24 April 2018

When you have everyone and no one...!

Fourteen months off came to an end for me at the beginning of this year. 13 of those months were just incredible, yep I include the sleepless nights and initial issues with breastfeeding in all of that, I was just on some kind of constant new Mum high. I’ve found motherhood a completely challenging and liberating experience. Something I doubt it’ll ever stop being.

I had to throw myself straight into work. None of this steady progress in. I didn’t have any keeping in touch (KIT) days. Of course they were offered, I just couldn’t take them. Most of you will know they aren’t compulsory anyways, but they do help you ease back into having adult conversations about non-baby topics and focusing on ‘work’ stuff. I couldn’t use them because I had no childcare. The moment I did, was the moment I went back to work. Until then, it was just me and my husband and well… that’s it!

We are surrounded by lots of family and friends. My husband is one of five, and there’s plenty of nieces and nephews. I’m one of three. But it’s only now 17 months on I realise how sad it is that we are surrounded by everyone and no one.

Now I’m not writing this as a sympathetic piece. I don’t want people feeling sorry for us. It’s more about trying to make people understand just how hard childcare can be, especially when you have no one to really help. I feel like a bit of a fraud talking about this, as I know there are thousands of single parents that are going through the same ordeal every… single… day.

It’s been incredibly hard to make others understand that it’s not easy for us to just expect someone to look after our daughter, whether it be for a few hours or even overnight (which hasn’t happened yet). In fact trying to organise a few hours is difficult enough let alone a whole night.

I can’t be as flexible as I used to be at work, which means I can’t do as many extra or unsocial hours as I used to. This did initially cause some issues and may continue to do. But equally our daughter has to come first, especially when she’s ill. Why would I want someone else to try and comfort her when all she wants is her Mum or Dad? It’s not fair on her or the person who would end up looking after her.

It’s times like this we realise just how important my husband’s Mum was in our family. She suddenly passed away back in 2013. She never saw us get married and obviously never saw us have our daughter. Most of you will already know the story of my pregnancy and the traumatic birth of our daughter. We lacked appropriate physical and emotional support at the time from many family, friends and the professionals, and also once we were home. I have absolutely no doubt that she would have been our rock back then, but also now. At the time of her passing, she was already a grandmother of nine. Our daughter was her 10th grandchild and she’d helped my sister-in-law lots with her brood. Her influence was massive and her absence shows in all of their lives.

People will ask, ‘What about other family members?’

Without trying to upset anyone, most of them are busy dealing with their own working lives or children or I hate to say it, can’t be bothered. My parents are in their 70s and too old to be running around after an active toddler as much as they’d love to. My 4 foot 11 Mum can’t even carry my little girl anymore.

Being big football fans, it was only recently I went along to a match with my husband for the first time in 16 months. This was the first time we’d been alone together properly (along with 30,000 others) since the birth of our little girl. I wish we’d just gone for lunch somewhere, as the match was crap and the result was even worse. Some people will say it’s sad and that somehow we’ve lost our identity as a couple or even as individuals. For ages I started to believe that. It was another added pressure to being a first time parent.

But I’ve come to realise and accept that one day our daughter won’t need us in the same way anymore. She’ll want to sleepover at a friend’s house, or go places where she won’t need her Mum and Dad in tow. The most important thing in all of this is that my husband and I have accepted that the situation is what it is. And as long as we don’t lose focus on our love for each other and are honest about how we are both feeling, then nothing else and no one else matters.

It would also be nice that more and more employers, friends and everyone else in between understood the constraints many couples have as it’s not just a single parent issue, it’s an issue for many, many parents.

Bina - @Lil_Bins

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