Make cup of tea, stare vaguely out of the window for a little while, check emails in case someone interesting has decided to spontaneously offer me work and/or a love affair…
And so begins my first day back at work.
I work at home, and most of the time I love it. It can be difficult sometimes to get motivated, and admittedly a lot of my time is spent in forums, obsessing over blog stats, or compulsively refreshing my emails, but I’m pretty sure that’s what most people do in offices anyway, I just have the bonus of not having to worry about anyone looking over my shoulder.
School holidays are hard though. My study is right there at the top of the stairs, trying to lure me in every time I go to the bathroom. My laptop stares at me, sometimes I swear it winks – it is trying to seduce me.
I want to switch off, to be spending Quality Time with the children, baking cookies, toasting things on sticks around an open fire and other such wholesome activities I am led to believe happen in other families. But it is difficult. How do you leave work behind you in the holidays when your office is inside your house??
Today Belle went back to school and I had six whole hours in the house on my own, the solitary day to myself that I have been craving for nearly three weeks. Oh the joy! The decadence of roaming the house alone, no Disney channel soundtrack to my day, nobody asking me things or wanting things! It is bliss.
For an hour or so anyway. And then it gets a bit dull and I wish there was someone there to gossip with, to look over my shoulder and ask if facebook really constituted work. Perhaps I’ll just have a little check of my emails, who knows what the last twenty minutes may have bought me…
“Please wear your coat to school today,” I beg of my teen as I leave the house at eight this morning.
“Why?” she replies, a look on her face of genuine bemusement, tinged with disgust at the very notion of dressing sensibly.
I hesitate for a moment and the ridiculousness of this as a response. “Um… the sub-zero temperatures?” A solid argument I feel.
“Ergh,” not a very witty comeback, “but where am I supposed to put it?” she asks.
“The general idea is that you wear it,” I reply.
This kind of exchange is endlessly frustrating and demoralising. I really feel I am being quite reasonable in requesting that she doesn’t make the two mile round trip to school through icy winds in just a thin shirt and unbuttoned blazer, (it is apparently a complete faux pas to actually do it up), and yet I am made to feel like that most irritating of all mothers – a nag.
It is very tiresome to have to repeat this sort of conversation over and over, and it can often leave me feeling lonely. On the family battlefield I am, quite literally, one man down – one woman on her own against two children. Two very opinionated children at that. It is in these kind of situations that I miss the voice in the background, the often ineffective but nevertheless reassuring deeper voice, dispensing supportive one liners – “Listen to your mother!”
When you parent alone, you have to be good cop AND bad cop, maintain friendly relations yet still command respect. Maybe I could try developing a multiple personality disorder? Or recording an authoritative male voice off the radio – John Humphries perhaps – to be played back in times of crisis. Hmmm. Or maybe not. I’ll get my coat…
Flickr pic by Dangerpup
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…