13th May: Champion eater award please 🏆

I wanted to rush and get the food shopping done before my Dad arrived to help us out for the day. This is dangerous as if my car goes near a McDonald’s before 10.30 it automatically pulls into the car park. Once I was out of the car staring at the golden Ms there was no choice for it but to have a breakfast.

As I am a champion I ordered the pancakes and syrup, flat white, sausage and egg mcmuffin (single, I’m not a monster) and hash brown.

I’m sure you will be pleased / disgusted to note that I finished it all. Whilst I did this Emily was very slowly working her way through courgette and apple (unseasoned and microwaved):

She was getting a lot of praise from an old couple next to us and the manager. Babies get praise for very little. I had just eaten two breakfasts and nothing. Then one of the McDonald’s guys came around with a tray of cheese bacon flatbreads.

Now even a glutton like me is aware this is bad news. It’s 90% cheese and bacon for gods sake. And I’d just eaten two breakfasts. Anyway the baby is obviously on a mission to have a squishy comfy mummy for all the babywearing and ate her food so ridiculously slowly that I was forced to take one to fend off boredom.

I’d like to say I was stuffed, that I regretted my actions and felt sick for ages. However my body is accustomed to this. I felt fine. And that thing about not going food shopping on an empty stomach…I came back with nearly 30 chocolate bars anyway.

Non, je ne regrette a rien.

6th May: Rainy Monday

It feels quite appropriate to have rain on a Bank Holiday Monday. Very British.

We had no buddies today and didn’t want to be bored at home all day so set off for Fairburn Ings. It is an RSPB reserve but I’m cheap and didn’t want to pay for parking when we weren’t staying long so we parked on Cut Lane in the village.

We planned to do the red loop but there was a massive downpour so we turned back for one of the birdwatchers huts. I had thought that we would have a little picnic and I could set Emily down on my scarf to eat her snacks. Instead she had to eat snuggled up inside the sling. I got very cheesey in the process.

It’s a nice easy walk with views of the water on both sides. There must be some interesting birds (as there was a lot of binocular excitement all around) but I have no idea and only spotted swans and ducks.

Other than a few kissing gates that might be difficult for a massive pram it’s an easy pushchair friendly walk. We were of course using the sling. Now that Emily is gaining a fair weight I felt like a bit of a packhorse with baby on front and rucksack on the back. With all the snacks, baby gear and drinks the bag was really uncomfortable. I have a Pacapod Saunton which I love as it’s fairly hand bag looking but it is quite big and can be a handbag / shoulder bag / rucksack. But I carry a ridiculous amount of stuff and it’s not really a hiking bag. The band keeping the straps attached is looking a little precarious so I think I’ll have to stop loading it with flasks and picnics.

But…look at what a pro rucksack this is (above). We went to Junction 32 at Castleford as there are plenty of outdoor shops there. First of all I learnt there are different names for these things: daybag (little rucksack), backback (medium rucksack) and rucksack (big, maybe with a frame on to keep your back cool) . At 30L this one is maybe a rucksack as it’s fairly big with a bit of a frame? Still confused.

I like it though, it’s big but doesn’t look like I’m going on my gap year. It’s grey and I like everything to be grey. It’s waterproof but doesn’t feel it. It has a frame to keep the heat off my back if I’m going proper hiking. It was £30 reduced from £80 and I also got the water bottle for £2 down from £10 and the headband (as I get very cranky as soon as any kind of wind hits my ears) for £2 as well. Excellent bargains.

Other than the Tog24 buys I just went to the Cadbury store. I personally think it isn’t that cheap. The only thing worth buying (when I compare it to Home Bargains prices) was a multipack of 8 mixed bars for £2. I’m happy for 25p per bar. Not all eight bars survived the 15 minute journey home unfortunately.

I also finally got around to visiting the car wash place. I have a very comfy down Joules winter coat that I misplaced months ago. I last remembered seeing it in my car before we went to the car wash but had never got around to going back to ask. I half expected them to have gotten rid of it as it had been so long but I was finally reunited with my old coat.

Walks. Coffee and cake in a birdwatchers hut. Bargains. Chocolate. Coat reunion. All in all not a bad day.

How to feel a little bit better when you’re feeling really shit

Note that I put ‘a little’, if you read a few posts you’ll find I’m not overly qualified for feeling ‘a lot’ better…but here are my two cents anyway:

Put your phone down

…not this second. Read my blog first please. Then put the phone down. For lots of reasons you should put your phone down. The blue light makes you feel stressed and stops you sleeping, the notifications distract you, the social media makes you feel less. I KNOW it’s not easy so if you can’t quite put your phone down I suggest you:

  • download Twilight app to filter out the blue light to help your eyes and your sleep
  • download Offtime app to assist your willpower (it basically locks down your phone apart from selected apps for a specified time)
  • unfollow any perfect dickheads on social media who make you feel like you or your life isn’t enough. Fuck them
  • use apps that make you feel good such as Headspace or Calm
  • follow lovely people on social media who cheer you up (I follow a lot of accounts with landscapes and nature, plus one or two inspirational quote type people)

Pick a book up

Speaking of quotes I really like:

“reading gives us somewhere to go when we have to stay where we are” Mason Cooley

I spent many (many, many, many) hours laid with a sleeping baby in a dark room, unable to move without waking her. After my husband left me I could have gone completely insane with all the thoughts whizzing around my head. Instead I used my Kindle app to take me somewhere else where I wasn’t a scared, anxious and angry single mother.

