….and that’s an ex-husband.
So spoke a very lovely and wise friend of mine in a tea shop in Stow-on-the-Wold this time last year.
I’ve been lucky that my experience hasn’t been anything like that, but I’ve put the world to rights with separated and divorced friends often enough since to know that in general terms Heather was bang on with her observation. When you’re married, regardless of your relationship, there’s a certain amount of card-holding that disappears as quickly as the tide-mark on your ring finger when you cross over onto separation street.
Over the last year writing my blog became impossible. Not only because of the logistical and financial pressures of lone parenting – the stark reality that the buck really does stop with you, and that working till 3am is all very well but you still have to drag yourself out of bed at 7.30 the next day to make packed lunches and find spelling books. But more because you’re busy facing the fact that every blip in your children’s behaviour will be your fault because you broke up their family unit. That actually you don’t want to blog about the big stuff, but the small stuff just seems so meh and disengenous when you’re busy trying to stop your life from disappearing into the crevasse between the washing and ironing piles.
As a quick recap; in the last year we’ve left the family home – the forever house that had bags of potential but truckloads of stress-inducing financial strain. It’s been sold, and is now somebody else’s problem / dream home. I drove past it a couple of months ago thinking I’d feel a sense of relief. I was wrong. I still felt an overwhelming sense of failure and the children still wanted to stop and go and play in ‘our garden’. Bugger.
We’ve moved twice since then, three times if you include the lifeline thrown to me by one of my best friends to house sit while she and her family were away for an extended break last Easter. The first house we rented after that was borne of desperation – demand far outstrips supply locally – but through luck and a bit of tenacity I found a house being renovated after a tenant had been evicted and was given first refusal. It was cold – huge, unforgiving single pane windows let in even the humblest of breezes, the shower mocked the very idea of ‘pressure’ and the cast iron bath had to be filled with scalding water even to hold its temperature for more than a minute. Other than that it was perfect, and more importantly it was a place to build from.
Last month we moved again. To the house next door. And now things are looking up – we have double glazing, and underfloor heating, and a power shower. All things that make our ‘home’ feel just a little more homely. My children, who have been through more change in the last year than I would ever have wished on them (and yes that’s my fault, and yes I feel horribly guilty because of it) have adjusted to their new life, philosophised about the changes, accepted them and we’re happy. I’m not saying that they wouldn’t be happier if their parents were living under the same roof, I’m sure in lots of ways they probably would, but I have to believe that little voice that tells me that happy children need happy parents and that this is the best place for all of us.
I appreciate that there’s a long way to go yet, but a year on it feels like we’ve made a lot of headway. If there’s one thing that’s helped it’s a prompt by a very nice man at the CAB early on – that every decision we make, we make for the sake of our children. So even when things got fraught we brought it back to that and worked it through. And it’s worked. Not without compromise and I’m sure not without a goodly amount of teeth gnashing at times. But so far, so good…