On Family Estrangement/In Defence of Meghan Markle

I know more than most that family estrangement never occurs without very good reason. 

In the early days of my own family estrangement back in 2005, I grieved long and hard for what had been and would never be

Cutting ties with mother and the (half) siblings I grew up with had been a long time coming. There was a lot of bad blood. Too many lies had been told. Too much drama brought to my doorstep. Too many situations which had left me broken hearted.

Although highly dysfunctional, my family are not evil people, which made walking away from them hard.

In fact scrap that, what a ridiculous understatement. It was the toughest decision I have made to date. And I sincerely hope I’ll never face a decision as soul destroyingly difficult ever again.

family estrangement

But our relationships had become toxic and unsalvageable

You see, they had always been takers. Ever since leaving home at fifteen, I’d been bailing them out in some way or another. I was the fixer upper. The shoulder to cry on. The ATM. I had tried so hard to help them, and I learned the hardest way that no one can save you but you.

In the end it came down to a heart wrenching choice. Allow these toxic relationships to continue, and sign myself up for all the associated fallout. Or walk away.

So I told my mother she wasn’t welcome anymore, and I never saw her again. My half brother and sister didn’t seem to care too much about my absence.

I was done

I didn’t have the capacity for more drama and heartbreak. It was time I started saving myself. In the year that followed I experienced full mental breakdown and rock bottom. Forced to look at every single aspect of my life and the way I was living it, I massively re-evaluated so I could become a better person.

I firmly believe I would not have been able to go through this process had my family still had as much power over me as they once had.

I am also convinced my experience as a mother would have been better had I had a great mum by my side. Oh how I’ve wept for the fairytale superhero mama I have desperately needed over the years. When autism and sleep deprivation and agonising education decisions have had me on my knees with despair. When childcare might have been the magic bullet, but was as non-existent as unicorn dust.

Fairytales aren’t real, and in the end we have to do what we think is best. 

family estrangement

There is much to be said for this great quote by filmmaker Robert Evans:

“There are always three sides to a story; yours, mine and the truth!”

Before you brand Meghan Markle a “social climber” who has “forgotten her roots”, take it from me; she would have agonised over her own family estrangement before walking away.

Eleanor Oliphant: I Adored this Magnificent Piece of Writing but Most Definitely Did Not Find it Funny!

Eleanor OliphantI gobbled up the first ten chapters of my latest read, the bestselling sensation Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It truly is a marvellous book in many ways, exploring society on a level that fiction rarely does. Debut author Gail Honeyman should be incredibly proud of herself for this stunning piece of writing.

It’s no exaggeration to say I struggled through the next twenty chapters. Not because the story was rubbish all of a sudden, far from it. I just couldn’t (and still can’t!) get my head around how anyone would find it funny. The word is used in four of the six quotes on the covers, and most people I know who have personally recommended the book have also said how “hilarious” it is.

So I did the only sensible thing I could think of, and stayed up well past bedtime last night to polish off the last ten chapters. Here are my thoughts, I will do my best not to spoil it for those who’ve not read it.

Eleanor Oliphant is absolutely not fine!

Eleanor Oliphant is thirty years old and has had the same low paying job in an SME since graduating university. She is very socially awkward, and often misreads (or simply doesn’t understand) what is going on around her. She lives alone, and as a rule does not speak to another human between getting home from work on Friday to returning on Monday. She is incredibly intelligent and well read, and does not wallow in self-pity. She eats the same food every day, and drinks two bottles of vodka per week.

Fairly early on we start uncovering Eleanor’s horrendous childhood, and how she partially grew up in care. The full horrors are thankfully never graphically described, and credit to Gail Honeyman, because I for one can’t stomach graphic details. You have to read the entire book to discover Eleanor’s full back story, but the snippets we are given throughout give us enough information to go on. It’s clear that Eleanor is deeply troubled, not to mention phenomenally lonely, and drinks vodka to numb her pain.

Shortly after the story begins, Eleanor strikes up an unlikely friendship, her first proper friend. Someone who isn’t going to screw her over and has her back. Their relationship is genuine and heartwarming, and proves that kindness can be found everywhere when we open our eyes to it.

Is Eleanor Oliphant a female Adrian Mole? 

Eleanor OliphantIn many ways I liken Eleanor to a female Adrian Mole, who I hero worshipped when I was a kid. He provided the backdrop to my own less than perfect childhood, and I absolutely loved all of the late Sue Townsend’s books. Part of me wants to read them again, because I’m almost convinced I will feel the same way about Adrian as I now do about Eleanor.

I see a lot of my daughter Polly’s struggles in Eleanor and am convinced she is on the spectrum. You’ll only get as far as “Is Eleanor Ol….” before Google assumes you want to know if she is autistic. I fear that many of those who are finding Eleanor funny are actually laughing at her, not with her. Perhaps this is just me being overly sensitive due to my own circumstances?

