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Saturday, 31 March 2012

Dear Me,

This is a letter I wrote to myself in the future - in about ten years time, when my boys will be 16 and 14. It was inspired by threads on Mumsnet about teenagers, and how horribly unloveable they can be.

Dear MMM,

I’m writing this letter to you now, because I’m worried that when the boys are teenagers, and they’ve been insulting you or ignoring you all day, you won’t be able to remember these things. So when the eldest has slammed his bedroom door shut for the umpteenth time, or comes home stoned, or leaves a pile of crap in the kitchen for you to wash up, or ALL of the above, read this letter.

When you were 13, you used to go up the woods with a packet of B&H, a lighter, and a can of Charlie red. You lied and sneaked, and thought you were really clever to get away with it.

When you were 16, before you moved out, you once tidied your room by piling a load of stuff into the corner, and putting a blanket over it. You thought that was acceptable.

When you were 15, you stayed out till 3am regularly, without telling your parents where you were, and you didn’t understand why they were so cross. Now, you should know that that anger was really fear.

Just before your sixteenth birthday, you asked your Mum if you could stay at your much older boyfriend’s house, all the while knowing that even if she said no (which she of course did, and rightly so you little tart) you would find a way to stay out even if it meant lying about it.

You did stupid things, like putting tippex on your fingernails and lighting it, and playing about with candles ALL THE TIME, with that incredible arrogant belief that all teenagers have: That bad things happen to other people.

You always stole fags, and you only felt mildly bad about it: Not nearly as bad as you do now.

You never did your own ironing or washing until you left home. And, yeah, Mum hated you touching the kitchen and would have moaned about anything you cooked, but you still should have tried.

You thought you were cleverer than Mum, and you looked down on her because you knew you could argue better than she could. You bragged to your friends that you were more logical than she was. You were a supercilious shit quite regularly.

You lied. All. The. Bloody. Time.

When you argued with Mum or Dad, you went up the woods and cried and felt so terrible about it. Because fighting with the people you love the most is horrible.

Is eldest still in his room? I wonder how he’s feeling.

You should also remember that Mum and Dad weren’t perfect or always right (even though they wanted you to think they were), and that sometimes, all you wanted them to do was admit they might be wrong.

Or you just wanted them to just leave you be, until you came to them.

Or you wanted them to look at you, and see the adult you thought you had become.

I hope these memories help you remember that yes, you really WERE as bad as they are now.

I hope they help you to be patient, and more than anything, I hope that they make you laugh, and stop you from crying in frustration and feeling like you’ve failed the kids.

You haven’t failed them, they’re just figuring out who they are, like you had to. And you didn’t turn out so bad.

(Unless you're reading this in a prison somewhere. Then maybe you did).

Friday, 30 March 2012

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Sorry I've been away readers, I've had a lot of things on my mind lately and blogging hasn't been one of them.

In fact the biggest thing that has been on my mind this week has been my date! Yes, last night I met up with a guy that had messaged me on the dating site I signed up to - www.mumsdatedads.co.uk

Part of my CBT was to look at my automatic negative thoughts and challenge them with evidence. So, for example, my thoughts about the date were:

- He's going to be a weirdo (he must be if he's interested in me)
- It's going to be awkward and we're not going to have anything to say to each other.
- I'm going to totally embarrass myself
- He's actually NOT going to be interested in me, and he's going to leave early.

Even a couple of days ago, I was exhausted by this whole dating thing, and that I was definitely just not ready for it.

I followed my CBT instructions - challenged my thoughts by thinking it's just a date, that I'm good at talking to people I don't know so there's no reason for awkward silences... and it worked.

I've never been on a date - I've just kind of moved from relationship to relationship so never done the dating thing. So when this fella asked if I wanted to go for a drink, I had to do a couple of deep breathing exercises before I said yes!

I've spent all week trying NOT to worry about it, and decided early on I wasn't going to fret too much about what to wear. The text conversation between me and him at times made me worried - thinking he was going to come on too strong, or was looking for something that I wasn't. But (like everyone has been saying to me this week) I told myself it's just a drink and I should just go and enjoy it.

