Weekend Dad, Weak End Son

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Dear you, the man who schedules in our son.

Do you dare to call yourself a dad on the days that he is with me?

On the multiple days of the month when you shy from your responsibility?

Do you dare to call yourself a dad in between your planned weekends?

I’m asking on behalf of my son, as I believe he got the weak end – of this arrangement.

See, from where I’m standing your minimum effort is the foundation of his limited support.

And I don’t care for destructive contact guidelines advised by family courts.

And though primary custody works for me, I love him. No one comes before him.

Every waking moment spent together, I adore him.

And it works for you because life continued, your days centred around you.

Every waking moment spent concerned only about you.

Does it work for him?

Pencilled into daddies diary, like his merely an appointment.

I can’t pretend how things worked out is not a disappointment.

See, when we had our child, your future was mapped out.

No longer just about you, more than a man, you’re a dad now.

It’s not a job, you can’t quit, there’s no way that you can back out.

You can’t select your shift. Are you listening? You can’t tap out.

See, I’m a mum Monday through to Sunday, there is no annual leave.

Between loving, feeding and teaching, there’s no break or reprieve.

Baths and books, play dates and work, my time table is full.

And yet on this journey of parenthood, I can’t depend on you at all.

Our lives are completely separate, different rules and different homes.

We don’t communicate and the majority of raising I’m doing all alone.

And my deepest fear is that in our sons mind, this division becomes normalised.

That you unconsciously teach him your pattern of living separate lives.

And please believe me when I say, this is deeper than you or me.

Greater than a failed relationship, I’m talking the destruction of family.

Because ultimately it’s our parents and environments that mould us.

Our experiences, our theories, our conditioning that control us.

Understand that most of our behaviour is a result of our foundations.

Our core beliefs, standards and upbringing we very rarely stray from.

So when a man is raised by a father who fails in his duty to provide;

Time, emotion and effort. This pattern is often reenacted in his own life.

And we are driven by how we are programmed, it’s seldom a conscious act.

But we have a responsibility to make change, should we have a negative impact.

So yes, though we have both moved on with our lives, our romantic chapter closed.

This did little to remove the threat of what your distorted values pose – to our son.

So I’m praying that you recognise your patterns, hoping that you reshape them.

It’s high time we started caring and stopped raising disengaged men.

Absent fathers, they are the cancer of broken families,

Yet despite this, what remains is the expectation within society,

That when a relationship is over, and dad just ups and leaves,

The primary upbringing of any child is the mothers responsibility,

And what develops in abandoned children, is chronic insecurity,

Exploitation, feelings of confusion and we cannot ignore poverty.

Unhealthy attachments, resentment and lasting vulnerability,

Behaviour problems, substance abuse and issues with authority,

Mental health disorders, homelessness and teenage pregnancy,

Road men and offenders, a shorter life expectancy,

Promiscuity and truancy – this list just gets more distressing.

But these are the facts, the statistics – shit is so depressing.

So how do we change these outcomes? How do we steer our child from these paths?

We set aside our differences, we forgive and forget the past,

We begin to acknowledge the effects of non-involvement in children’s lives.

And you change your perception that your role is secondary to mine.

We start acting on the importance of supportive family ties.

We’re not enemies, we’re not exes, our child makes us allies.

See children, they need nurturing, protecting and guiding.

And I’m just a woman, a son, he needs a man to advise him.

Shape his heart, stay present and continue supplying;

Direction, attention and emotionally providing.

Preparation, communication, love and endless patience.

Do you understand? There are no days off, we can’t afford to become complacent.

He needs your strength, your compassion and unlimited availability,

And yes he has a mum, but that’s no substitute for his daddy.

So I ask that you dare to be a dad on the days that he is with me.

Because those are not your days off. You are not an absentee.

I pray that you dare to be a dad on more than just the weekends,

And trust me when I say, our son will never again be at the weak end – of this arrangement.

