The Single Swan

The Journey of a Single Mother

How to stay sane when you can’t afford therapy

I think Americans have a much healthier attitude towards therapy.  A survey by the American Psychological Association suggests that nearly half of all American households have had someone seek mental health treatment this year.  This feels like a lot, but it also feels right.  Sometimes we need therapy to help us to stay sane.

In the US, therapy is a way of looking after your mental health, of re-establishing your equilibrium, of voicing your troubles in order to fend of anxiety, depression and upset.  We need to recognise that mental health is just as important as physical health.  And we all need therapy once in a while.

In the UK, the British ‘stiff upper lip’; our tendency to display fortitude in the face of adversity and to exercise self restraint in the expression of emotion, is endemic.  Therapy, more commonly known in the UK as counselling, is seen as a weakness. We only go to counselling when there is a real problem, when marriages are truly on the rocks, as a cure for some personality disorder, or when we are seriously depressed.  

We need to ditch our British ‘stiff upper lips’.  We need to say when things aren’t going great.  We need to be more proactive and more protective of our mental health.  Sometimes we all need a little support when life threatens to overwhelm us, when anxiety is chasing us and when depression is knocking at our door and when we are struggling to stay sane. 

Normally, I am a very balanced person.  I don’t have great highs or great lows in my emotional state.  In fact I have spent a lot of my life wishing that I felt the highs more acutely … and have recognised that this requires feeling the lows more painfully too.

This is what Pen’s emotions look like most of the time:

stay sane

So, in a nutshell, I am generally quite a happy person.  I am not ecstatic or over excitable, in fact I am quite a cool customer.  I don’t generally get very down and if I do it is usually only for a day or so and usually tallies quite nicely with my menstrual cycle. I can stay sane.  Easy!

But in 2015, the shit hit the fan.  I realised that my relationship was breaking down and that trying to save it was not the right thing to do.  You can read about my relationship breakdown here.   This is how I felt in 2015: 

stay sane

My ex was an a**e.  He was vile.  He took my baby out of my arms while I was feeding him to see his mother (Cygnet’s Granny).  He said that I was emotional and hormonal and not capable of making decisions. He looked at me with contempt and disdain.  He yelled.  He slammed his fists on the table in front of me. He would stand outside of my room shouting and another thing, and another thing.  

I felt a failure as a person, as a woman, as a fiancée and worst of all as a mother. Accounts of this are in some of my early blog posts.  How to stay sane was high on my agenda, but unfortunately not on my list of achievements.  I never want to go back there. 

Cygnet and I moved into our own flat eventually, but we were sharing a house with my ex for what felt like an eternity (but was actually only four and a half months).  It has taken me a long while to rebuild myself, to relight the fire in my belly, just to recognise myself as me again. 

I had decided that I was going to get counselling.  In fact I wrote a blog post on how I had decided to get counselling to improve my emotional well-being because I was failing to stay sane.  I never did.  I was advised not to by a friend that if our case ever went to a family court, my counselling would only serve to prove my ex’s point that I was emotional and hormonal.  There’s that British ‘stiff upper lip’ again.

I pushed on and gradually things got better.  I am really lucky to have the support of my family.  They really helped me.  My flat began to feel like my own.  I like my new area.  I have made some good friends.  The barrage of angry texts and emails from my ex has slowed down and I have gradually learned how to cope with his demands.

Most of the time things are good now, in fact those of you have read my post about happiness levels after divorce, will know things are more than just good, they are great!  But, every so often I am thrust back to and reminded of that dark place.  

This week, my ex lingered in the flat for longer than normal when he dropped Cygnet home.  He sat down on the sofa and I knew that he wanted something.  He asked to have a look in Cygnet’s bedroom.  He claimed that he wanted to see what toys Cygnet had so that he didn’t buy the same toy for Cygnet’s forthcoming birthday.  I didn’t feel I could say no without an argument.  My ex got up and wandered off to Cygnet’s room. 

