Being a single mum is tough, no doubt about it and I’m sure I’ll have no arguments from anyone on this one. As I’m sure it’s equally hard being a single dad with the full-time role of caring for the kids, but as that’s not our situation, I will take a moment to lament on the tribulations of being a single mum. Both mine are pre-school aged (2 & 4), both boys and both high energy, which is lovely, if I’m peering in through the window at their antics; ‘gosh, they’re funny, so much exuberance etc’. Then I would peer away and smirk ‘but sure glad I don’t have to look after them’ – WAIT A MOMENT – gasp. They are wonderful boys and I am trying really hard to be calm, cool and collected and remain a ‘positive’ force in their lives and not completely screw them up for life by ruining this ‘nurturing’ relationship I am so desperately trying to implement….but, like I said, it’s not easy! Distraction is the key to success when I’m feeling overwhelmed, let’s get in the car and go…somewhere, anywhere, but not too far, or else as you know, the whining starts. I remind myself not to get bogged down with the stress, the constant attention seeking, seeking for approval, it’s endless, probably (or hopefully) worthwhile in the long run s it’s developmental – age related, but relentless from day to day, in the moment. Ah, breath, centre and RUN!! Take 2: breath, centre and RELAX. If I actually stopped the internal dialogue and realized it was what I was feeding my thoughts that made moments unbearable maybe I would have a different experience. Whatever the case my hat does dip profoundly to those care-givers out there doing it solo. A tough road and hopefully a road less traveled..but I know it’s a well traversed path and one which our society is supporting more and more. I know there is support out there and others in the same boat, maybe a community of ‘single parents’ gather to look after each other’s children, have playdates, celebrate their new found freedom or their drowning in the onset of reality, depending on the amount of time out on their own I suspect as to the stage of their acceptance. I feel the weight of stigma, the weight of ‘how do you cope’, the weight of ‘they couldn’t make it work?’ and ‘how will it affect the kids?’ Even if most of those statements are in my head. What I miss is adult conversation and I guess it’s a good time to reach out to others and invest in interests outside of day to day living and mere survival wishing I was in my 20s not 40s. Next time you meet a single parent, give them a wink and a smile and say – ‘well-done, you’re doing a great job!’, you might just make their day and, who knows, you may have unknowingly given them a hand up out of their darkest hour in their day.
It’s the new year and happy new year to everybody reading these posts and going by the comments left, it’s mostly my mum! Well this year saw us knee deep in sand as we camped on Moreton Island. Which I must add was divine, the campsite was positioned perfectly on the beach front and we basically camped under trees on the sand a one minute stroll from the waters edge. It couldn’t be any more perfect BUT the catch is about to come. Getting there! We are novice 4wdrivers (it’s not even the right way to write it, but there you go, as I said, novice). We also decided to go with our camper-van to make everything a little more comfortable, our home away from home. But, little did we know that we would be towing our beloved van through the sand via the interior route of the island and away from ‘the terra-firma’ sand of the beach. Also we had to factor in tide times, now I did this, I actually printed out the weeks times before heading off. What I didn’t know, however, was that the ferry would be departing late and therefore arriving at the peak of high tide and in the dark! We have two toddlers with us don’t forget and my trusty little Nissan X-trail, which did wonderfully towing the trailer on the road just didn’t have the gusto to pull us through the sand. It did fine driving on obscure tracks without the van but occasionally bottomed out, as I’ve discovered is the terminology, it has a low clearance and as the ranger told us is really an all wheel drive meant for the city. It’s actually a 4WD but once the notion is in people’s mind it’s hard to convince them otherwise. What struck us was the culture of 4WD’ing. It’s a lifestyle choice, as is camping or fishing or boating. If you want to enter into the fray you have to be up with not only the lingo but have all the material stuff and KNOW-how to use it. It helps if you can tinker with your car and ‘know how’ to baton down fly away tarpaulins at a moments notice with the best of them, because, anyone who has gone camping knows that EVERYONE in your immediate surroundings is watching your every move. This can be un-nerving if you’re not use to it. If you haven’t been camping before you would not realise the loss of personal space you experience. You live life outside basically and that means in the company of complete strangers. We were very lucky there were others there with small children and our children mixed well and got on well with sharing toys etc. So this saved us those ‘I’m bored’ moments and besides the people watching that inevitably goes on living in the nature always offers something of interest. Our boys love ants, crabs and sand which is just as well as it was all throughout our camper van continually; all day long. Fortunately for us we also came prepared with our toilet tent and portable loo, this made life so much more comfortable and meant that when it got really busy at the camp site, and it did, we didn’t have to be inventive about where we squatted in the ‘wee’ hours of the morning or at night when most were gathered around their campfires. Most folk were nice about helping us novices out of a sticky situation but some were just plain aggressive. One young guy told us to get back on the ferry and go back from whence we came if we were stupid enough to come with a car like that wanting to tow a camper van. We obviously ignored him and had ourselves one of the most amazing holidays of our lives. We had a combination of beach, surf and lagoon conditions, nature and harmony and family unity and best of all we had loads of adventure and who doesn’t like a good adventure to make a holiday worth remembering. We are now in the market for a 2nd hand 4wd with enough grunt and ground clearance to make us the ones offering to tow those poor bogged out buffoons on our next visit to Moreton.