 

Jaimee x

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Motherless Mum

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“There is an emptiness inside of me — a void that will never be filled. No one in your life will ever love you as your mother does. There is no love as pure, unconditional and strong as a mother’s love. And I will never be loved that way again.”  – Hope Edelman –

As Mother’s Day in the UK comes to an end for another year, I sit on my sofa listening to the unrelenting hum of the cars passing in the street below and think about how truly challenging yet rewarding this journey of motherhood without a mum of my own has been. I have been a mother for nine years and motherless for close to eighteen, and if I am honest sometimes being a motherless mum has been one of the loneliest most isolating roles on earth.

My son was born in the early hours of a still and humid morning at the height of summer some ten years ago. I’d woken up at 3am feeling tight and uncomfortable all over as though I was about to explode at any moment. Getting up to use the toilet I realised with horror that the time to give birth and relieve myself of my heavy and quite often painful bump was nearly upon me since my mucus plug was sitting at the bottom of the toilet bowl.

Phoning my midwife to seek advice, she explained that I simply could not be in labour as I was able to speak coherently and was not screaming down the phone in terrible pain. Despite her advice and convinced that I was indeed in labour I pleaded for my partner to phone an ambulance anyway and when the first-response paramedic arrived, to my frustration he agreed with the midwife – there would be no baby that day, though by this point my waters had broken and I was contracting minutes apart. I felt defeated and annoyed that the medics were ignoring me just because I was not experiencing the traditional symptoms or reacting to my contractions in the expected typical way. I demanded that I be taken to hospital in any case and stormed off to the kitchen to wash the dishes whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

When the second set of paramedics appeared they agreed to take me to hospital since by then I was in tears and distressed; irritated that no one seemed to be listening. They advised my partner to collect some of my belongings and meet us at the hospital since I would probably not be having the baby until the following day anyway. All alone on the way to the hospital, strapped to a gurney and in no mood to talk to the paramedic who attempted to make polite conversation with me I held my stomach and sobbed for my mum. We arrived at the hospital in less than ten minutes and we had not been there for longer than five when the urge to push overcame me and to everyone’s surprise, after three pushes my son was born; just over an hour since my first call to the midwife.

My labour was quick, uncomplicated and without pain relief, and as I pushed my son into the world surrounded by the paramedics and hospital staff, I could think of nothing else but the overwhelming need to have my mother there with me.

As the years have gone by, that need has presented itself on many occasions especially during times of great difficulty when I had no choice but to navigate through life’s challenges alone. The ending of my relationship, problems at work, managing finances, running a home, questions about my own childhood – the list of instances I have needed my mum have been plenty, yet for myself and many other motherless mums, it was in these moments that I had no choice but to learn how to mother myself.

My life without a mum has been lonely. On shit days there is simply no one to turn to, no one to talk to and no one to understand me in a way only a mother can. For the most part I have worked out motherhood and life on my own, and often people will ask me who taught me how to cook, or clean or something as trivial as braiding hair and I laugh at the innocent expectation that everyone has someone to teach them these things. To the contrary, in the absence of a mother everything I know I have quite literally taught myself.

When my son was born, I taught myself how to rock him to sleep within minutes by patting his bum as I swayed him gently in my arms. I taught myself how to get up and work through exhaustion, functioning on barely any sleep and very little energy, even when I am sick. I taught myself how to paint, and hang wallpaper, fit shelves, build furniture, upcycle and anything necessary to make our house a home. These days I have been teaching myself patience and perseverance when I constantly remind my near ten year old to hang up his school uniform after school or put his toys back in their rightful homes. I have negotiated motherhood alone, often selflessly and exhaustively, and with many mistakes along the way.

Generally life keeps me so busy that I have little time to focus on the absence of my mum, however when life slows down in the evenings and my son is fed, bathed and snoring softly in bed, it will be in those moments that the loneliness strikes and I long to phone my mum just to talk about, well anything and nothing at all.

I grieve a confidant, a guide, a nurturer and a protector and I am eternally sad that she missed out on her life and my son. I yearn for her advice, her support, her wisdom and her voice.. And I guess just someone to tell me that I am doing ok.

