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.

11th June: Painty little feet

Do you see this dog? This dog looks like a dog who isn’t allowed in a cafe. I knew that from its optimistic little face as I opened the floor, but the cafe was empty when I arrived so of course I let my new friend take shelter from the rain with us.

Unfortunately the cafe owner soon arrived and sent doggo back out to wander the garden centre. Mean.

I was supposed to be meeting a friend in the afternoon but she was poorly so we didn’t have any plans. I had meant to rush out in the morning to get baby hand and foot prints on pottery for a (grand) fathers day present. But now we had a free schedule we had a chilled out morning and wandered off at lunchtime.

We went to The Potting Shed and had a little jug made with hand and footprints for my Dad. As I was feeling kind I made a mug for my ex as well with a hand and footprint that said Daddy. Not entirely selfless, I’m mostly hoping he remembers this when it rolls around to mothers day next year. But obviously he is a man so it’s fairly unlikely.

Anyway here are some photos I took before the cafe was bombarded with a coach load of pensioners shouting ‘Joan can you believe it’s £2.30 just for a cup of tea?!’ and lots of ‘look at that little boy’ (Emily)

I didn’t take this until the cafe was full and more than one person made a point of the fact I was taking a photo of a wall:

They have a good outside play are and plenty of tables so it would be a good place when Emily is toddling around:

(as an aside those pink cars were my ultimate goal when I was little. A goal I never achieved)

So if you’re interested in the pottery there is a studio fee of £3.50 plus the cost of the pottery. A mug was £9 and I think the jug was £15. It will take four days to be available as once they are painted they go on the kiln. I got onto kiln chat with the lady and it gets to 1000 degrees and she has to leave them a full day to cool before she takes them out.

She helped out (pretty much did) the foot and hand prints and then gave me a box of letter stamps to do the writing. You can always freestyle but if you’ve ever received a card from me you will understand why I did not.

Then we went home, I was absolutely exhausted after all the stress of the weekend and babywearing all over York on Monday (I’m a cheapskate and park by the racecourse for free which extends the effort). Emily is fairly good at amusing herself at home as the living / dining room is quite baby safe and full of toys so I just let her get on with it and drank tea and read It’s called a breakup because its broken. My friend recommended this and it’s a nice easy read. These things do really help keep my mind on the right side of sanity. A regular reminder not to be a crazy ex wife.

And then the baby sensed my tiredness and went to bed at 8pm without starting a fight with the bedroom blind. Win win win.

7th June: Feeling lonely

It was just me and Emily today, which happens a lot and I’m normally fine with but today I just feel really lonely.

I’m also really stressed about how I’ll cope when I go back to work. Mostly the thought of getting a strong willed baby out the door before 8am…a strong willed baby that likes a lie in and all day with her mummy. I think most parents do a tag team thing where they take it in turns to get ready while the other feeds / dresses baby.

And also how i’ll cope working nearly full time on very little sleep. And do the food, housework and laundry.

And survive financially.

Having someone to chat to every evening and just help out so I can get ready for bed would be a massive luxury.

Literally just a hug, a chat and ten minutes help would go so far to making everything feel more manageable.

My friend just got dumped and is back on online dating straight away for an ego boost. She suggested I do the same so I filled out a profile for something to pass the time. Definitely a bad idea, none of the men were as right for me as my ex so I deleted the account quickly feeling even more negative about the future as I did before.

Dating apps are sad places when you are already feeling lonely.

Books for a divorcing single mum

Here are a few books that I’ve enjoyed since finding out that ’till death do us part’ actually meant 2.5 years and a baby. I’m not bitter, I’m not bitter at all.

(I’ve actually read way way more as I’m constantly reading but not constantly reading about divorce, do message me if you like a bit of book chat)

Split, a story of love betrayal and divorce. Suzanne Finnamore

I so enjoyed this book, it was both funny and heartbreaking but always honest. The woman is a gorgeous media type living in California, she is well off with a beautiful home and friends to casually drink champagne with over brunch. You wouldn’t think it would be relatable but the lines like this one you realise we all have the same struggles:

“I am drunk in front of the television, chain-smoking. I have not bathed in two days.”

(before the mum shamers see this – as a breastfeeding non smoking woman I substitute alcohol and cigarettes for donuts and cake. Not ideal but not worth calling social services for)

But it isn’t all stark truth bombs on falling apart, there are some inspirational parts and it really ends on a high:

“You learn that it can be a life-enhancing gift, and not just a wound taken in a heart-game called marriage. Finally, you understand that the game isn’t to get your husband back, or to get a new one. The game is to get free”

She is also very amusing, I would like to have her as my friend.

The Kick Ass Single Mom, Emma Johnson

I don’t think I would like Emma as my friend. I think she would judge me and my pessimism. She is one of those people Americans would call a Type A personality. The book is quite money focused which is fair enough, money makes the world go round and all that, but I think she is absolutely coming from a place of priveledge which we can’t all tap into.

