Surprise! I'm a single parent

Porridge days
May 25, 2008, 12:10 am
Filed under: economy

The funny thing is that while I feel like I’m suffering my own little economic downturn the country seems to be coming along for the ride too. Petrol prices and interest rate rises and all the flow on effects of those things are hitting everyone hard. Every week there are stories in the paper about how to cut back and save money. Unfortunately there is not usually much advice I haven’t already given myself. These are my porridge days. Having just cleared the credit card of the debt my husband and I had when we split up I was feeling marvellously financially secure. In my mind I was thinking about my kids birthday in September and the bright shiny bike I would easily buy her. A friend of mine was telling me about his financial problems and I offered happily to lend him next months rent. It felt soooooo good to help someone else and not be the person who might need help. There’s a tree in the garden who’s roots are blocking a drain and I was going to get it out before winter and the lawn becomes a bog again. I am doing really well I thought. Then last week happened – it happened gradually. The dog got attacked by another dog and the first vet bill was $240. The same day the dog registration fee came in for over $100. The day after the school sent a bill for over $500. It was still kind of ok and manageable and I was seriously intending to pay the ‘optional’ school fees I have always paid. But then came the biggie – a three thousand dollar bill that I wasn’t expecting. OK you got me now! I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that my 3k surprise bill came from my ex. And now he wants to engage lawyers to settle up our affairs. How much will that cost? The thing about porridge is it really isn’t that bad – in fact it’s quite nice. And at something like $3 a packet it’s a really cheap breakfast compared to the cereal I usually have.  But eating porridge and cabbage and pumpkin isn’t going to help me straight away – I need to borrow money or break into my retirement savings. Writing this down I just realised how lucky I am though. I’m lucky I have a friend I could ask to lend money from. I’m lucky I have some retirement savings. And lucky I haven’t already used the savings up! The place I want to be is financial independence. It’s a place where I’m no longer tied to my ex-partners finances, where a 3k unplanned bill won’t materialise unexpectedly. A place where I do porridge out of choice and preferably in advance. Disentangling myself from my relationship seems to be a continuous thing that sometimes I feel like that Greek mythology character repeatedly rolling a rock up a mountain. (or whatever) only in my case its repeatedly paying off three thousand dollars.

more on shared parenting or – my deepest fears
May 14, 2008, 2:03 am
Filed under: environment

When we split up all I wanted was to get out out out. So I was prepared to deal on anything – anything! I just wanted out. And one of the things I agreed about was shared care.

Part of me thought shared care would be a good idea. My ex has a (now grown) son who he never parented and in part this was because he only saw his son every 4 weeks for a weekend. His son is a lovely guy but it’s not really got anything to do with his dad in a practical sense. My ex never was much of a pareant to my kids- in fact he was completely not a parent. I thought well, if I’m not around he will probably take more responsibility.

Recently I went away for a week and my girls stayed with their dad. What we all leant from this I think is the terrific survival skills they have, the fact that I have good neighbors and, you’ll be very bored with this repetitive theme: what a great mum I have. He disappeared frequently and didn’t tell the kids where he was going or when he’d be back, he didn’t feed them, and he left them at my place (alone) to graze from the fridge and watch tv (or maybe they broke in its not entirely clear).

Hmmmm. So they ate noodles and cheese on toast and then just toast and the canned stuff. They contacted my friend and neighbor when they needed help and my mother too. Good kids. They didn’t bother me cos they thought I’d worry. They were right!

The understanding is that eventually when he is organised we will do shared care. Right now he has them every second weekend. I figure not too much can go wrong every second weekend. At first I worried he’d be a santa clause daddy that they’d be getting late nights and sugar and fun trips from while I’d be the ogre mother coming in with the healthy food and bed time rules. Needn’t have worried at all. Turns out kids like regular meals more than random sugar.

Will he do structure and bed time when he has them more often? Oh bugger it – Will they be happy/ secure? And a biggie – how on earth can we inflict a lifestyle where they have to pack up and move every week or two weeks? I wouldn’t like that.

