The Single Swan

The Journey of a Single Mother

Recovering from my Brexit depression

Those of you who read my earlier post on Brexit will know that the UK’s vote to leave the European Union on the 23rd of June really hit me for six. Friday the 24th of June and the days that followed were deeply shocking: sterling plummeted 10%, Scotland said it wanted independence (again), families were divided, the young blamed the old, remainers blamed the ‘uneducated’, and our leaders on both sides of the campaign decided that the the task was too huge, the metaphorical s**t had well and truly hit the fan and the only option was to sulk and resign (thank goodness there’s a woman who is able to be a grown up). 

This is what Brexit is all about.  Fan-bloody-tastic.

Many of us, myself included, saw a picture of a country that we didn’t identify with, a country that despises the ‘other’ and where its people feel it is okay to be aggressive and verbally abusive to anyone who is remotely different, a country whose citizens are small minded. 

Admittedly, this situation was exaggerated by the media, and I can see that there are a broad spectrum of reasons why people voted to leave the European Union.  Some of these reasons are logical.  I am not convinced by any of them, but then I don’t need to be, because this is a democracy and I am just one person. 

About a week after Brexit I read an article by a psychologist which reported that passionate ‘remainers’ (those who had voted for the UK to remain in the EU) had reported difficulty sleeping, panic attacks, lack of appetite and a low mood. Thank goodness I thought, this validates how I am feeling.  It isn’t just me. 

The day before reading this article I had told my mother that I felt slightly depressed about Brexit.  She, a remain voter herself, suppressed a smirk that said “don’t be so melodramatic Pen, get things in perspective.”  She was right of course, but then mothers always are.  The vile attack in Nice, the terrifying response to the attempted military coup in Turkey and the spiralling situation in the US following the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille (check out #blacklivesmatter) certainly put my self-indulgent Brexit sulk into perspective.  

Brexit

It is only now, a month later, that I finally think I am beginning to get over my post-Brexit depression.

I found this TED talk about Brexit last week.   There was one comment in Alexander Bett’s talk that really resonated with me.  

He commented that when he looked at voting patterns across the country, what struck him is that he has spent very little of his life in any of the areas of the country that voted to leave European Union.  The BBC’s website is probably the best place to find all of the voting outcomes in case you’re interested. 

This is entirely true for me.  In fact, I have probably spent a sum total of three days of my entire life in ‘leave’ areas, and that was over a decade ago when I used to visit my then boyfriend’s parents in Oldham, Lancashire.   

It is easy for me to be open, inclusive and tolerant when I, in my London flat, am living in blissful ignorance of the lives of those who voted for Brexit.  I don’t despise the ‘other’, I am just not sure that I have got a clue who they are.  And that, my dear readers, is more than a little shameful. 

So, six months after everyone else set, and then broke, their New Year’s resolutions, I am setting myself a new one:

Before this year, 2016, is out, I am going to visit three parts of the country which voted ‘leave’. I am going to ignore those voting districts which voted ‘leave’ by a narrow margin.  I am going to chose those districts where the leave vote was convincing and unambiguous. 

Cygnet my son, brace yourself, Boston (75.6% in favour of leave), South Holland (73.6% in favour of leave) and Castle Point (72.7% in favour of leave)  here we come! 

I can see I am going to need a map. 

Let’s just hope there is a Starbucks…blissful ignorance strikes again…I’ll let you know. 

And then the fun began...

 

An easy day out in London with a toddler

There are a few things that Cygnet and I do quite often.  We go to the new Magic Garden at Hampton Court, our local ducks are very well fed, the staff at the local garden centre know us well and we can often be found at the park kicking a ball around in my efforts to exhaust Cygnet so that he sleeps through the night.

We’ve just added Vauxhall City Farm to our repertoire.  It is quite small but it does have rabbits, chickens, goats, sheep, horses, a massive turkey and a couple of alpacas.  It is totally free – Yippee.  And it also has a lovely café which sells a nice selection of cakes and made to order sandwiches.  

