Monday, 30 January 2012

Shit day...? You're not alone!!!

Everyone has them, don’t they….?

Those days where, despite the best laid plans, EVERYTHING goes wrong.  And you can’t wait to get back into bed and wake up when it’s all over.

Well, today has been one of those days…!

I’m not one for hysteria (even if I do like to have a moan sometimes!).  It’s not as if anyone has died, or been hospitalized, but…  Today was supposed to be the day when I went to see an old client, to see if he could help me get freelance work.  It was an important day in my life and I wanted it to go smoothly and to arrive in a positive frame of mind. 

I leaped out of bed, ready for the day.  All I had to do was get the kids to the school bus, walk the dog, get dressed for the meeting and go.  Simple!

Well, I thought it was simple until the little one (who had been coughing all night long) announced that he felt terrible; had a headache; felt feverish etc etc etc. 

Having felt his head and examined his pale cheeks, I decided that he was genuinely unwell.  If I sent him to school in that state, he’d only be sent home again.  So I had no choice but to send him straight back to bed.

In the meantime, the big one was up and getting ready for school when he realized he had no idea where his phone was.  He really needed to have it, so that he could call me and let me know when he was on his way home.  Time was ticking by, the bus was not going to wait and finally… I had a fit. I realized that by this stage we had missed the bus.  I had a very important meeting and there was NO WAY I could afford to spend 1.5 hrs in the car - which is what the round trip to school would have taken me. 

I decided to be brutal.   Kids have got to understand that their sluggish behaviour in the morning impacts on them too.  So I told him the big one that he'd just have to go on the tube... by himself...  

The thing is, he's come home by tube loads of times, but this was the first time he’d had to go in the opposite direction.  The bus stops are in a different place… he had to cross three big roads and I could see he felt very nervous…

I took him to the tube station, where the unusually kind lady from London Underground let me take him down to the platform.  But there were delays and it was almost 20 minutes before the tube arrived.

Finally, I got back home to the little one, who had perked up quite significantly since he knew he wasn’t going to school.  At this point I realized it just wasn’t going to be a good day. 

My great friend Julian had taken custody of a new dog the day before, so there was no way he could look after little one for four hours, whilst I went to an interview.

I felt the Karma – and decided to phone and re-schedule the very important meeting with the ex-client.

No sooner had I hung up, than I heard the sound of running water.

It transpired that ‘little one’, who is particularly fond of a bath, had forgotten he’d turned the taps on and flooded the bathroom.  Water was streaming through the light fixture to the hall floor below.

Four towels, two bathmats, two buckets and a load of sponges later, the water finally subsided.

And as I fantasized about being back in bed, duvet hiding me from the world, I got am email from a friend.  It was a response to my outlining my dreadful day.

It simply read:

“Ah, well!  At least you’ve got something for your blog.  And look on the bright side.  You’ve still got a fab arse!!!”

As stressed as I was, it was the best tonic ever. 

No one has died… it was just a shit day to write off as ‘Never Should Have Happened”!

And tomorrow WILL be better!

Friday, 27 January 2012

How does a child become a criminal…?

As I was driving home yesterday I received a phone call from my son’s school.  A call from school is a very rare occurrence, so my initial fear was that there had been an accident.

Noting the concern in my voice, the teacher assured me that there was nothing to panic about, however, she did need to talk to me about my son’s behaviour.

It transpired that my son and his friend had decided to sneak off from the lunch queue, to go back to their classroom and ‘help themselves’ to sweets from the cupboard.

Unfortunately, for them (!), they were literally caught with their hands in the sweetie jar!  The look of horror on their faces made it clear to the teacher that they were fully aware of how naughty their behaviour was.

I have to say I was really stunned.  I would never suggest that my children are perfect in any way, but on the whole, they’re fairly well behaved.  This seemed very out of character behaviour – and I felt very upset that he should have been so devious.  That said, as naughty as it was, there was also a tiny bit of me that wanted to laugh! 

In the past I have always believed that if a child misbehaves at school, the punishment should happen at school and not be dragged out at home.  However, ‘stealing’ is serious and I pondered whether, on this occasion, he should be punished at home too, so that he realises how serious it is to steal. 

