Tales of a “Take Back Control” Freak

I am so sick of hearing my husband accuse me of being controlling. I realise it’s nothing new – controlling people, or just people with negative traits in general, love to reflect their own flaws onto other people.

I woke up this morning feeling so angry and upset. It was six o’clock in the morning and my children remained fast asleep for once. We returned from a short holiday yesterday and they ended up sleeping til 9am, but I was wide awake and stressed hours before that.

I cried some bitter tears. I was feeling so anxious about the house move later this week – not the move itself you understand, although it is a finely tuned operation which involves picking up a hire van, liaising with my parents, dropping the kids at the in-laws for the husband to collect later after sleeping off his night shift, doing a huge furniture shop at the nearest IKEA (a 45 minute drive away), liaising with a friend at the old house at 3pm with the van to go into the Lion’s Den and pick up my big bits of furniture and then putting together as much flat pack and unpacking as much stuff as possible.

That’s all happening, it’s all arranged and sorted. What hasn’t been arranged and sorted up to this point is me getting any kind of resolution – even getting to the point where I have been ready to re-engage my solicitor – actually file for divorce.

What hasn’t been arranged is any kind of child maintenance payments from the husband. I’ve let him get away with it because I’ve been living inside the protective bubble of my parents’ home and generosity. Now, six and a half months down the line, I’m going back into the real world and it’s an expensive place.

I work 18.5 hours a week which allows me to be there for the children before school every day and after school three days a week, I get working tax credits from the government to top this up a bit and it’s definitely a generous amount, particularly based on my circumstances of having two children of primary school age both under my care. However it is not enough to pay for rent (that payment alone is about £90 short of my entire monthly salary), food, groceries, gas/electricity, water, council tax, phone costs and broadband, clothes and activities for the children, contents insurance, petrol, 2 days a week after school childcare, car maintenance and insurance, and all the other sundries that life entails.

The £450 a month I have asked from the husband for child maintenance is a tiny portion of my outgoings but I have come to realise that I simply cannot be the sole financial (never mind physical, mental and emotional) support for our children without it. However he has only talked to me about it up to now in the vaguest of ways with no mention of a start date, so after my blip this morning I texted him and told him that if he didn’t give me a workable date for mediation today then I would be contacting the Child Maintenance Service and my solicitor tomorrow and forget about mediation.

He then, of course, told me that I was being controlling and imposing ‘arbitrary’ deadlines and ‘threatening’ him which he wouldn’t stand for. He also told me that I ‘need to learn how to talk to people respectfully’. I stood my ground but then realised that even if he gave me a date for mediation it may be weeks away and he has previous for cancelling these dates at the last moment. It is also no guarantee of him agreeing to begin paying me any money.

I then told him that I need him to begin paying me child maintenance this Thursday (1st September – my official moving date – the date when I owe my landlady £2250 for rent and deposit) – and that this would be the date I contacted CMS and got them to pursue him if he refused to co-operate.

He told me ‘not until we’ve spoken to [the mediator]’. I re-iterated my Thursday deadline and he never responded. But here’s the thing – I will contact the CMS on Thursday – I’m no longer afraid to rock the boat because I’ve come to realise that direct action is the only language some people understand and make one too many idle bluffs and you might as well lie down and get the word ‘WELCOME’ tattooed on your back.

This is me taking back control.


Home move: an update

So last week I was planning to go into the old house and pick up my bigger pieces of furniture but unfortunately the man with a van fell through so myself and one of my female friends went in anyway and started packing up boxes of the smaller stuff. All the while we were there the husband was watching our every move like a hawk. He followed us from room to room and at one point refused to let me take two £10 cushions which I had bought specifically to tie in with the colour scheme in my bedroom.

It was quite stressful and unpleasant. It was also a boiling hot day and it was hot sweaty work hauling these heavy boxes down the steep front steps of our house and out to our cars and he sat on the steps watching us struggle down never lifting a finger to help (he had been quite clear that he would just watch and not help in any way).

He acted tearful when I took a couple of framed pictures as if I was taking the children from him all over again. Him, the wounded party.

We were there for about 1 hour ten minutes and he moaned that this was taking ‘forever’. We then took the stuff to the ‘new’ house and I got my first proper look around (but not before we managed to set the alarm off and alert the whole street to our presence – great start!!).

I knew what the house was like in part – it’s my friend’s house so I have seen downstairs and the bathroom several times before, but my friend is not one of those house-proud people who keeps a tight ship – she is a bit of a hoarder and there was always clutter everywhere – you couldn’t see the floor or the walls for ‘stuff’. For that reason I just assumed that it would be different once her stuff was out.

