Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

It’s taken a while to feel I can say this without betraying everything I have ever thought

on July 13, 2014

After Ex-Husband left me, and for a long time after, we argued about contact arrangements – when the girls would see him, and for how long. I *think* he had believed the girls would live with him, and that we would all be happier with that. I *think* he thought that I struggled to be at home with two children under two because I didn’t like it, rather than because it is hard to look after a toddler and a tiny baby, surviving on almost no sleep.  He did not expect me to challenge his plans, to fight the idyll he assumed he would walk into.

So for a long time we argued about what arrangements would be best for the girls, exacerbating and complicated by my grief at being separated from my children, at not being a constant in their lives, and the terrible sense that something which could never have happened, had.

And so, for a long time it was unthinkable that I could want anything other than to have my children with me. Slowly I came to appreciate the opportunities my free time afforded me: to sleep, to go out, to do grown-up things. But still, I would have preferred to have my children with me. To feel anything else would have been a betrayal of them, and of the months of fighting. And to have admitted feeling it would have undermined the credibility of all my claims that they needed to be with me.

But slowly I have begun to look forward to my free time. I miss my children, especially when I am around other people’s children. A girl comes to Quaker meeting who is two weeks younger than Small Girl: her toddle and her developmental stage are so reminiscent of Small Girl that I feel hot sharp tears when I see her and my children are gone. But there is a joy to the pure pleasure of missing them, experiencing love for them apart from the wearying challenge of managing them, feeding them, caring for them, keeping them happy and loved.

And today felt like a gift, a tightly-wrapped pass-the-parcel of treasures. After the girls were collected at 9, I headed to Quaker meeting with no real plans. There’s something about this freedom from obligations: nowhere I have to be and no-one to please, or even think of, but myself, and I can feel tension ebbing until I want to cry.

An almost-silent Meeting was followed by coffee and conversations with people I don’t know but hope might become friends. And then an unexpected invitation to lunch with Friends* resulted in a further lovely couple of hours chatting and sharing and eating chocolate brownies. And then I went to the cinema to watch Begin Again, a ‘musical comedy’ about relationships ending and being redeemed, and finding happiness in life after a broken heart. I’m not sure it will receive critical acclaim, but it spoke of where I am and where I’ve been. And I stepped out of the cinema into a warm, sunny, breezy afternoon, feeling that I have been given a fabulous present.

And then I realise I have wildly misjudged timings and I’m likely to be late for the girls coming home. I’ve had no tea, and we have no bread – and barely any food – in the house. And some little shits are blowing chewed up paper through straws at passengers on the tram. The present is opened, the party is over and it’s time to take off the paper hats, tidy up and go home. But I’m left with the sense that perhaps the universe loves me, just a little bit.

* I am probably the only person who recognises this as a joke, let alone thinks it funny. Quakers consider this a normal way to refer to others involved in the Religious Society of Friends, and non-Quakers will just assume it’s mis-capitalisation. But still, I amuse myself…

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