Maybe I don’t need to worry. Its been a year since I said yes and there’s still no sign of shared care happening. Maybe its something he likes to say he does rather than something that actually happens. Like his words used to say ‘I love you’ but his actions showed otherwise. Maybe shared care will never happen. I know as long as we have theoretical shared care that he doesn’t need to pay child support and I suspect that’s part of it. And what’s really scarey about this scepticism I have about why shared care isn’t actually happening is that if I’m right then he just isn’t ever really going to be there for the kids.

It’s such a middle class white bread luxury dilemna. I worry about passive neglect when he has them and frankly I don’t worry that much – they are really sensible kids. And I worry that they don’t have a quality Dad. Maybe I  don’t need to worry. They will just get more organised. And they will probably assert themselves aroudn what they want. They are pretty good at that now.

May 13, 2008, 4:10 pm
Filed under: environment,whatever

Mornings are not always perfect in our household. This morning was a pearler. I think the ingrediants for success were these:

1. Six year old was in bed early and thus not a major grump. Really she was born needing coffee in the morning but I don’t think we should introduce this to her till she’s 16 or 17. (Hmmm is there a market for junior coffee? Some sort of wake up elixir that doesn’t give them the jitters at play time when the effect wears off?) I’m JOKING please don’t bother to send me a comment on that.

2. My 11 year old got busy and made most of her own and her sister’s lunch while I walked the dog.

3. I didn’t ask if they had breakfast and they didn’t tell me that they didn’t – so I didn’t feel compelled to insist. The six year old without coffee just can’t seem to cope with the thought of eating first thing. Her stomach just doesn’t register hunger and she gets really antsy when you are asking her to make lunchbox choices too. It’s like she can’t project to a time later in the day when she might need food. This week I compromised and bought her white bread which she is viewing as a treat and its certainly is a treat for me. Instead of a grumpy child after school who didn’t have breakfast and dumped her healthy lunch Ive got a lovely wee thing who chowed down on a vegemite sarnie.

3. The dog and I had a good walk. I watched the sun rise all pink and purple and yellows and he chased a rabbit.

4. Ive finally got enough flexibility in my work hours (thanks to my Mum) that I’m not frantically trying to get out of the door to clock on. It makes so much difference not to be in a rush.

5. I got a good nights sleep myself. I forget all the time that 8 hours of sleep and Im a much nicer person. Go figure.

rainy daze
May 2, 2008, 2:07 am
Filed under: environment

Friday night and it’s raining and raining and raining. It’s kind of nice. I’ve a polar fleece blanket over my knees with my ten year old fluffy slippers over my socks. Outside the water on the roof is funneling through the functional spouting system until it meets the big gaps where the down pipe connection should be. At this point it forms an artful cascade and make a noise that maybe sounds like a running urinal but I prefer to think of as ‘water feature’. If the rain is hard I don’t hear my water feature – just drumming on the roof – but as it slacks off the pipeless sound effects begin and do you know what they signal?

That sound means I don’t need to be getting started with Friday night laundry loads because the environmental dryer will not be operation tomorrow. Well OK maybe there will be some wind but there’s also likely to be a whole lot of wet to go with it. So I can blog and play games online and not feel the least bit guilty.

Friday night washing has been a feature of my life for the eleven years Ive been a working Mum. I try and get it started and done as early in the weekend as I can on the theory that then Im free to do other things. Im sure the people who have rented the house next door over the past decade think they live next to a crazy woman since Ive been known to get out there at midnight on friday night to hang out my washing but hey – its fabulous to be lying in bed on Saturday morning knowing my washing is already getting dry.

Sorting washing is the thing I just hate. Ok I also hate loads of postage stamp small items from my little girls – winter means at least 14 sets of socks and 14 knickers and a good helping of singlets and so on to get on and off the line.  I try and pair them as I peg so I don’t have the tedium of pairing from the basket. Gee you just don’t want to know the way I orgainse my washing line in a per person per row sort of way to try and minimise the horror of facing Mount Laundry at the end of the weekend.

However this weekend all washing looks like its off.   Good thing too.