Now I’ve seen the place more or less empty I realise that it really smells of dog (she used to have one) and it is really quite dingy and depressing with little natural light and tired old curtains and dodgy paintwork. She still had a lot of cleaning to do when I saw it on Wednesday although she was off on holiday on Saturday and has a two month old baby and her 5 and 7 year old girls to look after while her partner is at work during the week days, so I wonder just how good the clean-up job is going to be. Considering she is asking for £1350 deposit and £900 rent up front I will be even more upset if it feels a bit dirty as well as smelly.

My dreams of putting my own touch on the place with carefully chosen furniture and accessories seems a bit laughable now but I guess I need to focus on the fact that it is only temporary (I had the sense to ask her for as short an initial tenancy as I could in 6 months).

I am also feeling massively frustrated that despite the Mediator having emailed us now with his ‘Financial Summary’ (it seems that my ex has assets worth seven times the amount of my own) the husband is still dragging his feet providing a date for our next session and I’m still not getting any money from him for the children.

It seems as though the voices are getting louder and louder telling me to forget about Mediation and get my solicitor involved again but I feel like I just need to give him one more chance to make a reasonable representation. He has, in theory, agreed on a figure for child maintenance and the amount he is willing to pay me to buy me out of the house, whilst not a 50% share, is close enough. I just need him to actually make this happen now because September feels like make or break for mediation and a resolution – if not then I go to the Child Maintenance Service and let them handle it (something people are screaming at me to do already!).

It feels as though I am kind of losing it a bit right now. The kids, whilst lovely some of the time, are wont to play up a fair bit and be rude and disrespectful at times. I don’t know if I can afford life outside of my parents home and security but it’s happening now and I need to be back near the children’s school because you cannot underestimate the negative impact of regular long commutes.

If I want to date again I can’t do that from my parents home – I need to be independent of them. But I am feeling less strong and less in control by the second. I just don’t know if I can cope with all the demands and all the responsibility but I’ve got no choice. I’m never, ever going back to that dysfunctional relationship and I can’t stay where I am.




A home of one’s own

As I mentioned recently, myself and the boys are about to move out of my parents’ place after six months and into the first home of our own in this brave new world post-separation.

It’s only a rental property and our initial contract is only six months, plus it is what is available and convenient right now as opposed to a home I have hunted for and lusted after, however I am beginning to get just a little bit excited.

At some point in my blogging journey I began to really find myself immersed in the blogs of other women who are really into their home décor. Then I began to buy ‘home style’ type magazines. Then I began to pick up decorative objects which I never would have been interested in before and spend hours browsing the likes of Home Sense and the homewares section of Next.

I went as far as creating small spaces which could be defined as mine and mine alone and styling them to suit my own taste within our family home. But that was the extent of my endeavours and I put to bed the dream of true interior experimentation and design.

Until now. I know it’s not exactly Jasper Conran but I visited IKEA at the weekend with a friend and began to take note of all the little bits and pieces that winked at me across the crowded room zones. I mentioned to my friend that it felt so different to be there as a single woman – no partner to compromise with, no one to negotiate with over the POANG or the KALLAX.

I didn’t end up buying too much, just some smaller items like bath mats and toothbrush holders but I’m thankful that I haven’t rushed into anything because I really want to create a home that I can love – every room, every little space – and that takes a bit of time and thought and planning.

I own a couple of expensive items of furniture which I will be picking up from the old house soon. At least that is the intention – the husband has told me he will pretty much wrangle over everything – even these items which I bought myself before I even knew him and paid for with my own money because, ‘marital assets’.

Anyway, these things (a sofa-bed, a dining table and chairs) were things I bought long before I developed a taste for interior design and consequently, my former decisions were made with very simple requirements in mind: that the sofa match the rug; that the table be plain and practical and un-remarkable; and that the chairs match the table.

I wouldn’t choose a dark red sofa now but it’s what I’ve got to work with so I’m looking for ways to pimp up these everyday items and mix them in with much more edgy looking pieces in order to express my own style.

Goodness knows I am a complete novice but I’m not afraid to choose a bold style – something which I never could have done when I was with the husband because I know he would have thought I’d gone mad and completely vetoed the whole thing.

There is also the gift of having an (almost) completely clean slate with which to start. I’ve never been one for tackling huge projects – I’d never buy a ‘doer-upper’ home for example because I just don’t have the patience and I would be depressed and de-moralised moving into a complete hovel.

However I am at a point where I really want to grab the opportunity I’ve been afforded and I’m having so much fun browsing Pinterest for ideas and getting back into this fascination. The fact that I now have the ability to do more than just window shop and daydream makes the whole thing doubly exciting.

Obviously I have major limitations: a rental property which probably means I can’t drill holes so no shelves or pictures on the walls; a very small budget meaning that I can’t afford to splash out on designer items. This does however provide me with a cool challenge to scout the charity shops and find ways to mix, match and upcycle.