“I miss her when I can’t remember what works best on insect bites, and when nobody else cares how rude the receptionist at the doctor’s office was to me. Whether she actually would have flown in to act as baby nurse or mailed me cotton balls and calamine lotion if she were alive isn’t really the issue. It’s the fact that I can’t ask her for these things that makes me miss her all over again.”

– Hope Elderman –

One of the most difficult aspects of mothering without a mum is juggling childcare and work in this modern day world. As it stands if I need help, there are only a couple of people I can call and with lives and responsibilities of their own, their support will understandably forever be limited and conditional. Childcare has always been a problem, and in the early days when I first split from my childs father scheduling childcare so we were both able to remain at work was the cause of great tension and stress since he pretty much took a backseat and has been less than willing to step in and help since. Sick days, inset days, hospital appointments, balancing childcare around my shifts and any other juggling of childcare arrangements are always my responsibility and without a mum or any real support system, this can be tough.

As is my social life (away from family-focused events) which has always been pretty much non existent, though fortunately I have a great group of long term friends who understand that for me motherhood is and will always be the priority.

I guess, in many ways being motherless has made me overprotective of my son because he really is all I’ve got, plus my care experience exposed me to just how manipulative and self-serving adults can be and I am super careful and selective about who I allow into his life as a result. I will not just leave him with anyone, and with exclusion of my great aunt and my cousin (and in the early days my siblings though they are all busy with their own lives now) no one is or has ever been allowed to look after my son. No one, friends or family alike.

In that respect, I think it’s fair to say that my mother’s early death has shaped not only my life but also the way that I mother as I am acutely aware that the ground can be pulled out from under your feet without a moments notice and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

As I approach my sons tenth birthday, this fear has become very real as he will soon be older than I was when my mother died and I am irrationally fearful of the future and the possibility of leaving him behind if like my mother I am destined to die young. I hope we break the curse and life does not deal us those cards.

The journey of motherhood without a mum has been tough, but if there is one thing that I am thankful for it is my motivation to succeed. Growing up motherless (and parentless) taught me resilience I don’t think I ever would have discovered or developed otherwise. I am independent, strong and a survivor both by nature and self nurture. I am aware of my capabilities and I know that no matter what challenges life will bring I can and will survive. There is no one in the world that I can fall back on (at least not unconditionally) and that circumstance alone has unquestionably governed both my experience of motherhood, my life and my unrelenting will to push through.

Being a motherless mother has been a lesson. A lesson in love, in perserverance, a lesson in trying, failing and trying again and a lesson in taking ownership of my life.

It has never been easy and I don’t expect it will ever get easier, however it is a journey that has taught me patience, courage, self-love, kindness, forgiveness and strength and for that I am forever thankful.

Losing Myself to Motherhood

IMG_3278Nearly ten years in on this journey called motherhood and this is one of the most important lessons I have learnt;

Becoming a mum does not mean one must lose oneself.

What does that even mean? How could you possibly lose yourself? Well the reality is you can and you do. As any parent will know, life changes drastically once you have a baby. Your responsibilities multiply, your priorities shift and as for your goals and routine? For what it’s worth, be prepared to be flexible.

The transition process began for me as soon as I found out I was pregnant. Given the fact that I was pregnant at sixteen I made a decision very early on in my pregnancy that I had to be capable; there was no other choice. If this was to be and I was going to go ahead and have a baby, then despite what anyone thought and in defiance to their objections and disapproval, I would prove them wrong; I would be the best mum.

In my mind that meant completely reinventing myself and distancing myself from the rebellious teenager everyone knew. I went from being a typical sixteen year old, with many friends and always in the mix to hiding away from the world overnight. I could not possibly continue being a teenager, doing normal teenage things as well as be a mother, the two simply did not go hand in hand, I had to pick one role; and I chose to be a mum.

