Every day I am pretty sure I do at least one thing wrong. Most days I do more. I used to think I was alone, until I talked to other parents who were honest. Here is a place for more parents to feel less alone, and more "good enough".

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Life Happens to the "Best" of Us

So one of my guilty secrets is that I watch Teen Mom on MTV. Only the original one, and mainly just because of one family in it; two of the others irritate  me and the fourth I'm just indifferent to although they can sometimes be sweet.

Maci, the teen mom with Bentley, I just really identify with. I mean by the time Adam was born, I wasn't even a teen mum. I was kind of in no-mans land, too old to be classed as a young mum but not old enough to really fit in as a "normal" age mum. All the mums at antenatal class were about 5-10 years older than me, and all the mums at the "young mums" group were younger than me (or had been when they had their kids). But still, to me, I was a young mum even though I wasn't still at school or anything. Maybe it was amplified by the fact I was single and not working by the time he was born, who knows, but it doesn't really matter how it's classified or viewed by others, it's just how it actually felt to me that matters.

On the teen mom blurb, Maci is classed as the clever one, over-achieving, bright future etc. Then she has Bentley, and they may not say this, but to me when she is starting to think about dropping out of college and wanting to be a stay at home mum, and have another baby, it's not because she is lazy, it's because she is an over-achiever and wants to be perfect and good, and if she can't do it in the way she was going to before she had Bentley, with a career etc, then one way she can do it is by having the perfect family for him, and being the perfect mum. I can identify with that. I think, reflecting on it, that is what I have tried to do. When I was at school I was in all the top sets, I didn't really like coursework so didn't massively crack on with it or even do much revising, but I still got Bs and Cs and began my A levels. When everything started going on in my personal life when I was doing my A levels, I left to get some control and just start over, but still I had goals and aims, and even whilst working in the library I remember sitting there working out a plan to do my A levels in the evening and go to Uni and have a career etc. Then I got pregnant, and everything changed, I guess I figured I had to work with what I was given and if I was going to be a mum then I was going to be a pretty damn excellent one.

I guess I have tried to be pretty much every type of mother there is, in my quest for perfection. I started off being a "stay at home mum", but didn't want to be seen as a "young mum on benefits" so went to college to gain education. I went into early years training as I love kids - I'd originally wanted to be a teacher at school, and figured it would be a good job for a mum if I could get an early years job in a school and have the holidays off etc. So this was my "college mum phase". I was at college/work experience, Adam was in day nursery and that worked for a while. It also gave me a chance to "be a teenager" and figure myself out a little, like all my friends had had the opportunity to do, but without neglecting Adam or being a bad mum because he was well cared for in day nursery and I was studying at college not just slacking off without him there. It was hard work, I remember when he used to get up at 2am until 4am every night for a month, then we would have to get up at 6am to get ready for college, and I'd be running down the road with him in the buggy, sometimes speed-walking all the way to Saltaire from Windhill because we'd missed the bus. And the time I sat in agony crying my eyes out because I had a tooth abscess but had to get my assignment in for the next day and couldn't have anymore time off or leeway as I'd used it all up when he was sick. Or the time he threw himself down the stone steps at the flat and I had to leave him at my mums for the day because I couldn't miss the child protection talk. And crying on my tutor because his day nursery was closing down and I couldn't find another I liked and I didn't know what to do. It wasn't easy, yet I look back on the time thinking it was one of the most fun times of my life, crazy huh. We used to have fun times, a lady on the bus used to give him books every week because she thought he was so good, and I left about 3 buggies on buses :/ Me and Heidi got matching buggies as we'd seen them on sale in Mothercare haha!! One time, I'd just picked Adam up from nursery, it was 6pm and dark as I'd been working late at the library, had all my files with me and all his nursery stuff, and halfway over the road his pram broke, just literally snapped down the sides. I was shattered and had no money for a taxi, and it was freezing, I just rung my mum crying and she came picked me up. One of many "last straw" days, but we made it through and I qualified :D

Then came my "Single mum working school hours" phase. I got a job in a nursery school, thinking it would be perfect as I could have the school holidays off with Adam, and found a great childminder for him. He started a school nursery too, and it was great. But then, he kept getting ill, and was so ill one week they tried him on 4 different antibiotics, and that's when he was diagnosed with kidney reflux. I was torn in half, felt guilty for being at work, felt guilty for not being at work, felt like I hardly saw him except for the holidays. I decided to look for another job where I didn't get the holidays off but worked different shifts/hours so could have a more "normal" life and do school drop-off, morning assemblies, have time off for his nativity and stuff.

So then I started my private day nursery job, this was my "full-time working single mum" phase. Typically for me, I ended up taking on more and more responsibility at work and becoming room leader. Adam would sometimes come to work after school so I could work over as I hated to say no if they needed somebody, or my parents would have him. I was taking work home, doing far too much. And then Paul and I decided to move in together and create the family environment that I wanted Adam to have. We started buying a house, and then Paul had his accident. So that was another thing to get through, another thing to feel I needed to "get right", making sure I was there for him and keeping everyone updated, still working, looking after Adam, making sure the house buying went through - scary stuff buying a house first time and I ended up doing it alone, thank goodness for my Dad helping me out. Doing all the packing and all that stuff, and dealing with the aftermath of an ofsted inspection at work. It was a pretty stressful time, but it was always a case of "well when Paul's better, when we've moved, when work is sorted" etc etc etc...........one day everything would be fine. But I think you need to realise that life will never be "fine", there's always something happening and you just have to learn to live at the same time, not wait for it to be over.

