Friday, April 6, 2018

1y1m27d : Single parenting thoughts - finances

I am a single mother. My daughter has one parent, me. And of course this comes with certain special issues that 2-parent families don't have to deal with. But most of the time, I don't feel any different from any other parent. In fact, I often think things are easier that it's ONLY me and my daughter and I'm not having to deal with another person in our family.

People sometimes say things like, "I don't know how you do it!" or, "You're so strong!". Really? Because I'm just living my life and I happen to be raising a tiny human. Sometimes I think that because I had a child when I was older, and that I was as prepared as I could be, particularly, although not exclusively, financially, that it's just a bit easier for me. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm an academic. I do not make a lot of money. I'm solidly middle class with an income that is nowhere remotely close to six figures. But I had savings; and, I was lucky that trying to conceive didn't eat it all up.  I also don't spend as much as I once did on things like eating out, or gig tickets, or travel, because it's that much harder with a  young child. And I've never been much into clothes - I do buy clothes but I tend to wait for sales, or indulge in my eBay addiction for used stuff which is much, much cheaper.

And to be honest, raising MJ at this point in time isn't horrifically expensive (once you account for nursery, which IS horrifically expensive, but I've got that covered). The investment in cloth diapers was a bit of an outlay, but now I don't buy diapers, so I think that works out better in the long run (and, of course, I got a bunch off eBay so they were lower cost).  It means I have a bit of spending money for small indulgences- books and toys which mostly are pretty cheap. And I also get most of her stuff (like clothes) off eBay because it's ridiculous how expensive new kids clothes are and how very little they've been worn. It means I can pay for things like our WaterBabies class and not think twice about it when other moms I know say things like, "Oh, but that's very expensive isn't it?". I mean, I guess? But what else am I spending money on?

So would life be easier with two incomes? Maybe? But we'd need more stuff, more space, more food, etc. There are certain things that would be easier with another parent- like I could go do something and have 'free' childcare. But I do sort of have this because boyfriend will watch MJ if there's something I really need to do.  In the same way that many single parents have extended family who can help them out. I do know some single parents who are entirely on their own, but many have a village, or build a village that can support them. It's not the same as a partner who has an actual responsibility to the child, but a good network goes a long way. And if my village can't watch MJ, then I just have to pay for a sitter. It's not cheap (£10/hour) so I don't do it very often at all, but if I HAD to do it, I would do it and it's an option to me. It's not impossible, it's just money.

And let's face it, I knew that having a child would entirely shift my life, and my habits would change. I guess I'm just happy that overall, we're not struggling or anything. We're not rolling in it, but we're fine. We can have nice things (some gently used) and we can go on holidays and have nice food and swim lessons. What else do we need really? I guess because I don't know any different- that I've been on my own for so long, that I planned for having a child, and was financially ready to change my habits, that it's generally all worked out fine. Maybe I'd be amazed at how much more spending power I'd have if I had a partner? But somehow I don't think so. And anyway, it doesn't matter, because we're all good!


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

1y1m18d : When do you feel like a mom?

One thing that I have noticed since MJ has arrived, is how much I still feel very much like myself.  I am somewhat intrigued by people who say things like, 'Motherhood completes me.' or 'I've always wanted to be a mom'. I mean, I've always thought I would have a child (and now I do) but what does that mean to BE a mom?

I had MJ later in life, when I was already 42 (my Douglas Adam year). In preparation for MJ and just in general, I had shaped my life into something that made me pretty happy.  I have a job I love, I am solvent, I own a home (although I currently rent it out and live in another, but hey ho). I've dealt with a lot of my demons and baggage.  I am probably one of the best versions of myself now, then I have ever been.  But if MJ had not come along, this would still be true. My life, and who I am, is very independent of MJ.  I am a whole and fulfilled person who happens to have wanted, and then had, a child.  But if MJ had not happened, then I would have found something else meaningful to fill that spot.

So then what does it mean to feel like a mom? I am a mom for sure.  I put MJ's needs first (for the most part, when reasonable, I mean, her needs can't ALWAYS be first, mommy needs to pee). I have merged my caring for her into my life and routine, without giving up or particularly changing who I am. I have changed what I DO, because I have had to. You can't suddenly add a child to the mix and do everything like you used to do it.  But that was part of what I signed up to. It's no hardship, because I expected my life to change to accommodate this little person.  I just do it. And so I just AM a mother, but I'm not sure I FEEL like a mother.

