had an amazing start to life. See I think I did get my happily ever after with my Prince Charming – but again it is about adjusting your expectations – who said you needed a stair carpet right!

    Great post – maybe their should be follow on books for what happened next in the famous fairytales

  8. msedollyp
    May 9, 2017 / 10:17 am

    actually your life is perfect in a way because its yours no-one elses, and you are living it. There are always things that need doing places we want to go but the here and now is life.

  9. May 10, 2017 / 7:12 am

    It’s a sign we are getting old! As I’ve got older I’ve reevaluated what is important and what makes me happy. There is so much I could be sad about, but I try to push past it. I love my family and the life we have and it definitely doesn’t appear in any fairytale! X

  10. May 12, 2017 / 5:06 am

    Hi Nat, I love this. This may sound a bit wet, but marriage and having children was never something I dreamed of or even really wanted when I was younger. I only ever wanted to be happy. My dream was to be a vet, but dropped out of college before it began, as I couldn’t see me being happy there. From there I started working tow jobs so I could travel, that made me happy. And you are right, to be happy we have to compromise and lower expectations. We certainly don’t have the security we would have had living in the UK and following a career path, but one thing I have learned for sure is that nothing in life is certain, but I’ll settle for happy.


  11. May 20, 2017 / 10:01 am

    Love this, I guess your happily ever after always has to be tweaked. My life is far from perfect (truthfully I’m up the wall at the moment) but I am happy, blissfully happy most days. A successful career, more money, a bit of sleep would be nice but I actually wouldn’t change a thing (apart from the sleep obvs!!)

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