Wednesday, 21 May 2014

the horrifying magnification provided by a second pair of eyes and how it can spur action

After 6 years of sole parenting, I'd like to think I've got it sussed.  And I do. Mostly. Some of the time. Occasionally.

The same things grind me down each day (no doubt the same things that grind down every parent, sole or not actually but that's beside the point).  Bath times. Bedtimes. Getting up times. Homework times. Meal times. Chore times.

I find myself, MOST times, ''getting through''.  Usually with too much cajoling, often too much whining (theirs) and grizzling (mine) and, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit, too often with rather more temper testing than I would prefer.

But get through we do.  The children leave the house fed and dressed, with homework done.   Their rooms are clean and tidy.  Bedtimes...well that's another story for another day...but mainly they are in bed before I am.    Yet still...I yearn for calmer routine. Less of me growling, less of them resisting my requests.

I get through, and put up with more than I probably should, mainly because I'm the only adult in the house. Most of the time, there's no one here to a/ back me up, b/ take over or c/ tell me off give me better ideas, for how I'm directing the traffic.  It's only when there IS another adult nearby that my shortcomings as the grownup in the house get thrown into sharp relief and I face the gruesome reality of how stressed I can become at those crucial mealtime/bedtime/cleaning time-poor moments.

I've put a few things in place as a result of some previous highlighted moments...and I'll admit its a continual learning curve.  FDH used to (actually no, not used to, STILL DOES) tell me that the reason there is stress in my house is because I am as bad as the kids: I answer back, raise my voice, get grumpy and generally can be disagreeable when things aren't going they way I want them to.  Well, yes, that's probably true actually - but heck, I'm the grown up here - sure I shouldn't have to do all those things in the first place (yeah yeah I GET that) but I reckon if anyone should be allowed to get iffy, it should be me.

So what to do?  This morning it happened again.  Son was being particularly uncooperative. Daughter was compliant enough but grimly enjoying co-parenting son with me (by way of echoing barked instructions and being generally bossy).  Which results in squabbling. Which results in me grizzling some more. and so on. And so on.  You get the picture.

Ordinarily I'd GET THROUGH but today, I had my young man here (a rare occurrence mid week) , and with a second pair of eyes on the scene I realised just how inadequate my morning routine was, (I really didn't think it was until now...), and how ineffective my parenting style could be. Am I being hard on myself? Yes, probably. But when I found myself mid-rant, and wishing I could wind the clock back and hour to start the day again, I knew something was gonna give.  

It's a bit shaming.  Embarrassing.  AWKWARD!!!! But I happen to quite like having that other set of eyes around the some more things are going to have to change.  And it's probably going to be easier to change my own actions and attitudes than than change my kids.

So, because I believe that writing things down makes them more likely to happen - and because I'm going to be printing the list out and putting it on the fridge, our new morning rules include:

- The TV does not, under any circumstances, get turned on before school
- Children are to be fully dressed before coming out of their bedroom
- Breakfast is compulsory if you are a minor and must be eaten at the table
- Tooth brushing is also compulsory before leaving the house

I'm hopeful that these four simple rules might make for a calmer weekday morning.  They have all been in place before but somehow get muddied...or something...and the end result is me nagging repeatedly - and it must be said, ineffectively, for action.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The houseworks never done

I was a bit surprised to see that it's been a whole three months and not a single word from me on this blog.  A few offerings on the other one to be sure - but clearly my life has been less single minded of late!

Not to say that it has been any the less exciting for that.  My young man and I have had a remarkable summer of experiences and are now planning a few more for the winter.

A recent catch up with a newly coupled friend (and his partner) went like this:

Come and sit in the garden - it's a bit overgrown but it's lovely this time of year (us)
Goodness so it is - but a few hours would sort it out (them)
Yeah but when do you/we ever have the time for that? (us)
That's what weekends are for! I got stuck into his garden last week actually (the friends new her)
No way, rather pay someone and go for a motorbike ride (my him)
Uncomfortable silence.

Yes it's true, the garden is overgrown.  It probably could do with a few hours love. But right now, this month, at this stage in life, I'm not that excited about gardening - well not enough to want to give up a whole weekend to it.  And for me it is ''giving it up''. I (nor my young man) love gardening enough to see it as a terrific way to spend a weekend.

In fact, when conversation turned today (between us) to the challenges of being the only adult in a house - for me it's been almost 6 years, for him more than two - we agreed that the ongoing, and  inherent challenge is that there's never being quite enough time to do all the 'boring' things that need doing which adds an extra layer of stress to already busy lives, and  - and as a result every spare and free minute becomes precious.  The downside is the slight shadow of the need to fill each moment meaningfully (that comes with it's own pressure) but the huge upside is that we plan and dream and DO so many amazing things, OFTEN.

