Single Women: Bitter and Lonely?

Single Women: Bitter and Lonely?

Miss Havisham has a lot to answer for.  Ever since the 1860s-and probably before-the stereotype of an unmarried woman of a certain age has been one of pity, scorn and the assumption of a certain type of jealous bitterness.

How this relates to my son having a tantrum may at present be unclear.  However, as anyone in possession of a toddler will undoubtedly recognise, meltdowns are a familiar part of life; especially when in a public place.

My son had one such meltdown today.

Naturally, this occurred in a public place.  The local pub to be exact, where my mother and I had taken him for lunch.

It was nothing out of the ordinary.  Piglet has eaten in this pub many times before, and many times before he has decided that he is not interested in sitting in a high chair, eating food or any such trifling matters, but would instead prefer to run like a maniac around the building pointing and yelling at the fruit machines.  And every time, the staff and patrons of the pub are remarkably magnanimous towards his infantile foibles, and respond with phrases such as “aww, isn’t he sweet,” and “would you like a crisp?” (I had to rein in my middle class outrage at the latter, but the gesture was well-intentioned).

Therefore, when Piglet decided he would not sit down-either in the high chair or the full-size “big boy chair” that was offered as a tempting alternative and eat his carrots, I expected the response to be similar.

I was not entirely happy myself with his decision to stand in the middle of the pub (at the top of a flight of stairs, all the better for everyone to view his distress) and bawl his eyes out rather than sit placidly in his high chair and eat broccoli like the child I always imagined I’d have, but it appeared, somewhat to my surprise given our previous positive experiences with patient fellow pub-goers, that others were even less impressed.

“People are getting annoyed,” my mother hissed (translation: don’t you even think about sitting down now.  Sort your child out and calm him down like a proper mother).  I was about to tell her that they couldn’t give a monkey’s, and were happily carrying on eating their Sunday lunches and playing cards the same way they always did, when I spotted a woman a few metres away waving a walking stick angrily, and yelling “shut up!” at my precious offspring in a way which was, frankly, completely ineffective (had she never met a toddler?) before turning to the couple next to her and muttering about how are children even allowed in pubs these days, it’s a disgrace, they should be seen and not heard, or preferably not even seen, but stored away in the East wing with a nanny and a selection of disused furniture.

Fortunately, I recognised the woman as a well known local (these are my mother’s words) “miserable cow,” who always had something negative to say, so I wasn’t too bothered, but it was my mother’s later assessment of the situation that I found interesting.

Half an hour later we were sitting in self-imposed exile in the beer garden, where Piglet had suddenly discovered that he was more amenable to sitting in a high chair if he could get a bit of sun on his face and ice cream in his mouth, and I mentioned the “miserable cow” to my mother.

“Oh well,” was her response.  “She’s known for it.  She’s always having a go at the staff as well, and don’t get me started on her attitude in Waitrose…….Then again, she is a single woman.”

I pointed out that actually, so was I, and I didn’t go around waving walking sticks at small children and shouting ineffectual curses from some distance away.

However, I knew the comparison was a ridiculous one.  To my mother, and probably to everyone else, the agitator with the walking stick and I couldn’t be more different.  I had a child, she had none, I was young(ish), or at least still passably in the prime of life, and she was elderly.  But that was exactly the point.  She had, in the eyes of the world, passed into the realm of Miss Havisham Bitter Old Spinster Territory, whereas I, arguably, can still hold out hope that some man will take pity on me and rescue me from my single state, despite my obvious disadvantages in the marriage market at being both a single mother and rapidly heading towards the end of my childbearing years.

The point of this is not whatever combination of character and life experience caused our friend with the walking stick to behave in such a sociopathic way, but what everyone assumed was her reason for doing so.

She is old, she is unmarried, and she is childless, therefore, ergo, she is lonely, bitter and angry at the world.

Is this what we think of women who don’t marry or have children?  Is this what we think of Oprah Winfrey, Coco Chanel and Jane Austen?  I certainly hope not.

I don’t know what caused the woman in the pub to be so angry at life.  Clearly whatever it is, it’s bigger than me, bigger than my bawling toddler and bigger than the mere fact of not being married, so let’s stop stereotyping women as “bitter old spinsters.”

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Going to a Blogger Conference?

If there is one picture that sums up my experience with blogging conferences so far, let it be this one.

conference

That’s what blogging conferences are for, right?  An opportunity to revisit one’s pre-motherhood wardrobe, designer stilts included.  After all, there be no baby in the vicinity.

If you are looking for tips on attending a blogging conference, you will find none here.  I am the woman who wore these shoes to Mumsnet Blogfest in November, and almost lost the will to live by the time I got to the long trudge home.  Note to self: smuggle a pair of flats into the goody bag next time.  Also, this picture was taken at 6am.  SIX O CLOCK IN THE MORNING PEOPLE, and I was already at the train station, waiting to board a train.  It was inhuman.

That’s why this time I’m staying the night.

So, without further ado, after a lengthy preamble, I present to you the long-awaited Single Mum Speaks “I am going to Britmums and this is what I will look like” post.

My name: Min, ancient Egyptian god of fertility and lettuce.