I started to wonder whether he equated taking the sweets, to helping himself to biscuits from the tin at home, when he knows he shouldn’t.  By getting away with it at home, did he think he could get away with it at school?  Should I be stricter?  And where do you draw the line? 

I put in a call to the mother of my son’s ‘partner in crime’, to see what she thought about the incident.  I explained to her that I wanted there to be consistency and for both kids to be given the same message.  I was relieved to hear her say that, like me, she felt that the punishment should happen at school, not at home.  That said, she was going to talk to him and send him to his room for half an hour to think about it! 

She then went on to say that she felt that her kids were unfairly blamed for everything that goes on at school.  I have to be honest.  They do have a reputation!  But they are also kind kids, with loads of personality.  The kind that are going to push boundaries, see what they can get away with and test the teachers nerves!  In many respects, I think these qualities will serve them well in adult life – so long as they have learnt and fully understand where to draw the line.

Finally, it was time to collect my son from school.  As he leapt into the car, with a smile on his face, I realised that he didn’t know the school had phoned me. 

When I told him that I knew what had happened, his face went even whiter than usual.  His thumb went into his mouth and he wouldn’t make eye contact.  I have never seen him look so ashamed and upset.  I wanted to console him, but at the same time, I needed him to understand that I was very disappointed. 

Finally, as we arrived home, I leant over to give him a hug and to remind him that even when I’m upset with him, I still love him to bits.

That evening, as the boys sat down to do their homework, I had another little surprise…

My eldest pulled out a form for me to sign.  Apparently, he had ‘accidentally’ said ‘F*ck’ instead of ‘Flip’…. As you do…. 

As he gave me the form to sign, I gave him ‘the look’ and he smirked at me!  His little brother started to roar with laughter! 

I know that kids know all the swear words these days.  They learn them at school!  And I know that he is fully aware that it’s totally inappropriate. 

Finally, as I put the kids to bed, I gave the little one a hug.  I asked him to promise that he would never steal again – and I’m sure that he won’t.  And I told the big one not to swear again…  but I’m sure that he will…!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Inviting your ‘ex’ to the kids birthday party…

Last week it was my younger child’s birthday.  I had been feeling guilty that I hadn’t organised him a party, so at the 11th hour I invited ‘a few’ people and then suddenly found myself with a houseful of relatives, kids and an ex-husband!

Despite my ex-husband’s decision to disallow me from seeing my children on Christmas Day, I decided to rise above petty vendettas, so that ‘our’ son could have both his parents sing him Happy Birthday, and see him blow out the candles on his cake. 

I’ll be brutally honest.  After his behaviour at Christmas, I don’t even want him to set foot in my house.  If the children were taken out of the equation, never seeing him again would be too soon.  But we do have children.  I know he cannot see the impact it has on them when a parent is missing on a special day, but I can.  And I feel it my responsibility, as a mother, to do the best I can in the situation (ie to grit my teeth and wherever possible, invite him). 

As ever, my friend Sarah showed up and surpassed herself.  She helped pass drinks to the ‘grown-ups’, entertained my Dad and the ex-husband, and when the kids had finished their food, started to clear plates.

As Sarah started to stack the dishwasher, my ex-husband’s booming voice was having the same effect on me as nails on a blackboard.  So I started to take over from her.  I knew she was trying to be helpful… She insisted that she should help, and I could see that she thought I was being ungrateful.  But I wasn’t!  Her help was invaluable, but not help of the ‘dishwasher stacking’ variety!

As I assured her that I was happy to stack the dishwasher, the room full of people prevented me from explaining that, by keeping my ex-husband entertained at the other end of the room, she was helping me more than she will ever know.  I just wanted her to keep him away from me!!!  I would happily stack dishwashers all night long, to avoid needless conversation with my ex-husband!

Finally, the candles on the cake were lit, the lights dimmed and a dozen voices sang out “Happy Birthday” in various different keys!  My son’s face lit up as he blew out the candles, only to discover I had sneaked in a couple of magic candles, which re-light themselves after they’re blown out. 