He seemed to be there for an age and eventually I left the lounge where Cygnet was playing to see what my ex was doing.  He wasn’t in Cygnet’s room but was in the hall browsing the pictures on the wall.  It sounds like nothing, but I was thrust back to those dark times.  I felt that my safe place had been invaded again.  My ex had come back into it.  It felt like he was marking his territory. 

This sounds like something and nothing.  This sounds like I am exaggerating and being melodramatic.  Perhaps I am.  

I should have gone to counselling in 2015.  I should have sought help.  I was extremely anxious.  I was a little depressed. I wasn’t able to cope with my ex’s outbursts.  I think I would have come out the other end of my low phase more quickly had I had professional help.

Now that things have normalised and I am back on an even keel, I focus a lot on my emotional well-being and I know what my triggers are to stay sane.  I have identified my coping mechanisms and I know what to do if I feel a little off kilter. Sleep is really important, as is a bubble bath, a nice meal and treating myself to some Lindt 90% cocoa dark chocolate.

I buy myself a bunch of flowers every week.  Although I only spend about £2:50 a week on flowers it feels really extravagant.  It is really extravagant – flowers die within five days, but I like looking at them, they make the room look nice and they smell nice.  They improve my mood and this is important.  

After my ex invaded my flat I needed a walk.  I couldn’t have one because Cygnet was in bed and I would obviously never leave him.  I sat on my balcony, in the cool dark evening and drank a cup of tea.  I sat in silence without my i-phone or laptop.  It was restorative. It sounds lonely and morose but that half an hour in the dark silence on my balcony enabled me to re-find the balance that my ex had disrupted.

2015 also taught me the importance of maintaining a sense of perspective to preserve my emotional well-being.  A lot of things sucked in 2015.  In fact most things sucked in 2015.  But Cygnet was awesome.  My family were great.  Work was okay.  So although it felt like my whole life was falling apart, I knew that life wasn’t always tough and not everything was tough.  Things had been great in the past, and there were moments of greatness in the present.  I could be confident that things would be great again.

They say that keeping a diary is an excellent way to focus and to understand your emotions.  I have used my blog as therapy  this last year.  And what an excellent friend and therapist Pen @thesingleswan has been.  I have no doubt that Pen will help me to stay sane in the months and years to come.   

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Curiosity killed the cat…and my Tinder relationship

It was not my proudest moment, although I very much doubt it was my worst.  A couple of months ago I made the decision to stop seeing a guy I’d met on Tinder because of posts that he had made on Facebook about Brexit.  He had voted ‘Leave’ and those of you who have read my posts about Brexit (and this one) will know that I was struggling to come to terms with our Brexit decision.  My curiosity killed my Tinder relationship.

curiosity

I am not ashamed of my decision to stop seeing the guy.  I know from his ‘leave’ vote that we don’t share the same core values or identity and that a relationship would never have a future.

I am however ashamed of two things.  First, I am ashamed that I learned of his ‘leave’ vote not through a conversation with him, but rather through my daily snooping of his Facebook posts and his Tweets on Twitter.  Secondly, I am ashamed that I didn’t tell him that I didn’t want to see him again. I just went silent.  I stopped replying to his messages and eventually he stopped sending them.  I couldn’t explain that his ‘leave’ vote meant that we didn’t have a future, not even a casual one, because he hadn’t told me that he had voted ‘leave’.  I had learned this through my snooping on Facebook. 

I snooped daily and compulsively, knowing that his Facebook posts about Brexit would continue to anger me.  I knew that the mature option would have been to talk to him and to explore his reasons for voting ‘leave’.  But I couldn’t, I didn’t, I continued to snoop perhaps in some vain hope that it was all a nasty joke. 