There has never been a day that I have regretted my decision to bring my son into the world because I love him deeply, truly I do. However it saddens me that I did not have the guidance ten years ago to know that I could have been both, choosing motherhood did not mean Jaimeé would cease to exist. On the contrary I was told that if I kept my baby I would be giving up everything. Life would never be the same again, I would never come first and any dreams that I had, well I might as well forget them.

In truth, it was the above counsel that fuelled my desire to relinquish my old life completely, to prove that all that everyone said I would have to sacrifice did not matter to me, though it did. I loved my youth, my freedom and my friends and of course I had dreams and aspirations. Yet, society instructed that I give those up, my needs did not come first anymore. I had made my bed and now I’d have to lie in it.

Consequently my disconnection to life as I had known it prior to pregnancy very quickly ensued. I traded freedom for responsibility, adolescence for adulthood, spontaneity for structure. I stopped communicating with friends, listening to music I enjoyed (Giggs better pop up in your thoughts as an artist, haha), frequenting the youth club I’d once attended religiously, spending time with family and generally going out at all. Sure there were some positive changes as well, I stopped taking risks, I quit smoking, drinking alcohol and loitering around the estates of my youth but my identity as I had known it was gone and I quickly withdrew into myself.

When I look back, it frustrates me that I allowed stigma and the opinions of others to shape my idea of motherhood and influence my journey so profoundly that I felt compelled to disassociate from everything and everyone I knew and transform into someone I didn’t even recognise. Warranted, I evolved into a good little mum along the way however for a little while there it was at the cost of myself when it needn’t have been.

I can think of plenty of other examples where my desire to be the best mum was both unhelpful to my growth and at the expense of having a well rounded existence, though I won’t begin to list them all as it does not make for interesting reading. What I will say is that in hindsight I recognise that my dedication to demonstrating my competence as a mum caused me to not realise or accept when I needed support. It also led to me staying in an unhappy relationship long after I should have left in addition to ignoring and evading opportunities to socialise and meet with friends. My understanding of what being the best mum to my child involved was the cause of unnecessary misery and insecurity when I was unable to meet my own expectations or live up to my parenting ideals.

Conversely, as I do not want to be misunderstood, I do not believe there is anything wrong with wanting to be your best. As a matter of fact you should absolutely aspire to be your best, it is a discipline worth developing. It’s the nature of survival that we do not want to fail or fall short in any area of our lives, not of our expectations, or our peers nor our potential. The problem is, sometimes that desire to be the best & do the best can become unhealthy, destructive and tiring!

My perception of what being the ‘best mum’ entailed was warped, isolating and counterproductive. Best to me meant being wholly committed to being mum and dismissing all of the needs & wants of Jaimeé. It meant sacrificing who I was before I was a mum and who I was away from being a mum. It resulted in feeling guilty anytime I done something for myself and in reality it was a damaging mindset to have adopted. In light of this, a few years ago I decided I didn’t need to be the best mum in the world, my idea of best was delusional and subjective anyway.

Being a good mum is enough. Being a good mum is about taking care of yourself and your needs. It requires growth, practice and sacrifice as well as patience for both your child and yourself. It demands self-evaluation and elevation. It means being comfortable and humble enough to ask for help, advice or support or to lean on the village around you. Being a good mum involves work (lots of it), mistakes (lots of them), learning curves (life is no straight road) and a never ending commitment to growth.

See, in motherhood there is no peak or destination for one to stop, rest and praise one’s self for their good job. Being a good mum is a conscious effort to wake up everyday until your last, acknowledging the new opportunity to be a better you and a better mum. It is accepting that sometimes you will make mistakes and you might not always have it all together, but if your will is strong and you are prepared to grow then you are already half way there.

So ladies, don’t waste your time attempting to be the best mum, instead aspire to be the best you because believing you are “the best mum” or making that ideal your goal grounds your growth. The definition of best is ‘the most excellent’. To delude yourself that your parenting ability is or can be of the highest degree leaves no room for improvement and plenty of room for disappointment.

