And Breathe…

…Or collapse on the couch and pass out from sheer exhaustion!

I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly what I do at approx 5:04 p.m. every second Friday afternoon when The Ex has picked the kids up and taken them back to his for the weekend.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how you manage to keep it all together right up until that very moment when the kids are in someone else’s charge and you can relax? Well, not particularly funny, let’s be honest here – but it is a tad on the remarkable side.

The way it usually goes with me is, The Ex knocks on the front door, the dog goes berserk, the kids run upstairs to get changed out of their uniforms (it’s as though I haven’t been nagging them to do just that for the past hour and a half) and I feel overwhelmed by a sudden flood of emotions. The flood goes something like this, pretty much in this order:

  1. JOY. Because any minute now, I’ll have the whole house to myself and I’ll be able to do precisely what I want, exactly how I want to do it and with whom (i.e. watch Come Dine With Me with Cookie). This feeling usually lasts for about three minutes after I’ve waved the kids goodbye and run back into the house.  Then I feel a rush of…
  2. SORROW. Because I miss them so much when they’re not here! I stare longingly at some chucked-on-the-floor school jumper, sigh and pick it up, even bravely bringing said jumper to my nose sometimes so I can breathe in the smell of my little darlings. I get top notes of mud, school disinfectant and Comfort Pure fabric softener, which make me smile. Wistfully, I look out of my son’s bedroom window and watch families laughing as they walk hand in hand to the local Italian restaurant for an early dinner before they head home for popcorn and a Disney movie. And then the
  3. GUILT hits hard. I mean, am I sure I did enough to try to save my marriage? Really? Those poor little mites – they never asked for any of this. And how would they know how much I love and miss them when I yell at them so much when they are here?! At this point I usually shake my head from side to side, like Cookie does when he comes out of the Thames dripping wet – in an effort to rid myself of the unpleasant way these thoughts are going. Which works pretty well, actually, because before I know it, I’m consumed by
  4. DELIRIUM. And thank God for that! Now, with all this nervous energy, I might be able to clean out all the cupboards and organise the Oxfam bags and wash the floors and tidy the bedrooms and de-scale the shower heads and defrost the fridge and get to Saino’s for a good solid weekly shop and Hoover the cobwebs from the ceiling corners and clear out the pantry and tidy the kitchen table and put those photos in frames and go on a 10K walk with the dog and talk to friends freely on the phone and… But suddenly that’s all an impossible dream because at the mere thought of all that domestic activity, I’m felled with complete and utter
  5. EXHAUSTION.

Which is, I imagine, precisely why I woke up on the couch last Friday night, just in time to see Graham Norton kissing Dawn French hello on the telly. Last thing I remember, I was sitting down for a sec before I made myself an Options hot choc (ie low-cal, low-fat and so good for you, it’s probably one of your five a day), stroking Cookie’s head and wondering which amazing thing I would do first, now that I had all the time in the world and all the zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I watched a bit of Graham Norton, then dragged myself upstairs and slept in my daughter’s bed. Until 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. Honestly, I was so knackered, I could have slept forever. And I probably would have if Cookie hadn’t whined and scratched and woofed at the back door so loudly in an effort to get me to come downstairs and open it for him.

Then on Sunday morning, when I woke up at the usual weekend time of 7 a.m., I was girding my loins for unpacking the dishwasher while listening to the radio wittering on about the severe weather to come, when I opened up the back door for Cooks and WOAH! There was at least an inch of snow on the ground! And it was still actually snowing! I raced to my phone and called my daughter. She was with her little brother, waking their daddy up – and they were both nearly as excited as me.

We swapped photos on WhatsApp – hers were of the blanket of snow covering the grassy bit outside The Ex’s flat and mine were of the bright white path to the back garden, my son’s Batman bike and our filthy-with-mud car covered with snow in the front.

And that’s when I really felt the stab in the heart. Not because it’s the first time I’ve seen our white car looking as, um, white as the day we got it nearly two years ago, but because I wished I was there with the kids. Or, rather, that they were here with me, in their house, in their back yard, with their demented dog running amok in the crunchy snow.

Because in the end, to paraphrase Prince in Take Me With U, I don’t care where we are, as long as we’re together.

I tell myself to remember this feeling, hold onto it for dear life, because along with my temper, these sentiments are quickly lost in the face of warring siblings and the chaos and clutter of daily life.

But I disobey myself in fine style within, ooh, three minutes (tops) of the kids coming home.

‘Hello my Lovely Loves!’ my voice breaks with emotion as I usher the kids into the house.

‘We had the BEST day! Daddy was AMAZING!’

