The Grass Isn’t Always Greener.

This time 30 years ago, me, my ex husband and two kids (which included a 3 month old) sold everything and went to start a new life in Australia. It wasn’t ever a dream of ours, it was just that the opportunity came when my ex was offered a job in Melbourne so we decided to sell up with the intention of never coming back.

At the time the job was offered we had a two year old and I was expecting a second child, and where my husband’s new boss was sympathetic to a degree, he wasn’t prepared to wait for months for my husband to start his new position so I was left behind for a few weeks trying to sell a house and keep everything going until he came back just before our second child was born. Three months later we were on our way.

Luckily for us my husband’s firm put us up in a rented house for three months while we looked around for our own place to buy, (we called the police one night when we thought we had burglars but it was just a possum on the roof, yeah, that didn’t go down well) which eventually we found in a place called Sunbury, a small up and coming town which was a really nice place with most of the houses very similar to the ones seen in “Neighbours”, large bungalows with huge gardens ideal for families. So there we were, ready to start our new life. One of the first thing’s I did was to get my older child into a nursery just so he could make new friends and have some sort of routine after dragging him away from everyone he knew and of course he loved it, which left just me and my girl all day everyday, so in order to go anywhere I learnt to drive but never had the confidence to drive very far, in fact I’ve not driven for 25 years and never missed it.

What I hadn’t bargained for was the wildlife. If it walks, swims or flies in Australia then it bites, even if it’s not poisonous so the spiders became an issue. I did used to have a fear of spiders but living there cured me of that as we have absolutely nothing here compared to the so many different species that can harm you there. Unfortunately all the snakes in the area we lived were poisonous so there was no way I was prepared to let the kids play out in the garden, and there seemed to be plagues of things that only lasted a couple of weeks but you just felt like you were getting attacked from all angles.

Before we emigrated I had heard that Australia was a bit behind the times when it came to how they treat women but I wasn’t convinced of this until we decided to go out one Saturday night. Where we lived there were three pubs in the centre of town (c’mon how many do you need?) so we got a babysitter, got dressed up and decided to try them. Believe it or not I wasn’t allowed in two of the pubs because I was female so we tried the third. As we walked in it was obvious that the ladies didn’t really frequent the pubs where we lived, as it was full of men in vest tops, shorts and flip flops, to say that we stood out like a sore thumb was an understatement, we didn’t even finish our drinks before we decided to leave and that was the one and only time we ventured into the bright lights of our town centre for a night out.

I tried, I really did but I was becoming really homesick. I missed my friends, my social life, my job and as much as I’d made a few friends in Oz I was never going to adapt to going to the odd  tupperware party as the highlight of my social life, so although I understood why my ex didn’t want to come back (it is a man’s country) he could understand why I couldn’t stay. We came back after two years but there’s no regrets, I’m glad I went even if it wasn’t for me and I would say to anyone that if it’s what you want then go for it.

The grass isn’t always greener.

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Don’t Be That Parent.

Ok so Christmas is coming and  everybody’s making plans, presents to be bought, social events to be organised, party outfits to find (as well as extra cash) there are trees to decorate, all the food to buy, cards to write and let’s not forget that the true message of Christmas is, peace to all mankind.

Unless of course you’re a single parent trying to negotiate with your ex as to who’s having the kids and when.

This never gets any easier until the kids have grown up to be adults (yes it does happen) but this is the perfect time for some parents, and I’m going to say women here as they are usually, not always I know, the single parent trying their damn best to bring their children up as normal human beings, to use the kids as weapons and I can totally understand. If your ex hasn’t paid any money towards the upkeep of their own kids, only bothered once in a blue moon to actually turn up on a Saturday morning to take them to McDonald’s, never shown an interest in how their own children are doing in school, maybe caused a bit of trouble when any guy has shown an interest in you, maybe even started a couple of malicious rumours about you, introduced them to every single female that he’s been sleeping with then Christmas can seem the perfect opportunity for payback. It is very very tempting to tell these idiots that no, they won’t be spending any time with their own children over the festive period as they’ve been useless fathers all year and anyway you and the kids are going to be far too busy so there just won’t be any time.