I was relieved to discover a recent study by the University of Chicago and Wisconsin School of Business which reassured me that my curiosity, even when I knew that what I would find would hurt and anger me, is only human.  In a series of four experiments, behavioural scientists tested students’ willingness to expose themselves to small electric shocks to satisfy their curiosity.  Electric shocks abounded and they found that the drive to discover is deeply ingrained in humans.  As the review in Scientific American sums up: “The need to know is so strong that people will seek to slake their curiosity even when it is clear that the answer will hurt”.

So, while this study doesn’t absolve me of my snooping shame and it certainly doesn’t absolve me of the dishonourable way in which I ended the relationship, it does at least reassure me that curiosity is human and mine is probably not the only Tinder relationship to have been killed. 

Do you have any snooping stories you’d like to share?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments. 

P.S.  Want to read more about this single mom on Tinder ?  Read this and this.   You can also read more about my thoughts as a single mom on the dating scene in the dating category above.   

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Happiness levels increase after divorce – FACT!

This evening I stumbled across a piece of research conducted by Kingston University which found that happiness levels increase after divorce. 

Over the course of two decades, researchers regularly questioned 10,000 U.K. citizens between the ages of 16 and 60 about their happiness levels before and after major life milestones.    The research showed that women are significantly more content, and men slightly happier, after divorce.

happiness levels increase after divorce

Now, those of you who pay attention to the finer details of my blog, will know that I am not actually a divorcee.  I broke off the engagement four months before the big day.  I never walked down the aisle in a big white dress.  Being staunchly secular I would never have walked down the aisle anyway, and a big white dress is hardly my scene either (give me a little black dress any day) but you catch my drift. 

I called off the wedding, but I did however have a really posh afternoon tea just with my close family to celebrate my ‘narrow escape’.  On the weekend that I was due to be married I spent two days with my close family.  We stayed in a lovely London hotel and had champagne afternoon tea at sketch.  It was a great weekend and I am so glad that I came to my senses and called the whole thing off.

So, although I am not officially a divorcee it sure as hell felt like I went through a divorce.  A child together, a cat, a jointly owned house and mortgage and a six year relationship feel like a marriage to me.  We just never had the fancy photos and nice cake.   

The Kingston University research finding that happiness levels increase after divorce really struck me because it is so absolutely true. 

Following my…I don’t really know what to call it…my almost-a-divorce, I feel liberated.  I feel empowered.  I feel in control of my future.  I feel in control of my time (not that I do have much of my own time but that which I do have I sure as hell like to control). 

There is no atmosphere in the flat.  There is none of his mess for me to clean up.  I don’t have be dragged down by his tales of woe (“the washer on the kitchen tap needs replacing”, “my joints ache”, “my blood sugar is low”, “we can’t afford to live in this house”).  My ex was the archetypal glass half empty type.  How ever big or small the issue, he would feel the need to wallow in it … and I found it exhausting.

Now, I can hang my pictures where I want them. I can buy fresh flowers without his scorn.  I can stay up late or go to bed early.  I don’t have to watch documentaries about the first world war.   We don’t have to have a cupboard to house three sets of golf clubs all for an annual golfing weekend. 

More importantly though (because flowers, documentaries and golf clubs are hardly grounds for divorce), I don’t have to see his look of contempt and disappointment when I don’t cook a meal the way his mother cooked it, or when I am quieter than he thinks I should be at a party, or when I need my hair done and my roots are showing or I am still carrying my post pregnancy weight.  I don’t have to suffer his loving and charming façade in public and his disdain and disappointment in private. 

We are co-parenting, so I still have to see him a few times a week, and co-parenting with my ex is nothing if not a challenge, but I don’t have to live with him and we are not married, and for that I am thankful, and immensely proud of myself every single day. 

Do you want to know the best thing about the Kingston University study which found that happiness levels increase after divorce? Well, let me tell you.  The study found that women (not men…) are significantly more content than usual for up to five years following the end of their marriages, even more so than their average or baseline level of happiness throughout their lives. 

