Monday, 30 May 2011

The good, the bad and the single parent

Being a single parent is at times difficult and at other times rewarding. I've written before about my own experiences of being a single parent, so I thought I'd ask some other bloggers for their views on the pros and cons of being a single parent. Here's what they had to say.

Rosie Scribble has a 7 year old daughter:
I would say the best thing about being a single parent is you develop an incredibly close relationship with your child that is beneficial to you both.

The worse thing, for me, is knowing that the lack of a father figure in her my daughter's life is a huge loss for her and one that is likely to impact on her for the rest of her life.

I'd also add that no stereotypical single parent family unit exists. We've all found ourselves in this situation for different reasons.

Bob at Only Dads has two daughters:
Pros: A sense of pride when things go well - that may sound potentially big-headed. It's not meant to and perhaps other single parents will know what I mean?

You learn new skills. I read of many Mums who get a bit handy with the all DIY stuff. For my part I can put full family meals together (while working) with complete ease!

I find this hard to articulate - but I tend to live with the feeling that as every day passes things will get just that little bit easier. It's an general feeling of optimism.

Cons: not being able to share the hard times (a problem shared is a problem halved) but my down times come when something brilliant happens - a moment of laughter or parental pride (like when my youngest acted in the nativity play and astounded me with what she was able to do). Not being able to share those moments is hard!

Nova from Cherished by Me is a single parent with five children:
For me the hardest part of being a single parent is having to deal with all the worry that comes with parenthood alone and not having anyone to discuss various milestones with. Not being able to ever sit back and let someone else deal with the stress or hand over to for a while is exhausting. Being the lone 'taxi driver' in the family is pretty tiring too.

Also, even surrounded by lots of children it can be a very lonely place at times.

Since becoming a single parent, strangely I find I do more for me than I ever did whilst married, even with five children in tow. We tend to go out as a family more and for some reason it is less stressful when we do. I don't have to share cuddles either, they're all mine! I believe we are all stronger though, I am and the children are too. We are close and the children all pull together when the 'going gets tough'. I'm not sure they would be quite like that if life had carried on as it was.

Nicola from Some Mothers Do Ave Em has two boys and recently moved back to the UK after living in Chicago for several years:
Pros. I am tired. I am lonely. I am sex starved (TMI?). So trying to dream up pros of being a single parent, beyond "hey, I get sole control of the TV remote and no longer have to pick up skanky boxers from the bedroom floor on a daily basis!" is a little challenging right now.

I guess one thing that can be construed as a plus is I no longer waste time in my day either planning to nag or actually nagging the co-habiting parent. There is no longer a sense of frustration that he is not 'keeping up his side of the bargain' where the children are concerned. I am responsible for EVERYTHING in my house and that simplifies things. If I don't make it happen...well, it pretty much doesn't happen. I no longer have to wait for someone to do things for me or feel disappointed if they don't. I just get on with it. When I first separated from my husband, this made quite a difference in my life. It was as though a weight had been lifted. A daily emotional minefield was instantly defused. Mind you, that's possibly due to the fact that I was married to an arse. Possibly.

Plus, I do get regular breaks from my children, where I get to be me. This version of me is somewhat similar to the person I was before I had children, except now I am much more capable of luxuriating in the notion of Free Time. I get to spend my whole day without the constant demands of my offspring. The only desires I have to concern myself with are my own. If I am not hungry...a meal doesn't get made! I can watch any television programme that I want to...before their bedtime! I can drink tea, read a book, eat chocolate, steal their sweets, write a blog post, scratch my bum, pick my nose - oh the list is endless - without any fear of interruption or being caught out whatsoever! At the start of my separation, this was very heady stuff indeed.

Cons? I can't list them all. I have found it to be tougher than I expected. Particularly right now where the brunt of the day-to-day childcare is my sole responsibility, without the aforementioned regular breaks.

However, my biggest loss is the fact that I am not sharing my sons lives with their dad. He is the only one who gets it. He is the only one who loves them like I do. He is the only one who can possibly share the daily joys and concerns to the same extent. He is the only one with the history of being there with them, from day one, as I was (due to the fact we were 4,000 miles away from family and friends). Other people may love my sons - but it's no match for the love that their dad and I have for them. And I miss being able to share that with the one person on the planet capable of it.