Very tempting.

It’s probably safe to say that a lot of single parents have wanted to do this at some time, as it seems so unfair that you’ve had to put in all the hard work all year, so why should the absent parent get all the good bits? Your ex rocks up with a couple of tacky cheap presents and a huge bar of chocolate and the kids think it’s great and you’re having sleepless nights wondering how you’re going to pay the gas bill. Then your blood pressure’s going through the roof as he’s telling you he can’t take the kids on holiday as promised next summer as he’s already booked for Ibiza with his latest girlfriend so it looks like it’s going to be you and the kids in your grandma’s caravan in Fleetwood in the 6 week holidays. There’s no justice is there?

Just take a step back and look at the big picture.

By denying access you will unwittingly make your ex into a super hero. You will be seen as the bad guy as you’re the one stopping them having a relationship even though you might think you have good reasons. Children don’t usually know the ins and outs of why/how the relationship between their parents broke down they just need to know that it wasn’t their fault and that they are still  loved by both parents. Denying time spent with their father means that they won’t get to see the traits that you know (and hate) the less they see of him means they can put him on a pedestal instead of seeing that actually, he has feet of clay. Don’t threaten to stop him seeing the kids when he lets them down yet again and doesn’t turn up on Saturday morning (and you’re dealing with the fallout) because eventually the kids will see that he’s unreliable. Don’t threaten to stop the kids from going on holiday with him, or shopping, or Nando’s or any time he chooses to spend with his kids because you’re trying to protect them from being let down again, eventually they’ll work it out for themselves. They’ll make their own minds up but let’s not forget that you didn’t make this little person all by yourself, it did take two. As much as you hate it there is no way around it and there’s something you need to realise. The bigger picture means that there will be graduations, weddings and christenings where children will want both parents to be present, and even if you are not exactly best friends, hopefully you can be civil to each other if only for a day.

It’s hard being a single parent. It’s hard being both good cop, bad cop and not being able to say “Wait until your father gets home!” It’s hard knowing you have little people totally dependent on you for everything. It’s hard trying to be strong in front of them when you’re having a particularly bad week.  It’s hard trying to teach them a moral compass as to what’s right and wrong and it’s hard when you have no support from the person you should be having support from.

In return hopefully you will have the best friendship with your kids when they become adults, and if you’ve done your job right they will love you unconditionally  and when someone asks you “Would you change anything?”  you can truthfully answer “No”.   So in a way you’re in a good position believe it or not, which means as it’s Christmas and really you want to do the right thing I say this.

You can afford to throw your ex some crumbs from your table.

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What I Did On My Holidays

Not a lot, but that was supposed to be the whole point, so it did mean that I could indulge in one of my favourite things to do, which is people watching. In a large, busy hotel I had plenty to watch and sad to say, a few of the usual stereotypes were in evidence as they are in any all inclusive hotel.

You’re always going to get the mums and dads who, having been high-fived by one of the animation team, now think that they’re best mates and won’t leave Jose/Giuseppe/Lucy alone, even pushing their own kids out of the way to get a photo taken with their new bestie. Alternatively you always get that one kid who goes and follows the team everywhere, signing up for everything and not making friends with any of the other kids as they’re too busy stalking.

I watched parents with questionable parenting skills in the restaurant, allowing a child to watch a dvd on a portable player, or playing computer games, while everyone on the table is having dinner, and watched as mum or dad even fed the child instead of making the 4/5/6 year old feed themselves. God forbid there’s any interaction and learning  table manners.

I watched as a large group of Germans dragged a number of sunbeds and every available parasol to make their own version of Ocean Beach, playing loud music on their own sound system which was competing with the thousand decibels being played out by the hotel sound system, while parading around with a bottle of vodka bought in the local supermarket. In an all inclusive hotel.