Two things here.  Firstly, you do not want to know the story of how I came about this name, as it is very long and tedious, but let’s just say I was a girl in search of a pseudonym, and I wanted something fertility-related.  Lettuce was just a bonus.  You can say what you want about those ancient Egyptians, but they knew how to make a good salad.  Secondly, this is not my real name. My real name is top-secret classified information that I may reveal if I happen to meet you at Britmums, but then I will have to kill you.*

My blog: This one, obvs.  Single Mum Speaks.  I would say it’s the “ramblings of a mum, addicted to cake,” but although this would be true, it would also be painfully unoriginal, so I’ll stick with the official tagline: Single mother by choice, aged 35 and back living with my mother and sleeping in the bedroom I last shared with my brother in 1985.

Find me on social media at:

Twitter @babyorbankrupt (long story about the name again, sorry for the confusion)

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/singlemumspeaks 

Instagram http://www.instagram.com/singlemumspeaks

Also I’m apparently on Pinterest but like, facepalm.  This is what I’m going to Britmums for, right? The Numpties’ Guide to Pinterest?  Please tell me this is one of the sessions.

How I look: I have recently had my hair cut off, which means nothing to any of you as you’ve never met me.  I’m also very small.

Is this my first blogging event: No.  Please see above.  I was also at Mumsnet Blogfest, and Funfest last year as well, but not been to Britmums before.

I will be wearing: I will not be divulging this information, mainly because I haven’t decided yet. Hopefully something clean.

What I hope to gain from #BML16: The ability to pepper my speech liberally with hashtags, overnight fame as an internet sensation, a book deal, a decent sized helping of cake, a lengthy stay in the champagne tent and of course the opportunity to meet the #tribe, including the fabulous Mumzilla, Island Living 365, Justsayingmum, Katie Tutu and Occupation Mother, all of whom I will be referring to by their online pseudonyms throughout.

My tips for a great conference: Wear pink and black polka dot fur, don’t engage in any vlogging if you don’t want the results to haunt you forever, smile and enjoy yourself.

*This is obviously a lie.  I will not be revealing my name.

ethannevelyn
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
I Am Not A Strict Parent.

I Am Not A Strict Parent.

Before having my son, I didn’t give much thought to what kind of parent I wanted to be.  However, there was one thing I knew for certain.  I was going to be Strict.

Nine years of being a secondary school teacher, and observing countless children-and therefore the long-term consequences of the actions of countless parents-and I knew Strict was best.  I once asked the parent of a particularly pleasant child how she had managed to raise such a wonderful daughter, and although she didn’t actually say the answer was Being Strict, I was sure that was what was behind her success.

Fast forward almost two years into my own parenting journey, and I am not so sure.  Not only am I not particularly inclined to start setting boundaries for a baby, but when said baby does do something that probably shouldn’t be encouraged, I find it hard not to laugh.  Especially when he is laughing too.

This is yet another source of disagreement between my mother and I.  Mother believes that the reason that meals with Piglet frequently result in dropped food is because he is undisciplined and, with yours truly for a mother, has become accustomed to running riot.  Conversely, I believe it is because he is a toddler, and such is their wont.

However, recently there have been some worrying developments (clearly the fault of my louche parenting style), including throwing things at people, as opposed to merely throwing things around indiscriminately without any particular aim.  Today, it was a piece of banana.  Tomorrow, who knows?  A toy car?  The kitchen crockery?  A molotov cocktail?

I enjoy my civilised* meals out with Piglet.  I enjoy the one-to-one mother and son bonding time, and the intellectual conversation and debate (the latter is something I’m still working on, but I have managed to get him to say two more words “adder” as in the variety of snake, and “Adele,” as in chart-topping songstress Adele.  The fact that both of these sound exactly like his default sound “A-da” is neither here nor there).  I also enjoy the indulgent looks of the other diners as they gaze at Piglet adoringly, enquire about his age and give knowing looks when he does something cute that they recognise from when their own children were small.

I don’t think they will be looking indulgently for much longer if Piglet persists in throwing pieces of food around.  And this time, it’s personal.  The food in question is not merely being thrown to the floor, it is being aimed squarely at other people.  For the moment, Mummy (with an occasional side order of “Granny”) seems to be the main target, but who knows where this could lead?

He has started to literally pull his arm back and take aim.  Today the missile was a bit of half chewed banana, which I suddenly found being launched at me as if from a catapult.  The banana bounced off my face, and landed underneath another child’s high chair (always good to be able to pin the blame on somebody else).  Piglet then burst into peals of laughter.  Watching Mummy humiliated is always a good sport for a child.

banana
Try not to trip on this one, fellow diners.

The trouble is, I wanted to laugh.  Like I wanted to laugh the time a group of Year 11 boys smuggled one of their friends from another school into the classroom and tried to pass him off as a Dutch exchange student with a dodgy accent; and like that was probably bad teaching, laughing at the flying banana was probably bad parenting.

So what to do?  Do I hotfoot it to the library in search of the Gina Ford Book of Really Strict Parenting?  Or do I keep muddling along, hoping that a combination of love, laughter and civilised mother and son intellectual conversation will see us through?

In a few years time, I want it to be me that my child’s teacher is asking for tips on How To Raise The Perfectly Behaved, Well Adjusted and Motivated for Learning Child.  I don’t want to be the one being called in for countless meetings at the school, and being told that it would probably be for the best if I quietly withdrew him from full time education.  Home schooling is all the rage these days, you know.

Perhaps I am over thinking it. As I keep reminding my mother, he’s not even two, and there will surely be many more opportunities in the future for confiscating mobile phones, shutting off the internet and grounding him indefinitely.  For now, I’ll just stick to trying not to laugh.

*They aren’t very civilised.  Unless “civilised” means eating straight off the table and throwing anything you don’t want over your shoulder.  I’ve heard that was the kind of civilisation that went down at a medieval banquet, so I’m claiming it.

