Relationships

Leaving a marriage which his broken down is hard. Really bloody hard.
No one gets married thinking “I’ll settle down for a bit and then probably we will divorce and life will carry on”.
Marriage is all about the optimism. That at the time in your life you honestly believe that this other person will make you happy, and you will make them happy, for the rest of your life. Having that not work out is devastating no matter what.
At least it was for me. I spent a lot of time trying to make it work ” for the kids ” etc. I can honestly say that I tried far more and for far longer than I should have.
So, with those battle scars I am naturally even more cautious in matters of the heat.

So it’s taken me a while to let my guard down, and even now I can’t say in all honesty that I’ve completely relaxed. But I’m definitely getting there.
My relationship now is very different to any I’ve been in before. But then I suppose I’m a different person now.
Being involved with someone new when you have children adds extra challenges to a relationship. Thankfully my children have really taken to my boyfriend and I think (hope!) that his children like me as much as I like them.

When my boyfriend and his children come to stay for a few days I love it! A house full of children – we have six in total- with lots of laughter and fun.  I just wish we could spend more time together!

Tax Credits – The Panic

Since my divorce I have needed to claim working tax credit and child tax credit in order to survive financially. I’ve been a tax payer since age 17 so claiming money back, as opposed to paying it, is a new experience for me.
I don’t particularly like it, but it’s necessary and I’m working hard on re-starting my career post-children so in the long term I’m hoping not to be a claimant for long. As it is, I’m already back paying tax again, albeit to a small degree!
I had a pay rise this year. Yay!
Which meant I had to call the tax credits helpline to update my income. I did so and after the horror of the automated phone system (honestly! Who thinks of these things? Bloody awful) I got my new award notice in the post today.
I glanced at it, looked at the bit where it said “you have been overpaid” and promptly panicked.
Overpaid?! How? I had to go out then to collect my children. The whole time I was out my brain kept returning to the tax credits letter. Overpaid? I owed how many hundred pound. Money I just do not have!

I got home and re-read the letter. Ah! They had carried on adding my self employed money from the previous tax year. Money I no longer received. Thank goodness for that.
I’ve called and corrected it now. But part of me is still anxious. I won’t know until next week whether I have actually been overpaid or not.
I really loathe not knowing exactly where I stand with my finances.

Juggling Act

Some days, like today in fact, I feel like my life is a constant juggling act. Rushing from home to school to deposit the children, back home, get the car, get to work, do my job, get home, do housework, collect children from after school clubs, get them home, get dinner on, get them showered and hair washed, eat dinner… And so on, and so on.
But I try to do it all with a smile.

Because I’m grateful that I’m able to do all this.
I have friends unable to do the most basic of tasks due to illness. So although it sometimes feels a bit of a drudge, I just remind myself that it’s not for long in the grand scheme of things.

New Job

I have a new job! I started it two weeks ago, as a secondment for six months. Already I love it.
I’m working as part of a team now, which I didn’t realise how much I’d missed until I was back in this environment.
The work is interesting and challenging as I’m still learning. My colleagues are lovely.
It’s just brilliant.
So nice to go to work and love what I do

