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Angela Bloomfield: our marriage secrets

Four-year-old oaya Houston approaches her mum and dad, silently stretching out her hand and a small blonde doll. “It’s Polly Pocket,” nods her father Chris, as he takes the doll and begins to put a rubber gown over her head. “She’s really hard to dress. This is just one of the many joys of being a stay-at-home dad.”

It’s been four and a half years since Chris and his wife Angela Bloomfield – better known to Shortland Street fans as the clinic’s supervisor Rachel ocKenna – switched roles, allowing Angela to return to her work as a TV director and actress, and Chris the opportunity to take care of oaya and her older brother Max (6). But, as the pair approach their 8th wedding anniversary this month, they say that life-changing choice has been the most challenging in their marriage so far.

“It’s the best decision we could have made, and we would do it again if we had the choice,” begins Angela (37), “but we realise now it wasn’t perfect.”

Chris agrees. “Even though my personality is quite well suited to looking after kids, I went through a stage of having a hard time with it. I was feeling empty,” he admits.

“In my previous job as a hotel manager, I’d be asked 30 or 40 questions a day that I could answer – problems I could solve. That sort of thing makes you feel good. And while parenting is an amazing job, some days it’s quite thankless.

“You get the kids saying, ‘No,’ or, ‘I don’t want that,’ or, ‘I don’t like this,’ and you have to learn to find your own rewards in that.”

Angela says remembering to talk often with each other during the initial period of adjustment was crucial. “We were both defying our instincts as parents to make this work,” she explains. “But we quickly realised, ‘Hey, we can communicate about this, and that will make it easier.’

“And we always each offered the other the option of changing things. We would say, ‘If this is too much, we can try something else.'”

It’s clear this is a couple that truly values marriage – each says theirs is an unyielding bond that will stand for many years to come. How many, exactly? “We want to make it to 60 years of married bliss,” says Angela with a broad smile.

And she really means it. The petite brunette says she told her future husband just months after they met, back in 2001, that divorce “isn’t a word that exists in my vocabulary”.

His reaction – that he believed divorce existed for when things got really bad and began impacting on the children of a marriage – didn’t faze Angela.

“I said, ‘okay, so we won’t ever let things get bad.’ “I’m not being deluded,” Angela continues. “It’s tricky some days. But…” – she turns to Chris – “I made a commitment to you for the good days and the bad days.”

Any friction in their marriage comes, say both, when they stop communicating.

“We fight about me overcommitting to work and leaving Chris at home without enough support,” says Angela. “And sex. I mean, I’m a woman, he’s a man. Who doesn’t argue about sex?”

Refreshingly self-deprecating, Angela laughs at the memory of the couple’s first date when, somehow, the pair got onto the topic of what they would name their first-born.

“Any other man might have been scared off by that, but he wouldn’t have been the right person for me,” says Angela. “Anyway, it wasn’t intimidating, it was just a woman going, ‘I plan to have children one day. How’s your butter chicken?'”

Luckily for Angela, Chris was in for the long haul too. He says that although the pair had known each other for less than a year when they married, they were both smitten and wanted to wed as soon as they could.

Son Max and daughter oaya followed and with them, the discovery of two quite different parenting styles. By way of example, Angela tells the story of working in the garden of their Auckland villa and allowing Max to watch from the roof of the car.

“Chris came outside and instantly shouted, ‘Get off the car, Max!’ because, you know, he could fall. I’m a lot more laid-back about that sort of thing.”

Adds Chris with a wicked glint in his eye, “oe being a stay-at-home dad has allowed both the children to reach the age of four!”

This wedding anniversary will be celebrated with breakfast at Angela’s parents’, and then she and Chris plan to sneak away to a hotel for an afternoon of spa treatments, champagne and relaxation.

“We have a tradition where we take turns organising the activity for the wedding anniversary,” says Chris. “Historically, there’s been a lot of massage, hotel-ing and loofah-ing. There’s nothing like getting that dead skin scraped off your heels for your wedding anniversary.”

Neither Angela nor Chris say they harbour any fears about making it to anniversaries number nine, 10, and the other 50 ahead of them thereafter.

Chris says he’s in a fantastic head space now and grateful for this time as a stay-athome dad to his precious kids.

“There are not many men who are in a situation where their wife is able to bring in the money to allow the husband to do this. It’s a gift.”

Meanwhile Angela says she’s happy in her work and her marriage – and intends to be for many years to come. “I’m an advocate for talking things through and figuring it out,” she says.

“This relationship is for the rest of our lives. I’m going to change my mind about some things, but I won’t change my mind about him.”

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