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
ethannevelyn
High Heels: Aren’t We Good Enough As We Are?

High Heels: Aren’t We Good Enough As We Are?

I am five feet one inches tall.

On a good day.

On a day when I am stretching and standing on the tippiest of tippy toes, like we all used to in primary school when trying to prove we were taller than a similarly-sized friend and therefore obviously much more mature, serious and commanding of playground respect.

I never won those competitions.

At the age of eleven, I became a vegetarian.  I thought I was pretty serious about it, with my right-on ethical stance and love and consideration for all those cute little animals, even though it was in truth mostly a ruse to get out of eating the stringier bits of meat in the Sunday dinner.  At the age of thirteen, one of my friends made a not entirely serious suggestion that I should return to carnivorous ways, on the off-chance that it might aid my growth, which was, as it had been throughout my childhood, seriously lacking.  I did, just so I could say I had tried everything.  It didn’t work, of course.  I was destined for a life in miniature.

As I grew up-or, to put it more accurately, grew older, as that longed-for growth spurt never did materialise-things got easier.  I got older, and now, at thirty-five, I no longer get asked for ID when buying wine, the fear of having to hand over my passport and be found lacking now replaced by crushing disappointment when the teenager on the checkout authorises my age-restricted purchases without even glancing up (or down, as the case may be).

I also discovered my secret weapon, my emotional crutch, every short girl’s must-have accessory du jour; the high heeled shoe.

We were bosom buddies, my high heels and me.  We went everywhere together.  To work, where I felt a rush of pride on being complimented on my ability to continue wearing elevated footwear well into the third trimester of pregnancy.  On nights out where, after the introduction of the smoking ban, I finally felt able to stand at the bar without the fear of bring accidentally poked in the eye by a cigarette from the hand of a larger neighbour.  In photos where sometimes, if the other people were sat down, I looked almost the same size.  And on cobbled streets, where I cursed their very existence and vowed on many occasions as I wobbled around precariously, that should I ever be crowned Queen of the World, the first thing I would do would be get rid of heritage paving.

I loved my heels.  They were what defined me.  If I was a dinosaur, I would be a velociraptor, perched on ridiculous stilts.

velociraptor
Me, generally to be found rocking this look on an average Saturday night.

However, from time to time, a conversation I had with a friend at university would pop into my head.  The friend was six feet tall in her flats, so it was easy for her to say, but I couldn’t deny that she had a point.

“As women, we are told we’re not good enough.  We wear make up because our faces aren’t pretty enough as they are.  We wear heels because our legs aren’t long enough as they are.”

Was that it?  Was it because I wasn’t enough as I was?  Did I feel obliged to hide my shame at being too short by crippling my feet?

I always predicted that by forty my feet would be finished.  I’ve suffered pain and lacerations, knee injuries and near-constant discomfort.  And for what?

Because I am not enough.  Because I am too short to be noticed.  Too short to be taken seriously.

I read the recent story of a receptionist who was sent home from work for refusing to wear heels with interest.  I’ve done those jobs.  Those jobs where you stand up for hours on end.  Where the whole purpose of your existence seems to be to present the unthreatening, acceptable, young and pretty face of a company where you know that your perceived role is to be an ornament and an airhead.  And I wondered, am I a bad feminist?  Me, who still feels shame at wearing trainers to work even though I walk half a mile to the station each morning and change out of those trainers and into something more acceptable-and heeled-as soon as I arrive at work.  Should I be tearing down the fabric of the patriarchy in a sensible pair of loafers?

I reserve my right to wear heels.  They make me feel just that little bit more than I am without them.  Just that little bit more noticeable, professional, attractive, confident.

But I won’t let them wear me anymore.  Heels, trainers, flats, slippers, barefoot.  I am enough, just as I am.

If you liked this post, please feel free to vote for me as Working Parent Blogger of the Year in the Mum and Working Awards 

Mummuddlingthrough
ethannevelynAnd then the fun began...

The Return to Work After Maternity Leave

The Return to Work After Maternity Leave

The return to work.  The setting of the alarm for the crack of dawn, the reminder of all the tasks you left unfinished before you left, the return of the Sunday night feeling of dread as the credits to Countryfile are rolling and you realise you haven’t even planned what you’re supposed to be doing tomorrow.

As a teacher, the return to work comes several times a year; the return after Christmas, when it’s cold and grey, the return after Easter, when exams are almost upon us, and the return in September, when you are sure that you have forgotten entirely how to teach and surely you should still be on holiday somewhere exotic?

What could be worse than each of these returns?  The return after maternity leave, that’s what.

It is now over a year since I returned to work after my maternity leave, and the trauma of the situation has faded into a distant memory.  However, I recently discovered a draft post that I wrote long ago, back in the days before I went back to work and, having read a number of blog posts recently from people anxious about their own Returns, I thought I would resurrect it, for the benefit of anyone who thinks I might have even the tiniest pearl of wisdom to bestow.

“And so the Day of Reckoning draws ever closer.

The day I return to work, that is.

Yes, I have now found a childminder and am forced to confront the brutal reality that I will one day, all too soon, no longer be on maternity leave.  No more days spent lounging around the house watching Loose Women and Pointless.  No more afternoon tea breaks in front of Escape to the Country.*  No more Friday swimming lessons.  No more getting annoyed at the overcrowded state of the London Overground on the way back from Westfield trying to navigate a pram through the hordes of people with Real Jobs.  No more suppressing the urge to pull faces at kids in school uniform and yell “ha ha you have to go to school, suckers, I DON’T!”