After shrieks of laughter, he plunged a knife into the middle of the cake and screamed to get the devil out.  As the adults tucked into chocolate cake, there was a frenzy of unwrapping presents.  Then, no sooner had they all been opened, the ex, with all the pomposity he could muster, announced “Right, got to shoot.”  By which he meant he had to rush home to pack for a two-week holiday. 

I don’t know what my son made of his father leaving his party early, only to pack for a holiday that my son was not going on.  Whether he was too busy to notice, or just concealing his feelings, I can’t say.  But I do hope that in years to come, he is conscious of the fact that both his parents were there on his special day. 

As for me, it seems a bit of a Pyrrhic victory.  Whether it makes me the better person or not, there are no prizes.  But it does make me feel like the better person and I guess, dealing with an ex-husband like mine, that’s probably the best I’ll ever get…

Friday, 20 January 2012


Everyone loves a good old gossip….

This week, my ‘running buddy’ and I went for our last run before he went into hospital for a nasty knee operation.  During the run, our conversation turned to ‘therapy’.  He joked to me that he thinks that ‘we all need a bit of therapy’.  (I think he really meant me!).  I replied that for me, going out running, having a good old chat and a gossip, is therapy in itself – because I do find it very de-stressing.

But it got me thinking…  So when I opened the newspaper to see an article about research into ‘gossip’, I read it avidly.  And it really struck a chord.

According to this research, the ‘scientists’ have concluded that by sharing our negative thoughts, we also offload stress.  Imagine for example that we witness someone doing something we feel is immoral or wrong – by sharing this information with others, we offload the stress this knowledge places on us, and ‘society’ is made better, because of our uniting to disapprove of the behaviour.

The word ‘gossip’ has very negative connotations.  We imagine whispering behind hands, gaggles of bitchy women, or schoolgirl nastiness.  All very female centric.  But in their own way, men are equally as guilty.  They may present it differently – without all the female embellishments – but they gossip nonetheless.

Personally, I would hate to be thought of as a ‘gossip’.  Generally, I shy away from groups of women that I regard as being ‘gossipy’, but maybe I’ve got it wrong. 

As much as I loathe hearing women bitching about their husbands or other people’s marital woes, I wonder, had I been more open and discussed the issues I had with my own ex-husband’s behaviour, whether I would have felt less isolated.  Would I have had a chance to see earlier on that the situation was destructive, and maybe even sought counseling?  Could it have saved my marriage – or made me leave sooner?  Who knows…

Having gone to an all girls school, witnessed the bitchiness and ‘whispering behind hands’ gossip, I have tried to avoid female only company for most of my adult life. But since I have been single, I have spent more time with female friends than I have in my entire adult life!  And I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I have enjoyed it. 

There will always be women who are ‘bitchy’ – just are there will always be men who are aggressive ‘shits’.   But there are plenty of women and men who participate in a bit of gossip who are none of the above. 

Whilst I do not want to divulge the details, someone recently ‘gossiped’ to me about a very attractive man I know – a man who had made me turn my head – and what HE (yes it was a man gossiping!) told me really shocked me. 

Had I not known this information about him, I have no doubt that I would have pursued my interest.  And I am sure I would have ended up deeply hurt by him.  

Hearing people gossip about other’s behaviour has made me feel human.  And when I say ‘human’, I mean accepting of my own weaknesses, in light of the fact that I now realise the degree to which we are all flawed. 

Gratuitous spiteful gossip is never acceptable.  But when it gives us useful information, it also empowers and protects us.

So, as long as it’s done for the right reasons…  Be my guest.  Gossip away…

Monday, 16 January 2012

Martyr Mum

As I sat down on Saturday morning, with a large vat of coffee, reading the newspapers, I stumbled upon an ‘agony aunt’ section with the headline: My wife’s turned into a ‘martyr mum’.

The writer of the letter was complaining that his wife “gives all her attention to the children.” And that “I no longer view her as a sexual being and do not find her attractive, but she demands sex from me.  Will this feeling change?”