Hence, gardening, blogging and other leisurely pursuits are put aside in favour of real time, real life experiences. Not a bad thing in my view.

The day will come I am sure, as it has before, when I will be content with a weekend in the garden.  It may be sooner it may be later.  But right now, while the sun is shining, and there's some dollars in the bank (to pay the gardener), the weekends are about having an (almost) single minded focus on having fun, and enjoying exciting, shared adventures.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Feliz Navidad

I am the product of a blended family.  My parents both remarried when I was quite young and Dad went on to have more children.  The relationship between my birth parents is....strained.  My brother is married and his wife's parents are also divorced.
I separated from my children's father more than 5 years ago and enjoy a fairly good friendship with him, which is mainly for the benefit of the children who are still young.
I re partnered about 18 months ago and he too has children from his marriage although they are almost adults now.

For most of the year, none of this really matters - we all get on with daily lives and cross paths on a normal basis.  Birthdays and other occasions are relatively easy to negotiate without acrimony.

But Christmas. Ah Christmas how you torture us with your call to goodwill and unity!

Every year seems to become more difficult - and with extra partners, children, long standing 'issues'', geographical differences, ageing parents with declining health...good grief...this is not the season to be jolly no matter how much I might want it.  I find myself caught in the middle, the pacifier and yet somehow also the one who is missing out all round.  Of course I want to spend quality time with my family at Christmas time - just as I do at any other time of the year.  but Christmas takes on this extra dimension of pressure, not helped by time constraints, budget challenges, traffic problems and personality clashes.

I know I'm not unique in this.  In fact, when I talk to others, it would seem that the happy-family-who-play-together idea is actually the exception not the rule.  Almost everyone I know is in this same position, of feeling the need to race around on what ought to be the laziest day of the year.  There's an overwhelming sense of duty and pressure that, in ordinary circumstances, we wouldn't dream of putting on each other.

So this year it is different.  I'm staying home for Christmas.  and its going to be the simplest one ever. I hope that my nearest and dearest will all see me and the children, and me, them and theirs.  But it might not actually be on Christmas Day.  And whilst I know for some that is the important bit, for me it isn't - and frankly the thought of packing up the car in the heat (or the rain as is expected) and spending 3 hours of Christmas day driving does nothing for me no matter how much I want to see my family.  For me, it's a season, not a set number of hours.  This year, for the first time ( I think ever) I am spending the whole of Christmas Day at my own house.  I took the kids to church yesterday (where they both starred in the nativity play) so we won't even be racing off to that between breakfast and lunch. I'm yet to decide the menu for the day, but I'm thinking it's going to be pretty simple. There's a minimal number of presents under the tree.  Some, but not all of the decorations strung about the place.

And on Boxing Day my children are going on holiday with their father. Everyone else close to me will be away so it will be just me.  Also for the first time ever.

And so, I too am having a holiday. Possibility away from home. No duties to perform. No responsibilities. Only 5 days, but this is the first break like this I have had for 11 years. And I can't wait.

Happy Christmas.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Together apart

Gee, there's lots of pressure on couples these days to start cohabitation. To make a stand for permanent commitment. To provide status updates to interested parties.  Questions come from almost day one and gain intensity with every passing month.

The reality is for many that the combining of lives is really not that simple...It was, back in the day of one person and a suitcase.  But in the case of the re partnered there's so many other considerations that the romantic notions of ''just move in!'' can be overshadowed by the realities of what that actually entails.  So it's usually a far greater decision to be made, the more people/mortgages/pets/kids are involved no matter how appealing the idea of sharing space might be.

In fact I'd argue there's probably a certain ease in maintaining two households - essentially living separate lives for part of the week and then coming together to enjoy a paired life just some of the time.  It's not the norm, and it raises eyebrows.  Apparently it implies some kind of lack of commitment.  I'd argue differently. Surely there's more commitment in saying ''let's take time, this is working OK now - we're here for the long term even if we don't know what that might look like'' than to leap into shared accommodations when the timing isn't quite right just because it appears to be the next logical step - or the most convenient option.

Two friends of mine have been doing this for coming on three years - it probably won't be for ever, but for now, with the commitments they each have to their own careers, houses, families and interests, it works.   It's not a part time relationship - emotionally they are committed to each other for keeps - but yes, the ability to blend their lives, is, for now less than full time.