There are three major things bothering me about the dreaded Return to Work.  These are:

1.) Oh God, it is going to be really expensive.  No getting around that one really, but at least I have basically learnt to survive on Absolutely No Money Ever, whilst on maternity leave, so it can’t be any worse than that, right?

2.) How will Piglet cope without me?  I am terrible mother for forsaking him.  The voice of a woman who managed a nursery, who I met on a course whilst five months pregnant last year echoes in my head, “it really is sad that we have so many babies.  They’re institutionalised really.”

PIGLET IS GOING TO BE INSTITUTIONALISED.  LIKE A ROMANIAN ORPHAN!  What if he spends his days banging his head fruitlessly against the sides of a filth-encrusted cot, knowing only that he is abandoned?  The thought of it makes me want to fling myself off the balcony.  At least then he would be able to live with my mother, and she could retire.

3.) OK, so assuming that the above is not going to happen, and is just the wild imaginings of an overprotective parent (i.e, me), the third, and probably most important, pressing issue is WHAT IS HE GOING TO EAT ALL DAY?  So far in two weeks of “eating” solids, all he has managed to do is lick a piece of bread, and while everyone else is banging on about their babies’ poos being so awful now, and full of broccoli and the like, Piglet’s poos have remained-if you’ll excuse the talk of bodily fluids, this is a baby blog after all-steadfastly liquid.

So, over a year into the experience of being a working parent, what have I learned?  What tiny snippets of experience can I pass on to the new generation of returners?

1.) It will be OK.

That’s it.  It will be OK.  They will survive.  You will survive.  Work might put you on the Get Out of This Place Ye Working Mother Before You Have Another Baby and Bankrupt Us duties, but on the bright side, that means you will have little work of substance to actually do, and might even be able to read novels all day, as I did after returning to my old job for three months before starting a new one (cheers work, and by the way, some of those novels were NOT suitable for the school library).

You will also discover an efficiency you never knew you had.  Entire blog posts will be written on the train, emails will be ignored unless they are life-threateningly important, and prioritising will be ruthless.  You will be, quite literally, a machine. Your coffee habit will be insane.

Oh, and the fears about them becoming a Romanian orphan are unfounded.  That childminder/nursery will be absolutely fine.  They will even look forward to going there.  I know it’s hard to believe they will ever love someone that’s not you, but they will, and thank God.  They might even eat something, although it may take a while.  And trust me, enjoy those liquid poos while they last.

It will be OK though.  Honestly.

*Good lord.  Remember the Escape to the Country drinking game?  Thank God I went back to work before I literally went insane.

If you liked this post, or even if you didn’t, please feel free to vote for me in the Mum and Working Awards 2016.

working
working

ethannevelyn

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
The Up and Down Life of A Working Mother

The Up and Down Life of A Working Mother

In the toilets at work there is an unforgiving mirror.

It is in this mirror that I see the cold, hard evidence that life is starting to take its toll.

I sometimes use it to pull out that evidence-the grey hairs I seem to have suddenly acquired-when no one else is around.

Being a working parent is hard. There are days when I feel like those greys are multiplying and not even the strongest dye could mask them. There are days when I leave home in the morning to screams and tears; to a tiny child lifting up his arms as I turn to leave, too young to understand the need for his mother to earn a living. Those are the days when I thank my lucky stars for the presence of my mother to comfort him, and carry to work with me the sinking feeling that nothing I ever do is good enough.

But there are also days that are not like that. Days when I have a good day at work, when I feel as though I’ve made a difference to a child’s future, even if that child isn’t my own.  When I thank my lucky stars that I get to teach other people’s children, albeit in different skills to those I teach my own. After all, at 21 months he’s not quite there yet with Kant’s categorical imperative, although I’m working on it.

There are other things I’m working on too. I’m working on managing my time better, at responding to emails whilst feeding a toddler, at knocking out the bare bones of this blog post on the ten minute commute from work to home, and I’m working on not feeling the guilt quite so much.

We’re all just trying our best.

Would I still work, if I had the choice not to? I can’t answer that question. I worked hard for my career, invested in it, and continue to do so. But if that mythical husband had appeared, swept me off my feet as they do in all good fairy tales, and promised to take care of me forever, to return home on the dot each night at seven and whisk the baby from my arms, as I collapsed, just as exhausted as I am now, onto the sofa each night, would I turn it down?

Or would we find another way through; would I work, while my husband stayed at home, or would I, like most of the other working parents I know, put my career on the back burner for a few years and go part time, even though so often that solution seems to feel like the worst of both worlds.

The question doesn’t matter, of course. The option was never there, and for that perhaps I should be grateful.  I always needed that extra injection of motivation, the extra incentive to get out of bed in the morning and into work, and now I have it.  This little boy, for whom I would go to the ends of the earth.

I’m grateful too, for my mother, who has dutifully sacrificed the last few years of her own career to allow me to pursue mine, so that the childcare bills are somewhat eased. So that I don’t have to go to work every day thinking of that time I had a conversation, at work (where else?) with a nursery manager who confessed that she thought babies at nursery were “institutionalised.” I was five months pregnant and terrified. How would I manage? I cried tears of despair to women I worked with. How had they done it? How would I manage? I was a fool to think I could do it; be the career woman, the single mother, the one who almost left it too late, and then panicked and had a baby alone. Could I really do it? They took me aside, these women, and told me I could; that everything would be fine, as it was for them before me.

