Four Words

Today 4 words on Instagram brought back a whole world of memories and feelings for me…

Who’s the dad then?”

Nadia Essex is a public figure, writer and podcast host. Sharing her pregnancy journey with her 215k instagram followers sees her receiving many messages of love, support and advice. However, it seems one type of comment keeps reappearing, as written on Nadia’s latest Instagram post…

” Who’s the dad then?”

A question I myself heard plenty of times when I became single and pregnant 13 years ago. I was 23 years old and had a brief relationship with my babies father that simply didn’t last.

Now one thing you may or may not know about me is that I live in a small seaside town..and heres the thing about small seaside towns – some people like to know everything about your life, every detail. They take great pleasure in showing off what gossip they know and as the saying goes “what they don’t know they make up”

And boy did they make it up. The rumours I heard about myself during that time were insane (even one suggesting that I had been raped!) and I felt a real pressure to set the record straight but at the same time didn’t want to share all the details! It was no one else’s business.

And I know I can be guilty of gossip. I sometimes love a gossip with my girls, but since feeling in the spotlight and under the scrutiny of acquaintances and strangers, I will never 100% trust a story unless it comes from the source.

One feeling that really sticks from this time is the pressure of what people think. I still often feel it, I’ve never grown out of it since school. I will often worry about what people will say when I do certain things or make certain choices. It’s a trait I am working hard to overcome.

Now imagine feeling all this but with 215k people watching. It takes a strong person to be able to keep their cool and to not be affected mentally by the constant questioning. Whether you have 200k follows or 20, words can hurt and I admire Nadia’s calm and rationality when she reads and replies to such comments.

Sometimes I am an over-sharer, I love to talk about myself and my life and then other times I am the most private person in the world.

And whether you are me or a celebrity the common thread here is CHOICE, we choose what to share and what to keep private for a reason.

So here’s to not sharing everything…and congratulations on your pregnancy Nadia.There is no greater joy than becoming a parent 💙

Stepping Up

I don’t remember meeting you for the first time. I remember the moments before, a vague memory of waiting in front of our little house, looking out for your car to pull up and feeling excited and nervous to meet you.

I didn’t know then the importance of this meeting, the major influence that one moment had on the rest of my life.

You have been my dad for over 30 years. I often wonder how you felt back then about falling in love with a lady with a ready made family when you were so young but I am so grateful for the fact that you did. Grateful also that you embraced it, loved me and took me on as your own child.

Over the years you have stood up for me, supported me. Helped me out when I made bad choices and cheered me on when I made good ones.

You have picked me up from rock bottom, I have always felt safe because of you, knowing you could help me fight through the worst times.

Because of you I gained the most amazing family. As far back as I can remember I was always welcomed, especially by Granny and I never felt left out or different from the rest of the family.

You have stood up for me against those who tried to destroy me. You cared too much about the consequences it would have on me to kick their arse but showed that we were strong and not afraid to fight for what was right and for the feelings of my children.

You are the type of Grandad they write picture books about. Kind, loving, funny and always happy to have fun.Rory and Addie love you so much.

So a huge Happy 50th Birthday to the man who got stuck with me as part of a package deal. I can only dream of meeting someone who can step-up for my children like you have done for me.

we cannot wait to celebrate with you, have the best day Bald. Love you always xx

That Single Mum Stigma

Last year I saw an interview with TV personality Fearne McCann. She spoke of her refusal to being branded a “single Mum”, about how just being a Mum should be enough and it made me think a lot about my own views on being a single mum.

I have no issue with being called a single mum. I’m a mum who is single so why should the wording bother me. What I do have an issue with is the stigma that surrounds this. Not for the first time there seems to be a spate of negative posts about Single Mum’s on social media. The generalisation is this, that we

“Sponge off the government and spend tax payers money on nights out and ASOS orders, while looking for a new daddy for our children while sitting around watching Loose Women in our free new builds”

The truth is, yes some single Mum’s do this but so do some married parents and Men and Women who don’t have children.

Believe it or not a lot of us never chose to be a single mum, not all of us popped out babies for extra benefits. I know girls who became single Mum’s at 17 years old who have worked their arses off the same as everyone else ever since. I also know girls who are on their 3rd/4th/5th kid without ever setting foot in the staff room of any job!

