His rules, my rules, who overrules?

His rules, my rules, who overrules?

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas… This year I feel super excited that life is quite different. This will be my second Christmas as a rockin’ single mumma. The kids are another year older and, of course, are more excited than I am. It’s been touch and go about whether they remain on Santa’s naughty or nice list. I tell you, four is definitely worse than three years of age when it comes to behavior. Anyway, I digress.

To get into the Christmas spirit, I took the kids to Santa’s Magical Kingdom. I didn’t expect it to be so BIG and so Christmas-sy. I hadn’t read much about what it was, but god I loved it. More than the kids, I think. I felt like a little kid all over again, in awe and overwhelmed by the colors, the rides and the circus. Oh my, the circus, did I mention circus folk are hot? I think I’m going to join the circus next year for a bit of fun. I’ll post some pics so you can share in my visual delight.

My sister decided to step up this year and organise a Christmas lunch for everyone. This makes life sooo much easier. We can all be in one place and relax and enjoy the festivities. The only part I don’t enjoy is trying to work with my ex on arrangements for our kids.
Last year was easy. They spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with me. I was happy for them to spend lunch with their dad and his family. My mum was in hospital and my sister and I weren’t on the best of terms. To be honest, I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate. I was two months post-separation and happy to cross it off as just another day.

I feel quite different this year. So many things have changed and I want to celebrate just how much I have achieved. As I do, I put my request to the ex to have the kids on Christmas Day for lunch. Knowing it takes him time to get his head around what that actually means for him.

He said he would probably like to have the kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. As last year, he didn’t get to wake up with them in the morning. Fair call, I thought. The most reasonable option to me would be to alternate years for Christmas lunch.
We do have a parenting plan in place, but to be honest it’s worth nothing, because things keep changing to suit the ex. I try to just remain flexible and fair when it comes to altering arrangements. That seems to have worked in most scenarios for us. Unfortunately, my ex mother-in-law was disappointed to find out that the kids wouldn’t get to her place until mid-afternoon on Christmas Day.

To make matters worse, my ex decided the kids should be with his side of the family for Christmas lunch, because his mum does more for the kids than my side. This is true, but really? Naturally, this seemed quite unfair to me and certainly not my preference. No one wants to do Christmas dinner or Christmas Eve dinner, so it appears this will always be a bone of contention between us.

I expressed I didn’t think it was a fair approach and his mum has to accept we are separated and cannot always have her way. Needless to say, the conversation went downhill from there. He retaliated by putting my family down and started saying something disgusting and untrue about my sister. In the end, I hung up. It was 9.30 on my night off and I did not need to hear that shit before bed.

You know when true healing is occurring because this time, instead of reacting and letting things eat me up inside, I went to bed calmly and ignored all three text messages and seven missed calls from him. It’s so goddam tiring to work with someone who is unreasonable and continually tries to make my life difficult.

Bar humbug.

Friends and family

Friends and family

You can’t choose your family, but you can sure as hell choose your friends!

Last week while my kids enjoyed their music class I was chatting with a friend about the rough couple of weeks I just had prior. I felt as though I was a rubber band that had come so far only to be let go of and flung right back to year ago.

There had been a series of really unpleasant interactions between my ex and I which resulted in me feeling completely powerless and bullied all over again. He told me to enjoy the last of my weekends as he was planning to move interstate and that he was flying there that weekend for an interview. When I asked about the kids and who was taking care of them he told me I was having them knowing full well I had plans already.

You think I would have learnt my lesson after three years of this bullshit, the lies, the intimidation and scare mongering, but no he’s a master narcissist and knows exactly what my trigger points are, argh more healing for me.

In the end I remembered what I had written last week about establishing really good boundaries for yourself and took back my power and decided not to engaged any further. I was inundated with text messages, but refused to play this destructive game all over again. As soon as I did that the power struggle stopped.

I’m really conscious of what I tell people, but I am getting better at sharing the painful the good, the bad and the ugly. When the conversation ended my friend she didn’t say a whole lot. I get it’s hard for people to empathize if they have never experienced something like this themselves. This is why I share my truth with you, because you get it.