As it will be for generations still to come.

I may not always be there at home for my son, every minute of every day, watching his milestones twenty four hours a day and knowing every tiny aspect of his developing personality the way I did on maternity leave, but I am dealing the hand that life has dealt, and doing so the best I can.

Just the same as everyone else.

If you like my posts, or even if you don’t and think I am banging on about an age-old dilemma that has afflicted working mothers since the actual dawn of time, and which, pre-Internet, didn’t seem to require such navel-gazing introspection, as we were all far too busy with more important matters like making sure our offspring weren’t getting their heads trapped in the mangle, or being eaten by a sabre toothed tiger, please consider voting for me in the Mum and Working Awards. 

Mummuddlingthrough
ethannevelyn
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Motherhood: The Best Job in the World

Motherhood: The Best Job in the World

“I’m not interested in other people’s boring lives!” my mother exclaims, as she turns from the computer screen where she has just been comparing interest rates on MoneySupermarket.com.

It is Saturday afternoon, and Mother is making her feelings clear on the small matter of blogging, which she considers to be marginally less interesting than comparing interest rates.

She does not like to read blogs; not mine, nor anyone else’s.  Especially not mine.

“I’m going to start a blog!” she tells me the following day, quite out of the blue, as we are engaged in the not inconsiderable joint effort of pushing Piglet’s buggy up a hill in the boiling sunshine.  “I’m going to write a blog, and it’s going to be all about how being a mum is not that bad.  In fact, it’s the best job in the world!”

Yes. Yes it is.  So here you are Mum, here are all the reasons why Being A Mother is the Best Job In The World.

1.) The salary cost is astronomical.  Conception alone cost thousands (long story), but the finished product was well worth the investment.  You don’t get that sort of return on MoneySupermarket.com.

2.) The hours are flexible.  Usually involving a few mostly night shifts here and there.  Apparently you’re supposed to sleep when the customer sleeps.  Not useful when they won’t nap unless you’re pushing them in a pram.

3.) The healthcare benefits are fantastic.  Making it through pregnancy and childbirth intact is near-nigh impossible, then there is the small matter of never getting a full night’s sleep ever again.  Does wonders for the complexion.  Wonders what happened to my youth.

4.) The dress code is casual.  Casual enough to get away with indeterminate stains on everything.

5.) The social life is non-stop.  All networking and communication takes place over the internet, usually on a phone, while the toddler breastfeeds.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a friend in real life.

However, I wouldn’t be without it, any of it.

I recently read an article about mothers who regret having children.  I didn’t read the comments underneath it, but my general impression is that these kind of sentiments tend to be regarded with marginally more horror than would greet a piece hailing the joys of cannibalism.  Indeed, it seems as though admitting that motherhood is not always the best job in the world might be somehow breaking the secret code of motherhood.

For my part, I don’t regret having a child.  On the contrary, I love it more and more each day, but I accept that not everyone feels this way one hundred per cent of the time, and that’s OK.  Being a mother is amazing.  It’s the best job I’ve ever done, and the best I ever will do (I’m assuming that I’m not going to suddenly turn into Beyoncé overnight), but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Anything that calls itself a “job” rarely is.

Similarly, I quite often moan about other things in my life-my real job, the one that pays the bills, my failure to have nailed a house and a husband within the accepted timeframe, living with my mother.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t also appreciate those things; that I realise I am lucky to have a job that I enjoy, a roof over my head and a mother to share the joys of childcare.  It just means I’m human, and we all like a bit of a whinge.

And Mum, it IS the best job in the world, but no one wants to read about that.  It’s just my boring life.

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ethannevelyn
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Why I Am Happy To Be A Single Mother

Why I Am Happy To Be A Single Mother

What do you think of when you hear the words “single mother”?

A harassed, overworked and underpaid divorced woman trying to raise her kids with negligible support from her ex-partner?

A young woman barely existing on welfare, shunned by society as a drain on resources?

Or a contented and fulfilled professional woman?

“I CHOOSE my choice!” Charlotte from Sex and the City shouted down the phone to Miranda after having her choice to give up work questioned. As women, we are used to having to defend our choices; about whether to be a working or stay-at-home mother, whether to breast or bottle feed, even if, when and how we give birth is questioned, as though by doing something different to others, we are somehow invalidating their choices.

One choice we don’t hear much about is the choice to be a single mother. Admit you are a “single mother” and people instantly lower their voices, worried they might say something that may offend. Worried that they could be wading into dangerous territory-an abusive ex, financial difficulties, a heartbreaking relationship breakdown, even a bereavement.

It is not this way for all of us. Some of us make the active choice to parent alone, often to go through gruelling and invasive fertility procedures-sometimes for years-to have what others take for granted; the chance to have a family of their own. On their own. It isn’t always easy, but it is always rewarding, and here’s why.

1.) You are now literally the same as all those people who had babies the conventional way; who got married, had 2.4 children and did everything “right.” Yes, you are now officially what Bridget Jones would term a Smug Married, without being married. YOU are now the one spamming everyone’s Facebook with pictures of your adorable newborn ooh-look-at-his-adorable-little-poo-face. You have turned into one of those people you hated, envied, were literally beside yourself with jealousy over every time you saw one of their scan photos. And it feels AMAZING. You can even go out for Mummy-lattes with them and have conversations about weaning. You have finally found your tribe, and for the first time ever, they aren’t drunk.

