Sunday, 26 August 2012

time out for parents

I am the primary caregiver for my two young children, and they are with me 12 days out of 14.  I am, by and large, completely happy with this arrangement, and miss them very much when they are gone even for just their ''every other weekend'' with their father.

But I also get tired - and occasionally not just a little resentful - when it feels likes its only ever just me with a kid hanging off me 24/7 (it's not but it feels like it sometimes) or when it is me, again, dealing with an upset tummy, a cough, a friend drama, tricky homework, another taxi trip or any other of the myriad of day to day normalcy's of parenting.  My daughter can be very possessive and is currently struggling with the concept that Mum might want to have a life outside of caring for her (yep the world does actually revolve around her...).

And so when I arrange - or as is more usual, fall upon by accident - that both children will be off at a play date or sleepover or school event at the same time, I invariably feel guilty.  It's as if as a single parent I have to be doing a better job than if I were not, and that includes spending every available minute with, or for, the children.  I am all for independence and they have a full life with a lot of socialising and fun stuff that doesn't include me, but there is always this thin line of underlying guilt that I find myself watching for.

Perhaps the upside, if there is one, of parenting from two houses is that there is that opportunity for 48 child free hours.  Its time to regroup and not have to be thinking about someone who is dependent on me,  for a whole weekend.  Its a chance to do what I want to do with the people I want to do that with.  But to be completely honest, sometimes it's not enough.  And, what I have come to realise, is that actually I am a better person for having some time to myself - other than those two days at the end of every fortnight.   The children don't understand that my work day doesn't really count as time out.  But fortunately for me, FDH has also come to realise this and is starting to support me in my endeavours to take more time for myself.

So I have started taking one evening a week for myself. The babysitter is booked and off I go.  The children protest, oh yes they do, but I am doing my utmost to press on with this.  And I do believe I am better of for it.  So when the opportunity arises to do this more often, I think I'm going to take it.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

the sound of hearts breaking

My daughter is going through a tough time right now. Kids are intuitive there is no doubt, and in this instance I'm sure she is sensing some changes in her mother - and pushing buttons (possibly without even realising it).
Tonight the children were minded by their Dad while I worked.  We crossed over at bedtime and he left after tucking them in.
''I just want you and Dad to get back together'' she said. ''i feel like my heart is broken in half and each half lives in a different house''.

That made my heart break.  I listened, I reflected, I nodded, but I couldn't give her the thing I knew she feels is most important to her.  Its tough.  It's her journey and I can only support her through it.  But it hurts, oh how it hurts.  I didn't want this for my children, I still don't.  She blames her father, citing him as the ''leaver'' but takes out the sadness and frustration on me - which I understand and absorb as best I can.

I can't live my life in fear of dashing even more of my childs dreams, but I also can't allow her to nurse this fantasy that will never come true.  It's a dilemma I don't want to face, and yet it is now right here in front of me.

What to do?

Saturday, 11 August 2012

a kids perspective on friends and lovers

Today is wet. And so I happily agreed to each child having a friend over to play for the day.
Son ended up going to a mates house and so I have two girls here.  On the way back from pickup up the friend (who has not visited before) asked my daughter how many people lived in her house.  She explained: me, my mum and my brother.  My mum and dad split up a long time ago so he lives in another house, but he comes and visits all the time.   This was said in a quite but surprisingly confident voice.  The friend nodded sagely as only 10 year olds can.  ''My parents are just mates these days'' she said.  ''They argue all the TIME and they aren't in love that's for sure''.  My daughter looked at her in amazement.  ''Do they sleep in different rooms then?".  'No but often Mum sleeps on the couch'' she responded.  My daughter looked at her and said ''well my parents don't live in the same house but they NEVER argue any more, AND they are REALLY good friends''.

It was an interesting exchange and reminded me that children see the world in a different way to us.  I have no idea how much truth (or reality) was in this girls statements. But as far as she was concerned, arguing meant not in love (in a basic way).  As far as my daughter was concerned, it appeared to be almost favourable to have non-arguing parents who liked each other, even if they didn't live in the same house.  This is a huge departure for my child who has spent most of the past 4 years yearning for her father and I to reconcile.