I would happily show my bank statements to anyone who thinks all single mum’s get lots of free money. The majority of what I have comes from what I earn at work, I pay my own rent, childcare and bills. I do get child support from my ex and some tax credits that top up what I earn but I don’t expect a medal for providing for and making sacrifices for my children, that’s being a parent, single or not. I’m not ashamed that I get help because of my situation. I save for nice things and am lucky enough to get some nice things from companies for a bit of online promotion now and then.

Here are some facts…

  • Nearly a quarter of all UK families are single parent ones. Funnily enough some of the people posting these negative things were raised in single parent families, take a lead from the likes of Barack Obama and Adele and celebrate single parent upbringings instead of slating them.
  • 68% of single parents are in work
  • Yet 47% of children in single parent families live in relative poverty (it’s not all Disneyland and PlayStations )

Dating as a single mum is difficult, people have either that slummy single Mum view or assume you want to give them a couple of kids that aren’t theirs for life! My children have a Dad so that isn’t a priority for what I look for in a relationship. It’s great if someone can accept and fit in with your lifestyle but I aren’t looking to palm them off with a ready-made family after one date. That’s if you ever get the chance to meet anybody with said ready made family in tow at all times!

So feel free to call me a single Mum, to be honest there’s an awful lot worse I’ve been called! Just remember that we are very much like the rest of society…a whole range of people who are vastly different. Also if anybody would like to pay for me a Disneyland trip or my ASOS wish list I’d accept being called a sponger!

A Good Day

Last night I cuddled my daughter in her bed as she struggled for breath. I sat her against my body to try to slow her breathing down, getting her to mirror her breath to mine. Techniques I had learnt when her brother had asthma attacks when he was a toddler, now used to battle Addie’s panic attacks.

Generally Addie is a regular 7-year old (8 on Thursday) She is a happy, popular, funny girl. She is clever and outspoken. She calls herself a “kid feminist” and is obsessed with women’s rights and aspires to be a powerful woman. But this year has been tough.

Addie is petrified of loss. She gets terrible anxiety over the thought of losing those she loves, possibly due to what happened to her when she was younger. She became clingy and had irrational thoughts about me getting ran over while I wasn’t with her. She pulled holes in her clothes, picked the leather off her shoes and cried an awful lot.

Losing our Grandad on New Years Eve added to her anxiety. Addie started having panic attacks and often cried till she was hyperventilating. Last night I held her through one of these attacks but I know things have shifted again in her mind. She had been told in the past (not by me I might add) that she shouldn’t cry, she is slowly learning that it is ok if she needs to and that holding things in only make her feel worse. This is the first attack for about a month and her self-control to come through it was evident.

Addie can now talk about how she is feeling, she is strong enough to share her worries and her fears. This morning she woke happy and was back to talking about scientists and celebrities.

Today is a good day and there are becoming more of these than there are the bad ones.

On Thursday Addie will turn 8. She is the most interesting girl in the world and I am so proud to call her my best friend. I have absolutely no doubt that she will be and do exactly what she wants in life. I am excited to share a whole lifetime of Good Days together. Happy Birthday Addie Rose

Don’t Tell Me

There are two things in the world that my brain lets happen uncontrollably…

1. As soon as a newborn baby cries on One Born Every Minute something triggers in me and I cry hysterically even though I don’t feel any real emotion towards what I’m watching.

2. Having to ask a certain person to do something or for something causes my chest to hurt and I struggle to breathe.

The first is some kind of weird maternal thing that is ridiculous but quite funny. The second is anxiety.

I am lucky in the sense that there is now only one real trigger for my anxiety and generally I can keep myself distanced from it so therefore no longer consider myself as “having anxiety”. Some people aren’t so lucky.

Other people’s perceptions of your mental health can have a real impact and add to the struggle. Public opinion is always a huge factor in what my ladies worry about when I’m doing my mental health volunteer work. Friends and family think they are saying the right things but can often make you feel worse. Here is a list of what not to say.

Don’t tell me….

  • To Suck it up/cheer up/relax/calm down

The fact you think I aren’t currently trying to do all these things at once while everything else is whirring around in my brain shows you have no idea how I feel.

