Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Separation: Staying strong for International Women's Day



When I knew my marriage was over, I started the grieving process. I'd lost something that was a huge part of my life and one day it wasn't there anymore. What was and remains the hardest part to process was that I wasn't just grieving for my marriage and the way all the good memories from the past were now tainted by how horrible the end was, but I was grieving for my family. I was grieving for what my daughter had lost. In one fell swoop she lost the normality of two parents, she lost her dad as a constant in her life and I lost my back up.

I'd always wanted to "do things properly" so marriage, kids, buying a house together, holidays arguing in caravans in Cornwall and whose turn it was to do the dishes. That was gone. I couldn't at the time imagine a way it was going to work just the two of us. I cried reading stories when the daddy comes home - Tiger who Came to Tea was particularly hard. My phone drowned in tears thanks to Adele, Coldplay and Spotify's break up list - yep that actually exists! 

Then last weekend, I found myself sat in our local Bill's with my little girl having a cocktail (lemonade for her!) to celebrate one year of surviving each other. It wasn't sad and I didn't think about what could have been, I celebrated what we had achieved. Sometimes I'm her best friend, sometimes she doesn't like me and she doesn't want to talk to me. Either way I stick around because at the end of the day, she's a bloody great reason to celebrate life, not commiserate. 

For International Women's Day I pledge to create a positive female role model for my daughter by being a single mum working hard to provide the best she can. This blog hopefully goes some way to showing my daughter that women can be strong, but still show emotions; tired, but still fighting; and thoughtful, but still fun.

Happy International Women's Day to all the amazing women, mums, daughters, sisters and aunties just trying their best.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

One year on: being a single mum


Today marks a day I've dreaded for the last couple of weeks and as it's got closer and closer, I've wished it would just disappear. Today is the day our three became a two. I still remember getting that text message saying it was over and due to it also being my first day in a new job, having to keep calm and carry on. It hasn't been the easiest year but here's what I have learnt.

  1. I'm not perfect. This has been a hard one to learn as I want my daughter to have the best, but sometimes I can't do that. I have low days, high days, stressed day, happy days and in between days just like everyone else and while I have to function, I am not a cBeebies presenter that always operates at full speed.
  2. Mum guilt. I've really struggled with this one especially while working full time. I'd throw myself into weekends and want to have days of just the two of us, but would forget to have days for me, which would leave me cranky and tired. For the next 12 months I am going to try and claim a bit of me time back and make sure I'm looking out for me too. In order to be a good mum I need to feel able to be a good mum and getting stressed and anxious won't do anything to help that.
  3. It's lonely sometimes. Christmas, New Year, birthdays, Friday night.... Wednesday night! Despite number two saying I don't get me time, it's amazing how you can still feel quite lonely. I've got friends and family I can turn to, but we also have to function on our own and sometimes I find myself sat in the living room in the evening and just feeling so alone. There's no one else to help with the tantrums, late night wake ups, mountain of washing or messy dining table. It's just me. If I'm poorly and feeling ill... it's just me. Learning to deal with the silence has been quite a learning curve.
  4. I'm stronger than I knew. There's been some serious ups and downs but we've come out the other end the right way up. The bills get paid, the lunch boxes get made and clothes get washed. What more can you ask for?
  5. Laughing and hugs solve everything. Sure my kid may have just screamed down debenhams because she wasn't allowed a £20 Easter egg and I've turned a funny shade of horrified, but she's said sorry and given me a hug. Add a few laughs in and all is forgotten.

Being a single mum isn't what I signed up for, but it's what I've got. So time to look at the positives - more hugs, only one person to argue with not two and the chance to give my little girl a really positive female role model who works, cooks, cleans, plays, laughs, cries and most importantly is the best mum she can be*



*warning hangry is really a thing. She will learn arguing with mum when mum is hungry = no win!