2.) There is no need to compromise on anything, ever.
You want to name your baby Rainbow Brite de Lacey Precious Little Diamond Codswallop? Go right ahead, there’s no one to stop you! Well, apart from maybe your mother, and your saner friends, but basically, it’s your call. You want to co-sleep? Great, there’s nobody else in the bed to get in the way. You want to breastfeed your child until they go to university? Go right ahead. You are literally The Boss.

3.) You will be forever described as “brave,” “valiant,” “courageous” and other such adjectives usually reserved for those who do battle, either literally or figuratively, against far worse things than a colicky newborn. Revel in it.

4.) No pesky ex hanging around, wanting to be involved, or worse, not wanting to be involved.

5.) You finally don’t care about being an “old spinster,” “left on the shelf” or a “dried up old hag,” because, well, who cares? You literally never need to worry about men, dating or the horror that is Tinder, because you did it-you had a baby-all by yourself, and you know what, it was OK. Men of the world, begone! There is no further use for you!

And finally, you’ll really annoy the Daily Mail, who probably assume you did it just to claim benefits (I didn’t, pipe down at the back there, Disgusted of Twitter).

OK, so I have given up the trappings of my former life. My vintage dresses hung unworn and unloved at the back of the wardrobe, lest I should trip over their floor length hemlines whilst carrying a toddler, or lest they be destroyed by little banana and mud-caked fingers. My love life has dwindled to the point of nothingness, and not even starting my own reality show where I pay people to marry me can redeem me now, and I am living at home with my mother in the house I grew up in as I can no longer afford a flat of my own. But I am happy, deliriously happy, happier than I have ever been.

So take that Daily Mail.

This post was first written as a guest post for the website Meet Other Mums

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ethannevelyn
Diary of an imperfect mum
The Moment You Realise You’ve Turned Into Your Mother

The Moment You Realise You’ve Turned Into Your Mother

This bank holiday weekend, I decided it was time to revisit an old hobby that has somewhat fallen by the wayside since I had a baby.

Yes, I went shopping.

I arrived home, laden with shopping bags full of clothes, just like in the olden days when I used to spend every weekend admiring the wares all over Oxford Street, or pore over the vintage wares in the coolest parts of East London, searching for the perfect Pat Butcher-esque 1980s knits and 1970s evening dresses last worn by Margot from the Good Life for a spot of fondue over at Abigail’s Party.

The only difference was that this time, the clothes were not for me.

“Look what I bought!” I cried excitedly to my mother, conveniently forgetting the fact that she was likely to respond by bleating about ISAs and credit cards and aren’t-you-supposed-to-be-saving-up-to-buy-a-house solidly for the next three weeks at least.  I began to pull the full range of adorable toddler-sized Breton tops from Joules out of the bags and fantasise about my probable future life as a lifestyle blogger with immaculate white furniture, posing coquettishly on the front of my coffee table book of photographs of me, beaming, and holding aloft various plates of courgetti and raw kale with a jus of blueberry and pomegranate made in the nutribullet; suddenly having perfect skin, and perfect hair with absolutely no visible greys.  Maybe there would even be a perfect labrador at my heels, excited for his morning walk on the beach near where my perfect spotless white-furnished house will obviously be; and an immaculate Piglet, possibly with suddenly more hair, so that I can complete the look of general ruddy outdoor health by curling it and ruffling it a bit for the photos in that adorably middle-class way.  Hell, while we’re at it maybe there would even be a perfect husband sat nearby, possibly behind the vintage oak rough-hewn table in the perfect kitchen, gazing at me adoringly, although obviously he would have to avert his eyes when I pulled the enormous M&S “thigh and tummy slimming” knickers out of the bag.

At last, having shown my mother both the fantasy-life wardrobe from Joules which I had purchased for Piglet, and the enormous knickers for me, courtesy of the need to hide certain aspects of reality in order to partake of this fantasy life, such as the increasing girth around my midsection, I pulled out the one thing I had allowed myself to have; the one remnant of my former life that lay within those bags…..

“OH MY GOD THOSE TROUSERS HAVE GOT AN ELASTICATED WAIST!” was my mother’s cry as I triumphantly removed that one item from the bag.  “YOU’RE TURNING INTO ME!”

Suddenly deflated, I looked down at the trousers.

“No I’m not!” I wailed.  “These are….these are…..THESE ARE FROM AMERICAN APPAREL!”

How had my mother failed to realise that I am, at thirty-five, (or “nearly thirty-six” as my mother cruelly likes to point out, despite the fact that there are still a full three months until my next birthday and I could totally, like, run a marathon before then.  Or win the Nobel Peace Prize) still on the actual bleeding cutting edge of cool?

I looked down at the trousers.  Sure enough, my mother was right.  They did have an elasticated waist.  They were a very dull shade of blue.  The legs were tapered into the classic parsnip shape that flattered absolutely no one.  In fact, they looked a bit like the sort of trousers that a woman of my mother’s age might buy, had they been in BHS instead of American Apparel.  And had they been in BHS, I would not have bought them.  I would not have seen them.  I would not have even been within a hundred metre radius of the building they were in, let alone lifted them triumphantly and waved them under my mother’s nose expecting platitudes about how I had still got it, still down with the kids, still thinner than most teenagers, and definitely still rocking American Apparel.