It seems to me that in some ways it's the best of both worlds - each person gets to pursue the things they want to alone but still enjoy each other in a far less pressured environment than the re partnered/blended family usually affords.  It might be for a short time, it might be long term, but as long as both are happy with the arrangement, then I say it's a win win.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

the naked truth

How come men are so much more comfortable wandering around with no clothes on, than women are?  The set up in the public loo is rather different - and I'm pretty sure it's mainly the women who scurry off to private cubicles at the gym or swimming pool.

I know of only one woman in my entire circle of friends that is happy to be unclothed and have the world (potentially) see her.  On the other hand, seems most guys are quite content with nakedness no matter what the time of day or the occasion.

And even then there are some degrees, especially for the girls.  There are some that won't dress/undress in front of anyone else, even their partner.  Its a generalisation but those women often wear fairly conservative clothes in daylight too. Nary a peek of cleavage will be allowed to show itself!

I wonder is this a reflection on the way we feel about ourselves?  Could it be that that confident people don't mind letting the world see them (physically) naked?  Or perhaps it runs deeper than that...could it be that the ones who are comfortable undressed - happy with their physical bodies,  are also more at ease with their emotional selves too?

Your thoughts?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

We need to talk

Yesterday I talked with someone who had gone through a marriage breakup many years ago, and is still very sad and angry about it, despite life having turned out pretty well (including finding love again). She talked about the feeling of failure that still lives with her. I asked, what part do you think you played in the breakup? What did you learn from it? She literally took a step back and stared in disbelief.

''To this day I take absolutely no responsibility for it. I did nothing wrong. Nothing. I was literally a perfect wife. It came completely out of the blue''. I, somewhat stunned, said, ''but surely you must believe you contributed to your partners unhappiness? Surely?''  She said, "NO it wasn't me. It was never me!"  I was completely blindsided.  How could someone not want to take any responsibility? Makes no sense to me.  After all, there must be literally thousands of books, blogs and websites dedicated to helping people find and keep love, and at least that many again that are all about getting (probably many of the same people) insight on why relationships fail , how to ''get over'' them. AND how to learn from your mistakes, no matter who the initiator of the breakup was.

In all that I have read, coupled with my own hard earned experiences, it seems to me that one of the fundamental reason that things ''don't work out'' is that one person starts to feel a sense of separation - perhaps under appreciated or misunderstood, and the other one misses the signs. Usually through no fault of their own, in fact I'd almost say, nearly always through no fault of their own. And from the people I know that have been through a breakup, most can say hand on heart that they believed they were doing all they could to keep their relationship happy and healthy, and found out much too late that they had missed an important cue from their then unhappy partner.

Of course I believe that it is not the total responsibility of one person to create or sustain happiness for another. But if someone thinks that it's you making them unhappy then it's you making them unhappy. Whether it be an action, an inaction, an attitude or just a vague ''feeling'', it's real to them. If they tell you nothing, it's pretty difficult to know where to start to address a problem - but in retrospect I bet most of us could say there was a vague hunch of some unease, even if it couldn't be absolutely pinpointed. The reality is of course, that the unhappiness probably doesn't  truly stem from the partner. Yes I know it might be about situations present being seen through the smudged lens of the past. Of course I know that, but perception is reality right? The tricky part, is that if you, as the unhappy one, OR the unsure one, say nothing and hope for an improvement - or accept it with resignation, then neither party is being fair to each other. Ironically most people tend to keep these feelings close for fear of their impact on the relationship, until its too late (it's that damn vulnerability/fear/nakedness thing again).   Or, as I've talked about before, one or the other of you reaches out for help from outside of the relationship and it is either misguided, or worse, not forthcoming (don't get me started...)

If I look back with an impartial eye over my own relationship ''non-finishings'' I have to take responsibility for missing cues.  I am guilty of not paying enough attention to whether or not my actions and behaviour were contributing to the unhappiness of my partner, and remain deeply regretful of hurt I caused - always without intention - to the people who cared for me. Yes, there's two people in every relationship - but the reality is that in mine, I was one of them.  After all, isn't the common denominator in these non-successes, me?

At its deepest level its about fear. Simply being afraid. For the minute you ask someone ''what is wrong'' you risk hearing that the problem is you.  The minute you say ''what do you need'' you risk hearing ''not you''. NO-ONE wants to hear that do they?! And so the outcome...No matter how much I wanted to fix my mistakes, no matter how remorseful, no matter what the issue was (a simple misunderstanding at one end of the scale to a total inability to be reconciled at the other), ultimately, to date, I have not been able to successfully negotiate a relationship as I want to, (and believe I am capable of doing).  This is not about self pity, or defeat. I cannot, and do not take 100% responsibility for the non-success I have had so far. As I said, there's two people in every relationship. But I remain a student of my own shortcomings. Dress it up however you like, but at the end of the day, I have to accept that I have not met the (admittedly un-articulated) needs of my partner/s.

