“The best laid plans”

Does Christmas ever go to plan in your house? Is it how you expect it to be?  Or are you one of these laid-back people who ‘goes with the flow’?

I am a teacher so everything has to be planned within a inch of its life. My life is regulated by bells and meetings and calendars and timetables. Of course, there has to be flexibility – we are dealing with children after all – but it is still controlled and calculated and measured.

I attempted to plan Christmas as my inner control-freak needed me to. I needed to be prepared and ready. I needed to know exactly what I was doing and when. Part of that included knowing when my children were seeing their dad.

My husband is not a planner. At all. Perhaps that it unfair- his plans are spontaneous and he doesn’t waver from them as he has just made them so that is what is happening.  This contrasts completely with my need to plan-in-advance addiction.

I was fairly happy with what we had agreed for Christmas as there had been some compromise on both sides. I was a little frustrated with him coming to watch the children open their presents, mainly because he hadn’t bought (or paid for) any of them.  My bitter inner voice felt that he was getting some of the credit and half of the enjoyment for doing nothing. But he isn’t an ungenerous man. Although I usually buy the majority he would also buy a few gifts to help and would enjoy doing so. Not this year and I figure that there must be a good reason for that.  So,  that is what he asked for and it was what the children wanted so I gave in. In return, I got the afternoon to tidy and prepare the house, the dinner and myself before the children were to return to eat Christmas dinner with me. Of course I didn’t want to be apart from them but my consolation was that they would come home to a calm and happy mother, a beautifully set table and a perfectly cooked dinner. I could keep myself busy for that.

But the best laid plans….. He arrived and watched them open their presents and didn’t say a word. I commented on his lack of interaction: he said he was just ‘enjoying watching them’.  To me it was awkward. I don’t know if it was guilt – I certainly hadn’t started an argument about him not contributing to the gifts but he was probably well aware that I wasn’t happy about it.

Whilst I made pancakes I suggested he helped our youngest with the train set. Everything seemed a little better then. Until my family started to arrive to see our father and us.  The atmosphere returned. I was really concious that our children’s excitment to see my family was eating into his time with his and apologised whilst trying to hurry them up into getting ready.  He said it was fine, and meant it I think, but just sat there again.  Eventually the children were ready and they left.  The majority of the morning had felt strained and as it was now lunchtime, part of his time had been taken. I had reassured him that we were only eating at five so to just bring them back for then.

So, imagine my surprise when they returned at 3pm.  He said they see getting bored and wanted to come home. He was emotional when he left. I just don’t understand! Surely he could have entertained them? Played board games or cards, gone for a Christmas walk, watched a Christmas film or played with the toys that his parents had just given them?  I felt guilty again that some of his time with them had been taken by my family but then when would they have seen them? It is just so hard!

My frustration that the house and dinner were not ready on their return was quickly  replaced by the pleasure of having my daughter help with the preparations.  We had a lovely dinner and an evening of board games with my sister. I couldn’t help but think of my other half (when do I start calling him my ex- when we are divorced?) and how the day must not have gone how he had envisaged either.  I ended up inviting him to see the children the next day too even though that had not been the plans either.

I must state at this point that a lot of the advice I have read states that specific visiting days/times are best for the children. My experience so far is that this is really difficult, particularly as he is currently still staying with his parents.  Most of the time that he has with them still seems to be here which makes me feel uncomfortable and anxious  and completely in the way (in my own home).  There seems to be no set times despite my regular encouragement of them.  I am trying to be fair –  I don’t believe in punishing him through the children.  Our failed marriage has nothing to do with his relationship with them.  I want my children to see their dad regularly if that is what they want. But my need for structure and routine is completely at odds with him.

New Year is threatening to turn out in the same way. I have been asking him for some time now – “what are your plans?” Or “what would you like to do with the children at New Year?”. It is particularly complicated due to our middle child’s birthday being on New Year’s Eve.  He keeps telling me that he is thinking about it.  I don’t believe that he is being purposefully awkward – I know him well enough to believe that he truly doesn’t know yet.  In the meantime, the hours and days pass with no plans being made and my stomach churning at my lack of control.

Is this how hard it is going to be? How am I ever going to reestablish my life as a single mother if  I am still beholden to his wants?  How do I keep it amicable and fair if I don’t? I feel the dawn of the new year and its promise of a kick start to my new life and yet I feel like I am still tethered to the old.

Any advice gratefully received.


The flood after the storm.

I’m grieving. I’m grieving the end of my marriage. There, I said it.

I don’t feel I should say it any more than I believe I should feel it in the first place.  Those of you who have lived in an unhappy marriage (and one that is heading, slowly but surely, towards the end) will know that you spend a lot of time picturing how life will be after it ends.

There’ll be no more arguing over x when he has gone.

I will be able to do  y and she won’t be there to moan at me about it.

etc, etc.

The reality is, no matter how much you think life will be better separated from your partner, it is really hard at first. Even when you know in your heart that it is the right decision.

The biggest pressure you will feel is that which you put on yourself, particularly when you are the one who has made the decision to end the relationship. You feel a need to prove that your decision was correct: you can cope, life will be better separate. You are asked how you are by well-meaning friends and relatives and you don’t want to tell them the truth because then they will think you have made the wrong decision. That maybe you can’t function properly without the other person.

