Friday, 24 August 2012

Mettle Detecting

The minute the ex and I split I promised myself I would never, ever moan about how hard it is to look after kids on my own. Because frankly, being a mum, not being a mum, being single or married, stay at home, working, makes no difference. Some people can’t have kids, so I’m lucky. Some people have a shitty, useless husband, so I’m lucky again. Tough times come to everyone and you can’t compare your own tough times to someone else’s, because how can you know?

(And by the way, I hate the term “single mum”. It has such negative connotations. I prefer “lone parent”. It has far more cowboy/girl esque grit about it.)

So anyway, this isn’t a moaning post about being a single mum, ahem, lone parent. But the other day, I had one of those moments where I, like everyone, parents or not, single or not, regularly do. There was a moment where I thought, I can’t bloody well do this.

I had had a nice day writing while the kids were at the childminders. OK I’ll be honest, it wasn’t that nice, and I didn’t do that much writing. In the aftermath of a break-up everyone has the odd time when you hear a song that reminds you of how bloody good things were once, and the true meaning of that song suddenly dawns on you, and you just sit and cry while listening to it over and over again, howling into a babywipe because you are too wracked with sobs to get up and find a tissue. Yep, it’s depressing but it’s all part of the process. It doesn’t happen to me that often (I’ve got the cowgirl grit) but after a highly emotionally charged few days and very little sleep I was in the mood where frankly anything could set me off.

So I had spent the day crying while the kids were at the childminders, and stuck in the grips of the blues. I went to the supermarket with puffy eyes (and a noticeably new grey hair, honestly, this break up has a lot to answer for) because I had decided just to get one area of my life sorted. You have to start somewhere and to me the simplest place to start was to just cook a nice meal for me and the boys. They always eat well. I, on the other hand, have been living off croissants by day and Cheerios by night. I’m so laden with carbs I could power a jet engine with the amount of fuel I have to burn off. Sitting down with the kids and a nice meal would cheer me up, I was sure of it.

After my healthy eating trip to the shops, I picked the kids up. It was hammering down with rain. Son Two refused to get in the car because he was intent to play in the rain, and then refused to get into his car seat. I eventually got him in, not before I got a soggy bottom which had spent an added seven minutes sticking out of the car door while I wrestled Son Two into his seat.

We got home, the kids settled themselves in front of the telly and I started my second attempt at home made pasta. My first attempt was like chewing through a saddle and I was determined to get it right this time. Son Two (who’s now nearly three) wanted to help squidge the little rectangles into bows (we make farfale) so I sent him off upstairs to wash his hands while I lost myself in the welcome mindlessness of squidging pasta shapes. About ten minutes later he returned and took his place beside me. We sat in relative peace for a while squidging away, when I suddenly heard a drip. It appeared to be raining in my kitchen. I rushed upstairs to the bathroom to find the plug in the sink, tap running and a plastic Mr Incredible attached to the plug chain (presumably he was trying to save himself from certain drowning). I gathered all the towels I could find to mop up the water (with the help of Son One) and then dashed downstairs remembering that I had left Son Two alone with the farfale. I turned the downstairs lights off at the fusebox (thanks to my friend who phoned me up to tell me to do it), put a bucket under the dripping and powered through. After we had eaten, the boys started in with their tired mummmmmeeeeeeee whining. Son Two had gone under the table and found an as yet unnoticed pile of cat sick and had trodden in it. Son One wanted a drink. The kitchen was covered in flour and every pot and pan in the house was dirty. There was a bucket in the middle of the floor catching the drips. Every single towel in the house was sodden, and I couldn’t hang them out to dry because it was raining and I couldn’t even put them in the washing machine because my washing machine was broken (over the weekend my well meaning mum had brought me some three hundred year old feather pillows (I needed new pillows and couldn’t afford to buy any), attempted to wash them in my machine and they split, filling the entire thing, including the motor (if the billowing smoke was anything to go by) with feathers, and will require a visit from the washing machine man (which likely will take weeks) to fix it), my landline was ringing (mum wanting to know how the washing machine was) and my phone was going ten to the dozen with texts from friends in need. And this was when I had one of those moments where I just thought, I can’t bloody do this.

But tough times are there to show us how strong we are. And when you’re on your own you get a chance to really test your mettle. There is absolutely no not being able to cope. The moment the thought crosses your mind you pull out the grit and put some tunes on (to drown out the kids whining) and you just get on with it. And the sheer satisfaction you get two hours later, sitting in the dark with only a laptop for light (can’t turn the lights on until the ceiling has dried out), when the kids are asleep, the flour has been cleaned away and the sodden towels are at least in a neat pile, comes from knowing I did this, all by myself.

When the going gets tough, enjoy it. This is a rare chance to prove to the world, and more importantly yourself, what you’re really made of. Relish it and know your mettle has been tested and found worthy. Big tick, smiley face, gold star for us all.