I became a single parent a year ago, of my own volition. Now, I admit, the fact that it was my choice to end my marriage has coloured my future life with my children. I was unhappy in my marriage to the point where I was clinically depressed and spiralling into a deepening hole, and I knew that I had to leave my partner in order to save my sanity.
Soon afterwards, I was alone with my kids. And the relief was immense.
And now here I am, with all the same responsibility but without the anger; the adult that wasn't pulling his weight has disappeared. I don't have to worry about not cooking greens (he didn't eat them) - hooray! I don't have to visit my in--aws anymore - yippee! I don't have to listen to his snoring, wash his pants, ask him again and again to brush his teeth, and pretend to have a headache at bedtime. Oh - and clean his wee off the floor. *shudder*
And because there is only one adult now in the family unit, the kids - now 11 and 13 - know who is in charge. Me. There's no - "Harruumph. Well I'm going to ask Dad," or "Dad says it's ok to play Minecraft non-stop for 9 hours." Oh no. What I say is law. Well, until I give in, that is.
I would be lying a teensy bit if I said that the burden of responsibility hadn't weighed heavily on me at times. Like when I took the boys camping this summer and all they wanted to do was chop wood with the EXTREMELY SHARP axe and bush knives they had been lent. Gulp. They had been given some training so I just sat there watching with vulture eyes, first aid pack at the ready, bottom almost already off the seat in anticipation of some hideous accident.
And in the event, they were fine.
The bond between my boys and me has strengthened. In my marriage, I was always bad cop. I seemed to be the only one who monitored bed times, chores, homework. I worried that they watched too much telly, played too many computer games. I forced them to have piano lessons (even though my youngest plainly has hands like hams). I was sergeant-major-like, because I felt like I had to be, or else they would turn into turnips.
I worried that they watched too much telly... I forced them to have piano lessons (even though my youngest has hands like hams).
Which is lovely.
I don't feel top hole all of the time, of course. And I absolutely do not mean to belittle the real grief that hits you after a separation, particularly if you did not choose to leave.
But when the dust has settled a little, find ways to take back control of your life. Start small, build big. Example: a friend of mine recently left her husband. She came into work one day and sheepishly said that her house was in darkness because she didn't know how to change a light bulb.
You might laugh (we all did). But how do you ever learn something if you've never been shown? So we showed her the difference between bayonet and screw in light bulbs, where to buy them, and let her in on my patchy wattage knowledge. She can now change a light bulb, and is busy watching YouTube tutorials on how to put shelves up. She is empowering herself, and I take my hat off to her.
So. If you find yourself on your own, try not to let life close in on you. Grab it by the goolies and open up to learning how to survive, whether it be by changing lightbulbs or decorating your house or...something bigger. Accept help when it's offered. Make new friendships and cement old ones. Date. Walk in the fresh air. Enjoy your children.
Ava Piaf - You can follow Ava Piaf on Twitter @avapiaf1 and read her blog, bebraveandlookup.blogspot.co.uk