Here are a few photos:

Vauxhall city farm  VXL city farm 3

And this is my absolute favourite photo.  I just love the incongruity of a donkey with the MI6 building and some newly built swanky flats in the background. 

Vauxhall city farm

And then the fun began...

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How I’m Surviving Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

Co-parenting with my ex was never going to be easy:  if he were willing to see other points of view; if we shared at least some of the same life values; if he were able to listen, we would probably be co-parenting as a married couple rather than co-parenting as separated parents.

Life doesn’t feel fair when you are co-parenting with a narcissist.

A narcissist believes that rules are for others – he doesn’t need to follow them.  My ex agreed with me when I suggested that in order to provide some stability for our son we should try to stick to a routine.  But this rule only really applies to me; he regularly requests changes to the routine to accommodate his golf weekends, surf weekends, work nights out, watching the football in the pub with his friends.

A narcissist is feels entitled…to everything.  My ex feels entitled to see our son whenever it suits him, but at the same time feels entitled not to look after our son as arranged because it doesn’t suit his work schedule or because he wants to go away for a few days.  My ex believes that I should feed his cat whilst he goes away on holiday.  The list goes on.

A narcissist doesn’t listen.  My ex asks questions about our son: “what have you done today?”  “how did he sleep?” but he doesn’t listen to the answer. My family noticed this trait in my ex years ago, but I didn’t.  I was probably blinded by my ex’s charm.

narcissist

These are my tips for surviving co-parenting with a narcissist

1.   Take your time

The early months of our co-parenting journey were characterised by a barrage of angry emails and text messages from him to me.  Every time I checked there were more emails, more texts, more demands, more accusations, more threats.  I still get fairly regular emails but these days they are primarily demands. 

I learned not to reply to most of his emails or texts.  My aim has been to demonstrate to him that he will only get a response from me if he can be polite and civil.  I also leave it a few days before I reply.  By leaving it a few days I give myself the time to get the tone of my email just right, to draft and re-draft, so that, by applying the rules below, I stand the best chance of getting the outcome that I want.

2.    Negotiation with a narcissist is difficult unless you put the focus on why it is best for them

A narcissist is incapable of seeing anything from anyone’s view point but their own.   I also find that my ex acts in haste and doesn’t think through the implications of his demands.  He recently requested a change to the schedule that would have meant that he wouldn’t see our son on his birthday.  I knew, upon receipt of the email, that my ex hadn’t checked his diary.  This was an easy one because I was easily able to suggest that the original plan was better for my ex.

3.  Persuade the narcissist that he will derive something significant from what you want

I know from the constant requests to make amendments to our son’s routine that my ex feels that having our son for two nights a week has a negative impact on his social life.  I also know that my ex would never admit that our son is not his absolute top priority. 

This is a tricky balance for me to play, but to get what I want (to stick to the agreed routine) I have to present a solution which enables my ex to have the best of both worlds.  I gently propose (and it has to be gentle because a narcissist does not like being told what to do) an alternative which “enables you to go on your Golf weekend and to see your son”, but also works for me, and most importantly our son. 

4.  When the chips are down the narcissist has to feel that they are the victim

Despite his charming façade, my ex is a glass half empty kind of guy and always has been.  He is the victim because I left him, he is the victim because I am, in his eyes, “dictating when he can see his son”, he is the victim because he is a single dad, he is the victim because he is in his mid-40s.  The list goes on. 

Any opportunity to recognise in conversation how difficult life is for my ex is worth taking.  I know that it is really difficult for you to drive to see your Mum” (it’s not difficult he has a car and she only lives an hour away), but this kind of conversation will turn the focus of the conversation to my ex and a narcissist always likes to be the focus of a conversation. It will also put him in a less combative frame of mind for negotiation. narcissist

5.  When it comes to negotiation a narcissist always has to win

But, he won’t feel that he has won if you give up too easily.  Learning how to stand up for myself has been one of my biggest challenges.  My ex has a bit of a temper (not unusual for a narcissist) and during our relationship I used to let him have his own way to avoid his mood swings.  It takes me a lot of time to prepare myself mentally for our meetings and I still get really apprehensive.