Later that night I got a text message from the same friend and this is what she wrote “I was thinking about what you said today and I wanted to say that I think you are an amazing, strong women. You are handling this shitty situation with such grace, maturity and composure. I can’t believe the things that he says to you and I am sure you don’t tell me the half of it. You will be an asset to helping other women get through this and motivating them to rise above this situation and come out on top. Your kids are so very lucky to have you. I’m sure if you weren’t handling this the way you are, they would not be doing as well as they are. And I want you to know that if you ever want to drop the kids to me I would be very happy to have them so you can have a break. I can’t imagine being on call 24/7. Please take me up on the offer sometime. My girls love your kids!

My own family has never said such a thing like that this entire time! God bless some people.

Just stop doing and look for magic

Just stop doing and look for magic

As the responsible strong one, it’s never been a part of my make up to sit still. A character trait from my dad. My daughter is the same way. But when you don’t take a break, you pay a price. It’s now been more than a year since my eventful few years and my adrenal fatigue is a reminder I need to slow down.

I have been sick on and off for the past six months and if this wasn’t a BIG sign from the universe to slow down, I just got over laryngitis. (Shut up, Andrea!) I get it. But I won’t shut up nor will I go away. I will STOP, just for a bit.

It takes real practice and discipline to slow down and be comfortable with doing nothing. Particularly as a single parent, something always needs to be done. I’ve found so much momentum of late with trying to build my new business, sell my old business, maintain a part-time corporate role and look after my kids. People keep telling me it’s exhausting looking after two young kids on your own, let alone everything else I’m trying to cram in.

I uncovered a while back a hidden belief that “one day” I would meet someone and all would be taken care of. Huh. Smack in the face there. I had my own property and earn a good salary, but I also enjoyed my life and spent money along the way. So now that it’s just me and the kids, of course life is quite different. I realise I need to create my own wealth now and a financially stable future, which will provide me with freedom and, most of all, choice.

There is no longer a fall-back position, so I need to keep forging ahead with my goals. After stopping for a week (and I mean really stopping), I gained something so incredibly rich that no money could ever buy. This mini-sabbatical gave me a chance to sit back, observe and engage with my kids like never before.

I can honestly say for the first time in nearly four years, I deeply fell in love with my kids. Don’t get me wrong, I have and always will love my kids. But with everything else going on, I didn’t ever feel I had that chance to deeply bond with them in the beginning. I was just thrown into the thick of doing.

Something is very magical about looking deeply into your kids eyes or observing them from a far and watching how they interact with each other, and witnessing the sheer joy for life they have.

What an awesome, resilient pair of little cherubs I am raising. They make me laugh so much. Their imaginations are endless and, yes, they push my buttons and, yes, I still yell and get upset with them. But the very next day, guaranteed, they are both in my bed each morning giving me a big loving squeeze as I do to them.

When I stop and think, it makes me sad. In fact, I’m upset now writing about this, but one of my main reasons for leaving my ex and creating a new life was so my kids could have a fun, loving mum who was not stressed out all of the time, emotionally cut off and desperately unhappy.

Having this time with them made me see how critical it is to prioritise. Everyone always says spend the time now, as they grow up so quickly. At times, it’s bloody hard to juggle everything, but really make the time to stop and steal these magical moments for yourself. They are after all the reason we keep pushing ourselves to get through each day.

Buckets and spades

Buckets and spades, no spare coins

“So kids, how about we go to the beach today?”

“Yes, and make sure we take some food to the beach, so I don’t get hungry,” my son said.

Buckets, spades, towels, suntan lotion, hats, drink bottles, snacks, kids in car and off we went. The kids and I have developed our superpowers at manifesting car spots front and centre of where we need to be. Such a great skill when you have two littlies and only two hands.

We spotted an enormous park when we arrived, so I thought it would be a good idea to play there first until the money in the metre had run out. Then we could get an ice cream and some change to add to the metre.

Bummer. Man in the café doesn’t want to give out change as he hasn’t got much left and kids decide they don’t like their ice cream. Okay, so two ice creams in one hand, kids holding my other hand.

“Let’s find a bin, so I can dump the ice cream and we can cross the main road and find someone else that may give us some change,” I said to the kids. “Watch the cyclists, kids, walk next to me so you don’t get in the way.”

Okay, ice cream dumped. We crossed the busy road and suckered a nice young lady into giving us some change. Thank god I’ve got gorgeous kids to back me up when push comes to shove.

“Okay, kids, back across the road and time to get changed.”

I put two kids in the back of my car and get them changed in the boot of my station wagon. Gotta love big cars. Kids were looking forward to building some sandcastles and running on the sand. Beach kit thrown over one shoulder and off we went.

