Best and worst

When you take the decision to break up with someone – the father or your children in particular – you know its not all going to be plain sailing, but you also know that, in some very important ways, life is going to improve – it has to be that way, otherwise breaking up would be unthinkable.

Lately I have found these things really tough:

– Having to live so far from our own home and driving an average of 400 miles a week to get the kids to school and me to work. I spend an average of four hours a day travelling and the kids spend an average of 2 hours a day in the car. I’m spending around £160 a month on petrol.

– Juggling work and childcare with a co-parent who just isn’t willing to take some of the slack. Yes he’s a shift worker and that is generally the biggest excuse, but he’s also told me in no uncertain terms that he will not do anything to ease my life or make things any more convenient for me. He is blind to the needs and routines of the children, and sometimes makes me question myself – am I using the ‘children’s needs’ as a way to try and score some ‘free childcare’?

– My worries over how I’m going to cope in September when my youngest starts school. I have already taken two weeks off work in the summer holidays when our childminders are away on holiday. Now I realise that my little man will be starting school part time, spending just 2 hours 40 minutes a day at school for the first week. In theory that is great and I wish I was in the position to let him continue part time for as long as necessary (he’s a late July baby so one of the littlest).

Unfortunately my annual leave is finite and it just so happens that my parents are going off for the holiday of a lifetime in Canada two days before school starts for two weeks. I think I will have little choice but to take another week off work and just try and put any spare cash (pah!) aside in preparation for the day when I start having to ask for unpaid dependents leave.

– Feeling a bit down about the lack of a holiday: my six year old has started talking about going away and I just don’t know what to tell him right now.

– Worries about my three year old’s current defiance and general naughty behaviour. I know all three year olds go through this to some extent but under these difficult and confusing circumstances it is easy to question the triggers and how all this might be affecting him.

Lately, these things have made me feel happy about where we are at:

– Every now and then I get a flash realisation along the lines: ooh – now I’m solo parenting, from this point onwards it’s ‘my house, my rules’ – there is no one there to undermine me on decisions about what food we have in the house, how money is allocated, how my home is decorated or what I choose to do in my spare time. No more compromising; no more negotiating.

– Leading on from that thought is the idea that I might be able to tackle some of my children’s picky eating habits through having the ability to maintain a consistent approach (obviously not when they’re with their father but that seems to be ‘very little’ right now – he hasn’t had them overnight for three weeks at the time of writing and won’t have them overnight for at least another week and a half now due to his work).

I’m generally a very healthy eater with a wide-ranging palate compared to their dad who is terribly fussy about food and eats a lot of rubbish. Modelling healthy eating to the boys will hopefully set good habits and choices for life.

– Despite the fact that I have just had to cancel and re-book our Mediation appointment for the second time due to his work which is incredibly frustrating, I’m looking forward to finally getting into that meeting room and laying out the bare facts of the situation for him to defend in front of a professional Mediator.

The first goal is to get back to our home town – preferably our own home, at least until the practicalities of separation and divorce are finalised. If he is unwilling to move out and let that happen then we will have to let the court decide – either way I will know where I stand.

– Slightly off topic, but I recently had a change of line manager at work. My previous manager has made life a bit miserable for the last three years (and not just for me). He is a lazy person himself, constantly away from his desk, long toilet trips, off on last minute flexi-time, etc., whilst also being a massive jobs-worth – going out of his way to block annual leave requests, refusing to respond to emails, taking issue with the most minor of dress code violations, you get the idea.

Now I finally have a lovely young lady taking his place as my supervisor who is like cheese to his chalk and I couldn’t be happier! At least one problem male is out of my life!

– My blog life stalled massively when I first split up with the husband two months ago. It hadn’t been too great in previous months either due to his general dislike and mistrust of the world of blogging in general.

I was struck down with a debilitating case of writer’s block – the only things I wanted to say were unfit for publication (hence starting this anon blog!) but gradually as the week’s have gone by I am finding ideas just naturally coming to me again. My headspace is finally starting to be my own (albeit that I generally only get about two hours to myself in the evenings once both kids are tucked up in bed).

–  Lastly, I’m feeling grateful that I had the courage to leave and managed to do so at the best possible time – we have (literally) had some dark days as winter tapered off but now spring is kicking in, daylight, a bit of warmth (on occasion – this is England after all) and seasonal attractions opening up (including the worlds of Merlin of which the kids and I are now members – eek!) all mean that we have plenty to keep us busy and distracted despite all of this upheaval.