‘Wasn’t the snow beautiful?’ I nod, my smile ever so slightly fading.

‘We had snowball fights and built a snowman and -‘

‘Er, Cookie found a mouse in the meadow…’

‘What’s for dinner?’ My daughter asks.

‘Yeah,’ my son chirrups, ‘I’m starving!’

‘Well, hang on – take your coats and shoes off – don’t get slush all over the floor – and get your muddy shoes off the rug, I just Hoovered all Cookie’s fur off it – God knows it’s seen better days – whose stupid idea was it to get a cream-coloured rug in the first place? And JEEZ! Don’t just drop your sopping wet stuff on the floor and leave it there! Who do you think will pick it up? The same fairies who flush the loo for you and make sure you always have clean undies?!’

And so the next fortnight of dazzling Mother of The Year behaviour begins.

But what about you? Does any of the above sound familiar? And, if so, how do you manage to hold your temper and bite your tongue in the interests of domestic harmony? Let me know in the comments – all advice gratefully received!!!

See you soon,

Mink x

 

The Big Sick

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again – when all kinds of coughs, colds, loathsome lurgies and f***-off flus conspire against you and your kids to really knock you off your perch. Don’t you just love it?!

First one to go down in our fam this year was, of course, me. But could I take some time out, take to my (sofa)bed and sleep it off? Could I ‘b***ocks. No one gave me any Nurofen and Calpol, took my temperature, cooed ‘you poor little mite’ and made me hot chocolates. No one gave a frogt’s fat arse. And, weirdly enough, neither did I.

In fact, I looked upon my raging, unable-to-bring-up-any-phlegm wheezy cough as a sign that perhaps now wasn’t the best time to take up smoking again and that maybe I should finally get that leak in our heating system seen to.

So, despite the fact it costs £84.00 just to get a heating engineer to come round and say: ‘Hmmm, let me fart about with your boiler for an hour or so and then tighten up a nut on your radiator, which you could’ve done yourself, love, for free’, I went for it. In the interests of health and safety, I had no choice.

But I was too late. Just as my month-long cough started to subside somewhat (or I could laugh without having a coughing fit, at least), my son, the Sunshiney Seven Year Old, came down with it and hit the dirt. Hard.

When the school called on Wednesday afternoon, I raced round there in the car – even though it’s a 3-minute walk, tops – bundled him into it and said, in my best caring mum voice: ‘Let’s get you home, Darling, out of your uniform, into your jimjams, onto that couch and doped up to the eyeballs on Calpol, watching whatever crap you want on the telly, so I can get some work done’.

Which sounded like a fine plan and I even thought for a second it was crazy enough to work – but I was the crazy one.

Because although he was sweating and burning up one minute, shivering and freezing the next, he didn’t want to settle down, take it easy, doze on the couch and watch rubbish TV -he wanted to play. With me!

And not the kind of playing which involves you muttering ‘ooh, that’s clever’ or ‘well done, Big Man’ every hour or so – no. He wanted to play chess. Then Seek and Find (giant Where’s Wally-type of pictures with tiny objects placed randomly in them, which you have to find).

It wasn’t until I taught him how to draw a bottom passing wind that things got interesting. Not that I’m always drawing profiles of rear ends with gusts of wind being fast propelled out of them or anything – it just looked like a clown in one of the Seek and Find pictures was a little bit gassy, which made us laugh (as farts invariably do, I find – even the word ‘fart’ is funny, don’t you think?)

Anyway, precisely bugger-all work got done that afternoon and by 5:15, when my daughter got home, both my son and I were passed out on the sofa bed with Cookie lying between us, sweating like waterfalls, as sick as dogs.

‘Mum!’ I heard her burst through the front door, ‘I’m going to be siiiiii-‘.

As she ran to the downstairs loo, I hauled myself up out of the sofa bed and steadied myself. I’d only just sat up and I could see stars, I was so dizzy.

I woozily went to tend to my poorly first-born and got short shrift.

‘Leave me ALONE!’ she screamed, nano-seconds before she was sick. All over the bathroom walls and even the ceiling by the sound of it.

On the way back to the sofa bed, I saw a pile of vomit on the kitchen rug just near the cooker.  There were bits of bark and some rubber from a recently-burst red balloon in amongst the yellow porridgey-looking pile, which might sound obvious, but took me a few minutes to realise…Cookie! Even he was getting in on the sick act.

So what did I do? What could I do? I scraped up the spew into a plastic bag, chucked that in the bin, bunged the kitchen rug into the washing machine, washed my hands a hundred times, got my daughter organised into her pyjamas and left her with Cookie and my son on the sofa bed to bicker between them about what to watch.