I watched as a young dad gave his two year old son a glass full of orange juice, and as he left him for a moment to get his own drink, the little boy dropped the glass spilling the drink everywhere. I watched as a quick thinking cleaner working nearby, reached out and grabbed the boy by the hood of his beach towel stopping him from slipping and falling on the glass. And I watched as the dad turned around just at that moment and glared at the cleaner, instead of thanking her for saving his son from having a nasty accident.

I watched too many young girls and guys thinking they were super hot, probably thinking they should be on Love Island, parading around, but with the personality of a cobweb.

I watched as impatient people waited for the chains to be unlocked on the sunbeds in the morning. which would only happen when the cleaners had finished sweeping and cleaning around the pool so it was a nicer environment to sunbathe in. One morning, someone figured out how to get the sunbeds off with the chains still on and I’m ashamed to say it was a British person who then proceeded to take the sunbeds off while the cleaners begged him to wait for five minutes while they finished their job.

I’ve watched while a man has wanted me and my daughter to leave a table outside as he insisted he have it as he had a baby in a pram even though he was with a party of six or seven of them and our table could only seat four (at a push).

But I didn’t see everything.

On the last morning of the holiday, I went and reserved our sunbeds by the pool as we weren’t getting picked up until about 6 o’clock. We probably spent more time than we should having breakfast and packing our stuff ready to go home, so when we finally made it to the sunbeds our towels were gone and two people were using the beds. On a mission to find the towels I saw a manager walking around and asked her where they were likely to be. She sent me to the bar by the pool, who subsequently sent me to reception, and they sent me to the lifeguard who didn’t understand a word I said. So I didn’t see who swiped the towels, and I never got them back, so needless to say they’re probably getting rented out by the hotel to people who’ve had the same thing happen to them.

What can I say, I might  have been distracted by one of the fitties parading around in his trunks at the time it happened.

Maybe.

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Long Distance Love.

One of the things unique to older dating is the difficulty of a long distance relationship, as there are usually a few reasons why this won’t work out so whenever I get a message from someone who lives too far away, I say right from the start there is no point pursuing it. This never seems to put the guys off though, even when I say I don’t drive  they always say that they wouldn’t mind doing all the travelling, there are trains etc, but I know that eventually it will all end in tears because none of us, in the end, will compromise.

When you’re young it’s not such a big deal to move to another town or city for whatever reason, University, career, or a love interest as it’s easier to make a new life when you’ve got the confidence, plus, you’ve always got the safety net of being able to go back “home” if it doesn’t work out. Fast forward 30 years and it’s entirely different, as a lot of obstacles have appeared that weren’t there before such as leaving children and possibly grandchildren behind, old friends, a job, a house,and a life that has slowly been built up over the years so it’s understandable that for most women, when it comes to it, it’s hard to make that leap into a new life where you’ve moved to another town/city to be with a new partner so it’s easier not to.

For most older men the reasons are different. A man will quite happily embrace the idea of a woman coming to spend the odd weekend with him and while he’s making noises about how he’d relocate and up sticks to live with you he would probably prefer it if you bought a house on the next street, so that way his life can carry on in the same routine and he wouldn’t have to get rid of the pet budgie. Old dogs, new tricks. At the end of the day, the longer you’re on your own the harder it is to compromise on some things, but a move to somewhere new is probably not going to happen for a lot of older daters. I must admit though I would probably make an exception for someone who lived in another country, preferably hot, like Spain, where I could visit whenever possible and then when it came to moving I could claim that the language barrier was a problem (even though he’s English) but think how many holidays I could have…

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Ghosts of Christmas Past.

With Christmas practically upon us I have to say that for me (and thousands of others) it’s not the same now that the kids have grown up, and yet it doesn’t seem two minutes since we were writing out the Christmas lists for Father Christmas. Two minutes, also a lifetime ago, but I remember it well.