Broken

Will my children be broken? Will coming from a ‘broken’ home define them? There are so many things you could think and worry about as a parent beginning with how you feed them (if Jamie Oliver’s recent comments in the UK media are anything to go by I have already doomed my youngest son to a life of poor health and low grade educational attainment by choosing to bottle feed him as a baby) and on to your child’s age as they enter primary school. But the biggie, the one that is apparently singled out by some child psychology courses as one of the most significant indicators of, essentially, future failure, is divorce.

For my personality disordered husband this ‘fact’, gleaned no doubt from the media or maybe a paragraph he read in a psychology textbook twenty years ago, is what it’s all about.

The day I told him I had made my mind up to pursue a divorce the very first thing he said to me was that if I went ahead and made this decision then our children’s lives would be ‘ruined’. He made this statement not only to me, but also to our six year old son: “Mummy is going to ruin your life”. He told me that all the statistics point to children of ‘broken’ homes failing at school, dropping out, taking drugs, turning to a life of crime. When I pointed out that his own 11 year old daughter (of a former ‘broken’ home from his previous divorce) was doing exceptionally well at school he brushed that off putting it down to the support she has been given by his parents.

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t extended family support one of the counter-acting factors in the outcome for any child whose parents go through a break up? And if so was he saying that his parents won’t be willing to support our children in the same way that they supported their grand-daughter?

In fact, if you read further into the literature on this subject (and indeed use your own common sense) support from extended family and friends is just one of the ways in which negative outcomes can be counter-acted. Other factors include: financial, class and background – even children who may have to make do with less in the way of holidays presents and treats are still going to be clothed, fed and loved the same.

Obviously moving to a ‘rough’ neighbourhood , could have an impact but I don’t believe that is a given for the majority of divorcing couples, particularly those who have enjoyed a, for want of a better expression, ‘middle class’ lifestyle up to that point.

Yesterday I read an interview with the eponymous Will.i.am which uncovered the fact that his single mum raised him in one of the roughest neighbourhoods of East LA, but she ensured that he spent as little time as possible under the influence of his local peers, bussing him to a school two hours away from home in order to get him a better education.
That is really inspirational and shows the power we have as parents – single or otherwise -to influence our children’s future prospects whatever the challenges along the way.

It makes me angry that my husband seems willing to just give up on his children and put that on me -his actions have had consequences, and his inaction could do the same or worse.

This leads me on to the relationship between the separated parents, surely one of the key factors to be considered when it comes to the emotional stability of the kids involved. Unfortunately I can only do so much -this isn’t an amicable break up and whilst I can ensure that I never say negative things about him or constantly reference the negative impact his actions might be having on me there is little I can do to change or influence the way he behaves or the things he says in their presence.

Take for example the way in which my three year old apparently contentedly playing the other day, suddenly looked up from what he was doing to say “it’s a nightmare for Daddy” before returning once more to his activity. I can only hope that time will reduce my husband’s need to constantly reference the situation and his own opinion of it in front of the children. It can’t be any worse for them than living in a situation where their parents can be heard shouting angrily late at night, doors slammed and even objects thrown and broken in anger by their father.

I admit I’m an optimist – I can only think positive thoughts for the future right now and if you look at the roll call of successful people who were raised by single parents they include the likes of Barack Obama, Jodie Foster, Steven King and Maya Angelou – all people who I have an enormous amount of respect for.

In conclusion, I would argue that a broken relationship does not necessarily spell a broken ‘home’ or a broken life for that matter. We have the ability to empower our children, provide them with stability, support and surround them with love and that’s about as in tact as it gets.

Picture credit: The Forgotten by Shaun Lowe

Linking this post to this week’s Prompt (‘Broken’) from Sara at Mum turned Mom.

 

mumturnedmom

Did blogging ruin my marriage?

When I first started blogging I came across other blogs I enjoyed by various means. I discovered a number of other people going through similar (and sometimes not so similar) experiences of parenthood to me. Not far into the journey I stumbled across a blog called ‘Be Brave and Look Up’. The writer, Ava as she was then, was a recent divorcée with boys of around 10 and 12 years old. I became a bit obsessed with her story and her irreverent, self-deprecating writing style and the subject matter itself was of utmost fascination and interest to me (this was back in 2013).

Her situation was obviously quite different to mine but she was (is) the same age as me and had made the decision to leave a stagnant relationship with a man she no longer loved.

There were a couple of very memorable posts, one about how she learned to fly and gained her pilot’s licence (like a kind of very cool midlife crisis) and another entitled: ‘Zumba ruined my marriage’.

From memory, the point Ava made about zumba was that it was a personal hobby that took her out of the home, got her active which in turn made her feel more alive. As soon as she returned home the adrenaline, the fun, the buzz was utterly squashed by the bad karma and general negativity surrounding her home life at that time. And that’s how, as she described it, the rot set in.

