Inspired by a friend, this is the first of a new series called The Contented Feature Family. The ethos of this blog is that happiness is not something that you have to search for in the conditions of your life, but instead something that you decide to be. The realities of family life can be tough but making an active choice to be happy can improve not only your life but your children’s too, as you teach them the tools to look after their own mental health.
Every family is unique with their own dynamics. This feature series aims to inspire others by showing that even when life is challenging; you just have to choose to smile.
The first family to be interviewed as part of the Contented Feature Family is the Jones’s, a family local to me who have navigated their own way through the challenges of life. I connected with Anthony Ress Jones, who works away for months at a time but comes home to his daughter Olivia, determined to embrace each moment he has with her.
Watch this beautiful video where Anthony surprises his daughter with his homecoming. I fill up every time I watch it, to me it perfectly illustrates the essence of a contented family.
This is pure happiness.
Tell us about your family
I live alone in Valleys, my daughter Olivia lives with her mother. Its not far but she spends a lot of time at my house while I’m home from work. My mother, sister and girlfriend all live nearby.
What is the biggest challenge your family face?
Without a doubt at the moment, the biggest challenge we face is spending so much time apart. The nature of my work (Security Officer in Kabul) takes me away from home for up to 2 months at a time which is very difficult.
Can you tell us about a time when you struggled to stay positive?
The most difficult time for me is when my month at home ends and I have to leave, knowing that I’m not going to see my friends, family but mainly my daughter for such a long time is so hard. Although I have done this on a number of occasions over the years it doesn’t get any easier. It is very hard to stay positive at this time and at certain times whilst away. I have to rely on friends and colleagues who are going through similar situations. I often want to just turn around and come home when on the way to the airport, or even while in sat waiting for my flight.
Has there been a turning point or change in your perspective?
I have to keep telling myself that working away is not forever and think as positively as possible. When I go through periods of struggle I have to remind myself of the benefits and the good times it enables me and my daughter to have. There’s been no real change in perspective but I do often want to come home when I suffer with homesickness. I’m reassured by the knowledge that my daughter is well looked after and has a lot of love and support while I’m not there.
What are your coping strategies?
I work with a lot of people who are in similar positions to me and go through similar thoughts and feelings so I think it’s important to talk during times of struggles. In this respect a problem shared is a problem halved and speaking to like minded individuals rather than bottling things up is crucial.
How do you teach Olivia to cope?
Olivia has become used to our routine; she knows that she can speak to me or video call whenever she wants. We always make plans for the next time I’m home so we have things to look forward to. If I thought it was having a particularly negative impact on Olivia I would make whatever arrangements I could to come home Fortunately she is a very happy pleasant little girl who is thriving in school and knows that she has a lot of people who love her and are there to support her
What would you like Olivia to know about happiness?
I would like Olivia to know that happiness doesn’t necessary come with material things. I want her to know that her happiness is very important to me and the rest of her family and that if she is unhappy about anything, she can talk to us about anything that is on her mind. She knows she can talk to me about anything and everything and often does!
What does a contented family mean to you?
I suppose the stereotypical contented family is one where both parents are at home with their children and go on holidays, trips and do everything together. In my case and that of many others, a contented family is where everyone agrees that the happiness and well being of the children must come first. A contented family is one where everyone is happy with the shared responsibility of the children’s well being.
Please could you share one of your happiest family memories with us
Out happiest memories of late came on our family holiday to Florida. Olivia loved every minute and wants to go back as soon as possible! We are now planning our next trip together in the summer.
What I have learnt from Anthony
I must admit that there are times that I fantasize about getting on plane just for some peace and an interrupted night sleep but that’s all it is, a fantasy. My reality is that I have only been away from the children a handful of times in the last 6 years and it can be very intense and overwhelming at times.
When Anthony described how he feels as he heads to airport my heart broke for him, It must be so hard to know that he won’t be physically there for Olivia, to pick her up when she falls or to tuck her in at night.
Despite this though, Anthony and Olivia do have a contented family, it’s not perfect but perfection is a myth. It was Anthony’s story that inspired this series. The two parent, dad working 9-5, mum looking after the kids stereotype isn’t a prerequisite to happiness, the only prerequisite to a contented family is the resolve to be one.
In some ways being away makes Anthony so much more aware of meaningful time when he is back. How many of us let the days, weeks, months pass by without stopping to be grateful for the moments that make up our lives together.
As a result I wonder if Anthony and Olivia appreciate time together more than some families that see each other every day?
Olivia seems to be a happy, well cared for and well-adjusted child. She knows she has people around her who love and support her, so what more does she need?
My own dad worked abroad; as my parents were separated I can definitely see the parallels between my young self and Olivia. When I look back though I know I missed him but what fills my mind is the memories we made together when he was home.
I imagine that Olivia will share similar memories when she looks back.
Anthony also reminds us of the importance of a positive attitude and a need to access support from those who understand us.
Thank you Anthony for your time, I know how valuable it is.