So we moved house, settled in, started my open uni course and started trying for a baby. Really wanted to create that proper family unit, and prove to people that I wasn't just a "young mum" and that I was still clever like at school. Was stressful, working full-time, looking after Adam, doing a Level 4 uni course, and being pregnant. But I guess I still felt I had a lot to prove. When Jessica was born, I tried to do everything right, which obviously didn't work out great as I'd done better with Adam when I'd just used my instincts, but hey we all learn these things over time. So that was my "2 working parents with career aspirations, 2 children, owned house" phase. After a while back at work though, I realised I wasn't focused on my job enough, and if I couldn't be perfect at it, well, I'd rather just be perfect at what I already had on my plate - a stay at home mum.

So began my "dad at work, mum at home with kids" phase. And it worked quite well, until our relationship broke down and I just realised I wasn't happy anymore with my life, and maybe I had rushed into it, wanting Adam to have a Dad and a family, and we had now grown apart. It's hard when there are children involved, if you're with somebody for 5-7 years it's hard enough to split up, but when there are children too you feel like "growing apart" is not a valid enough reason, until you realise that whilst you are so unhappy and ill, you really aren't being the best mum you can be, and that is not in the children's best interests at all. We were only 20 when we met, and he never knew me before I was pregnant, so maybe we should have seen it coming, but you never know anything until you try.

When Paul and I split up I went back to my "Single mum on benefits" phase, but with 2 kids this time and not quite as young, although still only twenties so not exactly old! But I didn't want to stay there, I just took a couple of months to lick my wounds and then decided to try out the "Single mum working school hours" phase again. I found a great job, with a lovely group of staff, albeit a bit far away. I had a few childcare issues as Jessica wasn't used to being away from me and was quite attached, but finally sorted it all out. But again, after a while, the usual guilt-trips set in, the days off for the children being sick, the missing certificate assemblies, the 2 hour bus journey with the toddler in the freezing cold, and then I started getting ill myself with all the worry and the rushing around. And I decided that enough was enough, people could label me however they wanted, but I was going to do the best for my children and myself, and if that meant having to be on benefits so I could be at home for them, then that's what was going to have to happen.

So now, I am once again a "single mum on benefits". And maybe, it's where I need to be right now. But I still feel myself trying to over-achieve, trying to make sure everything goes perfectly to plan, that Adam always has everything for school and goes on all the trips and cub camps, and that Jessica does enough activities during the week, and they eat good food, and I stay on budget and still afford them nice clothes and good shoes and trips to the cinema and they don't feel "poor". And I don't know why I'm bothered because when I was a kid I KNEW we were poor, I knew my clothes came from Margaret and Myra's jumble or Bevan's clothing bins, I knew we got given pasta and cheese from the next door neighbours when my Dad lost his job in the 80's, and I knew I didn't have the uniform with the logos on, and that we went to Butlins with the Salvation Army and Junior Soldier camp because we were given help from the fund. But I wasn't bothered one inch by it, I was happy, so why I think my kids will be bothered goodness only knows??? I never wanted for anything, and I had more My Little Pony's with proper play-sets than any kid in my class cos Bevan found a load in a clothing bin and gave them to me. By the time I was at the age where I would've been bothered, we weren't really poor anymore. And by the time my children get to that age, they'll be independent enough that I'll be out working again and we won't be poor anymore either. We're not poor on that scale anyway, welfare reforms have seen to that, and I am pretty awesome at living and eating well on a budget :D

I've rambled here and lost my point. The whole point of this is, I get Maci, I get her wanting to have another baby even though she was only 19, she didn't really mean it or think it was a good idea, but she wanted to "achieve" in the best way she could, as a mum, and felt like she needed to create the perfect family for Bentley to do that. She wasn't being naive or dumb or young - if she was doing that she would've gone on to have another baby. She was just trying to figure out a way to be herself, be the "best" at things like she used to be, in the situation she had been given.

These days, I still know I have to watch myself, that I need to relax and let Jessica just chill out and play with her toys and watch TV for a day if that's what she feels like doing, and hide under the kitchen table and cut her hair. And I need to let Adam play on the Wii for hours and not worry about it cos the next week he'll probably choose to play out every night after school so it all evens out if I just let it happen. And I am just letting it happen. I'm not staying at home this time because I'm playing a role, this time I know it's right for me and the children, and that it will be right when James moves in too, and when we get married, and if we choose to add to the family in the future, that it will be right if I just go with how we feel, rather than try to do it for a reason or at a certain time or in a certain way. It's still important to work with what you've been handed, and make the best out of it, but it's important to also make sure you find "yourself" whilst you're doing that. Sometimes, you just have to let life happen to you, and it turns out being the best thing you ever did.

The only perfect mum thing that I'm hanging on to and can't let go of, is that I promised Adam I would take him to Disneyland Paris one day, before he started upper school...............that one, I have to make happen somehow.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Snow Day!!!

We have had a rather fantabulous day today :D It was a sledging and snowball fighting, chocolate eating, bread making, lego and marble-run building, dressing up box rooting, lentil playing, fish stew eating, Bug's Life watching, Creme Egg icecream eating, falling asleep reading books at 7pm kind of a Sunday............Here are a few pics..................

It was a good day because we just let it happen, we didn't plan or try to have a "perfect" snow day or Sunday, we just went along for the ride, and it turned out that at 9pm everybody was tucked up in bed (including Beard lol!), the house is tidy for the first time in a week, and I have actually time to relax. Funny how a busy family day can turn out to be the one day in the week you actually get all your jobs done, and the food cupboards sorted out that you've been meaning to do all week...................