Zumba didn’t have that effect on my marriage. In fact, it probably had the opposite effect. I went to a class once a week with a good friend for several months when my eldest son turned two and then found out I was pregnant again and had to give it up. Things were OK back then – they must have been otherwise I wouldn’t have dreamed of trying for a sibling for our son.

No, zumba did not ruin my marriage, But what about blogging?

My ex is a shift worker which has proved a bit of a nightmare at times. When you’re a parent and you find yourself essentially single parenting several nights each week (but not always the same ones) you very quickly realise that there will be no regular engagements.
No book groups, no exercise classes, no clubs or evening classes. Not much of a social or creative life at all. That’s where blogging came in.

When I first started it wasn’t meant to be a way of meeting others, it wasn’t a substitute for a social life, but what you discover fairly quickly about blogging is that it really is a social endeavour. No one really starts up a public facing blog thinking that they will do so in complete and splendid isolation. There is actually a community. People are friendly, supportive and interested and there is such a thing as a blogging conference -a place where you can meet other bloggers – people who ‘get’ you and with whom the ice has very much already been broken.

I very quickly began writing and posting and joining in with other people’s blog hops several times a week. A lot of time was spent reading and commenting on other people’s posts. The subject matter covered everything from family days out to birthday party planning, reminiscing about childhood holidays to my thoughts on humanism and feminism. I took on photo challenges and even wrote the odd poem. It was liberating, It reminded me that I was a writer once – someone with a creative drive. And it opened me up to a whole world of parenting and family experiences around the UK and US which I both identified with and which in some cases, very much highlighted this increasingly evident lack in my life.

My husband himself was vaguely aware of what I was doing to begin with but he is not a techie person by any stretch of the imagination and he still to this day does not understand either the point of blogging or the wide array of social media and networks that bloggers tend to tap into over the course of time in order to gain an audience, increase their ‘reach’, appeal to paying sponsors, up their stats – all that jazz.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I believe he suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder which means that he is someone who can take offence at the slightest unintended thing. Sometimes he went looking for signs of ‘disrespect’. Sometimes he got the heads up for a newly published post by following my blog page on Facebook and something in it triggered him off. One time he came into my room in the middle of the night and angrily woke me up ranting about how I’d ‘secretly’ got myself a Twitter account, ‘secretly’ joined Instagram, ‘suspiciously’ downloaded Skype, ‘sneakily’ set up a WhatsApp account. To me, all of these things were completely innocent – just me joining in with the online world of the 21st century.

Another time he again, angrily awoke me from a deep sleep sending my heart racing and my blood pumping – the fight or flight instinct kicks in as a figure looms over you growling and your breathing comes in shallow gulps. This time he had ‘uncovered’ a post I wrote six months before, referencing a phase of bad behaviour our six year old was going through. He made me feel like I had slandered our child, airing dirty laundry in public to his huge detriment. He demanded that I delete the post in question. I said I would. He went away and I lay there wide awake, fists clenched, thoughts racing. Ten minutes later he came up and demanded to know if I’d deleted the post yet.

I began hinting that all was not just peachy in paradise in the comments I left on the blogs of people I’d come to think of as friends and in turn they left supportive comments for me which my husband read on at least one occasion. He would phone me as I was walking the supermarket aisles grocery shopping, yelling down the phone, demanding to know who this person was who had left this or that comment, and just what they meant by it.

Things came to a head the day I met up with two female blogging friends for a summer’s picnic in London with all our kids during the school summer holidays. I’d deliberately ensured that it was a week day when he was working so that he wouldn’t be able to say that I’d prioritised time with other people over him. We had to travel a fair distance to get to our destination and we came via my parents house where I ditched the car and we began our train journey into the city.

We left for home around 3pm. We arrived at my parents house around 4.30pm where I had planned to give the kids a light tea before heading home by car. He phoned up so angry then because he was home from work and (despite never normally having any real interest in parenting at that point, preferring to go for a long run or gym session) accused me of keeping his children from him. I knew it wasn’t about the children, it was about the people I had been with – two perfectly lovely ladies who he had never met and knew nothing about. The mere fact that I had met them online (through blogging) was like some kind of unspeakable betrayal to him (which is ironic considering the fact that I met him through internet dating!).

During our actual break up and previous non-break ups he used the expression ‘your blog will kill our marriage’.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not the whole story, the rot for us set in long before I started the blog (let’s just say being ranted at when you are nine centimetres dilated, in hospital in full active labour wasn’t exactly the supportive hand holding one would expect from their loved one at such a moment) but it was the beginning of me putting myself out in the world as an independent person (not an unattached person) and that’s what the controlling, abusive part of him couldn’t handle.

So no, blogging didn’t ‘ruin’ my marriage, but maybe it did signify the beginning of the end.