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.

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.

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.