  • There are worse things going on in the world

I know! But that doesn’t make the way I am feeling any easier. A lot of my thoughts are irrational, things that you might think are mundane and trivial can feel like the end of the world to me. I know that what I am thinking or the way I’m acting isn’t normal yet that doesn’t mean I can rationalise my thoughts.

  • You can’t feel lonely, you have lots of friends

It is hard to connect to others while you are suffering. It is hard to gather the energy to meet with friends and do fun things. It is hard to talk about the way you are feeling. It is hard to explain that your friends haven’t done anything wrong but that they need to bear with you.

  • To go for a run/a drink/to try a new hobby

Yes for some people these things work but they aren’t the cure for everyone. Exercise can make you feel great but if you can’t muster the energy to lift your head off your pillow your hardly going to run a metre let alone a mile and I’ve gin cried plenty of times when I haven’t been depressed to know that it isn’t a great option.

  • But you managed to go to ????? the other day

Yes and I may go somewhere else tomorrow, but if at that time on that day my mind is telling me I can’t possibly go anywhere with whoever it’s practically impossible to do so.

  • What do you have to be anxious/depressed about?

The official measure of mental well-being has 51 different points and triggers of depression/anxiety. Each of these is a subsection leading to various aspects of each category meaning there can be thousands of triggers,fears and worries for each individual. Some of which could be seen as ridiculous to others. So the answer to the question is absolutely everything and nothing at all.

  • Oh I have that sometimes

Feeling a bit sad or anxious isn’t the same as the crippling reality of depression and anxiety. I get a nervous tummy before going to new places or doing new things, it’s not the same as the weeks/months of pure panic some people have. The fear of letting people down or missing out can take over their lives.

My only advice on what you can say is… “is there anything I can do to help you with this?” And not be offended if the answer is no. Be patient not pushy.

To my friends who are suffering at the moment…don’t be afraid to talk, not all the cures are in conversation but always know you don’t have to go through it alone

A letter to Myself

Dear 21 year-old me,

Hi from the future and all that. Hey, look at me….I’m a mum now and let’s just say things aren’t exactly how you thought they would be.

There you are at 21 years old wondering about what kind of Mum you’d make, there is a family at a festival who make you decide right there and then that you are going to be one of those super cool Mums, who take their kids to festivals, let them wear batman costumes and tutus every day and only feed them home- made, organic loveliness while you dance round the kitchen with the radio on full and your husband smiles at you, lovingly content with his perfect family.

Right here’s the thing…so I’m afraid there’s no such thing as a perfect family, oh and the husband doesn’t exist…the thought of kids at festivals is now horror movie scary and Batman costumes are sweaty and uncomfortable.

So yeah, scratch the picture perfect family from your list. You are the proud single parent of two strange but amazing children. 2 years after that “festival family” moment you get pregnant to a guy who wants to travel the world instead of start a family and the rest is history.

But here’s some things you do get right…

1. Your son is clever and polite, he will play PlayStation with you and obsess about the world.

2. Your daughter is fierce. She is girly and strong-minded. She does wear Dr Martens and plays the guitar (badly)

3. Other Mums can be arseholes. At 21 some girls are bitchy prepare for them after they have been given all the knowledge of the universe by simply pushing a watermelon sized creature from their Vag.

4. You are a cool mum. Your children love you and enjoy your company. You do fun stuff together (even if you would rather not take them to a festival so you can lay face down in a pool of your own cider spew instead)

5. There is no such thing as perfect!

I wonder if anybody ever became the “perfect Mum”, if they fulfilled their ideas of family life or if we all just did things slightly differently. I can’t imagine those that I’ve seen snorting a line in a pub toilet on a weekend had aspired to be “That Mum”.

I also think about those ladies who for whatever reason despite desperately wanting to, haven’t been able to become a mum at all, I cannot begin to imagine how awful that ache and emptiness must feel. So although sometimes I feel like I’m far from perfect I know that I am grateful and I am lucky.

So ignore that cool festival family, step away from that unsuitable boy and get the drinks in before the next band starts, you’ve got a whole world of unconventional family life sneaking up on you very quickly!

