Fun Days and Holidays

This post was originally written a week ago, so the first paragraph probably doesn’t make much sense now…

Having told you all back in March that I’m blogging wrong, I then went on to not blog at all, which is probably as wrong as you can get if your aim is to actually blog. Unfortunately this was in the most part due to me coming down with some sort of mega cold which left me barely able to function (but without the fever and sleepless nights of flu, thank goodness for small mercies).

On the plus side, it got the lurgies out of the way just in time for the Easter school break, which whilst not normally significant (because we don’t celebrate Easter and I work full time) this year I’d actually remembered to take advantage of the Easter bank holidays and booked 4 days off work (equivalent to a full week with the BH) so that I could take the kids away.

I was meant to blog before we went away to tell you how terrified I was of the whole idea. Long journeys! An entire week with the kids and no break! No adult company apart from strangers! Potentially having to listen to “I miss my Dad” / “I want to go home” whines and not being able to do anything about it! A week without sex Gaz!

Anyway, to ease myself gentle into the whole “being a parent” thing (because I might have them for most of the week but they’re asleep or I’m at work for most of that), I accepted an invite to join various other bloggers and “VIPs” at the Sealife Centre in Birmingham on Saturday 28th March. I was supposed to be telling you all about their new exhibit, the Sea Stars, in time for the Easter holiday. Unfortunately that’s not quite gone to plan.

sealife-centre-birmingham (more…)

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The realities of being a lone parent

When I split up with Karl in May I joked to friends about the relief of no longer having to buy 5 packs of bourbon biscuits every week, not needing shares in a dairy company to buy the sheer amount of cheese he got through, etc etc. Har har, very funny. The realities of being a “lone parent” (single is clearly the wrong word in my case) extend further than that.

I’ve had to rapidly extend every frugal habit I’ve ever practised to every avenue of my life, which includes living off 4 slices of toast and a spoonful of peanut butter some nights just to make the food stretch further (and because I’m lazy).

I’ve had to actually talk to utility companies, which Karl used to do ‘for us’, and deal with the annoying levels of security each one in place. Severn Trent Water, for example, had absolutely no security in place and I was able to create and log in to an online account and change all the necessary details without any double checking on their part. PlusNet on the other hand wouldn’t speak to me or make any changes to the account, despite the username being “jemandkarl”, the payments for the Internet coming out in my name etc.

In fact, even now my Internet is still registered under Karl’s name, because when we finally managed to get through to the department we needed to speak to (after hours on hold and being passed back and forth) we were told that I couldn’t just switch the account to me without cancelling and recreating it, which would leave me without Internet for a week or more: not a workable solution for someone who requires the Internet to earn a second income.

And then there’s the monotony of the daily routine: school runs, tiredness tantrums, feeding and bathing two under 5s on my own. The constant stream of washing, cooking, tidying, reading bedtime stories and all the other mumsy shit that I have no choice but to get on with, because I can’t say “you do it tonight dear”.

No longer can I just nip out for a run because I need to clear my head, I have to schedule it around “daddy time”. No longer can I nip to the shop for evening snacks to comfort eat because I feel like crap. No longer can I go and grab some fish ‘n’ chips because I can’t be arsed to cook after a long working week.

And that reminds me? Working as a single parent. Ha. I don’t know why I bother. The second I get paid, my bank account is raided for childcare, mortgage and bills. There’s nothing like living off a single income and a series of mini life disasters to get you acquanted with your overdraft, that’s for sure. The only thing keeping me afloat at the minute is the fragments of self-employment income I bring in working a couple of evenings a week.

Of course it’s been just over 4 months now, and while that doesn’t sound like a lot written down it feels like a lifetime in terms of the scope of the changes that have happened to our lives. This lone parenting lark is bloody hard work… physically and emotionally.

Still. No regrets.

I feel like a fraud

I was reading Alice’s great post on the tiredness of a single mum yesterday and found myself nodding vigorously in agreement. Because I thought I knew tired when I had my first newborn; I thought I knew tired when we hit our first growth spurt; I thought I knew tired when I had a committed nursling on a nursing strike; I thought I knew tired when I had a second child who wouldn’t latch on lying down (preferring to scream allll night long) and no help during the nights – nobody to keep me upright and stop me falling over and crushing my baby.