Be under no illusion here…. I have met the ‘martyr mum’ type.  The ones who constantly moan about how much they have to do, how stressed they are, how useless their husband is etc etc.  And the way they discuss their endless responsibilities, suggests that they have a greater burden than all other mothers.  It can be very irritating to listen to…


As frustrating as it is to hear someone moan about having the same levels of responsibility and work that I have, I do understand where they’re coming from.  And before I go further, I think I should point out that my feelings extend to the stay-at-home Dad’s I know, as well as the mothers.

There will always be people who get a lot of support and help from family members.  But there are many more of us who do it alone.  We have no relatives to help, no army of housekeepers or nannies.  So as we bumble along, wiping noses and providing multiple catering and taxi services, all we really want is a bit of acknowledgement and support from the one we love.  And when that is not forthcoming and the working spouse looses interest in us as a sexual being, it is unsurprising that some people feel the need to validate themselves by reeling off the endless tasks they have completed, to anyone who will listen.

Many women and men I know have sacrificed a career path to bring up their children.  A decision was made between husband and wife to ensure that the child is raised with the values and love only a parent can offer. 

And whilst the caregiver is at home ensuring the children have everything they need, their own life changes beyond recognition.

No longer are they getting dressed smartly every day, to go to work.  No hanging round the coffee machine, flirting with the guy/girl from the third floor.  No one asking their opinion, based on the respect they have earned after spending years in their job.  No one praising them for a ‘good job done’, or paying them a bonus.

Just day-in day-out thankless drudgery.  And many people who are at work, whilst their partners stay at home with the kids, suddenly stop doing things at home that they used to do when they were both working. 

Up to a point, I understand this.  I certainly felt it was part of the job specification to ensure that kids were looked after, supper cooked, and the house tidy in the evenings.  But weekends are different.  And I see no reason why responsibility can’t be shared at this time – but very often, there is no respite. 

The woman advising in the article in the paper suggests that ‘going away’ to do something ‘novel and arousing’ might help save the marriage of the writer.  I can’t help wondering whether the wife might find it ‘novel and arousing’ to be given breakfast in bed on a Sunday morning, or a couple hours off on a Saturday afternoon.  Or even (God forbid) see her spouse get off his backside and empty the dishwasher. 

And if he/she helped lighten the load at the weekends, their other half might not feel the need to endlessly moan about how they have so much to do.  How’s that for ‘novel and arousing’?!

‘Mothering children’ is not valued.  It seems in our society that the value placed on a person is equal to their salary.  And that is grossly unfair.

I thought it was a bit pitiful that the only advice that was given, that could be acted upon, was to ‘smile more’.  Apparently, ‘according to the ‘facial feedback’ hypothesis, we feel happier when we smile…’

Oh and another option is to ‘go off without the kids to undertake a physical challenge…’  Because ‘research shows that couples who participate in “novel and arousing” activities experience higher levels of marital satisfaction”.

Assuming, of course, that we have people ‘on tap’ to look after our young children whilst we do so – that sounds just dandy.

But for so many people who are the primary carers for our children, life goes on, we clean, cook, get up at all hours of the night, and get no acknowledgement, let alone thanks.  We don’t need ‘novel and arousing’, we just need ‘understanding and support’.  But not many of us get it.

And this, I am sure, is why so many marriages fail.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Alcoholism and Domestic Violence

I have always been conscious that no one ever really knows what goes on behind closed doors, but very recently, I had an insight into a household where there is alcoholism and domestic violence.

And it was not a happy scene…

It has been obvious for a long time that the friend concerned is deeply unhappy.  The trust and love has gone.  Her life is a rollercoaster.  When the husband is not ‘acting up’, she can just about cope, but when he decides to, he makes her life miserable.

As we sat round my friend’s kitchen table, eating supper, chaos ensued.  The kids acting up, in reaction to their parents’ situation; the husband in and out of the room, telling his wife and I that we ‘don’t need to whisper’. 

I won’t go into the details, but it was mayhem.  And I didn’t know whether it would be better if I stayed or left.  All I wanted was to know that my friend would be safe. 

As I sat opposite her, whilst her husband was out of the room, discussing her husband’s controlling behaviour, I looked at her face.  And I couldn’t work out what she wanted me to say to her.

