Wake Up Call
Do you ever catch yourself 'waking up' from a particular state of mind and realise you're not doing as well as you thought you were?
Yesterday was one of those days for me. At 11:42 am specifically.
It's the first weekend of the October half term, the children are away at their Dad's until Wednesday and I'd spent most of the morning in bed sleeping, then drinking tea and watching Graham Norton on You Tube (clearly living my best life). Having managed to get up and start to do something approaching my grown up duties (clean the bathroom), I'd just got back into bed to recover. The sun was shining, I was due to meet a friend for coffee at 2pm and there was me contemplating how long I could stretch out getting up and facing the world.
All of a sudden it hit me; I was hiding. I wasn't luxuriating in the peace and quiet of a no-kids household. I wasn't indulging in self-care and 'taking time for me'. I was sad and scared and tired and I didn't want to get out of bed to face the mess that my house was in, let alone other people in the world.
The truth of the matter is that right now I'm finding life difficult and challenging. There are parts of my life that are going well: I have a good job, the children are happy, they're settling well into their schools and school work and our weekday routine is working out brilliantly. None of us are suffering mentally or physically, we each have friends and are full of love for each other.
Those are the things that I need to focus on.
What's getting me down at the moment, waking me up at night and making me fall into my routine of not going to bed until I'm so tired there's no chance of me waking at 3am, is the fact that my ex, their Dad, is trying to persuade them to move back to Brighton and move in with him, his new girlfriend and her 2 children.
So yes, life is good in parts. It's also extremely worrying in others and sometimes, although I choose to hide it from others and myself, I get scared. I'm currently trying not to think that it makes me a bad parent.
Because I don't think I'm a bad parent. I think I've done the best that I can, that although I've made hard decisions, they were made with good intentions. Ultimately I wanted children not because I'd grown up wanting them, but because I wanted to have a family with a man I loved. When it became clear that the love had died and in it's place was a fetid mess of discontent and recriminations, where everyone was hurting and where the hurt would only deepen with time, I left. There was no question the children wouldn't leave with me. When I made the equally hard decision to leave my home of 20 years, again there was no question the children wouldn't come with me. Why there is the question now, 5 years later, only their father can answer. But the question of if they shouldn't be with me, is apparently still open for discussion.
I knew this was coming. Ever since I shook things up when I was out of work this last year and, with no money coming in, told him I couldn't afford the 2 trips to London and back every other weekend so he could have the children in Brighton. I didn't try to stop him seeing the children. I asked him to be flexible, to try things differently whilst I was in that position. To come to see them or to pick them up from here or to pay for my petrol. This was at a time when he was only choosing to contribute £200 a month to providing them with a decent life.
I'd never made money an issue when I chose to leave him. I knew that it would be highly contentious with him so I'd made it a priority to earn enough to support the 3 of us by myself. And I did. As a result I'd let him choose how much he sent for them, I didn't complain when he didn't send money, I didn't make it a priority to chase him for payments he missed, I didn't complain when his response to the one email I did send asking when he was going to send the 3 payments he'd missed that year was to reduce the payments that followed by £40 a month. I didn't even complain when he chose to leave the country for 4 months and stopped calling the children after 3 weeks, sending only a nominal amount of money as a contribution and one photo-card each of Daddy on a mountain with his snowboard. Instead I took the children to his mother and when he came back, I continued to meet him halfway - or his mother if he decided he wanted them to go to see her.
And yet when I experienced my own period of difficulty, of being made redundant by my employer of almost 17 years and struggled to find a way of making money myself, I immediately received an abusive attitude, harsh words and intolerance. I responded by asking the CSA to determine how much he should send a month - a dangerous act but I was trying to be strong and hold him to his responsibilities, as much as he'd always held me to mine. They more than doubled the amount that was fair for him to contribute. With that and despite him only not seeing the children on 2 occasions (once when he reneged on an agreement and the other so that he could go away with his girlfriend), he has apparently been 'pushed too far' and is now seeking to move the children away from me and back to Brighton with him.
We're going through mediation. I'm not optimistic that it's going to sort anything out. He started the process, having not wanted to do it before, not saying exactly what he wanted to get out of it but that we had a lot to sort out - and although I knew from my son that Daddy had told him he can choose where he lived and that it was now Daddy's turn for the children to live with him, it was only made clear during the first session that the move is what he actually wants to get from the process.
Don't get me wrong: I want to sort things out. It's been hell these last 6 years with constant ups and downs and never knowing if we're going to fight or be civil to each other. He'd never been keen to cooperate, had taken the attitude right from the off that his time with the children was nothing to do with me and vice versa. He rarely phoned the children and never me so I got into the habit of not sharing information about the children - why would I when he never expressed an interest? I'm sure if we'd been able to communicate with each other along the way, life would have been a lot easier for us both - and of course, for the children.
Do my children want to live with me or their Dad? That is what is going to be asked of them, as the mediator has recommended they be consulted. I don't know if that's the right thing or not but it's how things are done these days and I'm not opposed to their voices being heard. I have a feeling my son will say he wants to go to his Dad now, my daughter I don't know. She's never been that keen on living with him - from about the age of 3 she's been saying that she could live with me and her brother with their Dad. I have a feeling she'll say that she wants to live with both of us. That's probably what they both want really, what child wouldn't?
Obviously, whatever happens, I want the best for my children. I think it's obvious that I think I'm the best person to be their main carer and I hope it stay that way. As I have throughout their lives, I want their Dad to be a huge part of their (and his) lives. I don't think they get enough from him and I'd like him to play a greater part in their life. I don't want my part to diminish. I also don't want my children to have to choose which parent gets to look after them more than the other. No child should be given that responsibility - what should happen is that he and I decide, agree to parent together, to show our children that we both love them, that they're important to both of us no matter who they live with and that we will do whatever needs to be done to give them a life where they can grow, safely and secure in the knowledge that they matter.
In the meantime, I've got to try not to crumble - for their sake and mine. To keep living, loving and giving them the best of me, to keep working and giving my employer the best of me and somewhere along the way, to give me the best of me too.
I've had my wake up call - I will not be beaten. I will survive this as I've survived everything else and better than that, I'm going to do it knowing my own strength, my self-worth, my ability to create a life for me and my children that is worth living. I may have moments when life feels hard, I may cry, I may get scared and yes sometimes I might even show it. But that only makes me human, it doesn't make me a bad person or a bad mum.
Thanks for reading.