Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Get out of my space!

Last Saturday morning I spent most of my time scratching purple and orange Playdoh out of my son's cream bedroom carpet. I cursed myself for leaving it within his reach, and smugly found a spot for the container on top of his wardrobe.  Later in the afternoon I discovered he'd also found the coloured chalks, and so I witnessed 'Multicoloured Carpet - Part 2'. Will I ever learn? He's suddenly hit the age where he is surprisingly resourceful, and he can open packets and boxes that he couldn't before. I should really quench his insatiable curiosity in the hope that it will help him go further in his adult life, but there is a time and a place. My flat is kiddiproof (or so I thought). It may be time to revisit things within his reach and not underestimate his new found opposable thumb skills. I think a regular review of potential hazards in broken toys, his reach and what fastenings/bottle tops he can open is very important. Failing that, I could just glue everything sharp, dangerous and messy to the ceiling and be done with it.

Lego man with shopping trolly

We got out of the house for a bit on the weekend and did a much-needed shop at the supermarket. Whilst having lunch at the in-store cafe he bolted off twice before I could get his wrist strap/reign on him. One all-knowing stranger felt the need to say, "You need a leash for that one." Thanks for your input. I know I have a mischievousness monkey for a child, but thank you for announcing it.

As we returned to the car I noticed a shiny black BMW pulling into the Parent and Toddler space next to me. I noticed there was no child seat in the back of the car, and I felt the need to point this out to the driver who looked old enough to know better. He said, "Excuse me? This is my child", as his 15 year old 'child' with facial fuzz opened the passenger door. Embarrassed, and thinking he must be disabled I apologised profusely, and then the 'kid' jumped out of the car and off into the supermarket! I stood their speechless (a rare occurrence, I'm told). He is obviously someone who is deluded to think you get the privilege of a larger space just because you have a 'child'. It's frustrating because it's difficult to find a parent and toddler space. I felt bad for the genuine parents with toddlers/babies who were queuing for the space. Surely the point is that in order to get a baby out and back into a car - strapped in safely - you need to open the door fully? A teenager can manage on his own.

A couple of the supermarkets issue a £50 fine for the misuse of toddler spaces (although I'm not sure how strictly they can enforce these penalties anyway). It equally frustrates me when a family park in a toddler space and only one of the adults get out to nip into the shop, leaving the children in the car with the other parent. Or, when there is a child seat in the car....but it's empty. I also could've done with parking in a parent and child space in my third trimester as I tried to squeeze my enormous bump through a tiny crack in the door, because technically, I did have a child. However, I didn't because these spaces rely on good manners and common sense. Unfortunately there are the inconsiderate few who are either a buckle short of a five-point harness or just down right selfish.

Friday, 1 February 2013

What are the toughest challenges faced by a single mum?

This is a lot of pressure on just one person to make the right decisions.  Is he eating right? Is he getting enough 'fresh air'? Do I have enough cash to cover the next pair of shoes? We are so worried by recommendations on various parent websites and retailers that bargain shoes for children are so wrong. I see the state of my feet when I’ve crammed them into a pair of bargain specials for a (rare) night out. I agree, he should have well fitting shoes because his feet are still growing. As parents we have fears about them having the best of everything so they can be the best. My fear is that if I don’t buy good shoes his feet will be mangled, and he’ll have some sort of limp in his teenage years which will cause him to be bullied at school thus damaging his mental state. He’ll never have the confidence to fulfil his dreams, and end up living with his mum as an adult because he can’t bear to leave the house and get a job. Knowing which path to take with even the smallest of choices could potentially be directly or indirectly detrimental to him in the long term.

You can plan and save but if you were already paying out for debt before you were single (most of us do, let’s face it) then you’ll surely be stretched if you’re supporting a child on your own. If you want to be working and advance your career for the long term benefit of your child’s future then childcare is a necessity. The biggest payout is the nursery fees. Luckily, I get a bit of a tax break in childcare vouchers. This means you don’t pay tax on a small portion of your earnings and it's paid directly to the carer rather than into your bank account. Of course there are snippets of help with tax credits etc. which are certainly not to be sniffed at, but even those are cut every year. As the cost of living increases, so the tax relief goes down making the gap feel like the Grand Canyon. I sometimes wonder if the easy way out would be to stop work and start hollering at the local council to give me a house to live in. However, I would like to set a different example for my son, and encourage him to aim high. If he wants to get somewhere he should put on his good shoes and start walking.

Which Nursery/School?
When they hit three years old your children are entitled to a small amount of funding for a nursery place. This gets them prepared for the school environment. What I am quickly finding is that nurseries ramp up their fees so that it’s actually MORE expensive than sending him to a childminder. Although the termly funded fees are about the same you’ll have to pay an inflated rate for them to be cared for in the holidays. There are also a number of nurseries and childcare environments to choose from. How do you know which will be best? The truth is, you can't. You have to go with your gut and hope it works out.

I’m pretty sure I’m not exaggerating. In fact, I'm sure my colleagues have started to wonder if I suffer from narcolepsy. For parents in general, exhaustion is one of the biggest killers of their personality. It sucks the life out of you. It takes your enthusiasm, your drive, your dreams and your libido and rips them away from you like candy from a baby - so to speak. My son’s nearly three and only now is he starting to stay in his own bed at night. He still gets up at about 3am for a cuddle sometimes, and if he doesn’t my body clock wakes me up anyway to lie there expectantly waiting for my bedroom door to slowly open. Letting him in my bed was a tough habit for me to break too because it’s nice having him there to cuddle up to.

Love life – Or lack thereof
I am actually one of the fortunate single mums who has one or two weekends a month off from my parental duties. These are the times I can date. And these times only. It is slightly limited, but I neither have the time, nor the energy for any extracurricular activities during my normal week. Internet dating was made for folk like us.

The Brave Face
Your job is busy and long, your funds are low, you have minimal time for yourself or your hobbies, you’re under pressure to be an exemplary model of a human being. You’re judged by people in the street about how you handle a tantrum, you barely have time for toilet breaks so you learn to hold it, you try to avoid conflict with men folk, bosses and neurotic family members. So when you’re close to falling off the edge a little boy expects you to be happy, on the ball and 'chipper'. In your head you count to five, your smile goes up; you spring into Mum-mode and eagerly help practise counting to 20.

Mum and son