I have struggled with this issue so much.  My parents didn't even speak to each other (for various and convoluted reasons) for 30 years give or take.  My in-laws were the same.  My ex husband and I were determined that this life would not be repeated for our children, and have gone out of our way to be beyond civil - to be ''friends''.  Which makes parenting 1000% easier, the inevitable family events much more pleasant and the division of property, friends and family a smoother path.  But the downside is that the children have found the delineation of our lives more difficult.   Children's logic says: if they're not arguing they must be OK.  If they can be friends maybe they can be married.  When is he coming back.
On the other hand, a strained relationship just makes like harder for everyone but there is unlikely to be any question of reconciliation in the minds of hopeful children.

So to hear my daughter explain her situation, and seem to be rather happier with her own situation than that of her friend was somewhat of a revelation to me.

Baby steps, but maybe this is another one along the path to acceptance.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

blind faith and the ultimate deal breaker

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with someone who is going though an all too common problem.  I need to say right at the start that I don't know the woman involved, and only met the man for the first time yesterday, and so my blog today is really just a reflection on the issue rather than my opinion on where this particular relationship sits on this.

The synopsis is, the guy is a man of deep spiritual faith, and a regular church attender.  His partner is not.  In fact she has stated she is not really interested in this aspect of life.  So he's really struggling with this.

This is a pretty common situation, especially for the re-partnered.  My experience tells me that it's incredibly difficult to maintain a whole relationship with someone whose core beliefs (as opposed to their core values, which are quite different to spiritual issues) differ to your own.  But what interests me most is that Christians in particular, really struggle with this issue.  Not only because it can impact on so many areas of life (raising kids, how weekends are spent, how to celebrate holidays), but also many really find it hard to come to terms with the idea that by being ''unequally yoked'' they are disobeying the very God they believe in.

Is it possible to have a relationship with someone of differing beliefs?  Many would say yes, and just as many would say no.  The ones who say no would probably argue hard won experience, quote Bible verses and cite examples of friends whose relationships had failed in part - great or small - to religious differences.  And the ones who say yes would most likely fall into two categories.  Those who are comfortable enough with their own faith but see no pressing need to share it with others, even those close to them, and those who see their own faith as '''leading the way'' for their partners.

The practicalities are this:  Are you okay with possibly compromising on the stories and narratives given to your children?  If you're a regular church going are you happy to do this on your own?  If talking about ''God'' stuff is important to you, are you happy to NOT do this with your partner?  Are the peripherals of what you believe going to be impacted and does it matter? (the moral issues...gambling, alcohol and drugs, celebrations like Halloween, any other issue with a strong Christian line in the sand).  Is the fact that a part of your life potentially always going to be separate to your partners? - in this case bear in mind that a/ to them Christianity may well be viewed as a hobby like tramping or cycling or cooking, simply because of their lack of interest or empathy and b/ there's no rule to say a couple has to share everything.

My observation is this:  Does God actually care whether you are in a relationship with someone with the same beliefs as you?  I think if you believe that God actually has an opinion about this you could argue that yes, He probably does think it would make things a whole lot easier for you if it's something shared. Does He disapprove or forbid these differences?  Well, possibly, but refer to the previous comment.  I think the issue here is not really about God.  There will be a pile of Bible verses to support either side of the argument and justify both positions, if you look hard enough and interpret them to your own ends.

The issue for me is not whether GOD can accept that you might be in a relationship with a ''non-believer'' (eek horrible expression!), but whether YOU can.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

building a present, creating a past

New relationships are awesome right!? It's SO much fun to find out about someone, to learn their stories and share your own.  To meet new friends and find new interests, and discover things and people in common.

Someone recently commented to me that their (newish) relationship had taken what seemed to be, a very long time to evolve.  To ''bed in'' was actually the expression used.  The rationale being that no matter how much you might want to establish and secure yourself into a relationship, the process can't be rushed.  It's going to take as long as it is going to take, and trying to hurry things along won't make an iota of difference.

Which I guess means that the concept of creating memories is going to take a fair amount of time too - two people come together with pretty much no idea of who the other was pre-meeting, and there's a process there too - of learning about the others history, and trying to piece together a past that you might be completely unfamiliar with.

But with lots of talking, and meeting of friends, and poring over photograph albums, you can usually get a better picture of the person who existed before you knew they did.  And on top of that history, you get to add some shared stuff.

And so, with each passing day - and date - or conversation, or shared experience, a little history is made.  You start having ''remember when'' conversations.  You start to create a frame of reference that includes the start of your relationship.  Until finally there is a present which is real, and burgeoning with possibility.  And eventually the sum of those experiences start to create a past that you both shared in.

How awesome is that:)