I wish I could share this post on my other blog – the one with followers and friends and at least a bit of a profile – but the last thing I want right now is my ex to have a window into anything I might be thinking or feeling or planning or dreaming about. So you, my lovely SMUC followers – all two of you 😉 will be my sounding board for the time being.


Moving out and moving on

So the time has finally come. In two weeks time the boys and I are moving out of my parents house and into a 2 bed rental back in our home town after six months. It feels like I am about to go through a break-up all over again, only this time the partner I am leaving (in essence, my Mum) is a caring, considerate, wonderful human being who has given me endless help, encouragement, breaks, done my cooking and washing, helped me with the kids’ story time and bath time and entertaining two very demanding little boys. She’s provided ad hoc childcare and helped me out financially (well, Dad too to be fair to him).

The children have been happy and well-balanced and provided with the stability of a family unit(ed). The adults have outnumbered the children.

I have had no money worries while I have lived with my parents and that is one of the most concerning parts about moving out to be independent. Once all the necessities are covered on a limited budget will there be anything left over to actually enjoy life with? I’ve become very accustomed to being able to just pop out and pick up little luxuries, take the kids to paid attractions over the summer, treat them to ice creams at the park, days out – we’ve had a pretty good summer all round.

I spoke to the husband to let him know we were moving in on our own and he was very aggressive with me. He realises that he can no longer shirk all his financial responsibilities and assume that I will be supported by my parents instead of him. I told him that I won’t be able to contribute to our mortgage and other household bills any more (which I have continued to pay for the past six months despite not living there any more). I also told him that he would need to start paying me some child maintenance (he hasn’t given me a penny towards them since February).

I commented on the situation on Facebook and had a stream of supportive responses although it was a bit overwhelming to read some very passionately argued pieces of advice that simply aren’t quite right for my situation as it stands right now. I would love to live near my family (as many have suggested) but this is one of the most expensive boroughs of London and I simply can’t afford it. Plus I think it is highly unlikely that the over-subscribed local schools would be able to find a place for my two.

I don’t want my husband to allow me and the children to live in the old house now – I want as much of a clean break as possible and a fresh start.

I’m not ready to go to the Child Maintenance Service to pursue him and his contribution on my behalf – I’ve been waiting since the beginning of May to get him pinned down to a second appointment at Mediation – the one where we get serious about financial settlements and agreements – and I want to give him that one last chance to make a reasonable arrangement with me without the involvement of an outside agency.

Because the thing is, he’s not a waster or a slacker – he’s got a responsible job within the community. He’s never missed a single maintenance payment to his ex for their daughter (to my knowledge) in the 11 years that they’ve been apart.

And I think he knows now. I think this move is going to be more than physical – it is a metaphorical move forwards too because he knows his children are now financially vulnerable – outside of the cocoon of extended family support – I’m about to leap headlong into the reality of single motherhood, without a crashmat.


The things men get wrong on Match.com

(And probably women too but I wouldn’t know…)

OK, firstly, let me just say that I’m not actually back on Match.com – well, not really – that would make me the biggest flake out there wouldn’t it, after posting all the reasons I’ll never go back to internet dating…

It turns out you can create kind of a skeleton profile which allows you to do actual searches on eligible men (or presumably women) in your vicinity. So, yeah, I’m just kind of window shopping right now. It is a little bit addictive though and I can see myself forking out, at some point, for what it’s worth.

Because, let’s face it, what really are my options? Yes in an ideal world I would join some kind of cool club which I would attend regularly and it would allow me to get to know a bunch of people – male and female – and I would make some male friends and (presuming they were single) maybe one of those friendships would evolve into something more.

Back here in the real world – I’m a single mum with small children – I will not be attending any cool clubs on a regular basis. At least not for the next 15 years.

People don’t meet eligible singles whilst browsing melons and bananas in the supermarket or when their eyes meet in the queue for a Costa latte. That stuff is just for the movies because, let’s face it, unless it becomes socially acceptable to go round wearing a sign saying “single and looking” and then maybe a little ‘winky’ eye pointer to hold up to indicate that the “single and looking” you are looking at is actually your type, there is just no way of either knowing anyone else’s status or gleaning whether or not you are their cup of tea.

It’s even less likely to happen when you have two munchkins under the age of 7 in tow – what are the odds that strangers will assume you are happily partnered up?

So yeah, all that to say, internet dating or bust right?

Back to Match.com then. Of course other dating sites and apps are available but Match was the one I was on ten years ago and it’s interesting to see how it’s changed and evolved. Winking is still a thing, but now there are all sorts of quizzes and enhanced extras plus dating ‘events’ being organised all over the country by all accounts.