Either way, it’s the reason I struggled through half the book. Eleanor’s awkwardness is cringe worthy at points. She misinterprets many situations, and takes things literally, just like Polly does. Unlike my girl, Eleanor has no-one to bounce her ideas off, and help decode this confusing world.

Eleanor drowns her sorrows in the classic way, and drinks down her tricky feelings. I’ve known so many people over the years who will discuss the minutiae of nothing, yet are completely incapable of processing even slightly uncomfortable emotions. This is a serious problem that rarely gets discussed.

Are mental health problems inescapable when you suffered a traumatic childhood?  

I’ve never encountered a single person who had a traumatic childhood and did not encounter ill mental health at some point as an adult. Anxiety and depression are rife among my own friends, even those who have had extensive therapy and great careers. I honestly don’t know what I’d have done throughout my lowest lows had it not been for my friends. I still have moments of feeling incredibly lonely, and I am blessed with hundreds of friends all over the world. I cannot imagine a life without friendships.

It’s a heartbreaking prospect to think children who go through such trauma, then slip through the cracks in a largely uncaring society. They get no support as adults, and with government cuts getting more brutal each year, things will only get worse as time goes on. The sheer volume of vulnerable young adults who end up being groomed, or enter into violent relationships is absolutely shocking.

Does Eleanor get a happy ending?  

You’ll have to read the book yourself to discover the answer. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it if you do! Tweet me @mummytries 

 

Present Parenting: The Inescapable Truth None of Us Want to Admit

Do you practise present parenting?

I am jinxed when it comes to phones. Seriously. I’ve lost more than I can even remember, and once dropped a brand new phone down the toilet two weeks into a two year contract. My latest tech failure comes in the form of a severely cracked screen on my iPhone, which is less than six months old.

It’s left me phone-less these last few days, and you know what? It’s been bloody liberating.

More than that though, my kids have articulated that they prefer their mummy phone-free. Ouch!

There I was thinking I had a grip on this. I know that I spend a LOT less time on my phone than I used to. I also know that I spend a crap tonne less time on it than almost every other blogger I know. Not that it’s a competition, but sometimes it’s good to compare and contrast.

present parentingThe truth is, not having a phone to divert my attention elsewhere is great for my present parenting abilities.

Because even with the best will in the world there will be texts to reply to. Quick chats to have with friends going through a hard time. A sneaky look at Instagram to see how well that latest post is doing. A brief look at gmail to make sure I’m not missing anything important. 

And all those five minutes, add up.

Being glued to a phone is not conducive at all to being a present parent. It’s just not. Especially with my spectrum children

I can convince myself all I like that my kids need to get better at letting me have a little bit of a life outside of them, but is that fair on them?

I used to think that their inability to see me on my phone and not try to grab my attention by kicking lumps out of each other was a fault on their behalf. I can see now though, that it’s completely unreasonable of me to expect this from them.

They didn’t ask for this life did they? They didn’t ask to be bullied and unsupported at school, and have to be home educated. As a family we go up and down and round in circles on this matter. Some days we win, and it’s amazing, but often we struggle.

Me being on my phone certainly doesn’t help. So once again I am going to own this as something I have control over, and react in a positive way.

I’m sure the world will still continue turning.

I absolutely refuse to look back on this time and feel guilty for anything. Present parenting is definitely top of my agenda this year. What’s on the top of yours?   

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018!

Well hello 2018!

I don’t usually do stream of consciousness writing, because I’m too obsessive about spellings and grammar and things sounding ridiculous. I’m too self-conscious to just bestow my random thoughts upon the world. Oh the irony. As we say goodbye 2017 and hello 2018, I thought why the devil not? So I’ve decided to do something a bit different for my year in review. 

2017 was the year that almost broke my family. It was also the year that we sorted a lot of our collective shit out. We properly stuck two fingers up at convention and took full ownership of our decisions. It was the year we jumped into home education with all our feet, rather than tentatively dipping our toes in. We were no longer just home edding our autistic child because we’d been let down by the system and had no other choice. We made the bold and brave move to pull our five-year-old daughter out of reception and home educate her along with our youngest. It’s certainly not been easy, but we wouldn’t have life any other way now. 

2017 was the year that sleep deprivation got taken to a whole new level, and then completely unexpectedly got a whole lot better again. The husband and I even managed to regain some semblance of a sex life (sorry, tmi). More than that though, we reconnected in a way that we’ve been crying out for for a very long time.

hello 2018

2017 saw big changes with Hubby’s job. Difficult changes that have impacted us all but are without a doubt for the greater good. They will lead to a brighter future, and opportunities like that cannot be passed up.

2017 was a great year for me as a blogger. My stats have never been better, and more people read this blog than I ever imagined would. I’ve never collaborated with more brands that have been on my wish list before. It’s made me see that my book writing aspirations need to be shelved for the time being. My efforts are definitely better spent being ploughed into this little space. The trouble with writing a book is that you just never know if it’ll get published, and even if does it’s no guarantee that it will sell. When spare time is in such short supply, you have to spend it wisely. 