And that’s pretty much how the rest of the week went for us – no school, no work and no bloody respite, with me running up and down stairs, administering medicines, calling the NHS intermittently, googling flu symptoms and what to do when fevers just won’t abate and collapsing on the stairs for five minutes every few hours – or ‘being lazy’ as my darling girl calls it.

It was a nightmare. As it always is when kids get sick, throw your routine out and the wheels come off big time.

But the worst bit? The Sunshiney Seven Year Old won at chess. All four times we played. And I wasn’t even letting him.

So anyway, that was my week. How was yours?

Lots of love (just don’t get **coughs, splutters** too close),

Mink x

PS – I’m banging on in that most august of publications, The Henley Standard, about how we should remember there are only 12 days of Christmas – and none of them are in November, if you fancy a read. Just saying…!

How To Be A Single Mum

Well hello there!

And welcome to howtobeasinglemum.com. It’s taken me an age to put something up here – not because I’m lazy (despite what The Ex might say) or I didn’t know what to write about (trust me, lack of material is not my problem) – it’s simply because I’m so completely and utterly rubbish with technology.

I’m not exaggerating – attaching a word document to an email is as good as it gets with me. And if I manage to do that, I celebrate with a cup of tea and one (packet) of those chocolate-coated sour cherry shortbread biscuits from the Co-op. Have you tried them yet? If not, I’d hurry and grab a box if I were you – stocks are depleting fast. I mean, talk about yumsters.

But back to the techy stuff. Honestly, it’s taken me three months just to figure out that I can take a picture of my phone, upload it to my computer and then, somehow, by way of some sort of crazy magic, click on some random, but weirdly correct buttons and that picture will appear at the top of this post. Imagine my surprise! Mind you, it’s all happened by accident, so God knows whether I’ll be able to do it again – but hey! Major achievement for the day done and dusted or what?!

But while you’re here, I just wanted to let you in on a few secrets about the above pic that my darling daughter, The Eleventeen Year Old (AKA the Narky Nine Year Old and the Ten Year Old Teenager) drew after we’d moved to the country on our own.

You may not know this, but the figure in the middle? The woman in a dress looking decidedly in control, complete with lovely long hair, a big smile and an impossibly slim waist? That’s my daughter. The person on her left is her baby bro, The Sunshiney Seven Year Old (AKA the Farty Five Year Old and the Smelly Six Year Old) and the person to her right at the top of the page is, yep, you guessed it, me.

I’m short, it’s true, but come on! Note the thinning, straightened-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life hair (depressingly accurate depiction) and the knee support. I wear that from time to time – not, as my daughter suspects, to garner sympathy, but because I’ve put on so much weight lately (mercifully not shown), my knees are painful and sometimes even give way.

Also, when The Ex and I were divorcing and I was desperately trying to lose weight (as per) and trying to take up running. I’d shuffle down the street for five minutes one week, 10 the next and so on, until one day I managed a full, non-stop 30 minutes’ shuffling. I was elated! I’d found the key! Not only to weight loss, but to mental fitness, too. Shame, then, that the next day I couldn’t stand up, let alone walk.

Anyway, my beautiful girl (actual size) drew this lovely picture when we’d been in the house for a couple of months and I’d been endlessly banging on about what a wonderful adventure we were having and how fantastic it was that we were in the country, just us three, well on our way from misery to happiness today etc etc etc – and we’d just had a mammoth argument. I can’t remember what it was about, now – probably something to do with mobile phones or Youtube – but she stropped off upstairs, locked herself in her room and came out an hour afterwards, brandishing this very picture.

Did I cry? Of course I did! And you would, too, if you’d been drawn wearing those daggy clothes.  And that hair! Talk about a comedy barnet. She’s always been on at me to chuck my GHDs out, and just recently, when I turned 50, I actually did.

Now my hair’s blissfully untamed. In need of a good highlights job and a cut into some sort of flattering shape, yes – but at least now I’m no longer a slave to the straightening irons and I’m even starting to like the curls around my face. Detract from the wrinkles, you see. Every cloud…

But enough! I just wanted to tell you a bit about us and how that picture came about. Now all I need to do is remember to buy a frame for it, lest it gets grease on it or chewed by the dog, hanging precariously off the fridge door as it is at the mo’.

Oh! And I’ll make this picture the profile pic on the Facebook page, the header image for this, my website and…now where did those sour cherry biscuits go? I’ll just nip out to the Co-op first and then get on with all that stuff. Not that I’m procrastinating or anything.

Bear with, bear with…

Lots of love,

Mink xxx