Friday, 9 December 2016

Full time mum, full time job, full time grown up, part-time me

Sometimes I really struggle with feeling as though not only do I have to do everything, but I have to do it well. If I'm bad at my job, I could lose it. If I'm bad at being a grown up and staying on top of bills, we would get angry knocks on the door. If I'm a bad mum, well so much could go wrong there. I spend so much time worried about doing badly in my full time existences that I forget about me.


My roots start showing, I stop sleeping, forget to eat fruit and veg, never finish that book that's been by the side of my bed for months and continuously get half way through a movie before getting restless and never finding out how it ends. Me time is half an hour once the mini one is in bed, I've washed up, folded clothes, made lunch for the next day and picked up all the toys off the floor. I collapse in a head on the sofa, flick through the tv to find there's nothing I want to watch before bailing and stumbling into bed.


But I think some of what holds me back from going to get my nails done (apart from money!) or having a coffee on my own is the dreaded mum guilt:


"I don't see her enough..."

"I don't play with her enough...."

"I don't sit down and teach her things in the evenings like numbers..."

"I hurry bedtimes sometimes because I'm just so tired..."


If she's poorly we go to the doctors and I try to make her feel better, if I'm poorly I plod on until I end up really ill when just giving myself a day at home resting probably would have stopped it getting so bad.


The end of a year always makes me a bit philosophical and for 2017 I want to tell myself more that I AM ENOUGH. I may not be this great superwoman of a mother with perfect hair, patience and endless energy for Pinteresting my entire perfect life, but I am doing what I can with what I've got and with who I love. 


I'll always have that mum guilt in the back of my head, but for now I am going to cuddle my grumpy three year old who has just crawled into my bed and look forward to whatever adventures lie ahead. And for me, right now, that is enough.

Monday, 10 October 2016

World Mental Health Day: PND and Me



I debated whether or not to post this because despite my work for an NHS Trust that specialises in Mental Health and my usual openness about my experience after having the mini one, there is still such a stigma surrounding postnatal depression.

If you've ever read my birth story, you will know the mini one arrived on this planet through quite a traumatic way. The emergency caesarean was certainly not the way I had planned for things to go and as I shook on the operating theatre with adrenaline while the anaesthetist tried to get an epidural in hearing "failure" and "not working" linked to the way my body was performing got things off to a bad start.

I was beyond happy when I found out my little girl was healthy and love her with all my heart, thankfully that was something I never lost even in my darkest days... but I felt a failure from very early on. From a difficult pregnant to traumatic birth to the first couple of days I just couldn't do anything right. I struggled with getting her to latch on, she cried a lot, I cried a lot! I remember crying to the nurse who came to check on me in the middle of the night that I was rubbish... she told me to keep trying and left me sobbing in the dark.

When we got home things got worse. I'd expected to be this glowing new mother who - as I'd always been quite a strong person - somehow managed to make dinner, clean the house, look after baby and catch up on books while she fed. How wrong I was! I stayed in my pyjamas for a week and despite a couple of visitors had never felt so alone. Everyone told me how gorgeous she was and how happy I must be, so I smiled and said thanks and did the usual muttering about lack of sleep (I was on about 3 hours of broken sleep a day) and so on.

I ate a pack of Oreos and drank water everyday, but when the water next to the armchair I said on in our bedroom ran out I didn't move until the now ex-husband came home and help the mini one while I restocked then sat back down again. She cried when I put her down so I never put her down. I bought a sling but was so terrified it would hurt her never used it until she was about 6 months old. I was a total failure in my eyes. I'd made a huge mistake thinking I could do this and as gorgeous as I found her and as much as I loved her I didn't think I was enough.

It all came to a head when my mum came to visit when the mini one was about 3 weeks old. I cried on her that night and she told me to go to bed and sleep when the mini one was asleep... she couldn't understand why I couldn't. My head wouldn't let me. I wasn't just failing my daughter, I was failing myself too. Mum forced me to get dressed and for the first time since I'd left hospital I went outdoors. I wanted to be proud as I saw people look and remark at how beautiful my daughter was but I felt like a flabby, useless lump that just wanted to put her pyjamas back on and cry.