When you’ve spent a bit of time out in the world assuming that you are probably the only singleton within a 25 mile radius and scratching your head wondering how, in a population the size of South East England, it could be so difficult to hook up with someone who fulfils your criteria, suddenly being confronted by a whole swathe of eligible men all fully searchable and scrollable is comforting.

But, goodness, men of Match.com – what were a tonne of you thinking when you chose your profile photo?? I appreciate that not everyone is pretty and there’s not much you can do about that (bar posting a blurry photo taken from two hundred yards away) but seriously I’ve seen better mug-shots. Being too close to the camera – looming above the camera (thereby leaving the viewer with a distinct sense of vertigo), refusing to crack a smile, posing in contrived ways, showing off the guns (you are clearly obsessed with pumping weights at the gym) – I have to say the words that came into my head were ‘scary’ and ‘keep your distance’!

Then there are the sales pitches. To be fair, I think of myself as a writer so I’m quite the picky madam. Anything with poor grammar and spelling – is a turn off. Any pitch which involves the sentence “I like to go for long walks, hold hands and finish of the day cuddled up on the sofa with a glass of wine” is being, in my opinion, lazy and clichéd. Anyone who can only churn out one or two sentences gives the impression that they aren’t really all that bothered about the whole thing or they have no imagination or creativity within their soul.

Then there are the men who have a good old stab at an ‘entertaining’ pitch by going down the analogy route. So far I’ve had the pleasure of a full on motoring analogy (Ladeez – if I were a second hand car and you were the buyer…) and some good old sporting metaphors. And fair play to those guys, at least they were giving the self-marketing thing a bash, however cringe-worthy.

The names people have chosen for themselves can also be an instant turn off – but I guess they serve their purpose – Golflover365 – er. no thanks.

Yes I predict a lot of bad dates out there…

Knowing what you want after separation

Before I met my husband I had a period of 18 months being single. That was when I was 33/34. It was my longest period of being single since the age of 22 (although between 22 & 33 I had 3 ‘long term’ relationships including a marriage).

In that 18 months I started my Masters degree, I went on an extended holiday to Australia alone where I did a parachute jump, white water rafting, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, made new friends – basically the holiday of a lifetime – the kind you can only really do when you have no ties and no real responsibilities except to yourself.

But then I began to have ‘the fear’ – or at any rate ‘the fear’ was always there in the background – the fear of being alone in the world – that my friends and family could only fulfil part of what I needed, what I was craving.

I liken it now to having a biological clock ticking although my desire for a relationship – even at 33/34 was not about wanting to become a mother. OK sure that notion was there tucked safely in the mental equivalent of the cupboard under the stairs to be retrieved at a later date, but that wasn’t what I really needed at that point in time.

Sure enough six months of internet dating later I had hooked up with my husband and I was genuinely contented for the first few years before we had children and his controlling nature and personality disorder really kicked up a gear. I found myself grieving for what could have been every time I switched on Facebook to another carefree status update boasting “Happy Anniversary to the best husband and father a woman could ever hope for”.

So now I’m single again after ten years. And it’s been nearly six months. And I find myself having the same thoughts and feelings that got me into this situation in the first place.

I look at my single friends – the perennial singles – the girls who have their own homes and their own lives and seem happy to be un-encumbered by men and kids. I wonder why I can’t be more like them – it seems so appealing: to answer to no-one; to live life with spontaneity; eat what you want when you want; do what you want with your free time without having to oblige anyone else’s demands or needs or desires.

Singletons can, on the spur of the moment, decide to book a holiday (money allowing) to wherever their heart desires (even if it involves five years of scrimping and saving). They can make the time to pursue a new passion, set themselves a target or a goal and pour all their energies into achieving it. They never need to waste their time making small talk with someone else’s friends and colleagues. And their own family ties are what keeps them grounded.

On the other hand I know that couples who work, who click, who are really well matched and capable of compromise and mutual respect and the understanding that a happy partner makes for a happy partnership – those people seem to have the best of both worlds.

To be partnered up with someone who is a friend as well as a lover… I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop looking for that but the odds seem to shorten every single day, week, month, year.

Yes, I’m not really ready for another long term relationship – I wouldn’t trust myself ; it would feel like I was rushing. I have to consider the children and my ability to even get out of the house socially, to meet new people is massively limited, frustratingly so, but perhaps it is a good thing after all. It will save me from myself.

I have to keep reminding myself that there is no rush. This period of my life is all about getting through a difficult transition and getting my kids through it too. It’s about re-discovering my old friends and getting to know the friends I’ve managed to make in the past couple of years a bit better.

It’s about giving myself a break – allowing myself to be happy in the moment. And building up my confidence so that, once I decide to actively pursue a couple of dates, I can go in with a take it or leave it attitude. I don’t want to be a queen to anybody’s king. I want a co-pilot.