We found a great spot to sit. I laid out all the towels and my daughter said, “Mum, where’s the buckets?”

Oh shit.

“Okay, kids, help me pack up the towels, put your thongs back on and let’s go back to the car and get the buckets.”

My son was starting to get a bit ratty and he decided he wanted to go home now, which was more than 40 minutes away. I’d just put nearly $10 of coins in the metre.

Deep breaths, mumma. You’re trying to create a nice day for your kids. Why is it again you do this? The thoughts going through my head. I managed to convince my son to stay a while and when he was ready again, we would go. I wanted to use at least $5 worth of the parking metre money.

Two hours later, we were ready to go. I asked the kids to help me pack up. My son was pretty good at helping, but apparently I was supposed to know my daughter wanted to help pack up her things, which were already in the bag.

So the nice day out ended with my daughter having a big tantrum on the beach, crying, frothing at the mouth with shear disappointment and hysterical.

See, this is the shit that some people don’t get as a single parent. It’s these days I feel lonely and wish I had another pair of hands and someone to back me up. Someone to grab an upset child while I load up the other child and dump all the paraphernalia in the back.

Tomorrow is another day.

I broke my one cardinal rule

I broke my one cardinal rule

I copped an earful from my ex for being a half hour late to pick up the kids. It took me smack bang back to a year ago. Today, I was not in the mood.

The day started with both kids waking up and coming into my bed, as per normal, at 6:30 a.m. My son jumped into bed, but on the left side, which was ordinarily my daughter’s. She made it known she wasn’t happy and refused to get into bed until her brother moved. He refused and a hissy-fit I needed to navigate happened at 6:45 a.m. Morning, Mummy.

I managed to appease her by offering her a diversion. She could watch her favourite movie on my phone while I showered and got ready for work. Wacky Wednesdays, I call them, are my worst day of the week. I have to get the three of us ready, fed and out the door at a reasonable hour, drop the kids off to childcare, race to a bus stop and get to work just a smidge passed 9:00 a.m.

I jumped out of the shower and was greeted by my daughter, who was then adamant I put my PJs back on and jump back into bed for a cuddle. No reasonable, rationale argument was going to convince her otherwise, so tantrum number two arrived.

We made it to breakfast with me being half ready. If I could get both kids to stay at the table and eat, I could then carry on with what I was doing. My son decided to help himself to his own cereal, overflowing the bowl. I knew damn well there was no way he was going to eat all of that, so I emptied half the cereal back into the box. What the hell was I thinking? Tantrum number three.

He was wailing. “Mummy, I will eat all of my breakfast.” Calmly, I responded by saying “when you finish all of what you have in your bowl, you can have some more.” Silly Mummy. My son is even less rational than my daughter when he’s in a mood. I ended up walking away from both of them and hid in the bathroom for about five minutes just to get away.

At 8:30 a.m., I scramble to get the kids ready and finish everything I needed to do. Woo-hoo, we finally left home at 9 a.m. – great! As I start the car, the petrol alarm starts beeping. Damn it, I knew I should have filled up the tank yesterday, but no. Push it to the limits Andrea thought I would have time do it in the morning.

I finally got to the bus stop at 9:30, after filling the car up, and because I did that, I just missed a bus. 10 a fricken clock I got into work. Hell yeah, it’s gonna be a good day. My only saving grace was the ex agreed to pick up the kids from childcare. The day prior, he bought himself a new car and was running late to see the kids, so by the time he got to our house it was a quick hi, here it is kids and then bye. (Keep this scenario in the back of your head.) I stayed at work until my boss left and then I left shortly after her, as you do.

I knew I wouldn’t get to pick up the kids on time because there was traffic chaos on the roads and an accident ahead. So I sent a text advising I was going to be late. Luckily, the ex was still all wrapped up in the euphoria of having a new shining toy, so he was in a good mood.

That quickly diminished when I arrived. I shuffled the kids into the car as quick as I could and he just couldn’t help himself. He had to throw in a smart arse comment about me being selfish. If I couldn’t cope being a mother, then I shouldn’t have had kids. I broke my one cardinal rule by yelling shut up in front of the kids. For more than a year, I have managed to shut my mouth and keep my thoughts to myself when in the presence of our kids, but not today.

The whole thing was made worse because then my son told me to shut up. Such bad form. A barrage of bullshit was slung back and forth for a bit until both kids were in the car. As I reversed out of the driveway, my daughter asked for a rose from the garden. I’m thinking, “Not now, it’s not a good time to ask,” so I kept driving.