Although it’s a busy stressful time of year it’s also enjoyable trying to juggle work with attending nativity plays, carol singing concerts, school Christmas fayres and spending a great deal of time trying to track down the most popular toy of the year. As parents we all want to make sure that our children have the best possible Christmas that we can give them, so of course we want to get them the main present on the wanted list which will always be the one thing that you can’t get for love or money.( My Little Pony Princess Bride springs to mind) and this quest will consume all your spare time trying to track it down. Trust me, after opening all the thousands of presents they get the disappointment of not getting their little heart’s desire will not even register, but unfortunately you will have cultivated a few grey hairs and worry lines in the process.

Back in the day you couldn’t just walk into a supermarket and pick up a fancy dress costume for the nativity, you either had to make your own or hope that something could be fashioned out of the school’s dressing-up box. Waiting to hear which child had which part would either mean having to find some green felt as they’d been given the part of a blade of grass, or a white sheet for a star with some silver tinsel wrapped around the head, and everyone knows the old trick of a tea towel with a crown on top for one of the three wise men. It didn’t matter if any of the kids forgot their lines,(which usually happens when they see mum and dad) it was seeing all of them singing and getting into the whole nativity thing, but you can bet that there will always be that group of mothers who are sat there, seething because their little cherub hasn’t got a main part.

Christmas eve when you have young children is a lovely lovely day. The Snowman is always shown on Christmas eve and then you have the rituals of leaving a mince pie and a drink for Father Christmas with a couple of carrots for the reindeer although looking back there must have been a hell of a fight between them if every house only left one or two carrots between eight of them. What it shouldn’t involve is having to go outside to retrieve a bike that’s hidden in the garden shed, slipping on the back step that has iced over when the temperature dropped, and lying there convinced you’ve broken your leg while realising that no one can see or hear you, and no, there’s going to be no magic sleigh transporting you to A&E.

We all know what happens on Christmas day, watching the presents being ripped open, looking at the sheer joy on little kid’s faces, so what if you’re all on beans on toast all of January? Christmas is for children but as you get older you realise it’s not what’s under the tree, it’s who’s around it that matters so with that in mind, Merry Christmas.

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A Cautionary Tale.

As Christmas fast approaches, anyone with children will know that not only will you have your own social diary to organise but at some point you’ll have to attend nativity plays, Christmas carol concerts and the obligatory fundraiser known as the school Christmas Fayre. The latter is more of a social event for all the mums and dads really, as the ones I went to when my own kids were at primary school sold alcohol and were usually held in the evening. The dads were to be found sat as close to the bar as possible, while the mums were sat in the main hall trading any gossip they had and keeping an eye on the kids at the same time.

One particular Christmas 3 or 4 of us ladies thought we’d live a little and have a plastic cup of warm white wine from the “bar.”  (we’re talking a school fayre kiddos, we’re not at The Alchemist) I’m not quite sure if we had more than two but I doubt it as the event finished around 9 0’clock and it was hardly pinot grigio but on the walk home I started to feel really unwell. I was staggering all over the place, dropping my keys in the snow and  falling over which the kids found funny at first until I eventually got in to the house. Once I was inside I knew I was in big trouble as by now I could hardly walk and as the kids put me to bed I was throwing up all over the place. Lying down I couldn’t lift my head up and it did cross my mind that I might actually choke on my own vomit but there was nothing I could do. I could see the headline.”Woman found clutching a tea towel that she’d won on the tombola” but would they name the school? At the time I thought maybe I’d had a dodgy wine but a couple of days later I found out that all the other ladies had also been really ill.

So this is what I think happened.

I think maybe someone on the committee had made some home made wine (it was probably Sheila, she can’t bear to be left out) and thought what a good idea it would be to sell it over the bar as a good way of making money for the school. No one saw the bottle it came out of, never mind the label on it and let’s face it, we’re not going to ask which vineyard that particular grape came from when it’s been poured into a plastic cup. So just a word of warning ladies when you’re attending this year’s school fundraiser. While you don’t expect a top of the range wine at these social school events you should hope that at the very least you don’t get alcoholic poisoning from them but having said that I’m pretty sure it’s not a usual occurrence. If in doubt, offer to buy a drink for the person who’s been flirting with your partner all evening. Just saying.

