Shit mum awards

I wish I was writing a funny post about some amusing mum fail. I’m not. I’m just feeling shitty if I’m honest.

We had a good morning, soft play with some friends we haven’t seen in a while and their toddlers. We even managed a four toddler group photo with all little faces in the same direction.

But I always feel slightly on edge. The tantrums are intense at the moment. Last night there was a twenty minute stint of screaming and floor rolling on account of me opening a cupboard containing biscuits (which she isn’t allowed). I tried what I could: cuddles, soothing words, back strokes and everything just made her worse so I sat on the sofa and waited it out. I’m so anti cry it out but nothing was helping and I was at a loss. It was pretty shit.

Tonight we were breastfeeding to sleep but Emily likes to touch my skin, scratch and grip my collar bone. It’s even more annoying than it sounds and I don’t want it to become a habit…cue screaming. In the end she fell asleep in a exhausted grump clinging on to a plastic toy. Normally she falls asleep snuggled up to me, so although I should be happy that I could sneak away for some freedom I just feel a bit shit about the whole thing.

I’m trying not to fall into the self pitying hole of ‘poor me my child sleeps the worst / my child tantrums the most’ etc etc. But also…my child tantrums the most. I know this because strangers come up to me full of sympathy saying ‘oh dear, I remember the time my daughter did that’. I’m like oh yeah THE TIME your daughter did that? Yeah? This is THE TIME this morning and I’m pretty sure there is going to be another time again today. Maybe two.

But why do some toddlers tantrum more than others? Is she acting out because I don’t give her enough love and attention? Is she acting out because she is spoilt because she gets too much love and attention?

Oh my god there is so much potential for self criticism and guilt.

And then you can do the fun thing where you get to worry about the worry. Is she tantruming because I’m a stressy mum? Does my worry cause the thing that causes the worry in a stress – tantrum – stress cycle of hell?!

And I wonder, do we all feel like this? I’ve had a few mums tell me they ‘loved every minute of being a mother’. Congratulations to you women (dickheads). I certainly don’t love every minute of being a mother.

But then I remembered the Duchess of Cambridge interview with Giovana Fletcher (fucking loved it, it wasn’t even that exciting but…a princess!!). If you don’t know then Kate is doing research on early years development, she’s also raising three of the most privileged children ever AND she gets the mum guilt too.

If Cambridge Kate gets mum guilt, then maybe we all do. So maybe I should try and forget about it. Maybe acknowledging that some days are shit, we all have them and we all have shit feelings and we should accept them and stop worrying about it.

Any tips on ‘stop worrying about it’ are VERY welcome. Even more welcome are handy tantrum eradication techniques.

Or instead I’m eating an entire mini eggs Easter egg two months before Easter. I’m also watching a Netflix dating show where someone proposed after three conversations. YOLO.

The grass is green as fuck over here

Last Sunday I was having a fabulous time. That morning we had the farm shop to ourselves, I was a bacon sandwich, a jammy dodger blondie  and a flat white in, the tantrum count was zero and the sun was shining.

I had a rare moment of wow my life is so much easier than it could have been. If you know me than I’m sure you’ve heard me complain about how hard being a parent is. Normally in response to someone casually mentioned they are a bit tired (“think how I feel… I am TWO YEARS worth of tired my friend” etc). I’ll roll out my single parent sob story and when I get a hint of sympathy I nod, like the martyr / hero that I am.

But actually, I’m just being a bit of a dickhead. Whilst I’m not entirely lying, being a single parent is genuinely hard – and I genuinely have not had a decent night’s sleep in two years, it is kind of better than regular nuclear parent familying would have been.

And because I like a good list (and I suspect dwindling attention spans also appreciate a list format) I’m listing this one out:

1. Super chill spontaneity. When did I decide I was going out for brunch? Just before I left. I didn’t have to convince anyone, no one was annoyed at me for not doing the housework first, no one was nagging me to get the food shopping home quickly. I’m the boss of my own bacon sandwich schedule and it is a fine place to be.

