Hopefully, Natalie Joyce wasn’t home last night.
The local Chinese restaurant with your four daughters and a bottle of something fizzy sounds like the right place to be when your husband is on national television with his new girlfriend and their new baby, a bubble bath and a whole lot of excuses.
But she probably wasn’t out on the town, because today, Natalie Joyce had to get up and go to work. Unlike her estranged husband, who has taken three months leave from his job to deal with the stress of being paid $150,000 for a few hours’ work last week, Natalie has gone back to full-time work as a primary school teacher, according to a piece by the immaculately-sourced Sharri Markson in today’s Daily Telegraph.
Natalie specialises in teaching children with special needs. She has worked with indigenous kids with learning difficulties, Markson’s story explains. It’s what she does. Who she is.
It’s hard to imagine a starker contrast between this long-married, not-quite-divorced couple. Natalie Joyce, quietly picking up extra work in the job she pulled back on while she was raising her girls, and Barnaby, speckling the TV screen with blame-filled bile aimed at his colleagues, the media, anyone but himself.
Natalie Joyce, who has so far turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars of media money to tell her “side of the story”, and Barnaby, who cheerily told reporters that it was his new missis, Vicki Campion, who really wanted the $150,000 Seven were offering for Sunday Night.
Natalie Joyce, who’s making children’s lives better, and Barnaby, who admits he knew he was going to lose his job when his infidelity was exposed, but convinced thousands of his townsfolk to vote for him anyway.
Natalie Joyce, whose first priority is shielding her daughters from any more public embarrassment, and Barnaby, who last night said that when he looks his brand-new baby, cute as a puppy and a picture of innocence, he thinks ‘You caused a whole lot of problems!’.
The wronged wife. And the coward.
Of course, the world is more complicated than that. Marriage breakdowns brew slowly, explode messily and are notoriously difficult to navigate with dignity. However tempting the narrative might be, there are no such certainties as goodies and baddies.
But what Natalie Joyce is doing – getting on with things, circling the wagons around her girls, making plans for how they’re going to rebuild their lives – that’s what women do.
It’s a familiar story – the cheating partner won’t choose until there’s a gun, or a pregnancy test, held to their temple. Then they finally jump with all the convictions that this time, it will be different.
Whatever issues caused their relationship to disintegrate – hard work and long distance in this instance, Barnaby insists – won’t be replicated in this new family. They’ll take the leave, change their work lives, move cities. They’ll work harder to keep the flame of attraction flickering away. They’ll be more present, involved dads. This is a second chance at unmaking mistakes. This new, shiny love, forged in the seductive flame of secrecy, will be the Real Deal.
It’s an optimistic view. And one that the person left behind can’t see. Because all they’ve got in front of them is a mighty mess to clean up. Bills to pay, jobs to get, children to guide through the debris.
Natalie Joyce might change her mind and speak publicly. No-one would blame her if she did.
But for now, she is the picture of class in a mucky, mucky mess. A mother, going back to work, taking care of her family, leaning on the people who love her.
And turning off the television.
Do you think Natalie Joyce should tell her story?