Love from your older yet still as ridiculous self xx

Mortified

I have always loved writing. I wasn’t always very good at it.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to or watched a Mortified evening. It’s where people “perform” their teen diaries and share the horror that they’ve wrote in their journals. After watching it gave me inspiration to drag out my “books”, a series of diary/scrapbooks that I made throughout my teen years where I wrote song lyrics, drew pictures and short diary entries.The cringe is unreal but actually very funny to read. Apparently it’s cathartic to share so here goes…..

Pink Book, date unknown. Names changed obviously!

I am in love with Owen. It’s Lucy’s birthday and I’m drunk (no shit!) but I know I love him. More than vodka and chocolate, maybe even more than music and movies (yet obviously not enough to stop me from leaving him for his friend a year later) I don’t like counting days so it has been a while since I have seen him but it was only for one night and I was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo (!!!!) tired and it really wasn’t enough but he’ll be home at the end of the week hooray. When I see Richard out I don’t bat an eyelid, I talk to him if I have to but never really think about what he’s saying (refer back to the post about ex boyfriend who left me because I was pissed off he had sleepovers with his ex, no wonder seeing him didn’t bother me) but when me and Owen broke up before I missed him so much it was unbelievable. I hung on everything he said when he said he still liked me I was shocked but very happy I miss him now when I’m at home doing nothing I wish he was here doing something with me and I know what (waaahhh all that cringe!) when I see couples out together I want it to be us, everything makes me think of him I think this means I’m in love

The lack of punctuation is sending me over the edge! The boy in question was one that I kept being drawn back to and then continued to treat terribly. Surprisingly he does still speak to me. He is a good person.

If you think that’s bad another entry is where I think I’m terribly clever and use a description of a classroom as a metaphor for my life. I’ll share the emo, over dramatic ending

Blue Book, date unknown

You would think that in a time such as this, of war (must have forgotten that period of my teenage years where I time traveled to 1940) I would be grateful for the safety of this town but I want out. I can’t do this life. I want something new

And finally a verse of a song I wrote considering I couldn’t write or play music, my songwriting career never quite took off and judging by the quality of this it’s a good job it didn’t.

“This is the one dedicated to, all of the boys and specifically you.

I think we’re suited but who’s to say, for all I know you could be gay”

We weren’t, he wasn’t!

So do it, find your teen diaries and share the shit out of them. There is nothing more pleasing then looking back at the loser you once were.

And So The Streetlights Would Carry Us Home….

For years people have written about their hometowns, in poetry and songs, setting scenes in novels based on the place they grew up. I thought it was time I wrote about my own.

My friends know I’m slightly obsessed with city lights and city life. I love Newcastle and Leeds and London especially on a night-time but I am now, after so many years obsessed with the place I live.

Until recently when I have met new people I have almost seemed apologetic about Whitby, I’ve felt embarrassed that we are pretty much cut off from the rest of the country, of all the things that we don’t have on our doorstep.

But as I have got older I have realised the importance of all the things we do have. I know I’m not alone in the fact that I can call my town, slag off anything I don’t like about it but am ridiculously offended if anybody else dares to do so.

The greatest thing about a small town is that it comes with a huge extended fake family, possibly why it is sometimes called incestuous. Everyone pretty much knows everyone, which isn’t always a good thing until something goes wrong for one of us.

Our community will rally round to fundraise, offer support, stand alongside families that have been wronged, that have been suffering, that have had loss. We are proud of our own, of singers and sportsmen and women, of the many fantastic local businesses and services all created and grown in our little town.

And it’s ok to be a teenager, pissed off that there’s nowhere to buy trainers or to watch a new release at the cinema, we’ve all been there – imagine how bad it was before online shopping, we all bought the same outfit for a night out because we only had a choice of 3 dresses!!!! it’s ok that everyone knows your business, that everyone will probably have a story about you. I’ve been there, embarrassed that my relationship break down was so public, that my ex boyfriend cheated on me and left me.

All of it is worth it for that overwhelming sense of community. The people are as wonderful as the town itself.

To Whitby, a small drinking town with a fishing problem and all the amazing people who make it what it is.

Look at me, enjoying life again and shit!