2. Is it wrong to list not being a parent as the second best part of being a single parent? I’m doing it anyway. On Saturday I was not a parent between 9am and 5.30pm. I went to the cinema, I went shopping without anyone sweeping the shelves clean, I went bouldering. The best bit of my day was a hot bath, it was really full hot bath and the house was silent. I’m not sure many married mums get a day of peace a week. Come join me on the dark side ladies, leave your husbands and gain a bath time.

3. I’m the boss, and not just of bacon sandwiches, I’m the boss of parenting. Kind of. Obviously Emily is the boss of a lot of things – because she is a toddler and I’m too smart to waste my time negotiating with terrorists. So I don’t really mind letting her needs dictate things, I’ll hang out in the car for as long as she needs to nap, I’ll eat dinner on the floor with her if she’s not in a table kind of mood. We are flexi living, Gina Ford hating, routine resistant non-conformists. Everyone has their own ideas on parenting and I’m doing zero compromise to make mine align with another parent’s.

4. Bit reluctant to put this one, as it sounds like kids in nuclear families don’t love their mums (which is a stupid thing to put). But also, it’s my blog so whatever. When I was a newly single mother so many lovely women who grew up in single mum & only daughter families told me about what an amazing bond they have with their mother. Maybe I’m biased by having watched all 153 episodes of Gilmore Girls at least three times over, but growing up in a mum & daughter family seems like it could be lots of fun.

5. The single bit of single mum. Dating is FUN. You (obviously) don’t get to date when you’re married. Unless of course you’re non-monogamous married – which I suspect very few mothers of toddlers can be arsed with. So many women say they lose their identity a bit when they become a mother but when you start dating and chatting to people you don’t feel like a you’re just a mum anymore. I know we should all love ourselves / be our own soulmates blah blah blah BUT it is pretty fun knowing that someone new desires you.

6. I went off on a rather lengthy and misandristic rant on emotional labour on a blog post last year. I stand by that. Whilst I acknowledge that there are some marvellous men who have developed the capacity for initiative (lol JK). I do think that a lot of the mental load of household and child management goes to the woman in the house. I know that most men do pull their weight, but when there are a set number of tasks and two people to complete them there is inevitability an amount of planning behind it. Yes I have to do everything myself but I’m wasting zero energy telling someone else to do anything / checking it has been done / negotiating what should be done (resenting them when it hasn’t).

7. Masturbation. Why the hell not include this?! I have a single friend who eschewed men for a bit in favour of enjoying a solo glass of wine and a wank with her favourite sex toy each evening. Fine life choices being made right there. Whilst I get that married people can masturbate too…do they really just go off of their own for an evening to watch shit TV in peace and then wank at their own convenience? I didn’t. I was wanking on the sly when married. No more. Now anytime post 8pm can be wank o’clock if I so choose it to be.

So I’m not sure if I should have done more than seven reasons. But I’m actually pretty damn tired now (as I may have mentioned) and I feel like wank chat is always a good place to end a conversation so goodnight reader.

Post-psychopath aspirations

i hardened under the last loss. it took something human out of me. i used to be so deeply emotional i’d crumble on demand. but now the water has made it’s exit. of course I care about the ones around me. i’m just struggling to show it. a wall is getting in the way. i used to dream about being so strong nothing could shake me. now. i am so strong. that nothing shakes me. and all I dream is to soften.

– Numbness, Rupi Kaur

Scrolling through Instagram this really resonated with me. I felt like this was worth talking about, because people aren’t normally that honest about how they feel, which is a shame.

People can be hard on themselves for their own feelings. It’s quite easy to assume that you are crazy because most people keep their strangest thoughts hidden. No one wants to be the first to open up in case it puts everyone off, but the irony is that when you let yourself be truly vulnerable with honesty that is when you normally endear yourself most to other people.

To start with an unnecessary amount of context: my first boyfriend cheated on me after four years together. I spent the best part of a year on an emotional roller-coaster. I was up and down, drinking till I was falling down drunk, not eating enough, still having sex in an ‘I’m over him’ way (I was definitely not over him). I was a nightmare, as I’m sure my poor university housemates would confirm.

This time I felt like my new tiny housemate deserved better treatment, you should at least aim not to fuck up your children. Spending my days indulgently crying and drinking and fucking was not going to cut it.