Not only had I been taken in by the false glow of shiny marketing and the promise of instant hipster chic if I only purchased said overpriced old-person trousers, but I had been tragic enough to believe that I still do have it.  That I still had the insouciant ironic granny style of some model-esque nineteen year old Hoxton hipster in Deirdre Barlow’s old glasses.  Instead I just looked like Granny.  Piglet’s granny, to be precise.  My own mother.  The very same mother who had just quite literally collapsed into fits of giggles at her middle-aged daughter’s folly at thinking she was still cool.

Cheers Mum, I get it.  I’m old.

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Life with Baby Kicks
ethannevelyn
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Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Thomas and Foes: A Shakespearean Tragedy

Thomas and Foes: A Shakespearean Tragedy

Scene 1: the Isle of Sodor. Enter three of the Naughty Trucks.

Truck 1: “When shall we three meet again. In thunder, lightning, or in rain?”

Truck 2: “When the Fat Controller’s done. When the Isle of Sodor again is one.”

Truck 3: “To the engine shed! There to meet with Thomas.”

Scene 2: Maron Station

Fat Controller: Thomas!  Bring me Thomas!  And bring with him those wenches Annie and Clarabel.  I desire to see them all, for I have an honour to bestow.

Fat Controller’s Henchman 1: Of course Sir, right away Sir.

Thomas puffs to Maron Station.  The Fat Controller is standing on the platform to greet him, flanked by his two henchmen.  Gordon the Blue Engine is stage right, in a siding; a pained expression on his face.  Percy the Little Green One is on Platform 2, waiting for the mail.

Fat Controller: Thomas, I bring glad tidings.

Thomas: Fat Controller, O great one, O dear leader of our sceptr’ed Isle of Sodor.  How I love thee.  Your voice is like the sound of a thousand nightingales singing on the breeze; like the waves that crash on the shore at Brendam Docks.  What menial task can your humble servant Thomas perform for you today?  Oh please tell me you would like me to shunt some trucks.  Please, please, please!

Fat Controller: You will not be shunting trucks today Thomas.

A gasp of horror is heard to come from Annie and Clarabel.

Annie:  No, not our Thomas.  Surely you will not be sending our beloved Thomas to the Camps?  We have heard of such places, where disobedient engines are sent to be put to scrap, along with all of their families.  Please tell us that such a fate does not befall our Thomas.

Fat Controller:  Don’t be ridiculous Annie and Clarabel.  That’s just like you two, such a pair of drama queens.  Bloody women.  This is why I limit the number of female engines on my island to an approximate ratio of one for every ten males.  Thomas is the star of the show.  He’s worth too much to me.  His merchandising alone earns me a small fortune.  Do you know what the Thomas and Friends Take N’ Play Misty Island Playset retails for at Toys R Us these days?  Do you?  No, of course you don’t.  That’s why you have no storylines of your own and have to play second fiddle to this simpleton of a Tank Engine here.

Clarabel: Then what, pray tell, do you have in store for us?

Fat Controller: For you, insolent female, nothing.  However, for Thomas I bring the promise of great things.  A promotion, in fact.

Thomas:  A promotion?  O Fat Controller dear Sir, O great one, I am your humble servant.  I will do anything you ask of me Sir.  Anything.

The Fat Controller raises a chubby yet majestic arm to point towards Gordon.

Fat Controller: Thomas, Gordon is unwell.  He has been pushing himself too hard whilst driving the express.  He is getting older and older by the day, and-let’s not put too fine a point on it Gordon-more pompous too.  I have decided that you, Thomas, should be put in charge of the Express.

Gordon is heard wailing, side of stage.

Fat Controller: Take him away!

The Fat Controller gestures menacingly towards Gordon.  The henchmen disappear, Gordon wheezes, and his cries eventually fade to nothing.

Scene 3: the Engine Shed

Thomas is chuffing around in circles on the turntable, extremely overexcited.  Annie and Clarabel are side of stage, rolling their eyes.   James, Henry and Edward are sitting in the shed, looking unimpressed.  A mist suddenly descends, and through the mist the Naughty Trucks approach.

Naughty Truck 1: Good news today Thomas?  I haven’t seen you this excited since the time Harold the Helicopter landed at Brendam Docks and whipped up a load of sea spray which hit Gordon right in the funnel.

Thomas:  Oh yes Mr Trucky!  Looks like I won’t be seeing so much of you now!

Truck 2:  Oh really?  Why would that be?

Thomas: I’ve been promoted!  The Fat Controller says I’M going to be pulling the express from now on, so I won’t have time to talk to you anymore.  No more shunting trucks.  BYEEEE!

Truck 3:  Is that so?  The Fat Controller has promoted you, has he?  He must think you’re a REALLY USEFUL engine if he’s done that.  My, he must think you’re the MOST USEFUL ENGINE in all of Sodor!

James the Red Engine coughs.  More eye rolling from Annie and Clarabel.

Truck 1:  In fact, I would say he thinks you’re SO useful that you could run the entire Isle of Sodor all by yourself, isn’t that so?

Truck 2:  I do believe he was heard to refer to the prices of certain pieces of Thomas and Friends merchandise earlier today, was he not?

Truck 3:  Thomas and FRIENDS, that is.  These jokers over here are just the friends.  They don’t even get a name check.

Truck 3 gestures towards James, Henry and Edward.  Edward looks particularly miffed.

Truck 1:  Wouldn’t you say that the Friends are unnecessary, Thomas?

Truck 2:  They don’t call it “HENRY and Friends, do they?

Truck 3: They don’t call EDWARD the star of the show.

Truck 1:  In fact, I’d say Thomas and Friends would run pretty well even if there were no friends at all.