I also find it incomprehensible at times that my own children have a huge chunk of their personal life that I am not privy to. There's a whole new family now, with my ex and his girlfriend, that I am not a part of. There are people in their lives that they are developing strong emotional attachments to, that I don't know from Adam. I want my sons to be happy. And they are. I want them to be loved and adored by a myriad of people in their lives, both family and beyond. And they are. But to not be a part of it? Right now, I find it crushing. Soul destroying. Heart breaking. I'm sure it will get easier, but if you're asking me my honest opinion at this very minute? It's nothing other than totally and utterly pants.

Kairen who blogs at Confessions of a Single Mum, has a son and a daughter :
The pros. Not having to share a bed. I really don’t miss someone sharing my bed one bit. They other species snore way too much and as for all that excessive wind they proudly produce trapped under the duvet really isn’t my idea of fun. It doesn’t feel cold or empty in any way but does feel like mine, the place I can retreat to at the end of the night and really wind down and relax.

I have found life is more relaxed as a single parent. Yes there are moments of sheer panic and unorganised chaos but with only three in the house we're more likely to want to watch the same things on the TV, want to eat the same foods and generally get on better. The kids don’t have to via for my attention either, when they are at my house its more one on one. Then when they go to their dads they have one on one time with him. I am lucky that the children split their time between their dads house and mine so I have more concentrated and quality time with the children as well as adult time to do the things I want to do. Their dad has said the same thing so it works very well for both of us.

The cons. As they spend half their time at their dads and are also now old enough to be more the free range kind of children, there can be days when I don’t actually speak to anyone. It sort of brought it home to me the other day when I was counting something and suddenly counted out loud, I made myself jump so much I thought I had induced heart failure. They are at the age that I don’t walk them to school and would probably die of embarrassment if I tried to do it, so there is no school gate banter with other mums either. There are times I feel I am winging it. I don’t know if I am tackling parenting issues the right or wrong way. Not that there is a right or wrong way but it would be nice to have back up and input on some issues. It would cut out a lot of trial and error. I know a lot of single parents may say the money side of things is a bad side of it all, for me it has taught me a lot about myself and society. Yes money is tight, we don’t have holidays or latest fashions but living on a tighter budget has made me a lot less materialistic and learn what actually is import in life. This has also passed onto the children, they don’t consider themselves hard done by (well most of the time) and they have a good idea the value of money and how far it goes.
I can only nod my head in agreement to all of the above. The low points can be extremely low, but the highs can be life affirming. If you've been a single parent you'll know that you have to find inner strength from somewhere in order to cope with the sheer relentlessness of it all. But the sense of achievement you feel to know that you've managed to cope on your own and raise kind, loving and balanced children is second to none.

I'd love to know your own views on single parenting. If you're single parent what are your high and low points? If you're in a two parent family how do you think the two compare?

Saturday, 28 May 2011

What's in your backpack?

Sometimes on a weekend I like to have a mooch around the shops and have a look at some of things I never knew I needed. Today was one of those days, and I spent the morning browsing and wondering how much money we spend on non-essential stuff.

When I started writing this blog post I was just going to write about some of the trivia I could have spent my hard earned money on, but it's got me thinking about the film Up In The Air.

In the film George Clooney *swoon* plays a businessman who spends most of his life travelling, a life he prefers. As a sideline, he gives motivational speeches called 'What's in your Backpack?' where he talks about how each of us is carrying around a metaphorical backpack that contains all of our possessions and commitments. Our backpacks get heavier and heavier until they are so filled with “stuff” that it is nearly impossible to move. George Clooney’s character argues that we should “set our backpacks on fire” and free ourselves from this burden.  I won't give the plot away, but he meets a woman and starts having second thoughts about his own life. It's one of those films that really makes you think about what's important in life.

 With that in mind, have a look at some of the essentials I saw on my shopping trip today. Really, how I've managed to live to this age without these things is beyond me.

A banana tree - how have I managed without one?
A two storey bird house - clearly the birds in my garden have been roughing it all this time.

A dog toy in the shape of an anchor - why?
A CD box in the shape of a police box.
The ubiquitous signs that remind us where we live and to dream,
 breathe, love, etc. just in case we forget.
£2.15 for a bottle of dog beer. That's right, beer for dogs. Good grief.
A wire bird. I quite like it, but the question is: do I need it?
An unusual colouring book.
A union jack door stop.
I admit that I really like some of these things, and others less so. I mean do people really buy beer for their dogs? Who are these people?

Basically all of these things are just stuff. Stuff that we might like but don't need. We fill our lives with lots of stuff but how much of it is essential?

So, what's in your backpack? Do you travel light or are you weighed down by lots of stuff?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A canal, a greyhound and a careless owner

Tessie looking wet and bedraggled after falling into the canal

So, animal cruelty. Not something you'd want on your CV is it?

