Wednesday, January 23, 2019

1y11m : Siblings aren't all that

As we approach the 2-year mark, I find that I am getting more and more comfortable and content with MJ being an only child.  My new pet peeve is that it seems culturally fine to talk about how great siblings are and everything you 'get' from a sibling relationship, but it's not really okay to talk about how it may not always be so great.  I guess what happens, is those on the cultural norm side suddenly feel the way I feel all the time on this topic, and decide to jump in and be defensive.

So a friend of mine posted this article on Facebook today and I thought it was really interesting.  I will also add this is a friend with two siblings, neither of which he gets on with, and that family politics are a continual annoyance for him (he's in his 40's).  Part of the issue in his family is that his parents don't necessarily treat their children the same, or give them the same benefits.  Then some of the children ask for more from the parents than others, which when given, causes resentment.  What a minefield!

I was recently reading another thread on a solo mom Facebook group about someone trying to work out if they should have a second child or not.  So many people posted about not wanting their child to be alone, and especially to care for them in old age on their own.  I thought there were two excellent responses to this worth repeating here.  First, although I am a single parent who didn't find someone to create a family with, I hope with all my heart that MJ finds someone for her.  Frankly, I don't expect her to be 'alone' the way I am alone.  And even if she is, it's not that big a deal- I'm an adult single parent whose parents are divorced so I have two elderly parents to be on the hook for.  And I'm okay. It will be easier for me to deal with things if I don't have to discuss it with, or worse, argue with, someone else about what should be done when the time comes.  To be honest, I feel a bit like this about parenting as well most of the time. Thank god I don't have to discuss my parenting decisions and choices and my own life choices with anyone else.  That would be much harder!!

But as for this 'taking care of parents' comment that seems to pop up all the time, that's my other point worth noting.  Most women are shit at preparing for their futures. Historically, men in families have worried about things like pensions and savings. Women, historically, have been shit at it. This trend continues today with many men saving more for retirement and being more prepared than women.  If you don't want your child to be 'stuck taking care of you' in old age, then it is your responsibility to prepare for your own care! If you blow all of your money on a second child and put yourself into debt and have zero savings at the end, you are almost guaranteeing that your child will be responsible for you because who else will?

Forgive me for thinking that you need to be a little bit responsible before deciding to have a child. If you can't afford one financially or emotionally, then please do not have one! Yes, people get by with little and it doesn't necessarily need to cost a lot to have a child. But if you are not taking care of yourself and are unable to prepare for your end of life needs because you sacrifice everything for a child, then I think that's really irresponsible.

I can't possibly talk about this on pretty much any of the single mom forums I'm on because it is guaranteed to offend someone.  God forbid you talk about why having additional children could be irresponsible or may not be the best thing you could ever possibly do for your existing child.  Yet somehow, it's completely fine to talk about having additional child in a similar fashion.  I'm also keenly aware that for some women, they have put themselves into debt for their one child and that this would come across as judgmental to them and they would get upset and feel defensive.  So I'll just have to keep my thoughts here.

In my opinion (this is my blog after all), the only reason you should have a child be it your first or your fifth, is because you want the experience of parenting that child, and you are able (financially and emotionally) to do so.  That's it!

I love MJ to pieces and I love our life together and I think it would be interesting to see her have a sibling or for me to have another child. But, I actually really don't feel any desire to PARENT another child. I think of it more as an interesting thought experiment. I like to toy with the idea of it, but the reality of moving ahead leaves me cold. So having another child is simply not for me, and our life together will be much better for it, because I will be the best me, and therefore, the best parent, I can be.

Monday, October 22, 2018

1y8m : My family is complete

On one of the threads on the SMC Forum there was a great comment from someone about their family being 'intact'.  Meaning, I may be a single parent, but I am not missing anything. My daughter is not missing anything. We were formed completely as a unit of two. It is what is always has been and it is complete.  Many people, when hearing 'single parent', assume that there is something missing, lost, or broken.  When you are a single parent by choice, this is not the case.

