Surprise! I'm a single parent

April 14, 2008, 3:47 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Tonight I was talking to someone about beauty. What did she say? Something like: “Some people are gifted with attractiveness.” She is in her 20s. I am in my 40s.

I said to her you know what? As you get older you want to be with people because of their substance and not what they look like.  But anyway, you also realise how everyone is attractive and there’s a lot more diversity in what seems to be attractive. I really believe that.

When I was younger I thought I was so ugly. My assessment was based on not being perfect. I had much much higher standards for myself than anyone else – I was harsher on me. And this impacted on my self esteem – I dressed to be the third most interesting person in the room. Does that sound weird? I always assumed there were brighter and more beautiful than me and I viewed compliments with suspicion.

My Mum said: You are so beautiful when you smile – and I heard: You are not beautiful except theres a flicker of something when you smile.

I have two beautiful girls and it occured to me one day that to have such georgous kids maybe I wasn’t as 100 percent ugly as I thought. The other thing that helped was a digital camera. I spent the first two years being official photographer and then i thought we aren’t wasting fim here lets let the kids drive. Not stressed out by pictures I could delete I relaxed and had fun and now I have some pics of me that show someone who looks fine. Pity I waited till I was forty to understand that but that’s cool.

I am actively thinking about ways I can let my children know they always were and always will be beautiful.

but I’m not bitter……
April 10, 2008, 3:48 am
Filed under: politics,Uncategorized

I touched a nerve when I blogged about what being a parent is about. I said:

“My kids also spend regular time with their Dad. I wouldn’t exactly call him a parent … but there is no doubt he cares about the kids and to a kid having someone around who says he loves them is often just as good as a real parent – as long as there is an actual parent around too.”

 Well Kim I didn’t intend this blog to be a big whine about my ex – I was rather thinking I’d use it to explore my new state on my own. I would quite like to get to a place where I don’t have to bite my tongue about him in front of my kids.  But you asked and I will tell you from my probably hugely biased point of view:

When I met my partner in my early 20s he was already a Dad and I had no experience of parenting. He told me over and over how he loved and missed his child and wanted to spend time with him.

In the early days I noticed he had the odd tendency to race off fishing on his child’s one weekend a month visit with us. At the time I stupidly put this down to the completely terrible weather where I live coupled with his passion for sitting for hours in a little boat in the cold of the ocean hauling in kaimoana (that’s Maori for seafood I thought I might try and bring in a little NZ culture). And I also noticed that all the ‘caring’ – feeding the child and thinking about their needs went straight away to me.

I became a sort of parent secretary for him:

“He might need shoes on before he goes outside.”

“He should probably go to bed now.”

“why don’t you call him?” “Why don’t you see if you can get his school reports?” “What are you gong to get him for his birthday?” “Why don’t you check he knows about safe sex?”

My husband to be had a knack of saying the right things and being very charming and I was absolutely smitten by him. Five years into the relationship we had our first child. Before she was conceived I made sure he understood we were parenting together. Oh yes yes he said I love beng a parent. Before she was born he told me how helpful he was going to be, how he knew how to change nappies and just loved babies. During my pregnancy he carefully outlined bit by bit the limitations he needed to put on the scope of his involvement. He told me he could never get up to a crying baby in the night – because he worked with power tools and might have an accident if his sleep was broken. I accepted this. Stupid me! That was the year he discovered Warcraft  and stayed up late night after night swearing and shouting and being angry as he killed little monsters. But not once did he bring me our child.

He told me it was very important he was happy and happiness for him was fishing. I said I only want you to be happy dear – you go fishing – but perhaps occasionally when you are not getting up on the weekends to fish I might have a lie in? That’s another thing he said – I’m very tired after a weeks working – try and keep the children quiet in the mornings so I can have a lie in (when not fishing). 

Then my husband remembered he always liked tramping and hunting – and soon his fishing was supplemented by these hobbies too. I still don’t really mind that he did this so much I just wish he could have thought about spending some time with his kids in the way he seemed to love spending time with boats and packs and guns.

My husband could lie on the couch sleeping while I cooked and a baby cried. I couldn’t leave the children with him and expect they would be fed – to this day if they are going somewhere with him you will see them dive to the kitchen and eat before they go because they expect they will be hungry otherwise. He was a completely unreliable babysitter. I could never commit to going anywhere unless I asked my mum or a babysitter to look after the kids. So: I hardly ever went anywhere. I became the person other people leave their kids with.

When we split he asked for shared care and I said YES! If we had had anything approaching this in our relationship we may not have split. You can have them as much as you like, I said. What he likes so far is every second weekend. He picks them up late – he drops them back early.

However: You have no idea how improved my life is now I can book a hair appointment, walk his dog, stroll at my own pace through a gallery, sit down and blog or write, and spend the morning reading the Saturday paper uninterrupted. It is such a privilege to have that freedom after the prison my life became.

I want to be fair Kim – I need to tell you the house close by he shifted to has needed work so its habitable for the kids. That is why we are ‘working towards’ shared care. But I’m also aware he never calls the kids. He was looking after them for 2 hours on Thursday nights at first but he does a sport – did I mention this? And he decided to do that 4 nights a week so gave up seeing them weekly.

I have hopes and fears about shared care. I guess I will blog about them in another entry. You made some other excellent points Kim and I hope I will be able to get around to commenting on them. Right now I brought work home and I need to look at it. I have a date with my electric blanket and some rather boring papers.

amazing facts (not really)
April 10, 2008, 2:33 am
Filed under: politics

It says here husbands create 7 extra hours of housework per week: I believe it. All my friends comment on how together my house seems since my husband went and the weird thing is: I do far less housework.  

just what is a single parent?
April 7, 2008, 2:44 am
Filed under: politics

The term single parent family kinda sounds like a family where the kids only have one parent. But – in my kids case they definitely have two and maybe three. For a start there’s me – and then there’s my Mum.