Me neither, but this weekend has been a complete disaster from a pet owner's point of view. Yesterday, when I was taking this photo for Silent Sunday my beloved greyhound Tessie fell into the canal.  Complete panic! It was really difficult to get her out - she's a big dog and it was hard to reach her from the canal bank - but she got out safely and although a little bedraggled and shamefaced, she was okay.

This morning we weren't as lucky. I got ready to take Tessie out for a walk, and as I closed the front door she yelped and jumped in pain. I'd closed the door on her tail and chopped about two inches of it clean off.

I immediately took her back into the house, blood pouring from the injured tail and rang the vets. I drove her straight there where they said they will have to operate on her tail, under general anaesthetic, and will need to amputate a further 2-3 inches due to the injury. 

The vet tried to reassure me by saying that greyhounds' tails are always getting injured due to their length and fragility, but I still felt so guilty.

I'm not ashamed to say I sobbed and sobbed in the vets consulting room. Tessie is a beautiful, gentle dog and I couldn't believe how easy it had been to injure her. I know it was an accident but it's still something I can't undo.

When I got home after leaving her at the vets - she'll be there overnight at least - the hallway looked like a crime scene. Blood everywhere. Up the walls, doors, splattered all over the carpet. But my only concern right now is my little friend Tessie.

Please keep your fingers crossed that she does okay during the operation and there are no long lasting problems. And that she forgives me.

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Family days out ~ Open Farm Sunday

Making the cheese
Not so long ago I had the opportunity, along with a five fellow bloggers, to visit a local creamery in Cheshire to see how cheese is made. 

We were invited by Joseph Heler Cheese to see how they have become the largest independent cheesemaker in the UK. It was a fascinating day and I learned a lot about how cheese is made, and how the creamery had started out as a small family-run dairy farm.

After being shown around the creamery and seeing the huge scale of the operation we were taken to a small workshop and were able to make our own.  A couple of weeks later a piece of the cheese we made popped through the letterbox at home, and even if I say so myself it was a good first attempt!

Now, I can't offer you a chance to make cheese but I have a very interesting alternative.

Open Farm Sunday (on 12th June) is an annual event now in its 6th year. It's organised by LEAF, a registered charity that assists farmers and producers to manage their farms as efficiently and sustainably as possible. 

Hundreds of farms will be opening up to the public, providing a great opportunity to spend a day out on a farm and getting back to nature.  LEAF are trying to encourage the public to get down onto their local farm to find out exactly where their food comes from (before it arrives on their dinner plate) and meet the farmers who produce it with such dedication and care.

It's a fantastic chance to have a look around a real working farm, and get this - it's free of charge!  Check here for a farm in your area taking part in the scheme.

Have fun!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

How do you survive the teenage years in one piece?

The Teenager is 14 and going through what can be called 'a difficult time'. She's too young to do some things, too old to do others. She's still a child but looks like a young woman. She's a feisty, confident girl and I love those qualities in her, but it makes it all the more difficult to deal with her sometimes.

She wants more money.  I give her a modest monthly allowance for clothes and can't really afford to give her more, but she is always complaining that she gets less than her friends do. While I don't like the comparison with her friends, I do understand where she's coming from and I sympathise - but I still can't give her more money. I've suggested looking for a part-time job, which she is keen to do, but we live in a small town and there are limited places she could work while she's still only 14. We'll keep looking, but as things stand she's desperate for money to 'do things' like buy clothes and toiletries and shoes.

She wants more independence. We're constantly clashing on curfew times, what she's allowed to do, where she can go, etc. She thinks I'm too strict, I don't think I am but I don't know - maybe I am? When we were talking about a part-time job she wanted to travel into the nearest city to work at a weekend and get the bus back in the evening. I said no, it wasn't safe for a 14 year old girl to be travelling on public transport at that time of day. She thinks I'm suffocating her and trying to keep her from doing things.  She's a sensible girl but  she's still only 14.

I think she has a fair amount of freedom - certainly more than I did at her age - she gets to go out with her friends, goes to parties, has sleepovers and goes to others, meets friends in the evenings at Starbucks which I drive her to and from. Her complaint is that she has to be in too early, earlier than her friends she says which does appear to be true, but I don't make rules based on what other families are doing. Apart from anything else I have to pick her up before her sister goes to bed at 9pm - I don't leave the house after that - and I think picking her up from her friends' at 8.30pm on a school night is late enough. Am I being too harsh? Too inflexible?