When in negotiation with a  narcissist pick a number of issues that you want to discuss.  Prioritise them.  Pick the less important things and capitulate on these at the last minute so that he can feel that he has won. 

6.  If you concede to a Narcissist’s demands he will want more and more and more

…but you cannot go to battle on every issue.  You will stand a better chance of getting the outcome that you need if he is not in a combative mood, this means really picking your battles and being smart about what is important.

7.   Find yourself an honest cheerleader

I often discuss the conversations I plan to have with my ex with my mum.  I send her the draft of my emails to my ex. I know that she will be honest and will tell me when I need to be a bit firmer, or when the tone of my email could be a bit softer. 

flower-1322723_19208.  Put everything in writing

Oh my goodness, this is the most important lesson. 

There have been times in the last year when I have wondered whether I have been living in a parallel universe to my ex.  A narcissist doesn’t listen, or at best they have selective hearing.  We have had occasions when we both have a completely different recollection of what we have agreed.  My ex has claimed that I have agreed to things which I know I haven’t.  We now minute our meetings and I often refer back to these minutes when my ex claims that we’ve agreed something that we haven’t.  It is working.  

Surviving co-parenting with a narcissist is immensely tough, but, as I like to remind myself, being married to one would have been a whole lot tougher.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
And then the fun began...

 

How to be a happy single parent

I’m proud to be a single parent but it is my support network that enables me to be more than just proud, but also a confident and happy single parent.

As I watched Myleene Klass’s programme on single mums, the importance of support networks really struck me.  Those single mums who seemed happiest were those who weren’t isolated and who had strong family and friend support networks.   

I am really lucky to have a great support network. I have:

My family 

My mum looks after Cygnet 2 or 3 days a week so that I can work.  She adores spending time with Cygnet and sees it as a privilege, which I am obviously thrilled about.  But this support is massively important to me both financially and emotionally.  I don’t know that I would be able to survive without her help.

My dad is also round at my flat a lot.  I bought my flat from an 86 year old lady in June last year.  She is a lovely lady and really looked after the place, but it is fair to say that her choice of wallpaper, her pink carpets and her avocado skin coloured work tops (they have to be seen to be believed)  are not to my taste.  My parents and I have spent a tremendous amount of time and effort decorating in the last nine months.  My dad is regularly at my flat putting up blinds, sorting the electrics, drilling.  I actually think he enjoys it too. 

I don’t know what I’d do without either them. 

New friends in the area

When I moved to the area nine months ago I didn’t know anyone.   I took a week off work and took Cygnet to all of the free events for babies in the local area.  I went to tumble gym, I went to rhyme time at the local library, we fed the ducks, we did messy play.

Cygnet still does a lot of this with Grandma while I am at work, but that week enabled me to meet local mums in the area.  We bump into each other in the park at a weekend.  We meet for coffee and a ‘play date’ when I have a day off. 

I am also really lucky to have met another single mum whose daughter is only three months older than Cygnet.  We regularly share dating stories, challenges of dealing with the ex, pictures of our little ones, thoughts about ‘me time’ when you really have no time. 

Two single mum friends at work

Both of these women are about 20 years older than me.  Both have been single mums for a long time.  Both have older children.  And, most importantly, both are willing to listen, to share their experiences and to provide non-patronising but supportive comments about being a single mum. 

happy single parent

If you know a single parent, or indeed if you are a single parent, these are a few things you can do to make single parenthood a whole lot easier:

Reach out to other single parents

A lot of the challenges of single parenthood are not unique to single parents.  All parents will probably suffer with sleep deprivation, tantrums, discipline challenges, sick children, financial strain, insufficient ‘me time’. 

But there are unique things about being a single parent:  co-parenting; dealing with the ex; feeling lost as you miss your children when they are with their other parent; wishing that you could have fifteen minutes off to have a shower when you are on your own with your children; having no-one to share the joyful moments of parenthood with. 

I really appreciate being able to discuss, moan, just talk about these things with a fellow single parent; someone who has been and is going through similar challenges.  My single mum friend and I meet, with our children, every Monday night and have tea at one or other of our flats for an hour or so. She has a girl, I have a boy.  We jokingly call it “date night”. 