I decided that the most important thing was that I felt comfortable - so I went for jeans and a black tshirt. It sounds a bit tragic but I was really proud of myself that I didn't give in to my usual insecurities and dress up more! That's a big step for me. I was, naturally, ready an hour early and got to the pub 15 minutes early. Some habits are just too built in!

I sat there, waiting for my date to arrive, and had that nervous, tense feeling in my stomach. A couple of times I wondered if I should go through with it, or if I should just text an apology and go home to the cats! But I knew I'd be there early, and I knew I'd panic, so I'd bought a book to read to distract myself. I can tell you, I have no idea what I read. But it did stop me starting the car again.

Said date arrived and we did the awkward talking over each other, embarrassed laugh thing. He said it's his first date for a long time too, which helped because it made me feel more comfortable.

Long story short - I had a really nice time! He was sweet, charming, a total gentleman and we talked for three hours! Drove home with a huge smile on my face and I'm looking forward to seeing him again.

I went on the date (felt the fear and did it anyway!) I had a really good night, met a lovely guy and realised that dating isn't anywhere near as scary as I thought it was.

I know I was lucky to have a great first date experience (and I know from Mumsnet that a lot of people end up with complete crazies through net dating) but also I'm so pleased that I managed my fears, and didn't miss out on a really lovely night because of my irrational fears.




Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Kids viruses, talking about hobbies and other stuff...

Well, it looks like the kids are ill again... Last week I dodged taking time off work thanks to ex-husband's handy shift pattern but I'm not sure I'll manage it this time. And it's Parents' Evening tomorrow. Looking like a long day.

So, the internet dating thing, we haven't revisited that for a while. I'm nearly at the end of my time on the site and so far I've met NO men. I am texting a couple of guys, but it's a bit awkward. How do you manage a conversation with someone you've never met? All of a sudden hobbies, interests and tastes in films and TV become very important, because those are the questions you ask. I am suddenly defined by my TV planner. Yikes.

My least favourite text-date type question is: "So what are your hobbies?" because quite frankly, I don't really have any. I watch DVD boxsets (usually quite bad ones, at the moment it's Ghost Whisperer because I've run out of Grey's Anatomy that I can watch legally) and I surf the net. Occasionally I remember to blog. I enjoy cooking, but that's mainly because I like eating. I have made two pairs of earrings so don't think I can claim that I enjoy jewellery making as a hobby.

I'm a bit disturbed by the fact that I don't have an 'activity' that I enjoy. Other people (read: normal people) seem to have a sport that they like to do. I've yet to find a sport I can suffer through enough to call it a hobby. I'm enjoying the challenge of the exercise DVD (yes, I am still doing it) but is it a hobby? Not really.

Other than the fact that in dating terms, that makes me about as interesting as magnolia paint, I'm also concerned by what this says about my quality of life. Essentially, due to the lack of a hobby, I'm filling my days with work, the kids and the house. WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY TIME?! I have no idea!!

This is why number five on the list is so important! I must find an activity that I actually like. And that I can actually maintain. And preferably, one that will mean I meet some new people. Surely it can't be that hard?! Suggestions in the comment box please, folks.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Growing up

Well, the jewellery making kit has arrived!

I must admit, it's a bit smaller than I'd envisaged, but I'm still looking forward to having a go. So far I've not had time this week - I've been really busy.

I'm a creature of habit and I love patterns and routines in my day. For example, morning routine goes; shower, dressed and ready, breakfast for the kids while I make lunches, get the kids ready, washing up and set off for work. I get very upset if anything interrupts me - In fact, I refuse to answer the phone during the morning routine.

As part of my plan for this year, I want to lose two or three stone. I'm following the Weight Watchers plan (after Slimming World and it's denial of bread proved too tough to handle) and I'm also trying to factor exercise into my lifestyle. Weight Watchers seems to be working for me because I love the routine of how many points I have, what I can eat and just doing the totals in my head. I'm feeling motivated for the first time in ages - I hope I can stick it out this time!

