Tonight I spent a tedious hour and a half sat cross-legged on the hard floor of a freezing church hall, my senses overwhelmed by the din of 30 noisy badgers. Not the striped, hairy type – this was the ‘small children learning useful skills’ variety – a group run by St John Ambulance. It’s along the lines of scouts, but with a rather simpler and more elegant black and white uniform.
This was Belle’s first taster session, an effort on my part to engage her in some kind of non-tv based out of school activity.
The minute we step into the hall my exuberant, often overwhelming seven year old transforms into a timid bundle of nerves. At home, grown men and feisty teenagers have been known to cower in fear – some have actually fled. The one day I am banking on her over confidence to carry her through and she bottles it.
It takes half an hour to persuade her to join in at all – a half hour with her spent clinging to my arm – and only then with the promise that I will remain sat in the corner, shivering, just in case.
An hour in and I can’t feel my nose or my feet. It’s alright for the kids, they get to warm up with parachute games. I think of it as an investment. I get her established here and I buy myself 90 minutes every Monday evening to do whatever I want – drink cocktails, learn Salsa, take a lover… Or maybe just go to Sainsbury’s on my own, which in single parent land is the biggest treat of all…
Parenting alone can be dull at the best of times – you don’t get out much in the evenings and find yourself taking pleasure in the simplest of things. A quiet cup of tea alone becomes a ‘treat’ and the anticipation of sitting down on your own to watch Come Dine With Me is what gets you through the day.
Tonight then I am in heaven. I am watching The Big Fat Quiz of 2009, I have a cup of tea in one hand and a box of After Eights in the other. Belle is in bed reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – very wholesome – and Bee is barricaded in her room on msn, probably swigging from a can of Relentless – not quite so wholesome, but out of my way at least.
And I get to spend two hours imagining what it would be like if David Mitchell were my actual real life friend… I indulge myself with a fantasy that we casually meet at a party and David is impressed with my ready wit, laughing out loud at my sarcastic take on the news events of the day. Maybe one day I will get to go out in the evening and then who knows. A girl can dream….
Dating as a single parent is a tricky business, requiring a lot of determination and very supportive babysitters. When you’re part of a couple, going out is easy, but who exactly is supposed to have the kids for you when you haven’t got a useful partner at home? Rather a chicken and egg scenario there I fancy… So imagine dating a single Dad – how on earth do you carve out time to spend together as individuals and exactly when is it ok to introduce the children?
As a single mother of two daughters and a serial online dater I have yet to find time to regularly leave the house on my own, let alone establish a Proper Grown Up Relationship. I don’t count the elderly ladies I meet at checkouts who woo me hilarious tales of cut price cruises and mixed up prescriptions.
When I recently met a single Dad online, with kids the same age as mine I thought I might be on to a winner – here would be someone at least who understood my predicament and would be able to cut me some slack if I turned up to a date half an hour late and covered in playdoh. What I wasn’t expecting was for him to propose we each take our kids on our first date! I’m a fairly liberal parent – I have been known to buy Fruit Shoots – but this was moving too fast even by my standards.
Needless to say I politely declined, but it left all sorts of unanswered questions for me – just how to you manage the practicalities of dating as a single parent? Should you go for a single dad, or does that just complicate matters even further? And really – kids on dates? Is it a sensible solution to a simple problem of logistics or just too creepy…
New Year’s Resolutions:
- Write blog – check
- Get people to read blog – hmmm…. trickier. Top tip from a friend – ‘make it interesting’. Damn. I knew there was something….
In true New Year scrooge style I went to bed last night at 11pm and turned my phone off. I have never been a huge fan of New Year, which is a good job seeing as I was stuck at home Being A Parent. I did have my first child free afternoon since December 19th though (not that I’m counting) and had a lovely time in the pub drinking gin and playing pool badly. Gin in the afternoon really is the way forward.
I staggered walked swiftly home to be back for Belle at 6pm and even managed to throw together a wholesome supper. I then set about finishing up the red wine in a bid to make myself feel thoroughly sick and hence ready to embrace an alcohol free January. I reinforced the teetotalism by emptying some Baileys into the sink at 9am this morning. Nothing like the smell of Baileys on a slightly queasy stomach to put you off drinking completely…
Forget trying to impress your toddler with the latest from Annabel Karmel – a recent study of 4,000 mothers showed we rely on a grand total of just nine dishes to feed our families.
Nine dishes. I’m pretty impressed. I have two. Pasta with tomato sauce and pasta with cheese sauce. Or sometimes, when I am feeling particularly disenchanted with motherhood, we have shreddies for tea. Who are these women whose children will happily eat casseroles and curry? One of my daughters once refused to eat cucumber, claiming it was ‘too spicy’.
With two children and a seven year age gap, catering for everyone’s tastes, at mealtimes and otherwise, can be a struggle, and I do find myself offering up the same bland dishes again and again. It’s just laziness. I’m a busy woman and, unlike 81% of the mothers in the survey, I don’t have the time or enthusiasm to create two or three different meals every night.
But cooking is just one of the many areas of parenting I could do with improving. As a single mother, juggling two kids and three home based jobs, I admit sometimes the boundaries blur between work and family. I know weekends and evenings should be about the children, but I often find myself having to encourage ‘independent play’ while I sneak off to reply to emails.
My teenager is fine with this. A can amuse herself for days at a time with just an iPod Touch and a family size bottle of Fanta. Belle is not so easily amused. What I need to do is encourage her to take an interest in cooking – maybe I could do something Wholesome like teach her to make a nice cheese sauce…
Wednesday already! The return-to-school light at the end of the tunnel is most definitely visible. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. Of course I do. More than life itself and all that, honestly. But good grief they can be dull. We are a mind numbing 12 days into the school holidays now and I can feel my brain shrinking, my inspiration fading. If I have to spend much more time with them I may forget completely how to actually work.
I know most parents, particularly working ones, will claim they relish the opportunity to spend Quality Time with their families over the Christmas period, but I am prepared to wager that most of them are lying. The single parents most definitely will be stretching the truth. For single parents, holidays are just like longer, more tedious versions of what you do every day anyway i.e. spend all your time doing things for the children.
Because my girls have different fathers, fathers who seem to have completely opposite working patterns, I hardly ever seem to be able to coordinate visits, meaning I get very little time to myself at all. These holidays seem to have been particularly bad. A has so far spent no time at all with her father, save for Boxing Day afternoon when I was with her too, so that really doesn’t count. B has spent two afternoons with her Dad. Which adds up to very little ME time. None in fact.
The complete lack of personal space is beginning to take its toll and I can see and hear myself behaving childishly and erratically, losing my patience and being unnecessarily snappy. Not something I am proud of, but perhaps inevitable under the circumstances. Roll on next Wednesday I say, when both children will be back at school and I can enjoy behaving erratically on my own, in the privacy of my own study, with only Radio 4 to shout at…