 

 

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Shhh….You’re Showing Your Age.

I don’t usually follow mummy bloggers as they’re not really relevant to my life, seeing as I don’t need to know where I can buy a headband for Lucy that matches Freddie’s socks for a party, or which cotton buds are the best to use, but now and again I do read a couple of the mummy blogs who had their children when they were over 30 and unfortunately, a couple of them lately seem to have a similar theme. Talking about not being afraid of getting older, we should be looking forward to it as we’re all so fabulous and we’ll always be this way, so what if society doesn’t like older people  we shall make them notice us, blah blah bloody blah.

You haven’t got a clue as to what it’s really like to be a woman in her 50’s.

I used to be you. I used to be a younger vibrant woman with 2.4 kids living with a husband who goes out to work while I had a part time job, but back then I wasn’t blogging about what to give your kids for breakfast as there was no internet and I’m not actually sure that I would have been to be honest. A woman in her 30’s is a lot more confident than a woman in her 20’s and it’s easy to adopt the mindset of really not caring too much about getting older and as much as I love that idea the truth is a bit different.

Getting older doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a slow insidious process that you don’t really notice until one day you look in the mirror and see your mother looking back at you. You’ve accepted that you no longer turn heads when walking down the street, you’re now probably the last person to be served at the bar (when did that happen? You used to be the first!) your opinion isn’t valued anymore as what could you possibly know at your age? You use the anti ageing creams, still take an interest in clothes and make up, maybe had a little help with botox and fillers but no, you’re still wearing that invisibility cloak that someone threw over you when you weren’t looking. But it’s not just about the visible signs of ageing that we have to contend with.

Getting older also means you’ve probably experienced a few life changing events, and getting divorced is one of them. No one gets married to get divorced and while the writing’s probably been on the wall for a long time before you actually make that life changing decision (9 times out of 10 the woman will want the divorce) it’s a horrible thing to go through, especially with children involved and your confidence will have taken a huge knock. Not many people come through it unscathed but hopefully you’ll have had lots of support.

Getting older also means having to go through menopause.This is a bit like being a teenager with the mood swings and crying for absolutely no reason due to the massive hormonal change that’s happening in your body, and even though you know damn well you’re being ridiculous you just can’t help it. For some women this can be a very traumatic time as this can go on for a few years.

And let’s not even start on health issues.

Which brings me to the very real “empty nest syndrome”. Any women who have had children will always say that they’re looking forward to the day when the kids leave home and at the time they will mean it. No more mess, loud music, picking them up from here there and everywhere, teenage tantrums, a procession of different boyfriends/girlfriends that you’re having trouble remembering their name, until it happens. Usually they’ve gone to Uni, or moved out to live with friends and after a few weeks when it feels like a holiday the reality sets in. They’re not coming back. Wandering aimlessly through the house with time to kill because now you’re not washing/ironing/cooking for them is a lonely time for some women. All these years you’ve been defined as being a mother, even though you’ve probably worked, but because you’ve been so busy with the kids, friendships might have been neglected, or you could have moved to a new place in the past couple of years or have had to look after an ill relative, all these things have contributed to where you are now. Lonely, older, and wondering what the hell life has to offer now.

So while you younger women might pay lip service to us fabulous older women, the truth is we had to coax that young, independent, confident and fearless woman that we used to be, to come out and show herself again in order for us to appreciate and enjoy our life. Picking up pieces that we didn’t actually drop but had slipped through our grasp, finding our way again to where we felt we belonged, and as our confidence grew it enabled us to become the fabulous creature that you see today. I understand what these younger ladies are trying to say and years ago I’m pretty certain I said the same thing, but as much as we all like to think we’re going to stick two fingers up to society when we get older the truth is, by the time you get to middle age, you’re just grateful to still be here.

 

 

Shh

 

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