To speed the weight loss (and increase my general quality of life) I'm also trying to enjoy exercise. I spent my PE lessons coming up with a book called "101 reasons to get you out of PE" and I am still scared of the Sports and Public Services team at work. At the age of nearly 30, I've yet to find a form of exercise I actually enjoy.

So, I followed some Mumsnet recommendations and I'm trying the 30 day shred. Essentially it's a 30 minute high intensity workout. And when I say high intensity, I mean by five minutes in, I'm huffing and puffing and sweating in a rather unattractive fashion.

I'm now on day four, my legs are aching and I'm even more tired than usual. But I have a massive sense of achievement. For me to keep this exercising up is like a personal Mount Everest.

This year is a big learning experience for me - I'm really starting to figure out who I am and what I like. I'm challenging myself, not for anyone else's benefit, just for me. I think that I'm becoming an adult. It's only taken 30 years (and funnily enough, the kids and the marriage didn't speed it up any!)


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Update on The List

So, you all know about the list

I just thought I'd give you a quick update.

Sadly, the rock climbing still has not come to pass. I don't want to ask my Mum to babysit, because she and my Dad are in such a funk lately, and I hate having to rely on other people. Plus, it's an awkward time of day. That's not to say I've written it off completely - I just may find out if I can do a one off taster session instead.

So, that means number five is still undone. But, I think I may have found a solution...

My ex-boyfriend's cousin, who I have a bit of a life crush on (she lives abroad and is beautiful and has amazing tattoos, and a really really interesting blog ) makes gorgeous jewellery and sells it online.

Having spent this weekend trying to find some earrings that I like and that don't cost lots and lots of money, I decided to give jewellery making a go myself. I have happy imaginings of me, listening to cool music on my ipod and fashioning gorgeous creations that my friends ooh and aah over.

(I suspect I'll get bored or cross, or the children will eat my beads. This is why I prefer my imagination.)

So, I've purchased a beginner's jewellery making kit from Ebay - it comes with all the bits and tools, and a book to get me going. I'm actually quite excited about it!

In other list news, I was doing really well on the lose weight front, and then yesterday I ate at Fire and Stone, which is yummy pizza place in Portsmouth. Then I had some cake too. And a glass of wine.

So I had large quantities of my hair cut off, should definitely be a pounds worth.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Low expectations

My eldest son was ill this week. I had a phone call from the school right before a really important meeting at work - he'd thrown up in the office and obviously needed collecting.

I called my ex, and he was off work, so he went to collect him. He also had him the next day so that I didn't need to take any time off.

Does that make me lucky?

A couple of people have said that to me this week - "Oh, that's nice of him." or "You're lucky that he will do that for you."

I don't usually say any of the responses that are running through my mind, I usually just say "Well, he is their father."

Does anyone say to a working Dad, whose wife takes days off work when the kids are sick that he's lucky? Or when she works part time so she can pick up the children after school - is he lucky that she's doing that so he doesn't have to?

In my mind, this is part of a wider problem - we have low expectations of fathers, and even lower expectations for single mothers.

Society expects that a single mother will have troublesome children. It expects that she will be on benefits. It expects that she is responsible for all the 'feral' children (And don't even get me started on that load of claptrap).

No one seems to be expecting anything of the single fathers. (Who, for the record, don't stop being fathers just because they leave the family home.)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Congratulations HSBC

I got a press release today from HSBC - Because I've not written any magazine or news articles for a while I usually delete them, but this one caught my eye...

HSBC is set to offer all new parents a part-time role at a pro rata salary
and the same level as their original role following maternity or paternity
leave.


The bank will offer returning parents a part-time role equivalent to at
least two and a half days a week in a bid to help their employees balance
the demands of family life with their career development. Under UK
employment law there is no obligation on employers to provide part-time
work although every parent is entitled to request it.

It's not usual that I congratulate a bank but this impressed me. I'm fairly sure there will be a lot of contractual clap trap which means this isn't going to work for everyone (after all, it's a bank, and I'm a cynic) but at least it's a step in the right direction.

I'm lucky enough to have a part time job, doing what I love and what I'm trained in, but I do know my chances of progression in another role would be small while I still have to leave at 3pm every day.