The lessons to be learnt?  To never assume. And to be brave. It's that simple. If there's a little problem, or even a little question mark, I hope that I can have enough courage in the future to address it.  Gently and without judgement, but with courage, ownership and commitment to successful resolution.  Assume success absolutely, but don't assume it will happen without work and change and maybe just a little pain.  I hope I can be trusted with such thoughts from my SO, and that there will be enough honesty and vulnerability from both of us to move forward through what ever obstacle we face. And that my partner will feel safe enough with me to bring up what ever small hurt is causing some pain, before it turns into a massive wound.

Why is it that we turn away from each other when faced with pain, rather than to our greatest source of potential healing? (A question for another post perhaps). As every currently unpartnered person knows - the totally stupid thing is that all too often we see leaving the problem as a whole lot more attractive option than fixing it. Sometimes it is. But in the spirit of everything I write about in this blog, I simply can't accept that there is any obstacle too great, any problem too insurmountable, any hurt unhealable, if both people are willing to face it together.

Idealistic?  Probably, it's one of my best qualities;)...But I'm also tempered with the reality that none of us are perfect - and when the first shiny flakes of crazy love rub off to reveal reality, we need to exercise a huge amount of courage, grace and compassion to each other to achieve success in our relationships.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

ah...THERE you are!!!

Following on from my post about ''getting involved'' a couple of  weeks ago, I am pretty stoked to learn that (in part) as a result of my sticking my nose in, the couple I talked about are getting themselves on track. How awesome is that!

I've had cause to talk about that particular post with a number of people, and almost without exception they have agreed that whilst the ideal is to be brave enough to have an opinion, most don't do it.  There's a variety of reasons, but largely it's simply that - and no one would actually admit to it - most people are pretty busy with their own lives and really don't have the time, or inclination to get involved with someone Else's. It involves risk, it involves commitment, and it also just might mean some inconvenience where you really don't want or need it.

But here's the thing.  Experience tells me that one of the perils of social and electronic media (and I've written about this before) is how easy it is to offer the commitment of non commitment.  Things like ''well come and visit me sometime'', or ''you know I'm here at the end of the phone if you need me''.  It invites the troubled person to make the first be supportive without actually giving real support.  Not always a bad thing, granted, as there are plenty of times that a person hurting just needs to know that there is someone there if they need them.

But, and for me this is a BIG but...for the person who is hurting, especially when it is as a result of a problem in a relationship (IE the person you are closest to is now no longer the one you can call on for support), there can be a real reluctance to actually ask for help or support from outside.  Fear of what you might be told, fear of having to talk about something painful, whatever, its really easy for the hurting person to retreat within themselves. I know, I've done it.

I've read a number of things that describe love as an action. That it's about ''showing up'' emotionally, not just going along for the ride.

Well, actually I think it's also as much about showing up physically.  I was told recently by someone newly separated that I was the only person who had actually checked in regularly -the only one who had actually ''turned up'' physically in this persons life.  That both shocked and saddened me.  Where were the friends? They had offered support, absolutely - call me, text me, visit me. But none had actually got on the phone, or in the car, and showed up.  I even asked a couple of them...did you call yet? Visit? And if not why not? And I got the same response...oh well, it's not really my journey...they know where I am...I don't really know what to do/say (as per

Yes there's a risk.  There's a huge risk that the person you doorstep will tell you to go away. The person you phone will say ''I don't want to talk about it''. The opinion you give (if asked for it or not) will be rejected or denied.  You might even find yourself being rejected in the moment - for whatever reason, your presence, at that time, is not welcome or needed.  Maybe you represent something the hurting person doesn't want to see or feel. Maybe they are talked out.

Frankly, I don't give a damn.  People who are hurting need people to show up.  Regardless of the ending and who did it, someone who has just left a relationship is sore - they are probably feeling unloved or unlovable. As the supportive friend, you're probably not the one they want to feel loved by but that doesn't mean you shouldn't love them anyway. They might not appreciate it at the time - you might not be the right person, and the timing might really really suck - but at least they need to know that someone - maybe more than just one - actually cares about them. Sometimes it means giving an unpopular opinion - sometimes it means just listening (personally I'm in favour of the unpopular opinion, because I reckon 99% of the time, that's the truth. Listening and empathising does little more than make a hurt person feel better about their hurt - often necessary, sometimes the easy option ).

Yes, I've been told I'm unwelcome. Yes it hurts.  And I know when to take my leave. But in my world, it is about showing up. Putting your money where your mouth is, and actually being there for someone when they need you, even if they don't admit to it.