Don’t forget the weekends

As a single parent I find the weekends hard.  My other parent friends naturally want to spend time as a family and don’t really want to meet me and Cygnet, or just me, if Cygnet is with his daddy.

Cygnet and I do just fine.  Recently we’ve watched a local tennis tournament, we’ve been to Monski’s mini baby disco at the Southbank Centre and we regularly go to the sandpit at the local park.  But whilst we are doing all of this we are surrounded by families, happy families.  Don’t get me wrong, I love families, but I can feel isolated and cut off from other people’s family units at a weekend. 

If you do know a single parent, invite them to spend time with you at a weekend. 

Company in the evenings

I try to be quite strict about bedtime and try to get Cygnet to bed by 7pm.  This doesn’t always work, but when it does it means that I have about three hours of Netflix, boxsets, washing, cleaning or blogging time before I go to bed.  The evenings can feel a bit solitary.  A glass of wine and a gossip would be great. 

I appreciate that it is really inconvenient for other parents, who, after a hard day’s work or a hard day entertaining children really just want to collapse on the sofa with their partner and a bottle of wine.  But I’d like to invite you round to dinner – nothing special, just a pizza so that I can have some adult company and a natter.  Just once a month.  That for a single parent would be just lovely. 

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

#REGREXIT : Where have the 51.9% gone ?

Everywhere I go the mood is sombre.  My fellow commuters have anxious looks on their faces as they read their news feeds reporting societal division, racist attacks, calls for another referendum on Scottish independence, grave implications for the Northern Ireland Peace process, an economy on its knees.

Where are the 51.9%, the 17.4 million people who voted LEAVE?  They should be celebrating.  I was expecting Union Jacks flying, horns tooting, jubilation and merriment, cream teas and roast dinners. 

I see none of that.   I see and feel a nation in mourning. #REGREXIT

I voted REMAIN.  There was never any question.  There was never any doubt.   My friends are European, I was an Erasmus student, I am a linguist, I studied EU politics, I lived in France and received housing benefit from the French government.  I feel more European than I feel British. 

Brexit is a body blow and I cannot shake this funk, this cloud hanging over me. #REGREXIT

But, democracy has spoken.  Our country has voted to LEAVE.  We cannot turn back time.  There will be no repeat referendum on the LEAVE / REMAIN question.  Our politicians, our leaders (the few of them who haven’t resigned) cannot and will not go against the wishes of the British population.  We will be leaving the EU.  We need to face reality and to get on with it. 

So, this is my plea to the Brexiteers, to the mysterious 51.9%, all 17.4 million of you. 

Us REMAINers need to feel that Britain is leaving the EU because the British have spoken. 

Us REMAINers need to hear your logical arguments and your perspective.

Us REMAINers need to feel that Britain is leaving the EU because Britain is a democracy and a democracy acts on the will of the majority, however slim that majority may be. 

Us REMAINers need reassurance that this is what Britain wants.

Please don’t shy away.  Please don’t be invisible. 

If us REMAINers cannot support the EU and all that the EU stands for, let us REMAINers support democracy and all that democracy stands for. 

#REGREXIT

And then the fun began...

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com      Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Brock Turner isn’t actually a rapist

You will have heard about Brock Turner, “the Stanford rapist”. You will have seen his face plastered all over the Internet.  You will probably have read the shameful plea for a lenient sentence by his father. You will have read the victim’s letter.

I hope you have read the victim’s letter.  If you haven’t, please, whatever your situation, your sex, your background or your beliefs, please read it here.  It is the strongest and most courageous testimony you will ever read. 

You will know all about “the Stanford rapist”: the “promising” swimmer who sexually assaulted an intoxicated and unconscious young woman behind a dumpster truck leaving abrasions, bruising and mud inside her vagina.

rapist

You will probably be outraged at the leniency of the six month sentence passed down to Brock.  On good behaviour, and I’ve no doubt it’ll be exemplary, he will serve three months – just enough time for the media frenzy to settle so that he can start his life afresh. 