You don’t have to lose yourself in motherhood, consume yourself in motherhood or wear motherhood like a skin. It is perfectly acceptable to be a mum and be you too. To take breaks between the routine of life, to nurture yourself, to establish your own hobbies and invest time, effort and money into your own needs. It’s fine to have that extra drink, accept that invitation to meet friends or let your child spend a little more time on the iPad just so you can finish reading that book.

I avoided being me for a couple of years and quit investing time in myself, my goals and my relationships because I was busy devoting all of my time and energy into being mum & I am happy to hold my hands up and admit my judgement was off.

If I could give one piece of advice to any mum or mum to be it would be, do not lose yourself like I did and/or allow society to pressure or guilt trip you into thinking once you become pregnant your identity is limited to being “mum”. There is no shame in finding the balance between who you were, who you are and motherhood.

Jaimeé  ♥

 

Why Now?

I wanted to blog because well, I love to write. I write down most things; my thoughts, poetry, quotes that I come across, my shopping lists, everything! I have been known to write letters to end relationships, I mean, come on, that’s 1940 type shit! Who even does that?! Cringey as it may be it is honestly the only way I can collate and organise my thoughts and feelings.

Most of what I have written has never been shared, but on the occasion I do share my writing my friends and family encourage me to share more. I have told those who believe in me a million times “one day I will start a blog” and yet I never get round to it. Not because I don’t have time; I do. Nor because I’ve lost interest; I haven’t, I don’t get round to it simply because my writing is very personal, I write about experiences, about traumas and lessons, I write about love and loss and life.

Therefore though I desperately wanted to blog for the longest time, I have always lacked the nerve. In actual fact would you believe I made this blog nearly a year ago in April 2017 following a conversation with my sisters about creating a shared blog between us. The plan was to share our lives from each of our perspectives, me being the mum and a little bit of a tearaway, my older sister being the successful and keen traveller living abroad and our youngest sister being the most independent 20 year old of all time.

Unfortunately despite our plans, it never happened, the discussions dried up & so once again without the comfort of my sisters to join me on the journey, I pushed the thought of blogging to the back of my mind and poured my heart and thoughts into note books instead.

How then did I get to this point? You’re asking the wrong person, I really don’t know where I found the courage. When I decided to finally blog, I thought (and overthought) a lot about, well everything! The themes of my content, my target audience, the style of my writing, the responsibility of being credible and honest, the commitment to consistency et cetera. There were many things to consider and in turn many pros and cons to creating an online platform.

The biggest con was not being in control of my audience. My job means that I work with some of the most vulnerable people in the community. I have to be very careful about maintaining boundaries and ensuring I share very limited (if any) information about my personal life. Thus, sharing my life and thoughts via a virtual platform makes me susceptible to clients potentially coming across my blog. The very thought made me cringe since the last thing I would ever want to do is cross professional boundaries. My work is important to me; as are the people I work with.

Having said that, so is writing. I love to write; I have been writing since forever. I wouldn’t say that I am an exceptionally good writer however articulating my thoughts and feelings has been a passion of mine long before I can remember, and it is one of my few comforts in life.

I mean sure, I could cancel out all the if’s, buts and maybes by simply writing anonymously. At the very least then I could protect myself from the possible over exposure to the young people I work with but I’m a firm believer in transparency and integrity. I’ve never hidden from who I am, I’ve lived an ordinaryish life and have overcome a lot along the way.

Perhaps naïve but I don’t necessarily see the harm in my clients knowing any of what I plan to share. I’m human and outside of work I have a life that isn’t perfect. Who’s is? I’m an average young woman and a busy mum living a standard life in an overpopulated city. There are thousands of women like me all over the globe.

That being said, the biggest pro to creating a blog was; there are thousands of women like me all over the globe. Thousands of people who are currently juggling motherhood and work and single parenting. Who have or are trying to overcome hardship by chasing their dreams and finding their inner strength to continue on their journeys in the face of adversity.

And so I guess that’s why I’ve decided to blog, for the women just like me who may have gone through or are going through similar situations to the ones I have experienced. To encourage them, to connect with them, to learn from them, to support them & hopefully have their support whilst we continue on our journeys into pension age and beyond.