There was no postnatal check in Oman, no one asked if I was ok... it was all "how are the scars doing?" I knew I couldn't continue with what I was doing when a paediatrician told me I was starving my daughter because she had a low birth weight. Not only was I failing at meeting her emotional needs I now couldn't even feed her properly.

We decided I would come back to England with the mini one and within a week of being back I met an amazing health visitor who listened and suggested support. She sent me to my GP and booked me onto the next new mums group running locally so I could deal with the isolation/fear factor by meeting new mums. I got help and it is much better now. Still there are dark days when I just feel a failure again, but I remind myself what a strong unit my daughter and I. How we have been through so much and each time somehow come out the other end.

She has become my everything, my reason for waking up and jumping out of bed when I want to lie in, the reason I'm considering buying wellies so we can both jump in puddles and the most important thing of all. She made me a mummy.

My advice to anyone suffering postnatal depression or finding themselves struggling and putting on a different face when venturing outside? Talk to someone. Whether it is your GP, a friend, health visitor, neighbour, lady you always see in Costa and chat to! Just make yourself heard and know that with the right help it will all be ok. X

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Jumping around Gambados


Now as much as I love playing in the park with the mini one, throwing autumnal leaves around and going to feed the ducks... the good old British weather tries the most hardy of waterproofs and occasionally you just need to surrender and head indoors. The mini one has never been great at staying home for too long, despite lots of things to do so it became essential early on to have good back up plans.

The first we signed up for was a localish soft play centre in Eastleigh called Gambados, which opened in 2007. Unlike a lot of other play areas we've visited, the mini one never gets bored here as there's lots of age appropriate stuff for her to do.

There's two main play areas: the first caters for under 4's and features it's own slide, sensory area and ball pool, plus a small toddler area which is very padded so great for little ones learning to walk. The second is for the older kids but the mini one has been climbing up it's 3 floors since she was about 2.5 and squealing with joy down the big wavy slide! There's also a teacup ride (unlimited rides are included in your admission) and a climbing wall.



There's lots of seating for adults and a handy little cafe that does limited hot food (nachos are yum), sandwiches, cakes and kids meal boxes. It can be very busy and we have left early before when we've failed to find anywhere to sit or just felt it getting too cramped, but early Saturday morning and weekdays (term time) are all pretty safe bets. They do offer parties so you can sometimes notice the place get busy then suddenly quieter again as whole groups go. There's a dedicated seating area for parents involved in the parties.

It can get pretty pricey if you have a couple of kids, but as season pass holders now, I pay less than £10 a month for unlimited entry for the mini one plus two adults plus we get discount in the cafe and off parties.

It's also really secure. You check in and check out so the kids can't leave without you, however I have noticed this be a bit slack lately with staff just buzzing people out without checking cards/child/adult etc. People can't get in without being with a child which makes it feel safer.

Negatives - the noise. This is not a place for anyone with a sore head and feeling a tad fragile! But time it right when a friend is also their with their kids and you can sit back, eat cake and catch up while the kids are happy.

If you want to find out more about Gambados, please visit www.gambado.com

Disclaimer: I received no payment or incentive for this post, we are annual pass holders but pay ourselves.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Girls can do it too!


I've always believed that anything boys can do, so can girls. I don't really get the whole gender stereotype thing. Sure the mini one might wear a tutu or a pretty dress, but if there's a puddle or opportunity to get muddy and wet she's the first one in there. She has gruffalo tops that were "meant for boys" and a cowboy hoodie from Cath Kidston for boys.

She watches Fireman Sam and Paw Patrol then tells me she's a princess and a doctor and wants to watch Frozen. If she's happy and she is learning and loving lots of different things then that's good enough for me.

So you can only imagine how happy a conversation I overheard her having last weekend made me....