His victim will never be able to start her life afresh.  The physical scars will heal – I am sure they already have.  But the emotional and psychological scars will always travel with her.  They will define her.

What you won’t have stopped to consider is that in the eyes of Californian state law, Brock Turner isn’t actually a rapist. Californian state law defines rape as penetration by the penis.  Brock Turner didn’t penetrate with his penis, he penetrated with his fingers and foreign objects.   He did not rape his victim. 

Under English law, Brock wouldn’t be classified as a rapist either. 

Did Brock think that his actions were less severe because he did not insert his penis? 

Did Brock think that his actions were excusable because he did not insert his penis? 

Whether he inserted his penis or not, the impact for the victim is the same.  The victim’s sexual organ was penetrated. This phallo-centric definition of rape underplays the seriousness of other forms of penetrative sexual assault. 

Is murder a lesser crime if committed by strangulation rather than using a weapon such as a gun or a knife?  No, it isn’t, because the impact on the victim is the same.   

The definition of rape should relate to the impact on the victim rather than the method used by the perpetrator.   

In Qatar

Brock’s is not the only outrageous rape case that has incensed me this week.   

In Qatar a Dutch woman was convicted for being raped.  Yes, read that again.  I had to re-read the sentence when I first discovered the news article. A woman was convicted for being raped.  She was handed a suspended sentence, fined the equivalent of £580 and will be deported. 

The 22 year old woman had her drink spiked in a  Doha hotel in March.  She woke up in a stranger’s flat and realised she had been raped. 

Her attacker was sentenced to 100 lashes for having sex outside of marriage.   He claimed the sex was consensual.  Her lawyers would have had to prove that there had been no voluntary actions between her and the man for him to have been charged with rape. This clearly was never going to be possible because her drink had been spiked.  She cannot remember any of it. She was convicted for consensual sex outside of marriage.

I am, going to finish on a marginally lighter note and share with you Thames Valley Police’s educational video on sexual consent. 

Only the British would use tea! 

 

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
And then the fun began...

Baby Goes to Daddy: #RASummer

I try to make the most of the time when Cygnet is with his daddy.  Although I am always proud to be a single mum, it is rare that I feel that single motherhood allows me to do things that I would find very difficult as a coupled mother.  As I sipped pink champagne at a preview of the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition today, I pondered how very difficult it would be to be quite so civilised with a shouting, running hooligan of a 22 month old boy in tow.

Last year’s Summer Exhibition was absolutely brilliant.  Last year I loved how the artwork had been hung; often on in your face brightly coloured walls that would make the sombre tones of Farrow and Ball scream in horror.   This year most of the art was hung on white walls and I fell in love with some of the individual pieces of art work.

If only I could afford to buy them and had the space to hang them.

Let me show you a selection:

This little girl is a sculpture, but she seems so very real and I just fell in love with her.

#RASummer #RASummer

You have to be a member of the Royal Academy, or, as in my case, a friend of a member of the Royal Academy of Arts to be able to attend a preview.  I love attending the previews because some of the other members are just so great to watch.  I was fascinated by this woman’s hat.  I think it was a dog, but who knows, the zoom on my i-phone wasn’t quite good enough.  I just thought she was great.

 #RASummer #RASummer

These skulls would make a great centrepiece for a dinner party with a difference, and this painted piece of toast made me re-think whether our stale bread has to be thrown to the ducks in the river.

skulls toast

My absolute favourite painting of all was Kate’s Dream by John Wragg RA.  I covet it.  I almost considered getting the credit cards out and buying it, but then I remembered that I have a 1970s kitchen with avocado skin coloured worktops.  I have calculated that if I continue to save diligently I will be able to replace said kitchen with a clean white Ikea specimen hopefully sometime towards the end of 2017.  If I spent £6500 on this stunning piece of art work, I would be living with the avocado skin worktops probably until 2019.

It’s a tough call and I may yet change my mind.  I am a rubbish cook anyway.