For me, the loneliness is the hardest thing.  When you are in the middle of dealing with yet another argument between your two children and you really could do with someone else to back you up. When the tea is on the stove, the phone is ringing, your two year old is crying , you need to get the washing in the drier (because you don’t want your other half to think you can’t manage it all) and you haven’t actually finished a cup of tea all day.  When the children are in bed and there is nothing on TV and you don’t want to call your sister/best friend/mother because you don’t want them to think you are not coping but all you want is a hug and someone to smile at you without pity in their eyes. When you look at your body – so far past its best – and the tiredness round your eyes and wonder how anyone will ever be interested in you again or when you will ever find the time/energy/inclination/confidence to ever find out.

I have made the right decision – I am certain about that. There is a steel core of certainty that runs through me, even though I feel like I am floundering through each day as I try to uncover the me that was lost in the storm of unhappiness.

I am sharing this with you, not for your pity or concern, but because I know that someone else out there is feeling like I do.  Someone else out there has searched the Internet, looking for answers or help or support because they don’t want those who love them to know just how hard this is. And if that person is you, I just want to say that it is OK, you will be OK. It is normal to grieve the life that you built all your hopes on, it is right that you should be tired and emotional after all those months and years of unhappiness and doubt and guilt. It is OK to grieve, because you will come out of it the other side. The floods will subside, the damage will be fixed, and something new will be built in its place.

All the best.  You are not alone.




Starting from the middle.

As a secondary teacher, I have often found myself telling my pupils that secondary school is the beginning of the life they want to lead.  I tell them that those all-important GCSEs will lead to an apprenticeship or A levels, that will lead to a career or a university place…and so on. As a school, we try to open our pupils’ minds to the wonderful  opportunities and experiences that life has to offer. I was told once that we are preparing pupils for jobs that haven’t been invented yet. An amazing but scary thought.  I actually think it is more than that though. We are trying to guide human beings who don’t even know who they are now, never mind who they want to be in the future.  Being a teenager is tough.

I don’t disagree with the sentiments I tell my pupils though. Not entirely. For some, that it the path they will take and they will do it successfully.  Those are the ex-pupils that we invite back each year to speak to our Year 11 Leavers: inspirational, motivated and successful.

But life isn’t simple, is it? For so many, leaving school is not the beginning. The pupils who do not get the results they need or those who have no idea who or what they want to be may take years to begin the life they want to lead. Or those that have gone astray, those whose lives are so complex that they aren’t ready to start living theirs whilst they are so busy dealing with the impact of others.

Being positive, I have accomplished much of what I have wanted.  I went to university – the first one in my family to do so.  I found myself becoming a teacher, realised that I am actually quite good at it and love (nearly) every minute of it. I married, bought a house, had children.  I have supported my parents, watched my beautiful sisters marry and have children of their own. I am a proud aunty  to two of the cutest little characters you have ever seen.  I have travelled enough to appreciate the diversity of the world whilst still loving the sanctuary of this little island.  Compared to so many people on this earth, I recognise how lucky I am.  There is so much in my life that I do not want to change.

And yet there is so much in my life that I do! Am I so wrong for wanting more? I want to be the best that I can be- in so many ways I feel like I am failing! If my luck holds out, I am heading towards the middle of my life. And yet, I am fighting so hard to change the path that I am on. I don’t want to be the lonely, exhausted, overweight working mother of three, trapped in an unhappy marriage and so scared that she is missing those opportunities she so enthusiastically promotes as a mother and teacher.

One day, as an old woman looking at the family and friends around her, I want to be proud of the beginnings I gave my children.  I want to be satisfied with the choices and mistakes I have made. I want the knowledge that I have lived a happy, full, life: filled with experiences and achievements and wonder.

I am starting from the middle. Somehow, I need to find balance between work and motherhood to find me.  I need to lose weight once and for all so that I can be a healthy role model for my children: one who runs and treks and swims and plays football and climbs and rides bikes or horses and isn’t out of breath before she begins. I want to feel good in my skin.   I want to rekindle those friendships that have somehow paled into the background of my working-mother life. I want to fulfil the dreams that I still have from my own childhood – see more of the world, write a novel, play the piano, learn to paint….and so many more.

The immediate future is a scary place for me. I have to traverse the minefield of separation and divorce and hope that my children do not become part of the depressing statistics for broken families. I want to one day look at the man I once loved and see happiness and not feel guilt.  The thought of being a lonely divorcee scares me but so does the thought of ever trusting a man enough to love him.  That path can wait.

So, I must somehow continue normality for my children whilst I begin carving a new life for us. A frightening and exciting prospect.  Wish me luck.





The start.

Where do I begin? I suppose the place to begin is with the end.

Today I ended my marriage.

Overwhelmingly, I feel sad. A deep, dark sadness that weighs down my spirit.  What else can I feel after a thirteen year relationship? After we brought three beautiful children into the world and created our family? With so many happy memories of family days out, birthdays, Christmases,  holidays…

I don’t hate my husband.  I don’t want to hurt him or make his life difficult.  I am not angry with him –  not even frustrated any more.  And I suppose that is the problem; for our marriage anyway. That’s how I know I have made the right decision because it has not been made with anger or bitterness or resentment.  I have made it because I truly believe it is the right decision for all of us.

I cried as he cried.  This man has supported me through the death of family members, through anxieties about work, through insecurities about myself.  He has loved me despite my weight, my temper and my inability to put the dirty washing in the basket. He has always believed in me.  And today I have taken his world away from him. I take no pleasure in his pain; no matter his wrong-doings.

Because, of course, there were problems. But I respect and care for him enough not to intentionally publish them in this blog, no matter how anonymous.  All that I will say, for anyone who is wondering, is that the time has come where I cannot stand anymore arguing.  There is nothing left to say.

So, this blog is not about him or us.

It is about me.  A thirty-six year old mother of three children who is now separated from her husband.

Us to me.

The start.