I think this goes hand in hand with the people who say to me things like, 'Oooh, but you're doing this on your own.... it's so much harder for you....' etc. etc.  This is a false economy statement because there is no 'harder than' in my world.  My life takes the right amount of effort for the choices I've made. I was not stranded or abandoned or left holding threads that I expected or relied on anyone else to hold for me.  My life looks different to a coupled parent, the way I think is probably different to a coupled parent, and I do make different decisions than a coupled parent (sometimes, and particularly about my social life in the evenings I imagine).  But it's not harder for me, it's just different.

I like this idea of completeness, or intact-ness as a way to describe my family. We aren't missing anything at all, we are whole and complete as we are.  And it goes without saying of course, but it's great!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

1y7m : Somethings gotta give (Part 2?)

I'm sure I wrote about a similar topic before. Your life simply can't stay the same after a child. The first thing I noticed was my eating habits and ability to keep my already messy house in any sort of order. So the first thing that was very obvious to me was that.

But it's been a while now and as everything else settles into a day to day routine of regular life, I notice the next thing that's gone by the wayside is my ability to keep up with friends. I think about my friends a lot. But I don't drop them texts or have a chat like I used to. It's not even that most of my friends are local. Maybe that's part of the problem. I already have to use various technologies to keep up with them. I'm not going to see them by accident.

And I have to say, my friends have, in general, been great about keeping up with me, with one or two glaring exceptions which are another story entirely.  But even that has a limit. I noticed more recently that I haven't heard from people who made an effort to keep in touch with me, and I have to admit with some chagrin that I have not been good at keeping up with them either.  The burden can't be entirely theirs.

But it's hard! When it's the morning, or the immediate evening after work, my life is all about MJ. Her new toddler status means she can be particularly volatile and challenging to get changed, get fed, and get out the door. I can't sit idly by and hope she gets things done. I have to do everything for her. That's fine, but there's little time there to communicate with others.

After she goes to bed, I have to feed myself (generally) and I have about an hour to myself. Now, I could spend that hour texting all my friends far away, or I could sit on my sofa and watch the next episode of Jessica Jones (or whatever else I happen to be watching). And then it's time for bed. Get up and repeat.

It's not that I'm unhappy, but I think I'm being a shitty friend. My friends are great, and I don't want them to drift because I'm being an asshole.  And at some point when MJ is older, I will have more time to reach out to others. If I don't nurture those relationships, those friends may be gone.

So really I know what I need to do- I need to make more of an effort, even if it's just to cycle through my far away friends on a rota and send them a 'What's up?' message occasionally.  Because currently that's slipping. In the long run, I don't think it's a good idea. And in the short run, I could inadvertently be messing up some great friendships.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

1y6m : A person is not your happiness

This isn't entirely about parenthood. Really, it's about all relationships in life. I'm also going to preface this by stating that this is my truth. You don't have to agree with it, but this is my blog, so I'm going to say what I think.

You cannot expect another human being to be your happiness.  Not your family, not your partner, not your child.  No other human being is responsible for how you feel or should be responsible for how you feel.  People in your life can contribute to your happiness.  But they can't be your happiness.  And ultimately, how you feel is your choice and your decision. It's entirely within your control.

I learned this lesson after a horrible break up and a year of therapy where I came to the realization that having relationships (of any kind, although I was at the time focused on the romantic kind) is just dumb luck. A lot of people settle for less than what they want just to be in a relationship. That's fine for them. It's not fine for me. I do know some people who are ridiculously happy together. These people never tell me that relationships are hard work (although they of course say they require compromise) and often seem their most authentic selves when with their partners. And then there's everyone else.