#RASummer

Proud to be a single mum

I watched Myleene Klass’ documentary Single Mums on benefits on Tuesday evening.  She has since been criticised for being a rich single mum going round and interviewing other single parents who live very different lives.  The benefits angle and the title were unnecessary in my view and no doubt chosen to reel in additional (Daily Mail reading) viewers.  This was a shame.

Myleene did manage to portray a broad spectrum of single motherhood.  She also showed the pride, the accomplishment, the challenges, the love and the warmth that single mums have. 

I am proud to be a single mum … but I have always been afraid to say it. 

single mum

That’s not to say that single motherhood isn’t without difficulties.  My God it can be tough, but then motherhood, in fact parenthood, can be monumentally tough.  Let us not forget that!  The challenges that single parents face aren’t all due to their single status. 

These are my three biggest challenges as a single mum: 

Managing the guilt

As a single mother I feel guilty because I got it wrong.  I chose the wrong ‘life partner’.  I had a child with someone who wasn’t right for me.  My now ex only showed his true colours after Cygnet was born.  It was then that I realised that I couldn’t spend the rest of my life with him and still be myself. 

I feel guilty because my bad decision means that Cygnet will never get the opportunity to live in a happy family with his mother and his father living together as a unit.   This happy family environment was the childhood that I had and I feel guilty and a failure because I haven’t been able to give Cygnet the same. 

But I am learning to cope with this guilt.  I am proud of myself because I had the courage to take the decision to get out.  I also know that I am a better parent to Cygnet because I became a single mum.  I know that he has an authentic mother, a mother who is being herself and I believe that role models have to be authentic. 

Although I would never dare say this to Cygnet’s father, I also firmly believe that Cygnet has a better father because we have separated.  Parenting was firmly the mother’s job when Cygnet’s father and I were together.  Now that we are separated Cygnet’s father actually spends quality time with his son.  They have bonded.  They have a relationship that they would never have had if we had stayed together. 

Coping with the single mum stereotype

The stereotype is tough and it was the stereotype of single motherhood that made my decision to leave my ex so tough in the first place.  The single mum stereotypes (on benefits, sex crazed husband stealers, failures, drab) are ubiquitous.   

I went for a drink with a friend of mine last week.  He insisted on buying my glass of wine because I am a “single mum on benefits”.  What?” I countered.  I work full time, I own my flat (with a large mortgage from Santander but nonetheless), I probably earn more than my friend.  I don’t qualify for benefits and it would be very wrong for me, in my situation, to receive them. 

I am not for a second saying that there is anything wrong with claiming benefits.  But I do firmly believe that benefits should be reserved for those who absolutely need them to keep their heads above water.  I am fortunate enough not to be in that category.

Not having someone to share the joyful moments with

Myleene hit the metaphorical nail on the head when she said that this was the toughest thing about being a single parent.  This is probably the toughest thing for me too and I think, as Cygnet does more and more exciting things, this will only get tougher. 

There are only so many times I can send photos of Cygnet trying to climb into the bath, pointing at a digger, sticking his tongue out in a selfie, running round my flat like a lunatic before my younger brother decides to remove himself from my (very supportive) family whatsapp group. 

Mothers and fathers who are together can sit down on the sofa together at the end of the day with a glass of wine and share the details of what their children did that day.  They can have a giggle and they can share in the joy. 

Evenings spent on the sofa alone, with two glasses of wine, watching again and again the videos on my i-phone of Cygnet walking out of the baby disco because he hated the Dirty Dancing number are not quite the same.

So Myleene, thank you for trying to bust some stereotypes of single motherhood.  Thank you for sharing your biggest single mum challenges and thank you for allowing me to admit, in public, that I am proud to be a single mum.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
Reflections From Me
And then the fun began...

On being who you are meant to be

Diane Von Furstenberg, as well as having a beautiful, but unaffordable, clothing range, has some very wise words.

Diane said:

“The most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself.”

—Diane von Furstenberg

being who you are meant to be

These words really resonate with me.  For a while, in fact for quite a long while, I didn’t really have a good relationship with myself.  I didn’t have a bad relationship with myself either.  I just didn’t really have any feelings either way.  I was ambivalent. 