Wow, what a minefield! Least of all the feeling of subservient rolling over and please scratch my tummy sort of display we have to do before each start of year. (Therefore the Cavadoodle reference in the heading). “Please take my child, please put him into a good class with his correct age group (this is actually harder than it sounds) and please give him some caring and supportive teachers, not those wicked wenches that you’ve actually put him with on the list!!!!!” This week has been full of this cowedly, doggish behaviour that I’m feeling rather sickened by the whole experience. I would like some time to produce some work myself but I would like the boys not to be wound-up stressed little tykes from their childcare experience, which, let’s face it, if you prescribe to the train of thought of these young years being their foundation/formative years, then as a parent, you would feel this dilemma tenfold. As I do. But children are resilient I hear you say, but should they be at the age of one, I would retaliate. Is childcare even for them at that age? Isn’t that why we should be relying on extended family? The village concept of parenting. If I had a job to go to, I don’t think I would be stressing as I am over the dilemma but I was hoping to spend some time building some things, setting up MY foundation so to speak. We are embarking on a new business venture and I have some personal projects, in the form of writing, that I want to get stuck into, so either I have to be extremely disciplined at saying yes, they will go to daycare or I could say, as I have been, I’ll work around them…and that sometimes ends in repressed tears and early nights of retreating to bed with exhaustion. But ultimately I give my kids love which I’m not sure the childcare will do. I know my eldest will do just fine, as he has been at his one day per week sojourn, because he’s into other kids at his age (later part of his two’s). But the youngest is still attaching. Anyway you now get the gist of my angst. I will breath through it as I try to explain how the better childcare facilities work, the ones with large waiting lists. There is one word which best sums it up and that is MONEY …. which brings power and influence and position and FUNDS! Which if you take the d for dogmatic out makes fun’s but we are talking about childcare and the D remains firmly embedded in the psyche. You have to pay your way into choice, you have to pay your way into the better facilities and if you can’t, you just better beg or roll over and whine, your kids future depends on it. I’ve learnt quite a while ago, there is not justice for all.
I’ve just come home from our book club meet and I realise the enormous surge of pent up adrenaline that we ladies harbour. The children are safely tucked away in bed for the night and we go about our business of arriving at the assigned person’s house with book or kindle tucked under our arms. We politely place down the book and it is never referred to again. Instead we tear through a months worth of pent up blaahhh. And that’s all it is. More and more blah, but this time it’s adult blah and we can’t get enough of it. Every topic under the sun is discussed, it’s like we’ve been starved of any deep conversation or female company for too long and we are all trying to get our two cents worth in, to know that we, indeed, are worth something to the communal melting pot of ideas which we occasionally thinly veil as arriving from the pages of a book but mostly they are thoughts that have been laying in our minds for a good chunk of time and now we have the space to through them in the air and see where they fall. We pretend to discuss the books context but what we are really discussing is far more sinister, perverse and beautiful than a book could possibly be. We are discussing our independence, our freedom, our resentment, our sufferings, our desires, our lost thoughts, our lost libidos and our forever tired physics. We are all mums and we bring to the table not so much tales about our children or our partners but stories about us. It’s like we are discovering who we are again, we are talking about things that make us tick, sometimes about our dreams, our phobias, our ticks, our likes and dislikes. We are discovering our spirits as they have become stymied through the process of parenting, especially of young children with their boundless energy eluding us. At these meetings we become us again, independent individuals who can hold the floor for a couple of hours without interruptions and without, strangely enough, much judgement. Here’s a toast to purging with like-minded friends.
When my first child was born I was given a book entitled “Parenting for a Peaceful World” by Robin Grille, 2005. I thought this was an apt title for a mum with two boys who love to tussle and shove each other, sometimes, relentlessly. So recently I started to dip into it and what I found was a deeply harrowing world for children from the ice age up until recent times. Grille does say that the evolution of parenting means today we favour a kinder approach but we are still marred by old fashioned ideas . Infanticide was common between all classes and males were the preferred sex. So much for my tranquil read into parenting bliss!
The mindset of the time is mirrored in comments/writings of revered philosophers, for example, Plato wrote “Any children born to women over 40 or men over 55 should be violently disposed of, and every family should raise only one son, while other viable sons should be adopted out to others” (p.28). And another great, Aristotle, called them “dwarfs with bad memories”. Although I find the later comical, the former scenario is still happening in some pockets of the world today.
How many of us feel the absolute guilt (if only fleetingly), (but overwhelmingly), of child-rearing I wonder? I personally am against smacking and believe it’s unnecessary but after speaking with my grandmother who is all for it, I have attempted it a few times and mostly out of frustration. It didn’t help us one bit and it was an act of violence as, obviously, I’m physically stronger and he was bewildered. We’re vulnerable as mothers, tired and emotional and as Grille says “the old adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is particularly true when we commit to meeting the child’s emotional needs.”I think it’s very important for carers/parents to take a break when we need to and it’s vital for new parents to foster a supportive network. I’m pleased to say I think we’re getting there with mother’s groups and play groups and community early health centres available across the board. I felt well supported in my pregnancy and postnatally, especially whilst living in the city and to a lesser extent living in this rural/residential area, but yet there is support. As Grille says: ” To a large extent, it is the responsibility of every society to support parents and their children.” This is why I took my grandmother’s advise, but in reality we have evolved from that generations’ parenting style and rightly so. We apparently are moving away from authoritarian ‘socialising mode’ of parenting and embracing the ‘helping mode’ or ‘natural parenting’. “What motivates helping mode parents is the desire to allow and support the natural unfolding of each child’s unique individuality”. He writes about the more concerted effort that child rearing requires, especially in their earlier years and this is reassuring me that I’m on the right track in devoting all of my energy to my children at this stage in their lives.
As I’ve said I’ve just dipped into the book but it’s the actual stages of the child’s early development that I will seek out next. I will keep you posted.