My body image

I have a reasonable body image I think. At least I do most of the time. Generally I’m fairly OK with my figure. I’m aware it’s not amazing and that I’m fatter and wobblier than I want to be. I’m not so desperately unhappy that I would starve myself or make myself ill.
I’d just like to lose a little bit of excess weight and tone up those problem areas.
I did have a while of being desperately disappointed in my body.
I had eating issues in my late teens and early twenties and was pretty obsessive about not putting weight on. Having children I had to gain weight obviously and I hated it.
I loathed my pregnant body. The huge distended stomach made me think of the Alien films. Nothing fitted me. My breasts were enormous. Like a shelf of fat constantly in my peripheral vision. Following a crash c-section with my daughter I was left with a ‘shelf’ above which a layer of fat hung. I hated it.
I took up running and managed to lose most of the weight I’d gained and also managed to shift the dreaded shelf.
When my son came along I was equally miserable during pregnancy. In retrospect it’s easy for me to see that I had ante-natal depression, but at the time I just struggled through. There are precisely 5 photos of me pregnant. Of those only 3 were taken with my knowledge. That’s 18 months largely undocumented because I was so miserable with my body.
Following a second c-section (and a surprise appendectomy) I injured my back and have been unable to exercise for more than a few months at a time. Each time my progress is halted by a flare up of my disc problems.
This has been rough. I don’t like dieting. I prefer to just exercise more and burn the weight off that way. But I can’t do that now. So I’m having to learn to accept my body is bigger than it was and that changing it is taking time.
In a perverse way this is probably good for me. I’m a bit more accepting of my figure now. I no longer hate bits of myself.
It’s also meaning I’m having to actually think about what I eat a bit more. I’m a poor cook and not interested in fancy dishes, but I do need to eat a healthy balance diet, and now I do.
Currently my back is in a good state so I’m reintroducing exercise and hoping to see little changes over the next few weeks.
Wish me luck!

My Life as “Single Mum”

When I was a young girl, and I thought about my future, I never once thought I’d be a single mum. My parents are still happily married.
I was brought up to believe that you get married and then have children, so your children are raised in a stable environment.
I never really considered that I’d be in a marriage that wasn’t actually a stable environment. Or that I would end up on my own with two children.
But life doesn’t generally follow the ideals we have mapped out in our minds, so here I am. A single mum.
My ex husband has our children regularly and the children are happy with the  arrangement. They get much more quality time with him now I think.
I tend to focus hard on providing a calm home environment for them. Also, I really dislike conflict so I try my best not to get dragged into silly squabbles with my ex. It’s hard though. We didn’t break up on amicable terms at all and sometimes it seems he is determined to try to embroil me in a row over nothing much at all.

I can honestly say though that I’m never sorry that I’m on my own. I’m much happier and feel like my life and future are in safe hands. My hands.
I try hard to be a good role model. I work hard and am busy rebuilding a career for myself. I show them how to save money for treats and involve them in saving their own pocket money for toys they want.
They recently both saved up over £60 (over many months) and bought big Lego sets each.
We have a family “pot of dreams” that we save £2 coins in. This is generally then used to pay for our yearly trip to Center Parcs with my family.
I also try to make sure there is fun in our days. That we enjoy the little things together. Things like hot chocolate with marshmallows, jumping in puddles, climbing trees and jigsaws. Simple things.

There are times when it can be hard being on my own, but generally that’s when I or the children are ill. And let’s be honest, that’s bloody awful even when you have a live in partner!

Homework Horror & Cycling

I understand that most schools expect children to do homework now, even when my children were in Reception class they had homework. I really wish they didn’t though! I’ve just spent over an hour and a half with my eight year old daughter doing various homework sheets. I will have to spend more time with her tomorrow practising her spellings, times tables and doing some reading with her. I do all this reasonably happily because I don’t want her to struggle in class. I can see the use in this sort of homework.

My son is in Year 2. He has a Learning Log, which I hate having to do with him, because it seems utterly pointless in educational terms. Every fortnight, it comes home with a vague title and a request for us to fill out a double A4 spread on a seemingly random topic.

“We’re learning about history, please tell us about your family in history” 

“It’s Christmas, please tell us about your Christmas traditions”

I loathe this! Really, completely and utterly loathe it. I end up trying to find as many things as possible to stick in to use up the space faster. My son has no real idea what they are after – why would he? He’s six. What the fuck does he know about his family history or Christmas traditions? So his homework, which I believe is pointless, takes ages, as I have to explain the topic to him, explain how it’s of relevance to him, and then explain what he can write about. To me, it just feels like the school testing how involved parent’s are as it’s blatantly not homework the child can do on their own at all. I would far rather the school sent home actual homework.