I thought I knew tired.

But then I split from Karl and it was just me & two kids who’s little world had been rocked by suddenly losing a parent at night. Tired was working an 8 hour day, coming home, feeding the kids & doing another hellish bedtime, cleaning out 11 animals, working freelance til midnight, getting in to bed just in time for one or both kids to wake up and want to join me, finally drifting off at 1am and getting woken half an hour later with a foot in my crotch or an elbow in my face, being woken at 5:30 because it was light out and not being able to get me or the kids back to sleep. Tired is doing this night after night after night. Tired is doing all that and still having to clean the house, cook the meals, buy the groceries, pay the bills, etc.

And I get sympathy, and reassurance from other single mums, and they tell me it’ll get better. And it has… it has because I’ve knocked back my working in the evenings, starting going to bed earlier when I can, the kids are sleeping better (sometimes) and they even manage to stay in their own beds til 5:30 some nights.

But I feel like I don’t deserve the sympathy, and the reassurance. I know that there are mums out there doing this with their child(ren) night after night and they don’t have the luxury of an ex-partner who takes the kids away for a couple of nights a week. I know of mums with multiple children and no support, and no work to escape to in the day for a break or grandparents to drop the kids off with when things get really bad. I know of mums who go days between seeing another adult, who strike the postie up in conversation because they’re the only person likely to visit that day.

I have support, I have nights off, I have friends and family who’ve got my back. I have a supportive boss who can give me flexible time if I need it, who doesn’t blink when I am 10 minutes late to work because it took an hour to get one of my kids dressed and into nursery. I even have, by some miracle, found someone who accepts that I have to do all of this, that I have 2 children, that I have issues and ‘history’ and an emotional rollercoaster to ride while I mentally process the end of a lengthy relationship… and yet who still wants to be with me in what little free time I have anyway :)

So yeah, I might be a ‘single mum’ in the loosest definition of the word — that is, I’m raising 2 children in a single parent household — but I don’t feel like I deserve the nod of recognition & sympathy in aisles of Tesco, the ‘follow’ on twitter from a fellow single mum, the virtual pat on the back from a friend on Facebook messenger for doing another shitty bedtime. I don’t feel like a “single mum”, I just feel like a fraud.

I have no idea what I’m doing

I have felt pretty good for the past week or so. I ended my 12 year relationship – it was the right thing to do. I started to take control of my finances and things – an annoying necessity. I started to plan how I would move forward – so everything is set in concrete detail in my head. I have been reaching out to old friends and making new ones – I need some people in my life.

And now all of a sudden I’ve hit a wall. A really tall brick wall which I have no choice but to climb over, because it doesn’t matter how far I walk alongside this wall, it does not end. And it’s hard to feel pretty good when you have a wall to climb.

I can feel my grip slipping. I can feel the control I’ve established this week or so weakening. I have no idea what I’m doing, and the uncertainty is killing me.

I’m not allowed to feel

It’s only been 3 days and apparently the role of a single person — single parent — is to have one’s feelings dictated: I’m not allowed to feel what I want to feel.

Oh you must be so sad

I know you’re just hanging on for the kids

Don’t worry, you’ll get back together when you’ve had a little break

& so on…

And I’m not sad, and I’m not ‘just’ hanging on for the kids, and I’m not planning on getting back together with Karl, and yet this gets the look. The raised eyebrow. The “there there dear” pat on the shoulder.

I am angry. I am lost in a world where the ‘me’ that everyone knows is defined by my relationship and my past. I am feeling exposed and vulnerable because everything that gives me comfort and keeps me secure is flailing in the wind.

But I am not fucking sad.

I am a single mum

I am a single mum.

I am a single mum.

I am a single mum.

If I say it enough times, the reality might sink in.

Karl and I split on Monday. I have to admit it seems pretty radical to make my May ‘me’ thing the end of our 12+ year relationship (I was just thinking about learning to swim) but there we go.

I’m currently in the position of having to majorly overhaul our routine, finances, domestic crap so may not blog regularly for a while. Bear with me, folks!