Jaimeé  ♥

Awkward Intros

A few years ago I used to work for a local authority training social workers and other social work professionals around improving their relationships and communication with young people in care. (I already hear you asking yourself where I’m going with this since its no way to start a blog but stay with me).

Each session would involve ten social work professionals and two care experienced young people to help facilitate the session, as well as myself, the lead trainer.

The main purpose of the training was to create an environment where professionals could step into the shoes of the young person and attempt to understand the care experience from the young person’s perspective. It was my goal to teach these specialists how to improve their relations with young people by exercising empathy to build honest and trusting relationships whilst still maintaining clear boundaries and assuring their professional integrity.

As I’m sure you can imagine, no social work professional wanted or appreciated a young woman coming in to train them on how to practice being a “better social worker”, they were all already qualified after all.

So initially at the beginning of every session there would be a room full of professionals who quite clearly would rather be anywhere but there (even if I did put on an amazing lunch time spread). They would come in, sit down and glare at me from their desks, unable to mask the irritability that they had been forced to waste an entire day in yet another training session when they were drowning in paperwork & TAC meetings & quite frankly had better things to be doing. I mean, in some respects it was true, what could I without my social work degree or any degree for that matter teach them that they didn’t already know? (A lot as it happens but that story is for another day).

Therefore to stimulate their willingness to engage as well as dispel the negative preconceptions of the training, my first task of any session would be to start off with an ice breaker. This would typically be something fun, silly and interpersonal to allow the group to begin to comfortably interact with one another as well as see me beyond my role as their trainer. Ice breakers are magic during group meetings and opening the session by sharing that my name was Jaimee and I was once 16 and pregnant, despised paying council tax, enjoyed to read and had only one tattoo that I regretted the very minute it was inked on my skin was a lot more effective than beginning with the rules and objective of the training. It made me human, it made me vulnerable and most importantly it made me relatable. I wasn’t there to speak at them after all, I was there to speak to them and with them, and above all, I was there to listen.

I rolled out this training many times to countless professionals in a diverse number of roles from social workers to foster carers, to the metropolitan police, corporate parents and youth offending workers to name but a few. To their credit, by the end of the sessions the majority of the participants were extremely glad that they had joined me and I’d often see tears and emotion from the group before the day was out. This was my objective, to evoke feeling and passion in these professionals, to allow them to step away from legislation and policy and actually empathise with children in care. To encourage them to think of their young people as children, people and human beings and not just cases or service users.

Nonetheless no matter how many times I bared my soul to a room full of colleagues and/or strangers and regardless of how useful of a tool it was to use my vulnerability to encourage them to open up and be vulnerable themselves, it was always unnerving (which is where I will finally get to my point – and if you’ve made it this far, thank you for hanging on in there).

Introductions are awkward and sharing personal information is uncomfortable!! In fact, nothing makes me more anxious than the responsibility of telling someone who I am within a paragraph or a few sentences. Where do I start? How do I start? What do I say? What information is appropriate? Where do I draw the line between “ok great” and “yep, that’s definitely an overshare?” The long and short of it is; for me, no matter how many times I do them, introductions are difficult. So rather than tell you who I am beyond the short description provided in amongst this spiel, I am going to let my blog do the talking.

What I will share is that I intend to write about life. Life as I have known it so far in my 26 years of what has been a rollercoaster of a ride. I will write about my life as a small child when my mother was tragically murdered when I was just nine years old, about the fearless wayward teenager I used to be growing up in inner city London in children’s homes and foster care, about the single mother I am to an extraordinary young man who changed my heart and my life and about the woman I aspire to be who has been on both sides of the care system and is committed to one day changing social care. Do I think it’s valuable? Possibly. Do I think it’s worth writing about? Most definitely. Do I think you should stick around to find out? Please do.. perhaps somewhere along the way my thoughts, feelings and experiences may resonate or be of some use to you.

Jaimeé  ♥

 

 

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