Her general view is that children should spend their time 50/50 between their parents and as such there is no need for child maintenance to be paid. She also thinks that if you work hard enough you can absolutely make enough money to be very successful in life to support yourself and your children easily and well without any help. My view is that my little baby should have one primary carer and spend the majority of time with me so that she feels settled and attached. Also my soon to be ex husband planned this family with me and is the only father she has so he can bloody well pay child support.

“A Kickass Single Mom never plays victim. You are responsible for your life. You are not allowed to blame your ex… when times get tough. You are never, ever, ever entitled.”

I however do agree with her views on dating and sex. Pretty much go out and have sex and have fun. No reason to pretend to your children that you aren’t dating as they aren’t stupid and will see through it. Just don’t introduce a man to them until you know its serious. Don’t date twats; you are better off single. Don’t waste time being self conscious, there are probably less attractive women than you out there dating and having sex and a fabulous time – think like them. Fair enough.

“If a person does not add to your life and bring you joy when you are together, he or she must go.”

Playgroups and Prosecco

This is funny, I was enjoying it when I thought it was her own real life story and then I thought hang on there are too many funny goings on here and I googled it and it’s basically chick lit. But the author is a good blogger (Slummy Single Mummy) so at least she has experienced being a single mum.

She doesn’t know, but I once saw her crouched behind the sand table, eating loose Wotsits out her handbag, so I recognised a kindred spirit.”

Wild, Cheryl Strayed

Now this one isn’t specifically about divorce and she isn’t a single mother. BUT her life was at a very low point after a divorce but she picked herself up and did an insane cross country hike up the west coast mountain range in the US.

I think she is pretty inspirational. After reading this you will be like YEAH I CAN DO ANYTHING. And maybe want to buy some hiking boots and get walking.

I feel like this quote is pretty symbolic for life in general:

“The universe, I’d learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.”

It was, however, written about a lost hiking boot (this book will ring a bell if you’ve seen the Gilmore Girls Netflix reboot when Lorelai almost did the hike but couldn’t pack her bag).

Confessions of a Single Mum, Amy Nickel

No divorce here, just a twatty boyfriend type person who dumped her when he found out she was pregnant. It is a funny personal account of her life:

I totally excuse them for not being mega turned on by swollen everything (and I mean EVERYTHING – thanks to my waxer for letting me know that little titbit)

The Unexpected Joy of Being Single

The woman who wrote this writes for cosmopolitan and uses that amusing glossy magazine style writing. However it is jam packed with psychological input, various studies and links to many other experts and books so you can absolutely go off on a tangent on whatever takes your fancy like I did here.

There are loads of interesting facts like this:

“experts at Rutgers University said that a break-up causes an incredibly similar reaction to drug withdrawal. Brain-imaging scans showed similarities between romantic rejection and cocaine craving

“Ingrained neural pathways are the route of least resistance” so basically your stupid brain just goes off towards your ex not because he was the love of your life but because its used to going off that way

But she also has some funny anecdotes of her dating past, such as this text she once received:

‘You’re undeniably lovely, but crazy. Goodbye. P.S. Please stop calling me.’

If you’re only going to read one book I say read this one because it’s brilliant.

Feeling like a failure

Some days I own the title single mother with pride. Single mothers do everything and that makes them extremely capable and strong, who can’t be proud of that! When I read other women’s stories of how they became single mothers I think well done, you had a tough situation and you got through it and thrived. Not that I can say I’m thriving yet. Ultimately I just feel like I’m surviving and the real test will come when I go back to work almost full time and have to manage my time very carefully with a house and clingy co-sleeping baby to deal with.

But other days, to be honest I am embarrassed. I feel like I need to justify myself. I feel like I need to tell people I was happily married, as if to justify that this was a carefully planned and wanted baby. Given that my husband left me quite soon after she was born I worry that people think I am some very irresponsible woman who had a baby with a man she didn’t get on with. Maybe they would judge me more if they knew the truth, that I thought the marriage was strong but ultimately my husband didn’t. How stupid am I not to realise that?

The joke is that when I think of the single mothers that I admire, some of them didn’t plan to have the baby at all. It’s the fact they didn’t plan it and life threw a surprise at them and they not only coped but did a great job and didn’t let it stop them pursuing careers and relationships and happiness.

I wouldn’t judge other single mothers so why do I judge myself? Maybe because I am generally a conventional person in what I want out of life. This is so far removed from what I ever wanted or considered possible that I think I judge myself for letting it happen (not that I really had a say in the matter). One of the things I liked about my husband was that he was dependable and loyal and a family man. Obviously I didn’t really know him, people must be thinking that either I was stupid to not realise that having a family wasn’t for him…or that family life is for him but that I’m such a nightmare that he felt he had to get away from me.