It pisses me off when people hold parents to higher standards, but I do feel that as a non parent you get more free reign to fuck up your life. As a parent you are somewhat obliged to ensure you have good mental health, small people are massive copycats. So in the spirit of not being an emotionally unstable single mother raising an equally disastrous child I had already booked in for my first counselling session before my husband confirmed he would be leaving me (thank you Bupa – I do realise most people don’t have this and the NHS lists aren’t great. I am lucky.)

I very much entered counselling in the self assured state of knowing I probably wasn’t the most fucked up person this 60 something counsellor had dealt with. It’s nice to know you won’t be judged, you can be brutally honest. I had ten sessions and it really helped. I spent a lot of time being told I was normal, being shocked at the realisations of why things went wrong – and then being told it was OK, it happens.

But then I got on with my life, I could have had more counselling but with a job and a child to arrange care for it seemed like unnecessary effort. Only I didn’t have a sounding board to offload my strange thoughts onto every week.

By the September (which is a significant month, as it was only my third wedding anniversary) I was in a fairly strange place mentally. I wasn’t missing my husband or relationship – but I was worried about how I had changed as a person. I was definitely more resilient and strong, but I was a little bit concerned I was an unfeeling psychopath. In my grand quest to not fuck up my child being an unfeeling psychopath was one of the more concerning points. I wasn’t sat contemplating this all day long, obviously working and toddler management (as well as borderline phone addiction + tinder + bumble) kept me busy. But it was a nagging thought.

One afternoon someone checked in on me (knowing September could be a trigger) and we were chatting. She had been through a divorce with children, but was a lot further on the other side. Something she said about the emotionally numb feeling that she felt hit a nerve. I couldn’t help but cry. I’m not a massive crier – the act of crying itself felt like it went some way to confirming I wasn’t a psychopath. But on the whole it just felt so good to know that I wasn’t the only one that felt like that. But better – that it goes away.

I cried so much after the relationship breakdown. I managed to be pretty cheery a lot of the time (I’m sure breastfeeding hormones helped me out there). But I also spent many hours – most of them in the middle of the night – crying. Often so badly I could barely breathe. Borderline panic attack with chest pains crying.

But then I gradually just stopped giving a shit. Maybe I was too tired, maybe I was a psychopath, maybe being tired makes you a psychopath (probably). Whilst it was beneficial to my general functioning I just didn’t feel like me anymore.

I’m not the type of person to cry at anything and everything – but I did give a reasonable amount of caring thoughts to people I know, but also just the world in general. For context every Christmas when most people are enjoying themselves I would spend an unreasonable amount of time getting really sad thinking about all of the single parents spending the day alone because their children are with the other parent and how lonely that would be (the irony being that my first solo Christmas was bloody wonderful). So I’m not a completely self absorbed person under normal circumstances.

But the relationship breakdown left me detached. I could hear about something sad and acknowledge it was sad, then quickly move on. Things didn’t affect me in the same way. An emotional story wouldn’t leave me feeling like there was a heavy weight in my heart and leave me drifting back to it distractedly in the days that followed. I felt a bit like a robot.

Maybe some self defensive part of me will always be a little hardened – more than I was before. Maybe that is a normal part of growing up and having life experiences. My friend who reached out to me confirmed she isn’t the woman she used to be, these things change you. But it meant so much to know that I wasn’t alone. Safety in numbers is reassuring and honesty is a relief.

Maybe someone will be reading this and worrying they are an emotionally detached robot. I hope you aren’t worrying any more, we are all allowed to be a bit unstable every now and again, it won’t last – it will be ok.

As for me this is another funny month. February is when when my husband left me. So it has now been a year and I feel like a confirmed non-psychopath. Maybe I can say I am a post-psychopath. I wish I remembered what it was, I know it was something little, but recently something pulled at my heartstrings like it should do. I finally got the reassurance I was coming back to myself again.

I think back in the autumn I didn’t have the emotional capacity to deal with anything. I’d processed such huge amounts of emotion already my mind and body were on sabbatical – unnecessary feelings were being turned away. Now I feel like a normal person again, a really fucking tired one, but about as emotionally stable as anyone. I’m sure the year cut off isn’t a reliable formula for everyone but I’m glad I’m here.