The last words of my ex husband to me were, “is that really what you want? And you think you’ll cope as a single mum?”
“Just fucking watch me!” Is what I muttered to myself as I walked away. And it’s safe to say I’ve done more than cope. I actually love it…most of the time. I never wanted to do it alone nor is it always fun, sometimes I can feel held back, stressed and over analytical about my mothering abilities. But this post isn’t really about my parenting skills nor is it about being single or coping alone etc.
I was inspired to write this whilst stood in my hallway with a caulking tube in my hand filling in yet another hole/crack from the unfinished cack handed jobs carried out on my house before I bought it. Toddler P was next to me, babbling on questioning “why you doing dat mummy? What’s dat for mummy? Can I touch it?” I’ve become a dab hand at DIY, I also secretly enjoy it. Like I’ve said previously in posts, if you’d have told me 5, 6, 7 or even 10 years ago that I’d be able to landscape my own garden or lay my own patio, I’d have laughed and scorned at you. But now I really, honestly and truly believe that you shouldn’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything.
Read that again.
Never let anyone tell you or make you believe you cannot do anything.
As a teacher I try to instil this level of ambition, determination and confidence in my students, but in all honesty over recent years I’ve been a phoney. I’ve not practiced what I preached and have allowed a number of people that have drifted in and out of my life over the years to have control over my emotions and beliefs. I’ve let them have control over my confidence and determination. I’ve let their words and actions dictate to me how I value myself and my abilities.
Now ironically, one area of my life where it hasn’t happened has been professionally and bar a struggle with confidence and getting overly anxious at how good of a job I was doing during my early teaching career, I’ve always been confident in my practice. I’ve been able to reflect, take constructive criticism and use it to better what I do. My personal life has been a different story though. Gradually over time I’ve let good habits slip away, I’ve not taken on challenges, avoided certain social situations, not tackled tasks for fear of not being any good or doing something badly or not as good as the next person. I’ve allowed a range of comments and behaviours of others towards me make me not to want to even try.
That said, I’ve also had a team of good friends and family cheering me on to do things. But for long enough I wasn’t willing to listen to them. I was only hearing the negativity. It took me allowing the positive people’s points to sink in for my mindset to change. You’ll have your own set of groupies too, everyone does, you’ve just got to let yourself listen to them and let them help you. Most poignant at the moment is a conversation about my garden before I even started it where someone said to me “just do a bit, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll manage yourself” her eldest son even came and helped a few times. Next thing a good gardener friend is giving me levelling tips and recruiting people to dig with me and I’m hearing a ring of voices saying, “told you, you could do it” Sounds a bit familiar does it, it’s like when the students open their envelopes on results day or get their college offers in and we turn and say, “we said you could do it if you worked hard!”
Now some of these things I thought I couldn’t do are becoming second nature, hence me feeling like being stood there tools in hand with my mini me next to me (irritating the hell out of me granted) whilst I make household repairs (thank goodness for YouTube tutorials) was the norm. It’s like I’ve finally made the transition into “Yes I can” or even “let’s just give it ago” and it’s made life just a bit easier, fun (I use that word loosely) and given me a bigger sense of achievement.
It’s not been easy though. There’s been times when I’ve wanted to punch my cheerleaders in the face because it’s bloody hard being ambitious and pushing yourself. I also feel like this when Joe Wicks is trying to motivate me to do another set of power squats or burpees (I hate burpees) and my legs are like jelly but punching the screen wouldn’t achieve anything, just like punching my cheerleaders wouldn’t. I’d just finish with a sore hand, lost friendship and broken telly. Truth is, that’s when I needed their motivation the most, because I was at quitting point, I was at the stage where it was getting really challenging either physically (god damn you burpees!) or mentally (levelling soil is tedious) and giving up would’ve seemed easier than pushing on through. The sense of pride after pulling through is worth it though (apart from burpees, I’ve still yet to see the positive after effect of them…) and makes you feel glad you did.
I guess sometimes it can also be hard because sometimes the people pushing and spurring you on aren’t necessarily speaking from experience. Something I did at one stage was resent people telling me I could. It felt hypocritical and I was often thinking, “what do you know?” because they weren’t coming from my experiences or hadn’t been in my situation, or they were trying to instil confidence and determination into me to do and achieve things that they wouldn’t try and do. I saw it as patronising. But I couldn’t be more wrong. Is that not what I do everyday? I teach students that may go on to achieve bigger, better and more than me, some may be better than me at things I’ve set them on the path of learning. Doesn’t mean to say that my lessons, encouragement and desire to push them isn’t important and worthwhile, it’s not patronising or hypocritical of me to help them on their path so why should I think that of those cheering me on? Truth is, I shouldn’t and looking back, I’m glad I didn’t allow those thoughts to stop me from listening to those good people trying to help me. They were doing it out of kindness, love and support. They were wanting to help and take enjoyment out of seeing me achieving and happy. There’s a lot to be said for people like that.
It’s true of motherhood too. We talk about how people can judge and make particularly new mum’s feel worried and as though they may not be doing a good enough job. I often think as a mum that you need to stop and once again listen and take more notice of the positives. First off your number one cheerleader is your little one and their love for you and behaviour and development is a direct result of your work, look at that, enjoy it and use that to judge the quality of job you’re doing. Second of all, listen to the people around you that matter, let them encourage and support you in your journey as a parent. Not everyone will like what you do as a parent but there’ll be plenty that do, there’ll be plenty that support you in your parenting choices as long as your child is well looked after. And when it’s difficult when it’s hard, when like toddler P they’re pushing you to your limits because their jelly is too wobbly or their tomato is too red for them to eat, listen to the people that have your back and will cheer you on as you count to ten to prevent yourself from exploding.
I guess really it doesn’t matter what the challenge or task is. It’s allowing yourself to believe you can give it ago, pushing yourself to overcome a fear or obstacle and listening to those people around spurring you on.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you you cannot do or achieve something. Just watch me.