The whole interaction must have caused my son so much anxiety because he cried the whole way home saying, “Mummy, she wants a rose, go back.” He was absolutely hysterical. This whole thing could have been avoided if I had of just shut my mouth again.

To witness my son’s reaction was a big wake up call to me on just how much kids feed off our energy. I felt horrible for him. My daughter was even telling him it was okay, that she didn’t want the rose anymore, god bless her.

I knew I had a job to do to repair the damage I just caused. Besides big cuddles, I knew I needed to engage in some sort of light-hearted play with both kids to restore the harmony between us again. So like a good mother trying to make her 3.5 year olds laugh, what do you do? You pretend to fart on them. Theirs were real. Mine were not. Tacky I know, but by the end of it we were all in fits of laughter and this is the memory I want the kids to go to bed with.

Sometimes shit like this is going to happen and even though I feel terrible about what my kids witnessed, I made sure the night ended on a positive note. The next day, I sent a text to the ex apologising for my behaviour.

Eventually I got one back, but of course it was my entire fault again! xx

Not enough self-love can cause accidents

Not enough self-love can cause accidents

I got Christmas shopping out of the way early. How good did I feel? I say every year I’ll get it done ahead of time and never do. I was running around like a mad cat on Saturday, but was pretty happy with my achievements. I had to fit two days’ worth of chores and events into one. The ex was after a Saturday night without the kids, so I agreed to grant his wish.

I was in the car when I received a text message from my ex asking what the hell I do with my time and how I choose to fill it. (Because I mentioned I was rushing around.) He then went on to say how mothers cope with all of this, looking after two kids full time and that he manages to get everything done on a Saturday even with the kids around.

My antenna was up. I’m good at spotting an argument now, so I just ignored the message. I started reversing the car out of the car spot and BANG, I clipped the side of a metal post in the ground next to me. Damn it. Nearly ripped the entire bumper off.

I was quite upset afterward, more so with myself for letting his opinions penetrate my thoughts. I didn’t blame him for the accident, but clearly I was distracted. Each time I think I’ve passed another wave of crap, another reminder shows up of more to get through.

After I got over being pissed off, I reflected and asked myself what the lesson was. It became clearer that a small part of me still lives in hope my ex will one day just show me some kindness. He will find positive things to say about the job I’m doing with our gorgeous kids instead of focusing on the negative all the time. As the eternal optimist, negativity just gets up my goat.

It makes me laugh even now writing this because it’s never going to happen like that. It’s not who he is.

Then this blog post came into my FB feed by Jennifer Hoffman, which reaffirmed everything I had realised. (Her link below if you would like to read the full post)

“It is not easy to forgive someone who has hurt us, and release the entire situation without looking back on what could or might have been if they had been different. Depending on how emotionally involved we are, or how much we expect from that person, the line between forgiveness and redemption blurs as we stand in the possibility of forgiveness and want to give them one more chance to ‘do it right’ or take the moral high ground, before we let them go. But we’re doing this for us, not for them, because we want acknowledgement of our own truth — that we deserved better from them.”


The turning point

The turning point

One Saturday afternoon when the kids were with their dad, I sat on the end of my bed feeling particularly angry and resentful. Like a broken record, a message someone wise told me kept playing in my head.

“What purpose does it serve you to keep feeling like this?”

No fing purpose at all was my answer. It made me ill and I couldn’t see an end in sight. I decided to make a phone call to someone who I only just met. She had been through a similar set of circumstances and I felt as though I could talk to her easily. So I stopped feeling sorry for myself and reached out to her.

It took a while before we could have a good conversation, but she was flattered I asked for her help and said she felt honoured. But she went on to say she wasn’t qualified or anything. I said I didn’t want bullshit qualifications to help me through practical steps that in theory sounded great. I was after real advice and hoped things could change.

We never got the chance to meet until much further down the track, but she left me with one profound piece of advice: “Andrea, the only way to get through this is to show your ex-partner love.” I nearly gagged at the thought.

That message took a while to sink in, but it did eventually. I understood perfectly what she meant. I knew exactly where I needed to start and, in order for me to show him love, I needed to feel love, not from him, but love for myself. And so the journey inward began.

What to do when your ex moves on

What to do when your ex moves on

I had one request of my ex when I left. I asked that when he was ready to move on, knowing full well it wouldn’t take him long after I left, that he let me know if that person was going to be in his life long-term. I wanted us to manage it together as a positive change with our kids. He agreed.