When I was 17 years old a guy who was a lot older than me used to turn up everywhere I was. He made it very clear that he was into me yet I brushed off his advances. At first I laughed with my friends and said he was my “stalker” in a joking way. I never really took it too seriously. One night I got drunk at my friend’s house party, stayed over in the spare room. I woke to find him trying to climb on top of me in the bed. I was confident enough then to remove myself from the situation, I shouted, made a lot of fuss, pushed him off. I was scared but had the strength to leave before anything worse could have (if it would have) happened. He never spoke to me or followed me anywhere again. Yet after that I was always wary of being in a similar circumstance. I was actually scared of unwanted attention. I had a fear of being stalked.

A couple of months ago this fear flooded back, I was confronted in the street on a regular Sunday lunchtime by a random guy who I assume has a lot of mental issues, he drove up in the car, got out, charged towards me and started shouting at me. I’m not sure if he believed the story he had made up or if it was just to get attention. Although he didn’t hurt or threaten me the fact that he knew so much about my family and me brought on a terrible anxiety. For the past few years I have seen myself as a warrior. Strong. brave. confident. I couldn’t believe that one incident could turn me back to a panicky mess. I would not walk home after dark ( I know I probably shouldn’t do that anyway but I have always felt safe doing so), I ran from the end of my drive to the house, scared that he would see where I live. I stopped writing, scared that he would somehow read what I’d wrote and know more about me.

Everyone who suffers from anxiety shows it in different ways. For me I know what I am thinking is probably irrational, yet it doesn’t stop me thinking it (When the incident with the guy in the car happened I felt stupid trying to explain it- because I know to most people it wouldn’t seem like a big deal. I could imaging them thinking “so what?”) My chest feels tight and I can’t get my words in the right order. For me I have learnt to control it, I know this isn’t possible for a lot of people. Anxiety is a crippling, insensitive disorder- it makes no exceptions to circumstance. I know people who go from feeling on top of the world to not even being able to leave the house in the blink of an eye and that’s hard for most people to understand. I’m lucky to say that now for me certain situations make me anxious but I do not have “anxiety”

So here I am writing again, and walking home in the dark and answering the door and talking to strangers and being able to stand outside my own home. I will not let someone else’s actions determine how I live my life.

Colin the Caterpillar is getting married and I’m still single!

…EDIT…title change before someone has a coronary!!! Sorry!

My Sister got engaged to the love of her life at the weekend and I’ve had to bite my tongue every day since. Not because of their engagement of course, but because people are continually asking me if I’m upset by it.

My sister is 8 years younger than me, she is beautiful and has just settled into her first home. I am a 33 year old single mum who’s never been a homeowner or someone’s fiancé. Yet I have never been jealous of her one day of my life. I think being sisters the lines blur…if she’s happy I’m happy and if I’m happy then she’s happy.

Here are the reasons people assume I am unhappy about the engagement.

  1. I am lonely. What is that saying about being alone but not lonely. Yeah thats me. I don’t know how many times people need to hear that I do not need a boyfriend but it doesn’t seem to be going in.
  2. I thought I would get married first. To who??? My ex? a new love? The invisible f**king man?? I love a wedding (because I love fashion and flowers and food and making everything look fantastic) but I’ve never aspired to marriage. I’m not anti-getting hitched but I’ve never obsessed over it.
  3. I never wrote on my sisters engagement status on Facebook. Blah blah blah!!!! To the person who trawled through 111 comments to see if I’d wrote anything here’s your answer. I didn’t comment. I had spoke to her before it was Facebook announced. I’d already made it clear how excited I was. I was out partying, I had 25% battery left on my phone and didn’t want 111 notifications draining what was left! Haha
  4. I’ve been sad this week. Without too much detail, The end of August is tough for me. The anniversaries of losing 4 amazing people fall in the same week and I think that means I’m allowed to feel a little bit rubbish.

So here’s how I actually feel…. Nicole and Jamie, I am over the moon that you are now engaged. I am happy that you have found each other and are planning the most perfect life. I am excited to be part of a wedding (I can scan through 40,000 photos of wedding stationery now without feeling like a weirdo). I am sorry that I said “do I have to be a Bridesmaid?” as if it was the worst thing in the world. I promise not to take over but know that I will Instagram the fuck out of everything slightly wedding-y we do in the next 2 years and will tag you in every Rock-n-Roll bride post that I see before your wedding.

Congratulations on your engagement!

“Cause I know there is strength in the differences between us and I know there is comfort where we overlap”