I know some people prefer TV and movies but I find you can watch them passively and drift into your own world whereas reading a good book is all encompassing. Even if you’re not a reader now I think you should start. Kindle does £1 daily deals and older books can be downloaded for free. Also charity shops sell a lot of books for 50p each and you know…libraries are still a thing. No excuses now.

Put your shoes on and get outside

Even better, if you live somewhere it is possible to then walk up a mountain or hill. The sense of achievement is wonderful, the fresh air clears your head, you don’t feel like a disgusting sofa dwelling animal anymore and… something about endorphins? I don’t know. Just get outside and get walking (or running or cycling or whatever your thing is). Breathe in the fresh air, look around you, notice things you don’t normally see and be mindful.

I’m also going to tell you to take a flask of tea with you. No scientific reason. Just that I think a hot cup of something when you are sat outside mid walk is just a lovely feeling so give it a go.

Pick up a pillow and punch it

Then chill out and get on with your day like a sane person. This is Rita wisdom (my counsellor, and not her exact phrasing). I told her I was struggling with a lot of anger and resentment and she told me I needed to let it out (with the pillow technique) or it would become habitual. If it becomes habitual you will basically become an angry person. You don’t want to be an angry person and no one wants to be around an angry person. Give it to that pillow. As an aside I got angry in the car the other day, I didn’t have a pillow. I punched my hand as an alternative to a pillow and learnt I am better at punching than I anticipated, so I recommend you just wait for a pillow to be available.

The same goes for crying, you can’t just push your feelings away. You need to get them out but once they are out and you’ve had a good cry think fuck that, that’s me done for the day. If I want to have another cry tomorrow I will but now I get on with my life (hopefully by reading or walking 👍).

Prioritise your pals

If there is one thing I learnt from About a Boy it is that no one is an island. Not even Will / Hugh Grant. (I love that movie. SINGLE PARENTS ALONE TOGETHER yeeaah)

Seriously though sometimes you just need to talk to someone. But try to pick the person wisely. Some people are happy to talk but can subtly encourage you to feel sorry for yourself or angry at others. Be conscious of how you feel after you speak to that person (both immediately and in the days and weeks that follow). If they aren’t uplifting then don’t go to them in a crisis.

Pull out a drawer and sort it out

I remember years ago reading an article by a divorce lawyer who deals with high profile Hollywood splits. She said her clients would often call her having a complete meltdown and she never knew how to help them (divorce lawyer…not counsellor) then she started telling them to find a messy drawer, tip it out and tidy it. That small distraction / achievement is often enough to take a person away from a bad mental space.

P P P Pick up a Penguin

Ah Penguins, remember those chocolatey biscuits with their little jokes on the wrapper?! Fond packed lunch memories 🙂

You probably don’t have any Penguins and I know people say have something healthy blah blah blah but I feel better after a treat. I don’t feel better after binge eating so maybe just have the one Penguin / donut / cinnamon bun or whatever takes your fancy. But hell so what if you do inhale an entire Terry’s Chocolate Orange and packet of Percy Pigs in one sitting at 11pm next to a sleeping baby. It’s probably not a habit you will continue every night for the rest of your life so don’t waste your energy feeling guilty about it. Rita informs me that secret eating is far more common than anyone realises so don’t feel bad about being as greedy as the rest of us.

Positively Perky People

I didn’t intend to do self help via subtitles starting with P but that is where it took me. Anyway I hope my plog may help you get out of a grumpy funk at some point.

21st April: A beach bunny

Emily’s first trip to the beach was SO MUCH FUN. I was a bit worried that going to Aldeburgh beach on what was supposed to be the hottest Easter Sunday on record might be a bit stupid. It turned out to be a wonderful day, not too hot and as you can see it wasn’t too busy. Excellent.

As it’s a rocky beach my very organised sister brought three massive ikea mats to spread down. She also brought a blow up paddling pool and we put another baby mat in and lots of toys to (theoretically) keep the baby from crawling away / choking on pebbles. The rascal only sat in it alone for a couple of minutes but it was still handy if we went with her to avoid pebble negotiations.

I’ve included some Aldeburgh pictures because it was bloody beautiful. Alongside Bamburgh I think it’s my favourite seaside town. As well as the huge beach and pretty painted houses there were some good shops like Joules, Seasalt and L’Occitaine en Provence. Parking was pretty easy with lots of spots right next to the beach. There were lots of cafes, pubs and a gelato shop.

We just chilled on the beach, tried to read magazines (but Emily also wanted to eat them which made life difficult) and ate loads. I even let Emily eat a chip at the end of the day, she loved it the little potato head.

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.