Working part time doesn't mean other people have to take up 'the slack' at work to cover for me. It just means I have to be twice as productive and work even harder than I ever did when I worked full time. I work harder, and at a higher level since having children - nothing taught me about multi-tasking like changing a nappy one handed in the dark.

So well done to HSBC from me!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Sundays are my nemesis

Do any other single parents feel this way?

When I was married, Sundays were my favourite day of the week. Lazy morning followed by a long walk with the dog and a roast dinner at about mid afternoon. Then we'd all fall asleep in front of a rubbish film, and I would feel so content.

Now, Sundays are about grim survival. The boys have swimming lessons at 10am, which means I sit in a room full of other Mums, and a few Dads. This room is tiny. None of these adults ever thinks of getting out a chair for anyone else, or that sitting smack bang in the middle of the room so that we have to ask them to move to get to available chairs, might possibly be a bit inconsiderate.

Getting both kids out of the pool, away from the overcrowded showers full of precious Sebastians who cannot possibly get changed without shampooing and conditioning the whole two inches of hair they have, is a mission. My four year old is obsessed with having a shower at swimming. At home, if I put the shower on he screams the house down. At swimming, he screams when I tell him he can't have a shower. Give me strength.

So I manhandle screaming four year old back to the overcrowded changing rooms. Attempt to dry and talc both boys as quickly as humanly possible and wrestle them into their clothes. On a weekday, it takes my six year old 45 minutes to get dressed for school, so leaving him to it is not option if I want to be home in time for the Eastenders omnibus. My teeth are already on edge from having sat through an hour of listening to all the other parents moan about the school not enforcing veganism, or something.

We get to the car (usually running, through pouring rain) and the whole day stretches out in front of me like a Maths A-Level. If the weather's nice, we can go for a walk, or the park or just anywhere. If it's raining, like today, we are on enforced home detention, because I can't afford the small mortgage downpayment that constitutes an hour's soft play.

We usually end up going to see my parents, but recent history tells me this is an exercise in having all my enthusiasm quashed for anything, ever. It also means I feel that the kids are annoying everyone, and go home feeling even more sorry for myself.

Today, because I am holding it together by a thread we've come home and they're watching Dr Who on DVD in the lounge, while I chicken out in the kitchen and try not to cry. I want to cry because I feel like a crap parent, that I can't even bear the thought of one whole day at home with the children. I thought I was supposed to enjoy this bit? It all feels like an uphill slog, right now.

So, I am going to make myself a cup of tea and possibly a bacon sandwich. I'm going to have those, then go upstairs and do some ironing for two hours, while the kids are down here. Then this afternoon I'm going to teach the eldest to play draughts, and maybe do some Lego.

This is how I survive Sundays - by having a plan to fill the void.

P.S So far online dating is making me think I will be single forever, unless I want to settle down with a 53 year old tractor enthusiast called Nigel from Leicestershire.

On a lighter note, the book is quite good.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

I may be some time...

As I am reading a book, in an attempt to develop the amount of time I spend at home, not on the internet.

I'm a cyber addict, and while that has it's bonuses, it's making me really dull, insular and a bit of a navel gazer.

I took a trip to the charity shop today and spent six quid on five books, all of which I genuinely want to read. The list is:

1. A tiny bit marvellous by Dawn French
2. Atonement (that famous one)
3. The No1 ladies detective agency
4. The Slap
5. Chocolat

Voila. I started the Dawn French one today and shall report back.

Friday, 2 March 2012

So, what was I thinking there, then?

Crap bags.

I have signed up to an online dating site. I decided to have a go and just see how it turns out. Nothing to lose etc. So far (and it's been about 8 hours) it's mainly made me realise that I am completely and utterly not ready to date!

I've never actually dated, at all, not ever. I always got into relationships with people who I met through friends etc, got to know them a bit and have never actually done the whole "So, what kind of music do you like? What do you do for a living?" kind of questions.

I'm feeling very wobbly. So wobbly, in fact, that I promptly called to cancel my membership, so I only have to be on the site for a month.

(Of course if I meet my soulmate on there, I will be retracting said cancellation, toute suite!)