It seems that we are constantly clashing over everything at the moment. Everything. She doesn't like the meals I cook, she hates the way I talk to her friends, she is always accusing me of preferring her sister because I don't tell her off as much, she's always asking for money and saying that she can't wait to leave home because she hates living here.

I'm sure (I hope) that she doesn't mean a lot of what she says, and I know she's at that difficult age, but how do I help her through this phase?

I would really appreciate any tips, advice or suggestions you can send my way.

I love my Teenager, but it's at times like this that I recall this phrase: "when your children are babies they're so cute you could eat them. When they're teenagers you'll wish you had." I don't want to spend the next couple of years at loggerheads with her over every little thing, but I'm at a loss on how to make things easier.

Please help!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

What are you doing for Walk to School week?

It's Walk to School Week this week (16th to 20th May) and it's sponsored by Kia Motors. I love the fact a car company is promoting walking to school instead of travelling by car!

Kia are encouraging this campaign in relation to the Kia Walk Bus campaign which was set up a few years ago to increase awareness of road safety and the environment.  The walking bus scheme is a great idea for getting children to school safely and is well worth looking at, perhaps even setting one up for your school?

This also provides children with a healthy, educational and environmentally sound way of getting to school each day. On any normal school day an amazing 20 per cent of all traffic is due to the school run.  Have a look at some of the facts and figures behind the campaign:

- Walking is great exercise – it helps to build up muscles including the heart as well as building bone density and improving all round health;
- Research has shown that walking to school in the morning is great preparation for the day ahead – kids arrive awake, alert and ready to learn;
  - In the UK, the school run is responsible for more than two million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, more than the total annual emissions of some small countries like Haiti or Guam.
- Driving the average school run for a year costs over £400 (based on approved mileage rates from the Inland Revenue)
- Obesity is now the second biggest cause of death after cancer (WHO 2001)
- In the European Union, inactivity is now a greater cause of illness than smoking (WHO 2002)
- 4 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls do not do the recommended minimum of one hour a day of physical activity (National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2000)

If, like me, it's not feasible to walk your children to school everyday what about the Walk Once a Week scheme, which encourages children to walk at least once a week. I don't work on Fridays so that's the day I walk my daughters to school. We make sure we leave the house with enough time to walk the 20 minute journey on foot. We take the hound with us and we all get a bit of extra exercise, the added bonus for me is that I get 20 minutes to chat with my girls instead of always having 'something else' to do.

The Walk to School website has lots of ideas on getting children walking, with lots of free resources for parents, teachers and schools.

Kia Motors have also sent me a 'walking kit' consisting of a reflective tabard, a t-shirt* and a pedometer to measure how many steps you are doing on a daily basis. If you'd like to win the kit please leave a comment and let me know what you think of the campaign. Do your children walk to school? Could you manage the school run on foot at least once a week?

I'll pick a name at random for the walking kit at the end of the week, and I'll give you an update on how we got on with our own walk to school week.

*the tabard is sized 5-7, the t-shirt if 7-8. There is no cash alternative. UK entrants only.

The difference between men and women can be summed up in one simple word



The White Company
Why do men hate them so much, and what makes women buy so many of them? Discuss.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Help needed!

I'm delighted to be nominated in the list of top single parenting blogs by Circle of Moms. The 25 blogs receiving the most votes will be on their final listing and I'd love to be included. Please take a few seconds to click here and vote for notSupermum.

You can vote once every 24 hours, so please vote often! Thank you x

Monday, 2 May 2011

The death of Bin Laden and my memories of 9/11

I woke today to the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by American Special Forces after they tracked him down to a compound in Pakistan.  I'm concerned that the celebrations about Bin Laden's death may be premature as al-Qaeda are certain to plan reprisal attacks.  It's a worrying time.

I remember the day of 9/11 clearly. I returned home from work and my then husband told me that one of the twin towers had been hit, but I was distracted to see my youngest daughter playing on the lawn.  My husband had dressed her that morning, and it was a very sunny, warm September day yet he had dressed her in what looked like winter clothes. She was sweltering. It seems bizarre now but at that moment my main concern was to get my daughter into cooler clothes.

Once she was changed and happily playing again, we turned the TV on just in time to see the first tower collapse.  It seemed incredible to be seeing the events in real time, and the enormity of what was happening was soon over taken by the sudden realisation that my younger brother was staying near to New York.  Luckily it turned out that he was fine, but had had a phone call from a friend early that morning to tell him what was happening. My brother was then working as a professional photographer and he starting driving to New York to get some shots, and he has very kindly allowed me to use some of his photos from that day. It seems incredible that he was so close to what was happening that day.