The last couple of weeks I have been feeling angry, lonely and unsupported. I feel this way every now and then – it is a byproduct of being a single working mum of two boys especially where one has a serious health condition. As a result I know I get snappy, grumpy and tears and sometimes there is just nothing to hold back the emotions.
But I am getting better at recognising I feel that way and that I am may be overreacting (although I can’t always stop it)
So last week I attended a ditch the mummy guilt webinar by Cass Dunn which was really good, and very appropriate. It felt like she had been listening in on some of my conversations and thoughts. Lately I have been much better at self care – exercising at home as it is too hard to get out, eating better, spending more time with the kids (new things every day as per last post). But the webinar made me think about the fact that I need to do more to show my boys that sometimes I need to put me first and that it is ok.
So how am I going with ditching the guilt? I am trying to question my decisions less, I am trying to get my boys to help out more, and I am trying to focus solely on the boys when I am with them and not feeling guilty when I am not doing stuff with them (quality over quantity).
My big win though happened a couple of days ago. I have been separated for just over three years and as he works varied shifts and days in his job I have always been very flexible with when he sees the boys. And as his shifts often change I change plans so the boys can be with him or come home to me when he has to go to work. This time when he cancelled a weekend he was supposed to have the boys I advised I had plans that I could not change as I have organised a night out with friends I haven’t seen for over a year. This means the boys have to go to my exs mums for the weekend which they will not be happy about. I felt the guilt start to creep in but stopped it. I deserve a night out and, while they may not enjoy their weekend, they will get a better mum as a result. And maybe as a side benefit they will realise a few of the things I do to make their weekends better.
So it is still a work in progress but one baby step at a time I am going to reduce the mummy guilt and I hope it is better for all three of us.
Last week my boys were at their dads for the week as it was the second week of the school holidays. The house was quiet, the dog was restless and the million jobs I had planned to just didn’t quite get there as I worked too many hours. However not having to do dinner and bedtime routine every night meant that I had more thinking time as well. And one thing I thought about was how easily our life has fallen into a rut. Routine is necessary in my house – single working mum of two children with one having a serious health condition that means constant hospital visits. And sometimes it easier to take easy options than push for changes and listen to complaining and meltdowns. But something had to change – boundaries and comfort zones need to be stretched a little. Changing things in a house that thrives on routine can be like putting a puzzle together. Trying different pieces and connections until something fits.
So when the boys came home I told them every day we were going to do one thing that we either had never done before or had not done for a long time. Sometimes it would be big, other times small but it would be every day. It could be to do with what we eat, watch, play or where we go. I was worried about how they would take it but should of known their first suggestions would be a trip to Queensland (where we had gone two and a half years ago) and to America where they have never been. So the first few days will be my choice.
So we are now three days in to our something new every day and it is going really well. We are connecting more, trying new things and they are feeling really positive about it. And what have we done?
Day one. We made pita bread chips to have with dip. Started simple but they loved them, ate them straight away and want to do it again
Day two. Started watching a kids series none of us had seen before on Netflix which was based on the movie Turbo. We all sat and watched it together, my eldest put down his IPod and we had some laughs (they wanted to watch another episode today)
Day three. Played a new card game I had bought called Mars Needs Heroes. It was easy to play and lots of fun so we ended up playing two games of it.
I am certainly not expecting every day to go this well, especially when I start trying different foods. But at the moment they are loving the idea and I am loving stretching our boundaries and finding some bright moments in each day.
Last Sunday I ran through St Kilda in my underwear.
Possibly I should add more details to this story!
Running through St Kilda in my underwear was for the Cupids Undie Run which is a fundraiser for the Children’s Tumour Foundation of Australia. This foundation supports families impacted by Neurofibromatosis (NF). This is the disorder my eldest son has – he has NF2 which is the rarer form.
The fundraiser raises much needed funds for treatment, family support and research.
Many people have asked if I was embarrassed to run in my undies or said how brave I was. What they don’t understand is that as a parent you feel helpless when you can’t help or fix what is wrong with your child. So the thing I can do is help with funds. And if embarrassing myself for a short time helps raise funds then I am in. This is the second year I have done this and I will continue every year until a cure is found.
Bring on the embarrassment – I am going bigger and better every year. Because I would do anything to take away the stress and pain my beautiful boy suffers.
I have had a week off work this week to spend the second week of the school holidays with my boys.