2017 was the year I learnt the hardest way who my real friends are. I thought I had it all sussed out a long time ago, but I didn’t and it made me see who I can and can’t count on. I had some major surprises – a previously considered best friend who essentially treated me like I was nothing more than a crap Tinder shag. Other major letdowns I always knew existed but was reminded of. The constant back of the mind aching knowledge that there is no fairy godmother waiting in the wings. I’ve also been exceptionally fortunate that other people have surprised me in the opposite direction. People who came through for me for absolutely no reason whatsoever. They’ve proved themselves to be good, honest dependable friends even though I barely knew them three years ago.

It’s good to reflect and see the progress

When I look back at 2017, how it started and how it ended, I can see the massive progress that we made as a family. In spite of all the difficulties, and hard days. We took a gigantic leap of faith when we decided to home ed all three, and an even bigger one when we placed the most importance on their emotional well-being rather than pushing them super hard academically. It was (is) vital to help our kids get along better and fight less. Now don’t get me wrong, they are still challenging, and still fight on a daily basis, but it’s incomparable with how horrendous things were this time last year.

Ultimately, when I look past the really really crap bits, I can see so much positivity shining through. I see a marriage that has weathered many storms but is still rock solid. I see three children, who still have their challenges, but are becoming amazing human beings. I see strength in myself that an old lady would be proud of. I see a big bright future for us all, and that is priceless. 

So hello 2018, I’m ready for you. Bring it on!!

 

~ These three 😍🐵😍🐵 ~ ♥️ It’s safe to say that having flu whilst home educating your children and not having a fairy godmother beating your door down to help you is no fun! Just in case you were wondering 😆 ♥️ People say “oh I get it!” but honestly, most don’t get it, not even slightly. So many people told me I’d miss having my mum around once I had kids of my own, but it’s only at truly desperate times like this that I really feel it. Nobody understands motherhood without a mother, unless they’re living it. ♥️ But but but 🐵😍🐵😍 ♥️ These three are growing into wonderful human beings. They are kind and compassionate and thoughtful. They stick two fingers up at the more undesirable traits that go hand in hand with the A Word. They’ve been understanding and helpful while I recover. ♥️ It’s not been hugely enjoyable but honestly, I can’t even imagine how much worse it would have been six months ago while we were in the midst of the darkest time as a family yet. It’s good to reflect and be thankful for small mercies. And a huge thanks to everyone on here who took the time to write me a kind message, I really appreciate it 😘

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We Must Not Allow Our Lives to be Dominated by Fear

When Canary Wharf was bombed in 1996, I was living in East London. I was so close that it sounded like fireworks going off in the sky. I remember rushing to the window of my aunt’s maisonette and looking up wondering where the noise came from. The next time I saw the TV, news of the bombing was all over the four channels.

Fear spread like wildfire, but at sixteen, I was too young to properly understand what it meant.

I was sat at my desk working when the twin towers were attacked. I watched with horror as the second plane flew into the building. The entire office was in a state of shock, we were sent home early. The rumours were beyond frightening. We heard that planes were on their way to all major cities, and London was going to be next.

I couldn’t get out of the square mile quickly enough, and rushed back home to be with the people I loved most. Once again fear was at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Two wars followed, and troops are still being deployed over a decade and a half later.

I was in Australia when London’s infamous 7/7 bombings happened. I watched the news in floods of tears as my beloved home town mourned. I would later meet someone who lost their dad that day.

There were many more attacks in between, and there have been countless since. So very many lives lost.

Another horrendous atrocity was committed here in the UK last night. Close to home, in an area that was part of my commute for five years. One of my favourite spots in town.

fears are educated into us

I felt sick when I heard the news from my husband this morning, and made a decision not to seek out stories about the attack. No-one needs to see human beings stabbed via live streaming, but like those who slow down on the motorway to gawp at a car crash, people just can’t help themselves.

I’ve consciously switched off from those on social media who are reacting to hate with more hate.

These are dark days we are living through. They can leave you with the sense that the world is a dangerous, heartless place. That’s it’s best to stay indoors and keep ourselves safe, but that’s not the answer.

We shouldn’t forget the innocents who have lost their lives, or had their lives turned upside down, but we mustn’t hide ourselves away either.

We need to strive to love through the hatred. We need to be willing to look past the sensationalist headlines and read the full story. We need to teach our children that some times bad things happen that we have no control over. We should answer their questions and soothe their worries without creating more fear.

As far as I’m concerned, the best way to overcome this sense of fear is by tuning out to mainstream media. Consume your information wisely, and with caution. Don’t allow yourself to be brainwashed by the papers. Don’t get caught up in pointless squabbles with people who aren’t singing from your hymn sheet. Agree to disagree like adults. 

Most of all, don’t make assumptions about things you don’t fully understand: because that’s how the trouble starts.

Ultimately, we can’t live in fear that the boogeyman is coming to get us, because what kind of a life is that?

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