What I've learned from YOUR kids....
Although I am single I honestly don't believe that the grass is greener: it's just different. Of course I value my single friends; but I've noticed how some wistfully, and often understandably; look at families/couples with that, 'there's the answer', look in their eyes. My truth is: 'there IS no answer. No man/woman/child/job/location can 'make' me OK; that's MY responsibility.
NO TINTED PRIMARK GLASSES
This is a truth that has not been discovered during an hour of Pilates, via self help books or in Tesco's toilets. I got here via divorce; several servings of depression and ultimately by taking a cold hard (not punishing) look at my life; without tinted Primark glasses.
BEING PARTNERED ISN'T PERFECT
Being partnered can be excruciating. All that compromise. Having kids is slog; snot, school runs and 'I hate you', when they're troubled teens. Good on you for going there. Of course there can be; and I hope you experience huge joy, and deep contentment. But when anyone romanticises the family: which is now so often blended or managed by one person; it does all of us a disservice.
YOUR GOOD BITS/NOT SO GOOD BITS? IT'S A PRIVILEGE TO HEAR 'EM
It's a real privilege when couples tell me about their struggles with each other and their kids: and I DO I enjoy hearing about the better bits. I would be a rich woman now if I'd had a quid for every mum who's told me how draining she finds other more competitive parents. She can breathe easy with m, as she's already won the first round. I've got a cat. An intelligent, beautiful and talented one, of course.
I HAVE KIDS; JUST NOT BIOLOGICAL BABES
I never introduce myself (eyes lowered in shame), as, someone who 'doesn't have kids '. It's not true. I've got loads of them in my life. They're just not bioLOGICALLY mine. Unless you know something I don't.
There's Claudia and Innes next door aged 3 and 5. They're teaching me Flamenco as mum's Spanish. Lewis, Emily and Ronnie; all I would love to see more of. Millie who gives me cat tats., and rockin' Phoebe, who, well, rocks. Not forgetting my ever lovely nephews, Henry and Oliver, who are teaching me to 'street speak'. Am no Sally (every cloud has a silver lining), Sunshine; but I will not let the fear of ending up alooooone sitting in pee in cut price 'sheltered accommodation', propel me into any old partnership. That way lies misery. Even if, when I am at a low ebb, it's an attractive option because my pension's worth peanuts.
I LIKE you; parents and kids. And I LIKE your imperfections and messiness. Why? Because, really, your struggles are just like my own; with a few more bells and whistles attached.
.... aged 79, after I had apologised for some of my judgemental and dismissive attitudes. His profession meant he was away throughout most of my childhood, leaving our mother to raise us. She had her own 'stuff'; abandonment featured heavily in her life, so no surprise that she (and he) picked someone who wasn't going to be around that much. All this is factual, not 'good' or 'bad'. It just was.
I spent most of my early adult life, dating a series of boy/men; both of us trying to get from the other what we had not received as children. Now, after a good deal of hard work, I am much more conscious of this pattern, and am in a relationship; with myself; however touchy feely that may sound.
THE ADDICTIVE DANCE
The father/daughter 'thing is THE most significant relationship (apart from the one with the mother) for a girl/woman. Patterns set in childhood are set to repeat in adult life. The distant absent father is likely to prompt the grown woman to pursue absent, non-committal men. She thinks she wants 'intimacy', but the reality is, she is frightened of it, as he is. The two embark on an addictive 'dance' which is, of course familiar, but often, deeply unsatisfying for both parties.
My dad and I are now close. After I apologised for some of my attitudes, and said I understood why he made the choices he made (his marriage to mum had its fair share of ups and downs – with both sides playing their part), and was able to share some of my own struggles, in his kitchen, with the uncontrollable Labrador looking on, his eyes filled with tears. Not overly demonstrative; he's a Yorkshireman, we managed a hug, and I remember his arms around me, and mine around him. We did not have to 'say' much; there was a healing and a reconciliation. I would describe it as a 'coming home'. I treasured, and treasure that moment now.
CHOICES RATHER THAN COMPULSIONS
Our choice of career/profession can also mirror our unresolved childhood struggles. Until we begin to face these often uncomfortable truths, then often, we are doomed to repeat our patterns over and over again. Once we start the reflective process, there may be no dramatic change in circumstances, as we are all complex and multi-layered, like a Bake Off cream slice. I am still freelance, and I ADORE my own space, but I am more conscious of what motivates me. I can now make real choices, rather than act compulsively because something unresolved needs to be healed. I attribute this to a good deal of therapy, which continues, and some god (whoever she is) given courage to sit with myself no matter what.
THE EXAMINED LIFE
I know not all of us lead examined lives. But despite the pain, and the deep discomfort, I am glad I chose 'the road less travelled'. The phrase was coined by M Scott Peck, and was the second self-reflective book I ever read. It's another truth, that many of us do not choose to examine our internal lives; but those that do, often because the pain gets too much, find that being 'conscious' can, on balance, be more of a blessing than a curse. The first, by the way, was 'Families and How to Survive them', by the late Dr. Robin Skynner and John Cleese. Both have been out for years, but are worth an Amazon buy.
PRECIOUS PATERNAL LOVE
I don't go to dad for more complex emotional support, I have others who can meet that need, but I know he loves me deeply, as I do him, and I am able to accept him as he is, and vice versa. It's taken a while, but I got the father/daughter relationship I have always craved. The knock on effect, is an ability to accept myself as I am and where I am. Very precious.
Stay IN: and Strawberry Sours'll be £50 a pop....get OUT and the duty'll be the killer....more referendum rumours on the podcast......