So when I realized that the kind of dream relationship we're sold in movies and books isn't even anything remotely close to a sure thing, I determined that I obviously couldn't control whether I would be so lucky or if a magical person would magic up to be my special one.  I could make myself miserable forever due to dumb luck, or instead, I became determined to make sure that everything (and I mean everything) that was within my control, I made the best that I could, and work out what (that was within my control) would make me happy.  Because that was all I could rely on. And I could spend forever wishing and hoping and waiting for luck. Or I could make my world what I wanted it to be for me.

So I did that. And when I embarked on the solo mama journey, I had a budget- an emotional budget, a financial budget, and a time budget. I felt they were all fairly generous, but I knew there was a budget nonetheless. I was 41. I wasn't guaranteed a baby, no matter how much effort I put into the trying. And I knew, that although I would be sad if that happened, I would also be okay. Not just okay, I would have a good life that made me happy, but made me happy in a different way. 

Because my child is not my happiness.  She gives me so much joy, and contributes to the wealth in my life every day.  But if she had never existed, or if god forbid she is ever taken from me, I know that I can be happy again.  If I let myself.  And not because someone else makes me happy, but because I am in control of my own happiness.  No one else is, or should be, responsible for it.

End of soapbox rant for the day.

In other news, work is busy, MJ is SUCH a toddler these days, and everything else is pretty great!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

1y5m15d : One or Two?

I wrote this as a response to someone else on the SMC forum. This comes up a lot for me, this idea of one child or two.  I liked what I wrote so I thought I'd put it here as part of this story.

I went into becoming a single mother thinking I would only have one. My 'dream Plan A' of finding a partner included having 2, but when I reduced that dream to the Plan B just me, I also reduced the child count to account for it. Not that this makes sense to anyone else necessarily, but I sort of felt like, two parents to two kids is a replacement one for one in an overpopulated world, and so one to one just made sense to me.

I'm an only child, and I really don't remember minding being an only child and now as an independent adult, I really don't mind being an only child at all. I think every individual person is so different, you can't know what a person will feel or want in terms of their relationships or 'how they'll feel about things' that they have or don't have. You also don't know if two children will have a great sibling bond, or a horrid sibling bond. I know people with both, and as I don't have any myself, I don't romanticize it either way. I think it's a crap shoot be honest.

So with me being so sure I wanted one, why have I felt conflicted? The online SMC forums. Peer pressure. That's it. I've posted about it before in other places. It never occurred to me to want another child, until I was suddenly faced with lots of people both here and in real life from my mum and baby groups that do. Suddenly, oh the pressure!!! The doubt!! I can afford my one child and we can have a good life together where I can give her enriching experiences and we can enjoy travel and other such things together. I do not have the capacity to live that life with two children. I would need to live an entirely different life with two children, simply for the sake of having two children. And when I think very hard about the type of life -I- want to live, it is very much the one with one child, not two.

But I still feel pressure. It's very real and tangible. It doesn't mean I actually want 2. I'm not sure what it means exactly. But I know when I take MJ to swim class, that there would be no way I could take another child to swim class. So she'd have to give up hers, and I couldn't offer that to another child. I know I can just about afford nursery fees for one, but I'd be stretched and either sucking down my savings or going in to debt to pay for nursery for 2. The knock on effect would be, I couldn't jaunt off to Denmark next week to see a friend if I had two. I couldn't afford it, and probably couldn't manage it (I'm taking a travel cot for one, but two??). I look ahead and think about maybe private school and music lessons and other classes/lessons and more travel and whatever else and I know that lifestyle is predicated on my one child.

And when I think about her, and me and her together, my heart is so full and I think our relationship is so special, I am actually satisfied. And I think that's important- that I am actually satisfied with what I have.

Because it means when I feel that pressure, and nagging guilt, that I really have to think about why I'm feeling it. It's not because I'm not fulfilled. And as I said, I don't have strong feelings about siblings either way, so I don't think MJ is going to have a worse life without a sibling. So what is it? It's just this other thing of expectation and pressure and external society and a bit of 'keeping up with the Jonses' and it's not really about what I actually want at all. It's more about what I somewhere in some part of my head think I should be doing. Except I really don't.