So as ‘honesty’ is allegedly the ‘best policy’ – I said that the whole evening was not normal.  That this craziness does not go on in every house.  And most importantly, that it was affecting the children.

I have to admit, even though she knows it’s true, I think she wanted to be told and possibly even wanted to believe: ‘don’t worry, it’ll sort itself out – everything will be fine’.  But of course, it wont.

Having witnessed an evening of craziness, I can’t even explain how relieved I was when I received an email from her this week, attaching a reply from a charity that helps women suffering from domestic violence and alcoholic partners.

In addition, my friend has got in touch with a counsellor, who I hope will help her regain her confidence, take control and save herself from the situation.  Because as much as I want to help, I am fully aware that she has to do it for herself.  With support from her friends, of course, but the decisions have to be hers and hers alone.

I was hugely encouraged by the long message she received from the women’s charity she approached.  It was sympathetic and supportive and they have offered her help. 

I just hope she reaches out and takes it.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Men who have affairs get caught. Women who have affairs leave.

When a man has an affair, he gets caught.  When a woman has an affair – she leaves her husband.

The other day, I bumped into an old acquaintance.  I hadn’t seen him for a few years – and we had never been close.  So when he asked me the predictable “Hi!  How are you?  How was your Christmas?”  I realised that he probably had no idea that since our last meeting, I had left my ex-husband and divorced him. 

He noticed my hesitation, so I thought it best to explain.  He was somewhat taken aback.  And for the first time in ages, I felt a slight lump in my throat and my eyes started to tingle…  But I won the battle against the tears.  Without in any way being critical of my ex-husband, I explained, and he was very sympathetic.  And I appreciated that.

As the conversation progressed, I told him that what had tipped me over the edge was meeting someone I had a connection with. Not having an affair, but knowing that if I didn’t leave, I probably would.  

Then he piped up and mentioned an article he had read in GQ Magazine (I think it was GQ!).  The article (which I have not read, as I don’t buy GQ Magazine!) was discussing the subject of affairs and from what he told me, the conclusion seemed to be:

Men who have affairs get caught; women who have affairs leave their husbands.

It really stuck in my head and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

And I’ve been thinking about the people I know, men and women who’ve had affairs, and the outcome once the affair has been uncovered.  I have to be honest -  it is a very accurate statement. 

But why?

I believe very strongly that an affair is a sign of a bad marriage.  Whilst I’m totally against affairs, I don’t force my views on others.  And I don’t believe that all blame can be laid at the foot of the person who goes off and has an affair.  This post is not about fault…

Of the men I know who have had affairs (but stay once caught!), whilst they may not be happy in their ‘marriage’ they still have comfortable home lives.  Their meals are cooked, the kids are looked after and their clothes are returned, clean and ironed, to the wardrobe.  This is quite a lot of comfort to forfeit.  And if they can muddle along at home, with the support of a woman on the outside, providing a distraction, emotional support, or just sex, there is no real incentive to leave.  So if the wife 'forgives' or 'gives another chance' - in general, they stay.

But women are a very different species.   For us (and I’m really talking about those of us with children) an affair is a very different matter.  Firstly, whether you’re working or not, an affair would have to be fitted-in around the kids routines, and / or work.  Not always that easy!  And as a general rule (with notable exceptions, I’m sure) women are less driven by purely sexual desires.  If they get involved in an affair, it is probably the emotional needs that they are seeking to address.  And if that’s the case, it takes the affair to a different level.

Women who leave their kids behind when they leave a marriage, are the exception.  It happens.  But it is not that common.  Most women who leave a marriage have their kids in tow.  At the point they get involved in an affair, they are aware that they have kids to consider.  So when a woman has an affair, she knows that the worst case scenario (if it goes ‘tits up’) is that she could be on her own looking after the kids.  Therefore, she probably won’t get involved with someone unless she believes they are serious about a long-term commitment.  An affair is not an easy cop-out. To have even got to this point is a sign that for the woman, the marriage is all but over.

After all, an affair is a very, very big gamble. Men are less forgiving of infidelity than women.

I know. My husband would never have given me a second chance.  Conversely,  would have put up with a great deal, if I thought it was in the children's best interest.