We were visiting one of our local soft play areas (review to follow) and the mini one was playing with some kids who wanted to climb up the slide - because down is so 2015. There were two boys who started joining in and was bashing the smaller kids around a little bit. The mini one looked at me and grumbled when one pushed her but I just said "ignore them" and she went back to the game.

These boys kept getting pushy and kids kept leaving and soon the mini one was the only girl left. The boys turned round to her and said, "This (climbing a slide) isn't for girls so you can't do it." She looked crestfallen! Then you almost saw the "pull yourself together" moment go across her face as she turned round, stared them dead in the eye and shouted, "girls can do it too!" Before barging past them and doing a great attempt to get up the slide. 

Sure she didn't make it to the top, but she kept trying until it was time to leave. I'm always proud of my little girl especially now she seems to have taken on my attitude of girls can do it too.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

And then there were two...



I will always remember the day I knew my marriage was truly over. Sure I still loved him and wanted more than anything to say I forgave him and of course we could try again, but I just couldn't. The words refused to come out. Those who know me know I'm not one to mince my words. If I want to say something I often do, but this time my usual self escaped me and all I could do was shake my head, say I'm sorry and walk away from the man some four years previously I'd stood with in front of our friends and family and promised to love and cherish forever. 

The pain was so just intense and so raw there was nothing that could be done to take it back. You see that man had walked out on me. Not once, but twice. He packed his bags and left. Not just the house but the country... Twice. But I don't hate him, I hate the circumstances that lead to our ultimate end. He was the man who gave me our beautiful amazing intelligent little girl but he was also the man who made me break down in front of my daughter midway through reading Stickman to her at bedtime because I couldn't go on anymore.

Our marriage became toxic but it wasn't always that way. He Egyptian, me British, we met while working in the Middle East. We started as friends and when I went through one of the toughest times of my life out there, he saved me. He pulled me back from the brink and loved me, which is what I needed. Three years later we married and 7 months after that I got sick. A trip to the doctors showed I was pregnant. It was a difficult pregnancy and traumatic birth but the end result was perfection.

After struggling to find a way we could live out there and be good parents we decided the time had come to return to the uk. When she was 3 months old my daughter and I moved to the uk and the clock began. We'd agreed to give me a few months maternity leave before starting to find work. But I struggled to find something close to my parents that paid enough for me to meet the financial requirements of the spouse visa. I found something, but then the English language requirement came into play. My husband struggled to pass the listening segment of the test and despite taking classes it took a year and a half for him to get the required grade. We hadn't seen each other this whole time as all our money went on the visa and tests.

In September last year, he arrived. Day 1 was amazing. Day 2 however the cracks began to show. He didn't get that if our daughter woke up so did we, if she was hungry we got food, if she gets bored there's drama, if you say no... She screamed. He had arrived in time for the terrible twos. He still thought he was living the single life which I voiced my frustrations at but he threw it back that I cared more for our daughter than him. We argued a lot and one day when he was so withdrawn he watched our daughter knock over cups of coffee in Costa not once but twice. I lost my rag. I told him he was her father and I (who had been in the toilet) couldn't watch her all the time. She went to do something naughty a third time and he grabbed her. It scared the hell out of her. I pulled him off her and shouted he was to never do it again. He walked out the coffee shop.

The next day was my birthday and there was nothing. No card, no present, no look I've made dinner or shall we order something nice in... Just sat in silence watching tv. I cried myself to sleep that night.

I won't say too much about the leavings, the returns and the eventual goodbye, but they all hurt. I broke down, I picked myself up, I broke down again and when I picked myself up the second time knew this was it I couldn't continue the cycle anymore and enough was enough.

Things aren't always easy as a family of two and as she grows up I know we will face different challenges, but I love my daughter so much. Whether she's smearing yellow paint round the living room, leaving the freezer open, waking me up all night or smiling at me from across the park and saying she loves me... She's worth all the hard work.

This blog was set up to chronicle my life as a mum and wife, now it will stay as my journey of motherhood and the things I love. The highs, the lows, the happiness and the tears. I hope you will continue to follow.