It doesn't make it less real however. And it means I'm never entirely comfortable even though from the start I really only wanted one. I still pay storage on my 3 embryos, 7 eggs, and 3 vials of sperm and I honestly don't know what I want to do with them. I may try to donate the eggs and embryos in the future. But I also probably hold on to them a little bit to make the decision a little less final. Even though I'm 98% sure I'm a one and done mom.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

1y5m8d: Handling being a parent

I see in various places sometimes the question, "How do you handle being a parent?", especially from people who are not yet parents and thinking about being a parent.  And I think that part of this stems from seeing children out and about being active and rambunctious and thinking, "Oh my god, I couldn't possibly handle that!".  I think there is some foundation for this reaction, but the wonderful thing about being a parent is that you learn and grow alongside your child's development stages.

You aren't suddenly thrust into having to care for and manage a howling toddler. A newborn is for the most part, not that difficult, once you account for the lack of sleep and your tolerance for crying (and how much your baby may cry for that matter- mine didn't much).  Of course there are things that seem BIG and you are all encompassed by it while you're doing it. Slowly but surely though, your newborn infant will start to be more interactive. They roll over. They sit up. They look at things. And you, as their parent are right there with them. In fact, the reality is, you will likely miss many of these changes as they blur into a happy memory of newborn haze. The reality is, in the first six months of your child's life, you are becoming an adept parent just as your child is moving from a newborn to a baby.

The same transition happens from baby to toddler. Children don't one day wake up and start running. There is a learning curve. And again, you are right there by their side, watching their actions, learning what they do so you can be there to support them. The change in some ways is fast, but in other ways is slow and incremental. So slow, that you don't really notice, but again, your skills at managing your child are keeping up with their development.

Does that mean there aren't moments of desperation or exasperation? Of course not. But they aren't the end of the world. They're a moment. Moments pass.

It's funny though, because as much as I understand this paradigm, thinking about the reality of having two children based on having one, is one of the key reasons I don't really want another child. Because I see what it takes, and I don't think I have enough to go around for two.  At least, not to do it the way I want to do it. However, the reality is, if I had another child, I would adapt day by day until my new reality was commonplace. I still believe there would be more moments of exhaustion and exasperation, and I still know that financially it's not really what I can afford (or consequently what I would want if I did). But it's the same principle. Everything about children seems overwhelming until you have one. Then you just take it it day by day. And each day isn't actually all that hard upon reflection. That's how you handle it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

1y3m27d : Communicating

So very little time has passed and my newborn baby girl is really just morphing rapidly into a little person.  MJ's communication efficiency is breathtaking. She doesn't have all the words, but we use sign language and she has distinct sounds. I know what she means. She can clearly indicate yes and no, and when offered choices make preferential selections. She shows she understands things that I don't always think she's going to.

For example, we're currently working on getting her to wear her helmet when in the bicycle bucket. This is mostly in preparation for moving to a front sitting bench position, as I don't want her sitting on the bench without a helmet.  Of course, like most children, she has hated things on her head from the beginning. I had all these lovely little newborn caps that she flat out refused to wear.  The other day after nursery pick-up I was loading her into the bike and she of course did not want to wear her helmet.  I said something along the lines of, "Please, MJ, mommy would really like you to wear your helmet, please." and I made the sign for 'please' to go with it. And she sort of looked at me, stopped yelling, and let me put the helmet on her head. It was amazing!!

Of course, I also think she understands when I say, it's time to do bedtime soon and we need to upstairs and she hustles away from me. Or just frowns and shakes her head.  So this isn't all smiles and rose petals!  Toddler attitude is real!

When I think about how short a time span it's been, and I look at pictures of my little baby from a  year ago, it's really mind blowing to think about how far we've come. And I know how much more she's going to continue to gain in the upcoming months.  It's so hard to capture these little moments of wonder. They all fly by so quickly.