Two years. It has been more than two whole years since I added anything. I am hanging my head in shame. Well, not really.
I’ve been busy! Not fun busy. Just busy.
Significant other has moved out and become insignificant ex. Squigglers are much less miniature – the girl being 7 and in Year 3 and the boy being nearly 5 and started in Reception (gut-wrenchingly hard to let him go!). I am clinically depressed and fighting to put my life back together.
Wow. That’s a cheerful entry back into the world if I ever saw one!
Most significantly, I no longer iron! The realisation that life is too bloody short to worry about creases, hit me the day insignificant ex left. Ironic, given the years of arguments about not having enough time to iron and how nobody ever helps with it!
I now spend my days not even putting the laundry away, let alone concerning myself with the suitability of appearances.
Please don’t misunderstand. My life is not falling apart. I have just reassessed.
It has taken me almost 18 months to realise that clean floors and flat clothes and shiny skirting boards are just not a priority. We’re never late for school, we always eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, we wear creased but never dirty clothes and we focus on our happiness. Me and my tiny team.
We all know children are resilient. When friends separate, go through divorce, become a split family; we all say the children will be fine. They will get used to it and they will cope. This is true. Complete and utter undeniable truth. However, in the build up to them being fine and getting used to it and learning to cope, it is really quite horrid for them. It would be easy for me to wallow daily in self-pity and depression. Stay in the pyjamas I’ve worn for 3 weeks and watch Netflix with the curtains closed. But there are two teeny tiny souls that look to me every single day. I am their benchmark for how to function in the world. I am their cleaner, their chef, ridder of monsters, storyteller, educator, their world. I am their mother. And the hardest thing any of us can ever do as mum, is watch our children learn to cope.
Insignificant ex and I have been separated for 18 months now. But in reality we have only been apart for the last 6 weeks. Up until this point we have, in no particular order, tried to be friends, tried to get back together – twice, seen other people (think that might just have been me though), spent time as a family, spent time apart with no contact and spent Christmas together. It has a been a very confusing and emotional time for all concerned. None more so than the children.
The desire of us as parents to keep our family together for the sake of our tiny people is at times overwhelming. We wanted so badly to paper over the cracks of our relationship to save them the pain of adjustment. Sadly, we have made the past 18 months much more difficult than it needed to be. Our attempts to ‘try’ have confused our children and on some days, left them reeling. Daughter has developed a deep sense of guilt surrounding us both and therefore retreats into herself if either parent is mentioned in front of the other. Son has neither the benefit of age nor understanding to really comprehend what has happened or express how he feels about it all, so he has become a boy that cries at the drop of a hat and constantly demands attention. We are working on these things. Daily assurance that it is okay to be whoever they need to be today. Endless hugs and encouragement and they are happy, underneath and above all the little adjustments they are making.
Neither of them are to blame for their bad days and they are very obviously the centre of my world, more beautiful and complex than they have ever been and I protect them fiercely as only a mother can. I defend my son’s outbursts and my daughters surliness with all my heart and soul. Because they are not to blame for the people they currently are. They are true products of their environment. An environment that I have created through wanting to preserve their family, all the time knowing I would eventually have to watch them adjust.
It would be easy to blame insignificant ex. And at times I have. More often than I care to mention. But decisions have been made and I am enforcing them now. My fear of letting go, although strong and often debilitating, is not enough to hide the pain my children feel when they see their parents unhappy. Letting go has become my main goal in life. Not just where insignificant ex is concerned but letting go of all that affects my ability to be two whole parents now instead of just one half-hearted mum.
Insignificant ex is still very significant to our children. They still see him, sleep at his house every other weekend and enjoy their time with him. He is a good father and he will always be their daddy. His presence in their life is not something I will ever have to doubt. But in between their visits we have life. School work, swimming lessons, responsibilities. I am the enforcer of life’s rules. Day after day I patiently explain why vegetables are important. I am the full time parent that introduces new food every week and encourages the tiniest of tastes. I oversee the war that is bedroom tidying and if they are sick it is me that takes time off work to care for them. They are everything to me. And the guilt I feel for not realising that when we were a family at full capacity, is sometimes overwhelming.
Being a single parent is hard (understatement of the century). I have never doubted it and I am now living it. The departure of insignificant ex was always a hurdle I would eventually conquer. We all know full well that nobody dies from a broken heart (apologies to those with any kind of congenital heart disease, but you know what I mean!) and from the moment life became 3 instead of 4, I started work on removing him bit by bit from my heart. Every part of my love for him that I removed was replaced with my children. Every thought of him that I let go of became thoughts of my children. Every inch of space in my house that I erased him from, became filled with my children. I have always loved my children. Completely and utterly. But I never understood how much more I had to give them. I believe that our capacity to love is endless. There is room in our hearts for an infinite number of people. But the removal of the most significant adult in my life for many, many years showed me how consuming it is to have to consider another persons feelings. I know this is standard practice for people in relationships and I’m not suggesting those unbroken families love their children less! But when the unit is whole, the love is shared between two parents. There is someone else there to pick up the slack and deal with atleast half the hugs. To intervene when you question yourself and your parenting ability. To field the questions on life, love and biscuits that children are constantly learning about. There is somebody else there when you simply don’t have time to be everything to them.
When insignificant ex left I believed with every fibre of my being that I would not cope as a single parent. The mere thought of being on my own and dealing with everything life throws at you independently was terrifying. Nightmare inducing, stomach churning fear. I was not going to cope.
And then I did. All of a sudden I found myself more capable than I dreamed I could be. Skills and knowledge that I thought I had lost came flooding back when there was nobody there to do it for me. I quickly worked out that finances are so much simpler when there is only one adult to account for. No furniture is so heavy that it cannot be moved alone if empty. And anyone can hang a picture. I can’t use a drill and that bothers me. But I will learn.
And in the process of freeing my own self-awareness, I am teaching my daughter to be capable and my son to be respectful. The capacity in my own heart for those two tiny souls is endless and vast and I had no idea. I love them more every single time I lay my eyes on them, even when they won’t put their shoes on and they drive me to tears. I love every version of them but most of all I love the part of them that loves me back. Unconditionally, deeply and intensely. I love the part of them that knows I am only human and is absolutely at peace with me doing my very best, even when it doesn’t always seem good enough.
We are a team. The three of us. And we are as strong as any unbroken family. Because they are not broken. They are still the same beautiful souls they have always been. They just split their time. They have two Christmases. And two sets of birthday presents. And two extended families.
For the first time in my long relationship with their father, they are getting the absolute best of everyone around them. They have someone in their life in all corners of the country that all bring something different to their table. They are loved. They are not and never will be, used as pawns between their parents. They are adjusting. They are learning to cope. And most of all they are happy.