I think ‘parenting’ is the thing you do when you have an ongoing interest in a child’s well-being and development. It’s nurturing in the now and for the future. My Mum and I both do this.   

My Mum is unbelievable. She’s not only a great parent to my kids but she’s also an unwavering support to me. On Thursdays she picks up my kids from school and takes them to drama lessons, then she feeds them and gets them showered and has them overnight. On Friday she takes them to swimming. In this way I manage to work two long days in the week and can work shorter days the rest of the time to be there after school for them.

Mum thinks about what the kids are learning – like how to lose a game of chess and still enjoy it, like how to share, and how to shampoo your hair in the shower. Mum suggests vitamins to ward off colds. She bakes for lunch boxes, she springs for ballet costumes.

I’ve been really slow to grow up but one thing I have realised is that I’m very seldom a unique case. I’m know I’m a lucky single parent but I expect some other single-parent family kids have non-residential parents like mine do.

My kids also spend regular time with their Dad. I wouldn’t exactly call him a parent – not by the definition I’ve coming up with above, but there is no doubt he cares about the kids and to a kid having someone around who says he loves them is often just as good as a real parent – as long as there is an actual parent around too. We are planning to transition to shared parenting (meaning equal time) and I think this will mean he will become more of a parent.

The term single parent often evokes sympathy from people. I have found this a little ironic. The sympathy part is because they assume you are slogging it out on your own. Managing on your own. Doing all the grown up jobs. My experience is that when I was in a relationship I was doing far more slogging and managing on my own. Then, people assumed I had help. Fair call. I used to go down to our local play park on Saturday or Sunday mornings and be the lone mum there is a sea of Dads. Maybe half of them were having weekend access but the other half, I was pretty sure, were giving Mummy a lie in.

Hmm another part of the definition of a parent is someone who helps the other parent.

Then another thing people think about when they think ‘single parent’ is that you are , well, single. While that’s true right now I have been thinking that if it were not true in the future it still wouldn’t necessarily mean an additional parent in the mix. I kind of know about this in advance because I am a wicked stepmother to my 19 year old step son. I know it’s a relationship you don’t get of right and that even if there is some sort of agreement between the potential parenter and parented there is not necessarily any recognition of this from their existing parents. So: it’s complicated, complex and convoluted.

I will let you know how it works out.

seven months without an iron
April 6, 2008, 2:57 am
Filed under: politics

I got the washing machine and dryer and he got the iron and ironing board.  He got the boat and I got the leather lounge suite.  Automatic washing machines are really underrated in human progress. People celebrate man (sic) walking on the moon, they know who invented the phone (Bell) and they are always coming out with new and better TVs. But really without washing machines we’d have no extra time and/or stink. My current washing machine has gone 6 years without problems. That boat on the other hand has been like a second tax department since the day it was bought. Another woman would have been cheaper. Seven months without an iron hasn’t had much impact on me. I’m not putting the ironing board away and avoiding the cord on Sunday night. And I’m not wearing those three shirts I have that you really need to iron to wear. Ironing is an oppressive pastime if not invented by the Victorians then certainly promoted by them in order to visually reinforce class distinctions. Well – that’s my theory. The washing machine though – that’s the tool of liberation.

April 4, 2008, 2:32 pm
Filed under: economy

I’ve noticed that there are little advertising banners up the top of my entries. And – perhaps sinister – perhaps intelligent – they RELATE to what I’ve been writng about. I’ve had a few thoughts about this:

  1. There is no evidence anyone else is reading this blog except a little advertising program that must link key words in my entry to its selection. Ergo – this program is my number one blog fan :-)
  2. If I used interesting words like… um …. vegemite, umbrella, corset, topiary, cutlet or junket – which would it pick to relate to advertising?
  3. This must be a pretty interesting programme to write. In terms of the logic and trade offs it uses.
  4. Am I making someone money?
  5. Is there a way I could have some?

At this stage it is just interesting – not annoying. Its also been slightly helpful. The makers of the advertising program and the advertisers themselves might be interested to know that after I blogged about a certain outdoor household appliance and my issues with the back yard I saw a little add for Consumer pop up which led me to go compare prices and performance at their site. So – even if nobody else goes in and reads the ads the blogers themselves might be doing it. On a limited level they are working!

Footnote: the advertising didn’t change from this entry – I will keep watching – maybe my advertising fan has grown bored and stopped reading?

poverty and other fun new things
April 1, 2008, 1:51 am
Filed under: economy

At Christmas time my mother made some remark about being poor and my youngest daughter chimed in:

“We are poor too Grandma! We are getting poorer and poorer! In fact soon we will be the poorest people with Sky TV!”

 How true. She was sitting on the floor playing with her Polly Pocket jumbo jet from Santa. Santa and visa actually. At the time her Dad and I had a shared credit card and he was making regular contributions to it. After Christmas he asked me to curtail my extravagant lifestyle – by which he meant the broadband and Sky package.

I agreed to take over the credit card bill if he agreed to stop using it. So its April the first and Ive gone just paid off the 3 k that was on it. Meantime new bills have come in and Im in no way debt free but at least I feel like I can make my own financial decisions and if my kids and I like broadband and sky over other things then its our business.

The credit card is unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg called shared debt.