Single Motherhood

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It’s been a while…

My life has been turned upside down and I haven’t had the time, energy or heart for blogging really.

A little less than two months ago, Hedgehog left me for another woman. His ex-wife of all people. They’d been having an affair for months, he later confessed. 

The news hit me like a freight train. As far as I knew everything was fine, and then one evening he just left with no real explanation. That was hard enough, but it took him a couple of weeks to admit why he’d left. Finding out about the affair was emotionally devastating. And I’m having to contend with the ongoing emotional rollercoaster of being involved with him and his new family. He Facetimes Nookie daily and I can hear his new fiancé (yeh you read that right… they were engaged less than two weeks after he left!) in the background. Nookie likes to talk to his other kids. And I have to see him every week when he visits the kids. Which is all really really hard. 

So I’m now a single mother. Which is exhausting. I’ve had to claim single parent benefits (which are basically the minimum you need to live on). I have no car. I have six cats to take care of on top of everything else. 

I’ve also started to experience quite bad anxiety. It’s subsided a little now, but a couple of weeks ago it was so bad I could barely function. I never get a moment to myself. I never stop with the mountain of housework and childcare I now do single-handedly. I also have to start thinking about getting a job, as I can only claim income support until Smushface is five. I have to attend regular meetings at the job centre to help get me back into work (patronising much!).

So yeh… things aren’t great. I’m surviving, but barely, and only because of my amazing friends who have been just fantastic through everything! They’ve been helping me from the very moment Hedgehog left, and continue to offer invaluable emotional support. I don’t know what I’d have done without them. And my family too, who have helped so much with practical stuff. 

Day-to-day life is immensely stressful right now. There’s no one to help when things are tough. When Smushface has fallen to sleep on me and Nookie wants something to eat, there’s no one to help me out. When they’re both having a meltdown and I’m stuck on the sofa there’s no one to get me a drink when I’m desperately thirsty. We have to take the train or bus everywhere, which is hard with two little kids, expensive, and the bus/train routes aren’t great. There are a lot of places we simply can’t get to anymore. We only just have enough money to get by. There’s nothing for all the extras Nookie was used to like new computer games and trips out. She’s really struggling with that. I miss the dog, who went with Hedgehog because I couldn’t manage him on my own (I tried, but it was too much). 

But the hardest thing isn’t any of this, hard as it is. The hardest thing is not having anyone to talk to all the time. I go days now without seeing another adult. There’s no one to text when I’m at the park and the kids are being a nightmare and I need some moral support. There’s no one to talk to when the kids are in bed. There’s no one to rant to when I’m having a hard day. I’ve lost my best friend. The person I thought I could depend on more than anyone else. He just threw us away like we were nothing. And now I’m all alone, with only my children to keep me company.

 
It sucks. 

So yeh… I don’t think I’ll be blogging much anymore. I don’t have any extra energy or enthusiasm right now. I’ll probably keep up with my vegan blog if people want to follow me there (www.skintveganmummy.wordpress.com). But otherwise, this might be goodbye…

Going Veggie

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In other news, I’ve stopped eating meat. It’s something I’ve been thinking about and transitioning towards for a long time, but last week I finally made a decision. I just can’t live with the idea of eating meat anymore. It seems so wrong.

I’m also gradually moving towards a vegan diet, though this is a little scary for me and is taking a lot more thought and time. Not eating meat is simple. Not eating dairy or eggs is another matter entirely! It’s not something I can bring myself to do in a short period, but it is something I can do gradually. A vegan friend of mine made the good point that every time I choose non-dairy/eggs instead of dairy/eggs is a positive choice. And when I think of it that way it isn’t so overwhelming.

So we’ll see. It’s a work in progress.

Fugue

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These days… they’re getting harder. I’m getting worn out. I’m getting angrier. Kids. They’re such hard work. 

I find the joy. I find it a hundred times a day. Every morning I get up and summon up all my enthusiasm. And every night I end the day a quivering wreck, utterly spent and entirely out of fucks. 

We’re going through a rough patch. Smushface is refusing to go to sleep at night. Tonight it was 11.10pm when she was finally asleep! Nookie is going through a stubborn phase and there’s often no talking her around. She is having night terrors some nights and keeping me up. Smushface has started waking repeatedly through the night. 

Gradually they’re wearing me down. I’m starting to get that worn out mum look… the one where you haven’t showered or brushed your hair in days, your pyjamas are permanently covered in chocolate (I don’t usually manage to wear clothes anymore), and you let the baby play in the dog water bowl just so she’ll stop shrieking.