But now, like many women, I am on my own with two kids to raise. 

It’s not easy.

But I do have peace of mind.  I did get involved with the rebound guy – and I knew it wouldn’t last.  But he gave me the confidence to get through my divoce.  And I know that leaving was the right thing to do. 

And I will move on.  Life will improve.  And at the end of the day… 

I’m not living a lie….

Friday, 6 January 2012

Paying a woman a compliment... and how not to do it!

This week, I had a very interesting request for advice, from a young man who had found my blog. 

To get to the point quickly, this is [roughly] what happened to him:

“Steve” went to an art gallery opening.  He got chatting to an attractive, intelligent woman.  He really liked her.  The conversation progressed and tentative plans were made to meet for coffee. 

“Sarah” mentioned that she was divorced (no kids), then suddenly, the conversation went downhill.  At this point, Steve decided to compliment her “nice, hour glass figure”.

[Hmmm!  Did I hear a sharp intake of breath from any of you women out there..?!]

He thought Sarah would take it as a compliment, but she was very offended.  And the more Steve tried to save the situation, the worse things got.  At first she rolled her eyes and shook her head.  Next, she said he was “inappropriate”.  And finally, she slapped his face and left.

Before leaving the gallery, the owner, who had noticed Sarah’s altercation with Steve, went up to her and sympathetically enquired whether she was OK.

Then, as Steve nursed his stinging red cheek and wondered “What the hell happened there?” the gallery owner told him it wasn’t a ‘pick-up joint’ and asked him to leave!

When Steve e-mailed me, he wanted to know what he had done wrong.  Whether mentioning her figure was ‘inappropriate’, whether her response was proportionate and whether he should write to her to apologise and explain that he had no wish to offend her.  He was also concerned that she might feel more sensitive because she was divorced.

I had a good long think about it, because I do, without a doubt, feel it was very harsh to slap him round the face.  But at the same time, I have a number of friends who have curvy figures (OK – lets get to the point.  When I say ‘curvy figures’ what I really mean is, THEY’VE GOT BIG BOOBS!) and they are very sensitive about it.  And as a divorcee, I am conscious that there are certain men who think that divorced means “desperate” and “should be grateful for any attention received”.  Alas, sad misguided men, not so!

Going back to boobs…  don’t get me wrong!  Many ladies are thrilled to have huge boobs, but others are considerably less than thrilled.  And several of my friends have commented at how upset they get, when they meet a man who stands talking to them whilst overtly staring at their chest!  Men!  Take notice!  Unless you’re talking to a surgically enhanced bimbo, who couldn’t hold a conversation anyway, look a woman in the eye when you’re talking to her!   And for GOD’s SAKE – DON’T MENTION HER BOOBS!

Now – I realise I have gone off on a bit of a boob rant…  and boobs were not mentioned at the gallery – but to tell someone they have an hour glass figure, suggests that this may be what you’ve noticed!

I do understand that Steve was trying to pay a compliment.  But I also understand why she may have found it too personal.  So where do you draw the line?

I have thought about this point long and hard.  The answer is so obvious, I didn’t notice it!

The rules for men are the same as the rules for women. 

If a woman pays a man she’s just met a compliment, it is likely to be on the lines of:

- You have nice eyes
- I like your jacket / shoes / shirt
- You’re funny
- You have a lovely smile

All fairly innocuous, right?  I may be completely wrong, but I don’t think it’s often that women comment on men’s physiques unless they are trying to send out the signal that they’re ‘up for it’ and ‘easy’.

So there you go guys.  Keep the compliments limited to personality, or eyes / smile.  Do not mention any body parts between the shoulder and the knee.  Keep those more personal compliments for later on, when you know the person more intimately.  And that way, you should know more about the person, the bits of their body they feel sensitive about and what is likely to offend them.

Well, on the upside, Steve decided to send Sarah an e-mail apologising and explaining his behaviour.  And Sarah e-mailed back, apologising herself for being over-sensitive.  And so, they met for coffee…

I hope it all ends happily ever after… but we’ll have to wait and see!

Facebook Like Button