I knew long ago I couldn’t control his actions. I could only express a preference. I hoped by now he could see the intentions behind all of my requests: to manage things collaboratively for the sake of our kids.

We have both done an amazing job of supporting our kids through every phase of separation and continue to both be present in their lives. I want their best interests to lead the process. I was cognizant of the fact that no matter what we did to help them through this, they would be grieving for the loss of the “traditional family” too.

One day my daughter mentioned one of her dad’s an old acquaintances, which took me by surprise. I questioned him about it. One thing I promised myself I would never do was load my kids up with a thousand questions about what they were doing with their dad all weekend. I strongly believe kids don’t need the added pressure of this. I let them tell me what they like and the rest stays with them.

My ex said the kids met X, without sharing details. I let it go. There wasn’t much else I could do. Two weeks later, I received a text from my ex saying he was ready for another relationship.

When the kids came back to me the following day, my daughter told me X had read her a story before bed. “Nice,” I thought. “Someone else reading my kids a story before bed. Someone they had only just met once.”

I got angry and felt disrespected and territorial around my kids. Naturally, there was a less than desirable exchange of text messages between my ex and me. The conversation then quickly turned to me and what I should and shouldn’t do when I met someone. His threats started and his conditions were laid out. This has continued for more than a week now.

“What the heck?” I thought. “I don’t need to put up with this sh*t anymore. This is what I left behind. I don’t need to listen to this anymore.”

I chose not to enter into a further downward spiral of conversation. I just stopped replying.

You don’t have to antagonize the other person, nor do you need to participate in a conversation that is no longer constructive or about your kids. It’s going to happen eventually that either your ex or you moves on. If you have children, you need to continue to have a relationship with your ex regardless. For everyone’s peace of mind, it needs to be harmonious for the most part.

Yes, you will continue to trigger each other and emotions will continue to rise, but establish good boundaries about what you are willing to tolerate. It could be a simple as saying, “You’ve crossed the line, so let’s leave it there until we are both in a position to discuss this more calmly.”

The ugly truth

The ugly truth

Most people around me would say it’s hard to get to know me. I always appear strong and confident and I’ve never been one to express my feelings. I tend to keep them locked away. Sure I told a few friends bits and pieces of what happened, but not to the magnitude of what I experienced.

I needed to talk, let it all out. I wanted to scream out to the world how hurt I felt, how let down I felt. How the freaking hell did I end up in a relationship, so destructive. Everyone else I had dated adored who I was. Heck, I even liked who I was. I wanted to yell, “How dare you treat me with so much cruelty, nastiness and disrespect when I was going through the most difficult time in my life.”

I felt robbed that I lost the one person who would have adored my kids and helped me with raising them, my dad. I was angry I never really got to celebrate the birth of my kids or enjoy being a mother, because all of it was overshadowed by my dad dying at the same time. I hated that people were judging me without knowing the suffering I experienced. The most hurtful thing of all was it felt a though everything going on around me was completely out of my control. And my ex-partner didn’t know how to support me, or didn’t like coming last.

This is the shiz I never told anyone and needed to. I was beginning to adopt a victim mentality and a victim is one thing I will never be.

The burden of responsibility

The burden of responsibility

With some of the major hurdles like Christmas and the kids’ third birthday out of the way, and my mum beginning to improve from her breakdown, it was time to focus on me. After two years of feeling completely numb, a lot of emotions began to bubble up to the surface.

I recognised things were changing in a way I didn’t like, particularly my reaction toward the kids when they were misbehaving. I hated that I would scream and yell at them. The underlying issue I wasn’t addressing was I hated who I had become and where I was in my life. Hell, I spent many years in human resources, change management, transformation and leadership coaching and counselling people, and I knew there were more constructive ways to deal with things.

I had no one to back me up anymore or take over when I had enough. It was just me and I needed to find a better way. All I craved at that point was some quiet time and a chance to unwind, reflect and reenergise, so I could do it all again the next day.

As reality began to settle in, so did the pressure in my head. The burden of responsibility continued to weigh me down. I knew if I didn’t change things quickly, then I would be vulnerable to a breakdown too.

I must be made of tough stuff because how I got through all of this shit I’ll never know. Well actually I do know, my brain went into self-protection mode and shut down. I disconnected from myself and was in pure survival mode.