Wednesday, July 31, 2019

2y5m : Chickens and eggs- parenting can be lonely

I'll start this blog post with some positive thoughts.  Having MJ is by far one of the best things I've done in my life. The joy it brings me to be on this journey with her as she grows and develops into her own autonomous person is absolutely wonderful.

And I don't think that has much to do with being a solo parent, but a parent more generally.  If parenting was the right choice for you, then I'm sure you know exactly what I mean. It's just such a privilege to nurture this new human being. Every day she amazes me and makes me laugh. She also frustrates me and irritates me and sticks her feet in my face, but honestly, it's fantastic.

I'm also a full time working mother. I again don't know that my time constraints related to being a full time working mother are particular to solo mothers. Maybe a little bit.  I work five days a week. I spend quality time with MJ in the morning before we go to nursery and school and afterwards before bedtime, and we have all weekend together. It's not loads of time but I try to be present and make best use of it.  After she goes to bed, I pretty much want to veg out on the sofa and watch TV. On the weekends, I have to squeeze in all the household chores like laundry, etc. around whatever we happen to be doing.  Having a cleaner is definitely important in keeping my sanity.

I'm not resentful of working, quite the opposite. I love my job. I'm very proud of what I do.  I am pleased to think that as MJ grows in her understanding of the world, and can understand more about what I do, that I am setting a positive example for her in lots of different ways.

But as I've said previously, something's gotta give. And, I find that I am more often than not somewhat lonely.  There are assorted reasons for this and it's not all to do with being a solo mom, or a full time working mom.  A lot of it has to do with where my village is located (all over the world) and how little (none) of my close friends live in the same city as I do and how hard it is to make new friends.  And when I do make new friends, and they happen to have kids and partners, they have limited time as well.  It's not the same as it used to be. Which is fine, but it's sliding into something a bit isolating which can be tough.

My best friends, for the most part, don't even live in the same country as me. And they are to varying degrees better and worse at communication.  The person who I thought was my best friend basically ghosted me when I became pregnant. There are various reasons for why this happened, and I'm not really sure about why it's continued, but I feel that so much time has passed that it's very uncertain if we can ever get back to a place of being as close as we once were. The absence of her friendship has been deeply hurtful to me on various levels but I'm really feeling it at the moment when I find that I simply have no one to talk to, and she was always there for me.

If I wasn't stuck at home, I could go out and be more social and get involved in things.  Making friends as an adult sucks anyway.  Having a child, especially a small child, just makes it harder. And married folks have their partners to talk to.

MJ will get older, and become more independent. We'll be able to do more, and do more individually.  This is temporary. As are most things about raising a child. It's just a moment, and I'm finding the moment a little bit rough.  But then I cuddle MJ and know that it's worth it, and that it's not going to be like this forever.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

2y4m : Looking backwards

Time continues to fly past. I go to work, I care for MJ, months and seasons change.  My little baby is not anything like a baby. She talks and runs. It's such a joy to watch her grow and stretch and learn about herself and the world. The baby days really are fleeting. It's hard for me to remember her as a baby really- what she felt like and how the minutia of our days were.  I know people tell you to treasure it because it will be gone fast. The thing is, I did treasure it, but memory is a funny thing. I know I treasured it, but I can't call it to mind in a clear way like living it.

One of the last things I'll say about (not) having another kid is that I realize that I don't want a different baby to cuddle and care for- I want the time back with MY baby. It was over too fast! I want to go back to those moments! That's what I miss and long for.  A new baby would be something entirely different. Then I'd have two children I felt a longing for their younger days with.  I see though that what I want is those moments frozen in time, or able to be recalled at will. Not to replace them with some other baby.  And knowing that's impossible, also helps me feel at peace and confident in my decision to have one child.

And back to speaking of that one child, I am treasuring every moment of our now as well. Every cuddle and giggle, as well as every tantrum. Every day she changes and learns and grows and does something new or different and it is such a privilege to be a part of.

Which isn't to say it isn't tough in equal measure. I rarely think about being a solo mom because it's my only reality. I firmly believe that many aspects of our life are a lot easier because I'm not simultaneously negotiating with another parent.  But some things are harder- not getting a break being a big one. I work full time and it's great for us. First, because it pays the bills and affords us our lifestyle.  Second, because MJ gets socialized with other kids and adults which I think is important for her development. Second part two, because MJ gets amazing exposure to all sorts of learning and activities at the nursery which also helps her development. And third, because I get a break when I'm at work!  Seriously. Work is my down time!  We recently went on a holiday to France for a week where we met up with a friend of mine who flew in from NY and so it was 9 days of full on time and even with another adult there it was tough!  I loved it, we had a great time, and I was thrilled to come back home, have MJ at nursery and go to work.

But I tell myself, it's particularly tough now, when she's this age. Not potty trained, haphazardly skipping naps that she still desperately needs. Needing a stroller.  Slowly but surely all of these things will finish and she will be a more capable travel partner and housemate.  And I'm sure at that point I'll be thinking longingly of these moments, that I can't quite remember clearly- be so much in love with my bigger girl, but missing the toddler she was, just like a miss the baby now. 

A peril of parenting- all this retrospection while holding on to so much hope and promise for the future. It's a funny little paradox.

Monday, April 29, 2019

2y2m: It all does go by amazingly fast

So MJ is now 2. I mean, 2 months past 2 to be honest! Where does it go? I don't have anything like a baby anymore. Baby days are far behind us. And yet I swear it's only been a half a second. It's unbelievable.

I now have a full fledged toddler who talks to me and is physically more and more capable every day. She expresses herself, she laughs at her own jokes. She sings. She's an absolute delight.  Who of course has multitudes of tantrums and melt downs and now that I've taken the side of the crib, won't stay in bed all night and is giving me horrible sleep since she can open doors and climb into my bed every night.

I wouldn't change it for the world. It's fantastic.

But my god it flies by so fast.

Because I'm a single parent, I have no other standard of reference for comparison. I feel though that many of the things I deal with are not particularly different for coupled parents. I find my issues are all about time, as in, I have very little of it free. And I suppose if I had a spouse, they could be watching child and I could go out, but I think my married friends find this difficult. I mean, they're also needing to find time with each other. I guess that's a key difference, that married couples have each other for adult company. I have a lot of evenings on my own, where I can't leave the house (obviously). Although I tend to just use that time to relax, or get housework done, both of which are critical. I think life just fundamentally changes when you have kids full stop. Your weekends and evenings are busy in a way they just weren't before. Socializing can be hard.

But again, I wouldn't change any of it. Watching MJ grow and become her own person is an amazing gift that I feel so privileged to be a part of and responsible for. And if time keeps flying the way it is, before I know it, she'll be off on play dates and out with friends and I'll be on my own again. It's a short-term problem really. So like many things child related, I think the best approach is to try and appreciate every moment of it while you can- before you know it, it's gone.

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!