In the space of ten minutes today I managed to burn melted chocolate that I was making for Nookie, put the second lot where Smushface could reach it, and consequently she pulled the bowl off the sofa and smashed it – melted chocolate all over the carpet, and be vomitted over. By the vomiting bit I was so over it I just laughed and stripped us both naked in the kitchen. Fuck it. 

But they’re asleep now. Somehow. It took a mammoth tag team effort from myself and Hedgehog. I did some shouting and lots of protesting. Smushface did lots of screaming. Nookie backed down from an argument for once, seeming to recognise how stressed I was (bless her). They’re asleep. I can sleep. Sleep… and do it all again tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that. 

I love them. I love them more than life. They’re my whole world. But fuck me they’re hard work!

What I Achieved Today

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It’s one of those days where I feel like I’ve been chasing my own tail all day like some sort of demented dog, and never actually achieved anything. These sorts of days are getting increasingly frequent as Smushface gets older. The kids… they run me ragged! I don’t ever seem to pause for breath. Even as I write this I’m also trying to feed Smushface to sleep in the sling. And I know the second I go downstairs once I’m done Nookie will be on me to play with her some more. It’s never ending. 

But damn it I have achieved stuff today! Shut up little voice. You’re a yapping little cunt. Yes I know there’s a pile of laundry as tall as me in the hall that I didn’t get around to sorting today. Yes I know I forgot to make the appointment for Smushface’s vaccinations (after I forgot her original appointment) again! Yes I am slightly drunk. So fucking what?! Look…

Today:

I wrote out the shopping list I couldn’t do yesterday because I had to put Smushface back to bed SEVEN fucking times!!!

I found the paperwork we need to be able to take the poorly dog to the (charity) vet this week – buried under a load of shit in the spare room. 

I cooked pancakes for the kids (Nookie’s favourite breakfast) and then chased Smushface around trying to get her to actually eat rather than feed it to the dog!

I went food shopping to the market and supermarket with Smushface in tow

I took back the library books that were a month overdue and got some new ones I thought Nookie might like

I took some stuff to the charity shop that’s been sitting in the hall for months

I came home and put Smushface down for a nap, and while she napped played some x-box games with Nookie

I cooked dinner. The feta I used in the meal was off or something (it tasted like a horse!) so I had to throw it away and salvage something from the ingredients I had left over

I’ve changed about eight nappies today and changed Smushface’s clothes three times

I’ve spent about three hours in total today breastfeeding, usually whilst also doing something else

I helped Nookie play an Xbox game and played a few others with her (sonic, etc)

I read Smushface some books from the library 

Hedgehog and I talked about some financial stuff and made some important decisions (whilst also playing with the kids)

I found some new clothes for Nookie to look through on eBay 

And look, I blogged!

So screw you little voice! I’m not lazy. I’ve had a really hardcore day. Yes it might look like I’ve sat around all day doing bugger all, but you know, YOU KNOW I haven’t stopped all bloody day! I’m still feeding Smushface in the sling. She’s almost asleep enough to transfer. I’ve been standing here nearly half an hour. My feet and back are killing me. And in a minute I’m going to go downstairs and most likely play with Nookie for the rest of the night until it’s time for her to go to bed. Then I’ll make her a snack, read her bedtime stories and finally, at about 11.20pm, she’ll be asleep. I work from 7.30am until 11.20pm most days (and often through the night too) without a single break. 

So shut up little voice. Screw you!

Why I Baby-Wear

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I’m a pretty hardcore baby-wearer. I don’t own a pram or pushchair. I wore Nookie until she was three, and now Smushface spends hours every day in the sling. She takes most of her naps in the sling. I have a growing collection of various slings; a ring sling, a few Mei Tais, a Moby wrap and my newest addition, a podaegi. I just love baby-wearing. Why? Here’s why:

  • The closeness. I love having my babies near me. I love their smell. I love being able to just put my head down and kiss them on the head. I love cuddling them. I can’t imagine having them away from me in a pushchair. They should be right there, snuggled into my chest.
  • Breastfeeding. I can feed Smushface in most of my slings. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze, but I can. So I don’t have to stop whatever I’m doing, sit down and feed my baby. I just whip my boob out, stick it in her mouth, and then resume whatever I’m doing. Walking the dogs, cooking dinner, playing with Nookie… I’ve done them all whilst feeding Smushface in the sling. Having a baby around is so much easier when you don’t have to be pinned to the sofa feeding them! I also never worry about nursing in public because no one can see a thing!
  • Practicality. Getting on a bus with a pram? Putting a pram in a small car? Storing a pram in a tiny house? Getting a pram into any shop! Fuck that. I can’t actually describe to you how much easier using a sling is. I used a pram with Nookie for about three months and hated it (as did she!). They’re fucking cumbersome things. Granted, there are a few occasions when having a pushchair is easier. Baby-wearing in hot weather is a bit sweaty, for example. But a sling is more practical in about nine out of ten situations I would say.
  • Price. Unless you buy a pram or pushchair second-hand (like I did with Nookie), I understand they cost a pretty penny. And their resale value is negligible. Granted, some slings are hugely expensive. But they don’t have to be. My favourite Mei Tai cost £50. And when I’m done with it it’ll probably sell for about the same amount of money. I’ve bought and sold numerous slings as I’ve tried them out, and they’ve always sold for about the same amount as I bought them for so long as they’re well looked after.
  • Getting on with daily life. There aren’t many things I haven’t done whilst baby-wearing. Cooking, cleaning, walking, climbing with Nookie, ironing, mowing the lawn, planting trees, walking the dogs, putting up a tent… hands-free parenting! And the added weight must be making me stronger and fitter. Double bonus!
  • Aesthetic. Have you seen some slings? They’re beautiful! My podaegi is just gorgeous. My Maya wrap Mei Tai is so boho and pretty. Some of the woven wraps out there are made of the most intricate, beautiful fabrics. I love matching my slings to my outfits and wearing them. They look awesome!

Overall I baby-wear because it makes life, especially with an older child, much MUCH easier. I can’t imagine how I could do so many of the things I do without my slings. I don’t have to sacrifice any of my daily activities for my baby. She just fits into our lives.

Community

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A few recent events have really made me think a lot about community. Or rather, the lack of it in this age. We each live in our own little bubbles, isolated from each other, surrounded by people living in theirs. We go about our daily business alone except for our family, whilst our next door neighbours go about theirs. We’re probably doing very similar, or even the same, activities. But we do it in isolation. The more I think about it, the more crazy it seems.

Going to the home-education camp recently really brought it home to me. Being surrounded by close friends, sharing the load, always having someone there… it was amazing. The kids would wake up and all go off together on their adventures, whilst the adults chatted while we cooked and got on with the few chores that camping entails. There was always someone there to hold the baby. If someone was doing a load of washing up they would take everyone’s. There was always someone with some spare hot water for a cup of tea, or a bit of leftover dinner so someone wouldn’t have to cook. We shared, we cooperated and most importantly of all, we were a community. If only it could have lasted forever…

I knew that coming home would be a culture shock. But it’s not just that. This way we live seems crazy to me. Why don’t we know our neighbours?! Why are we all so reluctant to come together and share? We’re all people aren’t we? We all want similar things in life. What is this sickness that is our culture?

Over the last few months I’ve had the great pleasure to be part of a wonderful community of women on Facebook. What started off as a group to support us through the process of Intuitive Eating and healing ourselves of a lifetimes damage when it comes to body image, has become so much more. Being amongst these women, sharing our innermost feelings and problems… it’s been an inspiration. And an invaluable emotional resource the like of which I’ve never known before. Here are women who are genuinely trying to help each other in any way they can. Whether it’s a virtual hug, a listening ear, someone to call in the middle of the night when you’re feeling down, practical help… they’re there. They’re always there. And not in the platitudinous, empty “we’re always here” that you often get from well-meaning people, but know they don’t actually mean it. In a very real, going-that-extra-mile kind of way!

But it’s made me realise what we’re missing in society. Why do we live the way we do? Isolated. Why don’t we share? Why is it that I share a garden with two neighbours and we each have our own play equipment that we would never consider sharing? Why couldn’t the more fortunate members of the community come together to help those in need? Why are we relying on the state?! Why can’t we rely on each other?! It’s insane.

I long for a tribe: a community. If only my friends and dear family had the money to buy our own plot of land and build our own community on it. It would be wonderful!

But it has got me to thinking about where we live, and what I could do to make it better. Not waiting for someone else. Actually doing something. Am I brave enough to break outside of society’s recipe?

A New Beginning

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So lately I’ve been thinking a lot. About life, about privacy, about my reasons for blogging, and about what I want this space to be. And it seems to me that my blog had become stagnant. With the current demands of my life I haven’t really been tending it, and it wasn’t serving me the way it used to. I needed a change.

So, I’ve decided to make my past posts private for now, redesign my blog space, and start anew. I think I’ll be focusing more on radical unschooling, rants and reflection, rather than the daily life stuff. But we’ll see. I also won’t be posting recognisable pictures of my children anymore, for reasons of privacy. I might archive some of my old posts at some point, when I get time, but for now I’ll keep them private. I really need a fresh start and a clean slate.

So to my followers, I hope you stick with me. And to new readers, hello. Welcome to my blog.