Happiness levels increase after divorce, I am having the time of my life, and (hehee, big grin) according to Kingston University I will continue to do so for about another three and a half years.

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Being a single mom has made me a commitment phobe

I have realised that being a single mom has made me a commitment phobe.

I use various dating apps. I have profiles on tinder and bumble.  I’ve avoided happn because happn maps exactly where you and a prospective date have crossed paths and how often.  I find that a bit scary.  I think happn must be a great app for stalkers.  I am a single mom with a two year old child.  I don’t want a stalker.

I have been on a few dates.  Some have been disastrous.  My first foray back into the dating scene after six years of coupledom was the worst date ever.  It lasted a whole 26 minutes (the time it took for me to order and then down my large glass of wine).  He was arrogant and offensive and at that moment I pondered a life of solitude and celibacy.  My date made a lifetime of solitude and celibacy seem like a very very appealing option.

Other dates weren’t disastrous, they were just a bit mediocre.  There were a couple of guys who were nice, but uninspiring and I didn’t find them remotely attractive.  They were genuine guys, but there was just no spark or real conversation.  I am not blaming them; it’s at least half my fault.  We just didn’t click and life is too short and time is too precious to waste on nurturing uninspiring conversation with someone with whom you don’t click.  I won’t see them again.

Then there was this one guy with whom I really did click.  He was a saxophonist, a really talented musician.  He also worked in politics as a speech writer.  He’d just returned from a couple of years in Hollywood trying to make it work in the music business but had found that he didn’t fit in.  He had discovered that good old England really was his home and he had returned to London.  He was interested and interesting. 

And the sex was good.  Like really good.   He was considerate and generous and it just felt easy, fun and light hearted.   Despite the fact that he was five years younger than me and I’ve had a baby I didn’t feel self-conscious about my post-pregnancy and childbirth body. 

But I kept him at arms length.  He never met my son.  I never had any intention of him meeting my son.  This little thing that we had was pure escapism and nothing more.  I knew that I never wanted it to be any more.
commitment phobe

I often feel that I live three parallel lives.

First,  there’s the planet of Cygnet.  My son and the apple of my eye, he is the person who I look at and wonder what I have done to be so lucky in life. When I am with Cygnet he has my undivided attention.

Then there’s the planet of work.  I returned to work when Cygnet was 7 months old, 6 weeks after I had separated from his father.  Cygnet’s father and I were still living together. It was an horrendous time and sometimes I look back and wonder how I got through it.  But I did get through it. I got through it by using my work as escapism.  By focussing 100% on work during the hours I was there (which are full time hours) I was able to put the other stresses to one side.  Not forever, but for 8 hours a day 5 days a week.  The distraction of work got me through a difficult time.

Thirdly, there’s the planet of ‘me time’.  This time is limited, but it is time when I decompress and refresh.  I might get my nails done, go to a gallery or the theatre, meet a friend for dinner or sometimes just get an uninterrupted night’s sleep. This is the time when I dabble in a bit of dating.  It was also the time when I would see the saxophonist.   

I feel like my three planets are being held in a solar system at a precise distance from each other by a series of complex and delicate magnetic fields.  It is a tenuous and temporary balance, easily disrupted. 

It was quite clear to me that my delicate solar system would not be able to cope with a relationship planet entering the magnetic field.  The saxophonist was a great guy, but I had turned into a commitment phobe.   It wasn’t difficult to end.  It just fizzled out.  I guess he could sense that my heart wasn’t in it.  I am not disappointed.  That’s just the way life is. 

My delicately balanced solar system is still intact and that is important to me.  My desire to preserve my delicately balanced solar system has made me a commitment phobe.

Commitment phobe or no commitment phobe,  this solar system is a happy one. Keep Calm and Carry On Linking SundayMy Kid Doesn't Poop RainbowsAnd then the fun began...
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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. 

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Vauxhall City Farm : An easy day out 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. 

Vauxhall City Farm 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

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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.

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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...
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