Luckily it was a nice day today so before we started on the homework, we managed to get outside for a bit and the children got to ride their bikes. I’m going to have to invest in a bike rack I think. I have a bike, but rarely get to ride it, as I’d want to be somewhere safe if I’m on my bike while the children are on theirs. Where I live there are lots of lovely areas to cycle around, but with two children, a car will be required to get to them.

I’m so impressed with how well both children have taken to cycling. My daughter learned a few years ago after my dad ran up and down the field in our local park holding the back of her bike while she got her balance. Then my son learned last summer, my brother in law was amazing, running up and down the road with him dozens of times while he got the hang of it. Being on my own I so appreciate all the support I get from my family.

Sexism in School Shoes

This is some thing that really makes me see red with the rage.

Why is there such a huge disparity in the quality of children’s school shoes? School shoes for boys and girls commonly cost around £30 a pair.

I have a son and a daughter. When choosing shoes for my son I am treated to a variety of sturdy school shoes. Most have rubberised toes to allow him to scrabble about on the floor, climb walls and kick balls without wrecking the shoes instantly. They have thick, sturdy soles and reinforced stitching.

Compare this to the shoes on offer for my daughter; they are thinner, there is no reinforcement on the toes, they are designed to be “pretty”. Her last pair came with a small doll in the heel! The sole is weakly glued on. She has had pairs fall apart in less than three weeks. These were Clark’s shoes. When I returned them, the assistant said she would exchange them “a a gesture of goodwill”. Goodwill my arse, they were clearly unfit for purpose!

My sexism theory comes in when you consider the age of the child and what their shoes are designed for them to be able to DO in them. Is there really that much difference between children under 10 or 11 and the things they enjoy doing?
No.
Both my six year old son and my eight year old daughter enjoy the same running, jumping, scootering, climbing up walls, kicking stones, climbing trees and general scuffing around. That’s normal.

What isn’t normal is shoe manufacturers designing shoes for girls that are not functional. Why can’t their shoes have reinforced rubberised toes? Why can’t their shoes be fit for purpose?

Come on Clark’s and Startrite. Stop the school shoe discrimination!

Rudolph on Hope Street -Liverpool Philharmonic

I went to the carol concert during the week before Christmas with my two children, nephew, sister and brother in law and parents.
We had never been before but I can definitely see this becoming an annual family tradition.
We met at Central train station and walked up Bold Street, pausing for coffee at Costa on the way up. When we reached the Philharmonic we were greeted by two reindeer with their elf handlers. Rudolf was extremely friendly, greeting children with head nudges and happy to be stroked and petted. The other reindeer was pregnant and kept away from the children. Can’t say I blame her!

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After photos with the reindeer we made our way inside and found our seats. We were up in the gods with a spectacular view of the decorated stage.

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The orchestra and choir went through a variety of Christmas songs (When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, White Christmas etc) and audience participation was encouraged by means of a projection of the words on certain songs. There was also a Father Christmas who led the way with encouraging clapping and introduced the various pieces.
The children all loved the experience, and so did the adults!
It was an excellent way to start celebrating Christmas.

Mumsnet animal story competition

I’ve submitted a story a wrote a good few years ago to the Mumsnet and Walkers competition this year.
I had sent the story to a couple of publishers back when I wrote it, but don’t have the confidence or persistence to keep trying.
Do when I saw the competition I thought I’d give it a go.
I had to edit the story down significantly as the word limit is 1,500 but I managed it without the story losing too much of what I actually like about it!
Reading the terms and conditions did make me pause for thought. If it wins, I give up all rights to it. To my own story… My baby…  I really mulled this over for a bit. But then, I reasoned, better to do that than leave it languishing on my laptop for another three years. So I’ve entered the competition.
Wish me luck! I would love to see my story in print.

If you want to enter there is still time. Just. Closing date is tomorrow, the 6th of January 2014.

Enter it here