I honestly am not even sure what that means. I love her in a way that is unique. But is that enough, does love make a parent?  Recently I had to travel to London for work which is about an hour by train away from Cambridge. MJ was at nursery for the day and so that was all taken care of. Yet as the train got further and further away from Cambridge I felt this pull on my heart, I could literally feel the distance between us. That if she needed me, I couldn't be there quickly for her. This felt extremely uncomfortable.  The closest thing I could think of what it felt like was the description of the connection to soul daemons in the Phillip Pullman books. I didn't like it. I then went on to think about how although I have had to come home late on occasion, we have never spent a night apart. And the thought of doing so, is equally uncomfortable.

I'm still not sure though that this feeling is, can, or should be the definition of feeling like a mother? Or maybe I'm looking for something that just isn't there. What I feel like is myself. A good version of myself. And I happen to be a mother.  Maybe that's just it.

Friday, March 16, 2018

1y1m5d : No Sleep Monster

First let me say that I truly believe that babies are meant to sleep like shit. Do you know why there are so many books and consultants and methods? Because babies are doing EXACTLY what babies are supposed to do. It's us crazy adults who expect them to do something other than there nature.

So generally I'm pretty tolerant of MJs sleep shenanigans. From 6 weeks to 4 months my little angel slept through the night and it was a dream come true. Then we hit the four month brain development change, and it all went to shit. Since then, she's slept through the entire night three whole times. We've gone through phases of waking every 1-2 hours, which was total shit, and waking once in the middle of the night, which is manageable.  Recently, we've been on the wake up once pattern and also wake up in the morning really early (around 5am). It's not great, but it's okay.

But this past week or so, it's all change again. For starters, the boob is not the magic potion it used to be. As I mentioned, I'm cutting back on breastfeeding so it's really just an evening activity for us. Well, MJ used to fall asleep very happily with a boob in her mouth. Now she has one, then the other, then would like to scream about it for a half an hour to an hour. I can't console her, cuddle her, rock her, put her down, pick her up, or do anything because what she really needs is to just go to sleep. But she doesn't want to. So after 45 minutes I usually revert to controlled crying (exit room for 5 minutes, come back sooth, exit, repeat) and it usually only takes 1-3 five minute cycles for her to settle. But it makes me feel like shit because I don't like walking out on my screaming baby. On the other hand, I don't like holding my thrashing screaming baby either where it's obvious nothing I'm doing is helping.

I don't know why we've suddenly kicked off on this new phase of sleep misery. But like all things sleep, the one thing I'm sure of is that it will not last and will change.  Teething? Maybe. Sore throat like mommy has? Who knows! It's been so long I just can't imagine what a whole night sleep is like anymore.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

1y0m25d : Weaning

I'm not sure that I had very strong opinions about breastfeeding or bottle feeding before I had a baby. Sure I thought, "I'll give breastfeeding a go. If it doesn't work I'll bottle feed. It doesn't matter." And the reality is, when it comes to feeding your baby, it DOESN'T matter. But I was able to breastfeed, and I enjoyed it, so that's what we've done.

I'm not sure that I had very strong opinions about how long a woman should breastfeed before I had a baby that I was breastfeeding. But I do know that I sort of had the idea that once they were on food and more mobile, it was probably time to stop breastfeeding. Well, that thinking is pretty much out the window. MJ is almost 13 months and although I am very much limiting our breastfeeding time now, I am not giving it up.

Basically, I'm moving us to a position where I do not breastfeed during the day. Up until this week, when I arrived at nurser, the first thing I would do was to get MJ, sit in the chair in the corner specifically for this purpose and breastfeed her.  But I'm a little bit tired of doing this, and I realize that she's not going to give it up voluntarily. She doesn't NEED that feed, she just enjoys it whereas I find it makes our going home journey just that much longer and move involved. I can leave nurser quicker if we are not feeding.

And so the past few days this week, when I've gone to nursery, I've grabbed her stuff, talked to her key worker about how her day was, and we've left. We get home, we do dinner, and then we do her bedtime which now involves a slightly longer feed then she's been getting- because I let her feed off both breasts (she only ever did one at a time) for up to 10 minutes each and then I put her in her crib.

At night, I'm trying to get her to give up wake ups and night feeds, so I'm reducing the 10 minute feed to 8 minutes (and when she gets used to that, it will drop to 7, then 6, etc.). But in the morning, provided she wakes up at a semi-reasonable time, I give her both breasts again for a nice feed. My goal would be for us to do morning and night, and for her to drop those of her own accord.

Although this is all thought through in a logical sort of way, I haven't been prepared for this twang I get about reducing the breastfeeding. We're not even giving it up!! But it makes me feel sad and wistful. It's interesting, because if you bottle feed your baby, you can keep doing that. You form a bond around a bottle which could become a cup, which makes that special relationship perhaps last longer. When we're done with breast, then we're going to be done and that's just over. If MJ sits on my lap for a cuddle in the future and drinks from a cup, it won't be the same or even close to the same.