Truck 2:  And I’d say the Isle of Sodor would run pretty well even if there was no FAT CONTROLLER at all.

Gasps from the Engines.  Cackling from the trucks.  The trucks start to circle Thomas threateningly.  More mist descends, and starts to cover the other engines.

Truck 3:  Do it, Thomas.

Truck 1:  You know you want to Thomas.

Scene 4: Maron Station.  Thomas is coupled and ready to pull the express.  Annie and Clarabel have been refurbished and are checking out their reflections in the station office windows.

Annie: The Express!  Who’d have thought it?

Clarabel:  We’re the envy of Sodor now!

Annie: Clarabel, what did you think of what the trucks said?  I was thinking about it last night, and we have been around longer than most of the others, you know.

Clarabel:  What do you mean?

Annie:  Well, there’s all these fancy new engines now, like Rosie and Hiro and Mavis and Alfie the Excavator, and Dick and Dom or whatever those two identical things with the snowploughs are, and you know what Clarabel, we were here first.  Just us, and Thomas, and yet we never get any credit.  Did you hear what the Fat Controller called us yesterday?

Clarabel: Insolent female, wasn’t it?

Annie:  Yes, and yet we’ve been here since 1961, when time froze on the Isle of Sodor before Dr Beeching had a chance to get in here and close down all the branch lines.  Where would the Fat Controller be without us?

Clarabel:  Thomas!

Thomas:  Yes?

Annie (clears throat, puts on dramatic voice): The raven himself is hoarse, that croaks the final entrance of the Fat Controller into Maron Station.

Clarabel: Come you naughty trucks, unsex me here!  And let me be filled with direst cruelty!  Fill me with the spirit of Dr Beeching himself!

Annie:  And though I be but a weak and feeble carriage, I have the heart and stomach of a mighty engine!

The Fat Controller enters, with his henchmen.  Just at that moment, Thomas lets out a mighty wheesh.  Steam flies up into the air, and along with it some coal from Thomas’ funnel, which plops down onto the Fat Controller’s head, knocks his top hat off, and sends him spinning off the platform and onto the track.

Henchmen:  Quick!  Get him!

Annie and Clarabel (pushing forward):  We are the Express!  We are the Express!  Oh Thomas, we can’t be late!

Thomas:  I can’t be late, I can’t be late, I don’t want to share Gordon’s fate!

They surge forward, just as the henchmen jump onto the track to help the Fat Controller up.  All three are run down, and crushed.

Thomas:  I can’t be late, I can’t be late, I don’t want to share Gordon’s fate!

Annie and Clarabel: That’s what you get for calling us an insolent female.

Thomas puffs away.

Scene 5: Brendam Docks.  Thomas is pacing backwards and forwards on the track.  Annie and Clarabel are to the side, looking melancholy.  Harold the Helicopter is on the landing pad.

Harold: I’m sorry Thomas, I can’t help you this time.  I know you’ve just basically committed High Treason and-dare I say it, regicide-the Fat Controller, God rest his soul, was like a King to us (he looks away into the horizon and sighs wistfully), but you see, you’re a train, and I’m a helicopter.  I’m, well, I’m smaller than you.  I’m just not strong enough to take you AND the ladies here away to Rio.  I know that’s where they always go when they bump someone off on Eastenders, but this isn’t Eastenders, this is Thomas and Friends, and you don’t have any friends.  They all chuffed off after that conversation in engine shed the other day, and to be honest I don’t blame them.  It’s all about you, Thomas, all the time.  Thomas this, Thomas that.  I don’t blame them for being sick of it.

Thomas: What are we going to do now, without the Fat Controller?

Harold: You tell me.  Didn’t you have some sort of plan to take over the Isle of Sodor or something and liberate it from the dictatorship of the Fat Controller?

Thomas: Well, we didn’t really have time to come up with a plan.  I just thought I’d pull the Express, and that would be it.

Annie: Have you considered maybe starting a democracy?  I know it was all a bit bloody, what with that terrible accident with the Fat Controller and all (dabs eyes dramatically with a tissue) but we could see this as an opportunity, you know.

Thomas: An opportunity for what?

Clarabel:  Well, perhaps we could think about bringing Sodor into the twentieth century.  Oops, I mean twenty-first.

Thomas (gasps):  You mean, with diesel engines?

Annie:  Well…maybe.  Look, I don’t mean to be rude Thomas, but there’s probably a place for you on a heritage railway somewhere, staffed by volunteers, where you can just have a nice, happy retirement, and they can replace you with a TGV or something.

Harold (nods approval): Well, I have to say I’m game.  What do you think Cranky?

Cranky the Crane turns his crane to face down to the conversation below: Is there a place for me in this heritage place?  Heavy industry’s all moved to China now.  Not much coming in at Brendam anymore.

Clarabel: I say we turn the whole of Sodor into a museum!

Annie: A democratic museum!

Thomas: A museum to the ways things were, before diesel engines and feminism, and when everyone wore hats on Sundays!

Clarabel: Just remember one thing though.

Thomas: What’s that?

Annie: We were here first.

Thomas: Oh yes, it’s THOMAS and Friends, not the Fat Controller and Friends.  Can I be in charge of the museum?

Suddenly, silently, a diesel engine pulls up at the dockside.  Thomas, Annie, Clarabel, Harold and Cranky all turn to look.

Thomas:  And who are you?

Diesel engine:  I’m Chuggington.  And it’s time for you lot to retire.

 


ethannevelyn
The Pramshed
Life Love and Dirty Dishes