For the first time in a long time, and much to the boys delight, I have totally avoided work. No phone calls or checking of emails. In fact, as we went away to Phillip Island for four days, we had very little screen time (other than movie nights) and lots of time for making memories. Mini golf and mazes, magic shows, chocolate factories, animals – Phillip Island has so many great family activities. At the end of the four days after much fun, laughter and time for connecting with each other it felt wonderful to hear the boys say how they would miss the holiday and how much fun they had.
Today, being the first day back home, I was doing housework and getting myself organised when I noticed my youngest just sitting in the driveway looking around. I called out to see if he was ok and he ran over and said “come look at the clouds Mummy”. This turned into nearly an hour of sitting on the driveway with him and his brother talking about what pictures we saw in the clouds, looking for planes and endless games of eye spy.
Sometimes making memories can be from grand gestures, holidays and amazing activities. Often though, it is from the simple things that fill us with happiness and laughter. It is so easy to forget how important giving time to our children is – and how simple it can be to make a memory.
Sometimes a sure fire way to feel your age is to talk to children.
The other day my youngest was repeating the same whinge over and over. I responded with “you are like a broken record” to which he gave me a look and kept going about his day.
About half an hour later he started up again. And I once again responded with “see like I said you are like a broken record”. This time he stared at me and then yelled with exasperation “I don’t understand what you mean”.
After talking to him for a few minutes I learnt that his young mind, that has never used or probably even seen a record, had totally misunderstood what this saying means. To him a broken record is when someone runs faster/jumps higher/does more than everyone else. So he couldn’t understand why me saying he was like a broken record was a bad thing.
Once I explained to him how a record works and what the saying means I could see the lightbulb moment when he said “oh that makes sense now”
It did make me sit back and think. How many other sayings are now redundant and would get the same strange look from my children?
When did the definition of strong alter to meaning you don’t need help?
I am proud to be a strong person. I have had many ups and downs in life like the rest of us, and for the last few years it feels the downs are certainly outweighing the ups. However, I pride myself that I do not give up. I have a bad day and then I pick myself up and do what needs to be done. I have two young boys that count on me and I am not afraid of hard work. I also hope that I am a good example for my sons and my nieces in showing that you can make things happen for yourself. They may not appreciate it now but I think (hope?) they will when they are older.
Last week I had lunch with a friend at work who I only catch up with about every six months. She made a comment that I have heard many times in the last couple of years about how strong I am and how “I’ve got this”. Then she made a further comment “you have always been strong but you let the men in your life make you weak”. It is certainly something I had thought about before. And I am determined that any future relationships will be different. My strength and character should not change because it might upset the men in my life.
It seems though that being strong equates to others as I can do it alone, no help required. And some days that isn’t so. Not having a support system in place gets tough. Days like today finding me sitting in the car after dropping the boys at before school care and yelling/tearing up at my frustration at doing it all alone. At the fact that young children can change well laid plans in a heartbeat – fights over what to wear, phone calls from the school over sick children, arguments over eating dinner.
I don’t want to change my strength or determination, I will continue to be a role model for my kids and I won’t pretend to be weak again……but sometimes it would be nice to share the load. Or at least have someone to convince my kids to eat what I cooked.
As part of my eldest sons treatment plan he is currently going through serial casting. This is to try and correct the positioning of his drop foot and loosen up some of the muscles that are not working as they should. So basically it is to treat a symptom of the NF2 not the cause.
For serial casting he goes into the Royal Children’s Hospital once a week to have one cast removed and another put on. The idea behind this process is to slowly stretch and reposition his foot.
The process started last Thursday when he had the first cast put on and will continue for at least four weeks. As there are no broken bones or injuries he can walk on the cast but with the current positioning that is not possible and therefore he is on crutches.
One week into the process what have I learnt?
- The crutches that I always thought were super cool and wanted when I was at primary school are not (for parent or child) when they are your reality.
- Everything takes longer and your patience is tested when your child can’t do things as quickly as you want.
- You don’t notice how many little things a child of almost nine can do for themselves until you have to help them.
- You discover that the bath is a lot deeper than you think it is when someone has to sit down while standing on one leg and hanging the other over the edge of the bed.
- And finally as a parent you never get it right when helping a frustrated, grumpy child – you don’t let them try and do things/you don’t help them enough or you need to get something to keep their bare toes warm/why would they want a sock over the cast.
So at this stage of the process I feel very sorry for him and want to avoid him all at the same time. One week down and three to four to go……hopefully it works and the grumpiness, from both of us, is worth it.