CONTEXT: I wrote this about four weeks ago – I was in a bit of a rut, but after putting these words into OneNote, I felt a lot better. Today I got a call about something that happened in February (not hard to guess what that event was if you look back in this blog). It knocked me a bit today so it feels right to not just re-read this, but also to publish it.
I’ve been feeling a little bit down recently – its been a tough first half of a year and quite frankly, I’m exhausted.
The culmination of my kids mother passing away, the worry about getting sick during this global pandemic (I was unwell with bronchitis in late February also) and being in lockdown as a single parent trying to hold down a job while trying to tend to the needs of my kids. It’s all weighed heavily on me, as I’m sure 2020 has on many other people.
I don’t know why I’m in this funk though. There are many things that are trending in the positive. Life post lockdown here in New Zealand has been going really well. I have a new job that I love, the kids while having some tough days are doing well, but yet here I am, in a bit of a funk.
So I thought maybe if I just wrote down some things, it may help me put things in perspective.
I’ve often struggled with being public about my life, when you have a long term relationship with someone who’s an addict, you have secrets and shame that must be kept… AT ALL COSTS! But I’m fortunate to have some amazing friends who have provided me with encouragement and support to tell my stories.
It’s hard to break the habit of what feels like a lifetime, but to anyone reading this that has had similar experiences or knows of someone who may be experiencing something similar, you are not alone.
It’s also hard to trust again – especially with something so deeply personal.
It’s not easy, but eventually you will find someone who you trust to talk to and this will be the beginning. For me, I called it my re-awakening.
The community is also wonderful! By letting down my guard, and being encouraged to tell my story – a whole new world opened up to me. In the past four years, I’ve made some wonderful new friends here in New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom and many many other places.
I am grateful for the community and in my darkest days in February, hearing from so many of these friends, made those days a little more bearable.
So this funk I’m in, it’s not the first, and it won’t be the last. So what have I both identified and learnt from the past that I can apply today and going forward?
Guilt of a single parent –
Many times I feel I’m not doing enough – I often feel that I need to compensate for the missing parent. This is exhausting and completely unsustainable.
I’ve struggled with the single parent role for these past five years always with the thought of “I hope I’m not messing up these kids lives”.
It’s only recently dawned on me through talking with friends (this is where that breaking the isolation and having a community to talk to helps ) that doing literally ALL of the things (cooking, cleaning, laundry etc) was actually going to cause long term harm. Basic skills for the kids to function as adults were not being taught.
We’re still establishing and working on a chores roster, but things are improving. Next up is having them each have a night where they prepare the family meal
Fast Food Fridays –
I do fast food Fridays – its a fun night where the kids get to choose what we get (and it can’t be the same as last week), but the reality is, it’s a night off cooking for me, and at the end of the week, I really need that.
Find something that is for you and just YOU –
For me, that has become my fitness. Yes, my guilty secret is that I go to CrossFit. I’m aware of the stigma CrossFit has and I’m not into the dude/bro culture that many perceive of CrossFit (my CrossFit box is a very inclusive and encouraging environment – I wouldn’t go there if it wasn’t). The benefits of improving my fitness have been remarkable. I have more energy to do things that I wasn’t before, and that has improved mental wellbeing.
Be the parent first, not the friend –
This is linked to Guilt of a Single parent. It can be really difficult, especially when the other parent is not on the same page. In the limited time where my youngest was re-establishing a relationship with her mother, rules and expectations were different. This led to some difficult conversations with both mother and child (never at the same time though). Unfortunately during that time, there was never going to be an alignment, so I had to be very clear with my children about the rules and expectations at my home.
I have been guilty during my marriage breakdown of “throwing myself into my work”. In hindsight, it was a very poor decision not just for me, but my children as well. This is a guilt I will carry forever, but I’ve learnt that it cannot consume me. I’m trying hard to accept what has happened, learn from it and move forward with my family.
With this new job, I made a promise that I would properly manage my work time and my personal time – and in most cases, I have been able to maintain that. When I was interviewing for this job, I took the opportunity to in essentially “interview my interviewers” to get a sense of understanding about the culture of the organisation as well as to get an understanding of their views on work/life harmony. I asked questions like “what inspires you to come to work each day?”, “what was it that appealed to you when you applied to work here?” and “What happens when you have a sick child and you have to stay home?”. This is really important as we spend a significant amount of time interacting with work people
What are my next steps?
My eldest is in his second to last year of high school and looks like he will want to leave the nest when he heads off to University. At the moment, he is not as prepared for this as I would like, so that’s something I will be working to help him with, and at the same time, my youngest will get a head start so she will be well prepared also when she leaves the nest.
You know what… I think it’s going to be ok