This doesn’t sound like much of a problem.  But for me, it was. 

Having no feelings about myself: no real pride when I had succeeded; no real anger when I had behaved badly; no real disappointment when I had failed, didn’t really feel like living. 

It took me a while to figure out why. 

It was because I wasn’t living the life that I was meant to lead.  I wasn’t becoming the person I am meant to be.  I wasn’t living by my values, I wasn’t pursuing what I enjoy, I wasn’t connecting with myself.  I just wasn’t really being myself.

This all sounds a bit wanky and abstract and for that I apologise.

I was living someone else’s image of life, someone else vision, someone else’s frustrations and someone else’s story and, as a result, it didn’t feel real for me. 

I don’t for a second think that I am now who I am meant to be and that things will never change.  All is not said and done.  Life is not over. 

Going back to Diane’s quote, I am at least having a relationship with myself now.  I am no longer having a relationship with an image of myself.  I am no longer having a relationship with someone else’s image of myself. 

But, I also recognise that my ‘self’ has to evolve and will evolve and that evolution is the exciting part of living. 

Who I am meant to be is not a destination, but rather the journey of becoming. 

The quality of my relationship with myself will let me know whether I am on the right journey.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Co-parenting: what it feels like

Co-parenting can be tough, monumentally tough.

First,  there are the inconsistencies in our parenting approach: daddy lets Cygnet eat lollipops; kick a ball in the house; not brush his teeth; takes him swimming when he has green snot coming out of his nose; lets him have a three hour nap in the afternoon when he is due to return to mummy in the evening. 

The three hour-long afternoon nap saga is a particular irritant for me at the moment.  Cygnet is going through a particularly difficult sleep phase (please let it just be a phase!).  He will only go to sleep when I lie with my arms around him on his bedroom floor until he falls asleep.  When Cygnet has had a 45 minute nap in the middle of the day this routine lasts twenty minutes or so – that’s fine. When daddy has let Cygnet sleep for three hours in the late afternoon this routine can last for hours.  I’ve discussed this with daddy but daddy protests that Cygnet always sleeps perfectly for him.  He goes down in his cot at 7pm and sleeps through until 7am. 

I don’t know whether to believe him.

Then there’s the stuff I really struggle to get my head around.  I struggle with the idea of daddy’s new girlfriend, her two kids, and the time they spend as a happy family of five.  I know, I know, I’ve read your blended family blogs and I know that blended family life can be tough.  With a blended family with three young children you can guarantee that at any given time at least one of the children will be having a tantrum. I know that the happy family of five is an image rather than reality. 

co-parenting

But it is human for us to torture ourselves and I torture myself with this happy family image which includes my son but doesn’t involve me as his mother. 

And thirdly, there’s the fact that sometimes Cygnet really does enjoy spending time with his daddy. They go in the carrier on daddy’s bike, they play football in the park and they jump on daddy’s bed.  At first I really struggled with this.  I told myself that Cygnet preferred his daddy to me – yes I was torturing myself again!  Now that Cygnet is a little older the two of us can communicate a bit better.  Cygnet can let me know he loves me and that he wants me and that he wants cuddles and laughs and we have fun together.  Those hours lying on the floor in our tender embrace are painful for my hips but good for my confidence in my role as a mother.

When I started on this co-parenting journey I believed that for it to work my ex and I needed to be good friends.  That felt unachievable because (and I can say this on an anonymous blog) my ex is a tosser, he lacks morals and integrity and we have totally opposing values in life.  These became very apparent in the latter stages of our relationship and left some deep scars.  It will be a long time before we are ever good friends, or indeed friends at all.

I felt that I was failing at this whole co-parenting thing because I couldn’t see how we could ever be friends.  I was torturing myself again!

But now I have come to realise that friendship, in the short term at least, is unrealistic. What is important is that we can cooperate as parents and that we have respect for each other’s roles.  Despite the inconsistencies in our parenting approach, we are able to present an amicable façade in front of our son. 

In spite of everything, I think we are doing okay at this co-parenting thing.   

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Reflections From Me
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