It will be lovely of course, but different.  Ah, growing babies. It goes so fast!!

Monday, March 5, 2018

1y0m23d : Ignoring milestones

It is impossible not to compare your child to other children.  MJ is completely developmentally normal. She has not excelled in any particular area, but she is also not behind. She pulls to stand and cruises, but she is not walking yet. She makes an assortment of noises, and some are very close to being words for things (pretty sure we have 'quack quack' going for ducks and birds) but doesn't really have words or sounds that are clearly specific. And she is otherwise an engaging, curious, and regular toddler.

Of course then I see on some forum that someone's doctor said that by one year their child should have 3-4 words. And on this bog standard site that if your child isn't standing independently by 11 months they'll perform worse at age 4 than those that do. It's hard not to let little concerns creep in, although I'm generally good at ignoring them. I get why we need milestones, but maybe they should be 'if your child hasn't done x,y,z by this date, you need to see your doctor' which would remove the average from the discussion. Because an average is exactly that, an average!

Of course then there's research like this which suggests its the later social-emotional skills of your 4 year old that have a greater impact on their adult well being.

In my NCT of 8, where all the babies were born within 6 weeks of each other, we currently have 3 walkers. None of which are the oldest two (of which MJ is one) and I think only one with clear words, although I could be wrong there. So, as I said, developmentally normal. Not ahead, not behind. Sometimes for your own sanity, I think it's important to ignore the milestones.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

1y0m12d : Nursery germs are real

Oh my god. Why so many germs? How can we have so many colds? It's relentless! One after the other after the other. I know it could be worse- that MJ could have had ear infections or chest infections or things that require greater intervention. Mostly she just pours snot out of her nose and occasionally squeezes some out of her eyes if it's particularly bad.

But why do I have to get all the colds as well? I'm a socialized human adult who has interacted with any number of germs in my lifetime. It seems tremendously unfair. I am currently suffering from one of the worse colds so far in that my sinuses are completely stuffed up.  Because I'm still breast feeding, you aren't really supposed to take decongestants.  Although I've been told this is because it can dry up milk, and I'm not actually so worried about that at this point.

But honestly. It's just dreadful.  I'm trying to be thankful for the small things- like, how glad I am that when I leave work it's still daylight, and when I leave nursery, it's not pitch black. These things make me happy.

But so does breathing.  Spring and warm weather really can't come soon enough as far as I'm concerned!!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

T minus 4 Days Until First Birthday

Can you believe it? I certainly can't. Where does the time go??!!

I am in some ways incredibly sad that I have been unable to keep up with this blog to document MJ's first year of life. It's been an incredible whirlwind. So much has happened. Now it all seems like a beautiful blur.

I do say that overall I find I handle motherhood and life well, but the reality is that something has got to give. For me it's been my home (which is a tip), and things like this blog- things that used to fill my personal time. Also in this category are knitting, reading, cooking, tidying, and shopping.

I wouldn't change it for anything.

So what can I say that could in any way cover the gap from my last post? MJ will officially be a toddler on Saturday, although she is not yet toddling. She does want to stand up all the time. She's getting much better at pulling herself up to it, and has take a few tentative shuffles but is not yet confidently cruising.

I'm back at work full-time which also means my personal time is limited. Although I'm writing this at work, so what does that tell you?  The adjustment wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be. MJ was 7 months old when I returned to work half time for one month and 8 months old when I returned to work full time.  I think it was a very good time for this to happen as she was becoming an inquisitive, busy and active baby as opposed to a snuggly stay put newborn. So nursery was a great environment for her to explore new people, new toys, new things. I could not be happier with our nursery arrangement.

As an interesting side note, one thing I'm very thankful for is that in MJ's nursery class of 14 in total, there are 2 children (including MJ) with only a mom (and a donor) and 1 child with two moms. How cool is that? That means all of these children will grow up thinking that alternate families are just normal, and no child is isolated in that way.

And work is very stimulating and accommodating. I loved maternity leave. But I also love my job. I love that I am proud of what I do and feel I will be a good role model for my daughter.  I also love that for the most part, my job has a very good work life balance, which my previous career path did not. It feels like many things have fallen into place, and I'm happy to just focus on being a mother and doing my job. Things are set up to allow me to just... thrive in the environment I've created. I think that's just a fantastic gift that I've given myself. The space to just be and experience the life I've shaped.  I never want to take that for granted.

So maybe I should just post this now, so there is some sort of update. Work is busy, but maybe I can have this as a little procrastination thing, and update a little more often.