At the end of the day I’m wasting time worrying about what people think as the famous saying goes:

“You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do”

– Olin Miller

And ultimately since sharing with people that I am a single mother I basically have had an outpouring of support. So many women from all corners have offered a shoulder to cry on / ear to moan at. People I barely know have been so kind including generosity from friends online sending an amazing care package to people from my past I haven’t seen in years sending their love and sympathy.

I’ve always had the opinion that people are on the whole good so I don’t know why I waste energy thinking they would perceive me badly for being a single mother. And those that do probably aren’t worth having the good opinion of anyway.

I know a brilliant supporter of women who would be telling me to dust off my crown now so I guess I will.

For fucks sake men (a rant on emotional labour)

(slightly edited since publishing, with the intention of not being a dick)

The burden of organising many things is left to women, social commitments, holidays, childcare, appointments… most men even expect their partners to organise everything for their own family’s birthdays. They’ve literally spent every year of their lives celebrating their parent’s / sibling’s birthdays yet somehow expect their spouse to be the one to remember and find the perfect gift?! Seriously, come the fuck on.

I read a good article about this and the ridiculous story behind a woman’s request to have the house cleaned as her mother’s day gift. In summary he left it till last minute, phoned the first cleaner he found, decided it was too expensive and cleaned the bathroom himself whilst leaving the rest of his crap lying around the house. It’s totally stupid but exactly what many wives would expect from their husbands in the same circumstances and it’s fucking annoying. She ends the article saying “Our sons can still learn to carry their own weight. Our daughter can learn to not carry others” but REALLY, do we really have to wait a generation to fix this bullshit?!

And it’s not just the coordinating what happens, women are still doing most of everything! If you want to continue getting irritated then read this from the Guardian stating how in the UK in 2016 women did 60% more unpaid work and the progressive Sweden shockingly had 45 more minutes of housework done by women DAILY. Imagine getting an extra 45 minutes a day, the health benefits of using that to run / do yoga / have a long bath and meditate?! I mean I’d obviously not do that and just eat crisps and watch Netflix…but still it should be my choice and it would be fair to spend that time how I wish!

Yes single mothers end up doing 100% of everything in the house but at least I am doing it for me and my daughter so there is zero resentment. Also it is up to me what needs to be done, maybe we have a lovely hot homemade dinner then talk at the table or maybe it’s a floor picnic listening to Cyndi Lauper 🤷🏼‍♀️. Zero obligation for anything (above the obvious).

Yes my ultimate goal is to have another relationship, I like the companionship (not to mention someone to split the bills with and have sex with me). But the annoying thing is this seems to affect the majority of men and until you cohabit it’s hard to tell who is an expert in ‘outsourcing’ or simply assuming it will get done (and I think quite often having no awareness that it needs to be done). It’s a long time since I’ve done online dating but is there a checklist for ‘is able to book appointments, manage housework and remember dates independently’. It will probably be a while before I consider dating again but if this can be added in as a screening filter I would love that.

Getting Counselling

I have always quite liked the idea of having counselling. Basing my knowledge entirely on American TV shows it seems quite a common thing to do over there. They all talk about discussing things with their therapist, even Emily Gilmore has a therapist. So when stuff started getting serious I contacted Bupa (my work pay for Bupa which is really fortunate). Although I have plenty of people to talk things over with they are of course heavily biased towards me and it is hard to know how objective they are being, and indeed whether their advice is actually going to help me move on or in fact stay in an angry place.

So I booked in with Rita. I like Rita, i’ll guess she is in her 60s and she told me that when she had her second baby her husband used her maternity pay that she was going to buy a pram with on stuff for himself and from then on she knew the relationship wasn’t going to work (seriously though, what a knob. The more people I talk to the more I realise the shocking abundance of knobs there are in the world). We have an hour a week, I do sometimes get carried away and just sit down and rant the whole hour about everything that has pissed me off lately. She politely said that while that is totally ok and my choice, it probably won’t help me move forward – fair point Rita.

So anyway she did help me see that my husband and I are fundamentally different people which has helped me make sense of the break up. She also keeps telling me that I am grieving, I think it is really helpful to talk about divorce in terms of grief and loss rather than heartache. For me a big part of the hurt is the loss of the life I thought we would have together. You can’t just ignore grief you have to work through it and process it even if it is really shit. But it is also really important not to be perpetually grieving. It’s ok to get upset but you can’t let it become a habit, every now and then you need to shake yourself down and say that’s it for today. Knowing that you have that counselling session booked in feels like a weight off your mind in a way. Sometimes I think i’ll forget about that today, i’ll wait until tomorrow and talk to Rita rather than dwelling on it now.

It is interesting how many people have told me they have had counselling, on the whole most people are really positive about it. I think everyone could benefit from counselling during hard times it is just a case of finding the right person for you to open up to. I’m definitely glad I did anyway.