I’m one of those people who has thought of starting a blog but has had a multitude of reasons as to why it was never a good time. I’ve felt horribly self-conscious about blogging in the same way I did about keeping a diary. It feels so public to finally put such private thoughts into print and even more so to then publish it. I always cringe at the thought people will laugh at the ridiculousness of what goes on in my head. However, now I’ve taken the plunge I should probably start somewhere near the beginning if nothing else.
18 months ago I had a baby – nothing new there I know – but there’s probably nothing new in anything I’m about to say. I was halfway through a philosophy degree in Scotland so needless to say it wasn’t exactly planned. I’m now a single parent to a baby girl; I took a year out from my degree and went back last September. I’ve just finished all my 3rd year exams and now have one final year to go before I have to face the real world. I came to university later than most for various reasons – I may chat about those a later date, I may not. But suffice to say, it’s taken me a while to find my adult feet and I’m not sure I’m quite there yet. I’m pretty much just winging it to be fair.
I’ve always had the travel bug. I’ve managed to get to a few places for holidays but never quite had the means to really do the full on gap year or backpacking type stuff. I’ve been to Australia, Egypt, Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Amsterdam, Sweden and a few others. Enough places to know I’m at my happiest and best when away, seeing the world. I’ve always had an aim to learn another language fluently and I have a desperate love affair with Japan and Japanese culture although I’ve not yet been. I know that if I get to my metaphorical deathbed and I’ve not substantially travelled and lived and worked abroad it will be a massive regret for me. So knowing this in advance means it would be an even bigger regret if I allowed it to happen. I actually had a 3 week holiday to China booked when I became pregnant and I had to cancel due to the departure date being at the end of my pregnancy.
So, with all this in mind I’ve struggled back and forth in my head with balancing my hopes and dreams for myself with becoming a single parent. A lot of my thoughts are undoubtedly irrational and not based in fact; but there is no escaping from the fact there is a societal pressure and stigma attached to my circumstances that is hard to shake off. There is also a similar societal pressure just attached to parenting – I spend an enormous amount of time and energy worrying about parenting. Whether I’m doing it right, whether my child will be a delinquent, whether it’s right or wrong to put my own life needs 1st occasionally, whether I can avoid the sometimes grave mistakes of my parents and so on. And if you even dare to peek at the enormous deluge of information on the Internet it’s enough to cause an immediate panic attack. EVERYONE and I mean everyone (!) has an opinion on how everyone else should parent. So far despite the gnawing (and I assume normal) worries that pervade my thoughts at night or when left to my own devices, I still feel I should be proud of how I’ve navigated this minefield (often a self-inflicted minefield I know). My child is happy and confident and apparently, so far, emotionally stable. I’ve got the hang of all the stuff I’m supposed to without having a nervous breakdown; I’ve gone back to university and completed 6 essays and 6 exams and I’ve managed to not fail anything. The results aren’t out but I expect to achieve fairly highly.
So what the hell is my problem?
I guess I’ve spent the last 18 months convincing myself I must have the life I think I should have rather than the life I want. I’ve veered back and forth between telling myself I need to follow my dreams to soundly convincing myself that as a single parent I need to get a ‘normal’ job and just follow a ‘normal’ path – put aside savings, get a house, get a pension, blah blah blah you get the picture. Now, I have never been the kind of person to settle into ‘normal’ jobs well. I don’t survive long. I’m disagreeable and become demotivated easily if I don’t have a positive experience. This is why I came back to university to finish my education, the plan was to go the post grad route and try and succeed in Academia. The problem now is that there is very little funding for Masters degrees and the reality of childcare costs, mean that the post grad route looks incredibly unlikely financially. I won’t go off on a rant about that just now but safe to say I’ve investigated a lot of options and childcare costs is the biggest hurdle on top of the years living costs and the £6000+ needed for the Masters course. So…. I’ve ended up looking at other options. Graduate schemes for the civil service, NHS management, graduate schemes in the non-profit sector. The whole time I’ve been pushing all the doubts to the back of my mind about whether these things would actually be suitable for me, whether I’d love or even like my job, whether I could sustain these positions in any way in order to build a promising career. I’ve also been desperately searching for jobs that could allow me to work term time hours for a few years so I can care for and lets face it, see my child for the duration of some of the holidays. But like I said, I’ve just been ignoring the fact that I don’t think any of these jobs would make me happy or would even play to my strengths.
I’ve not had a ‘normal’ life up to now – again I won’t elaborate just now but I really haven’t. I had a disruptive unusual childhood and very disruptive teenage years. My twenties were spent getting to grips with and coming to terms with this fact. I left a very good school early with no qualifications and was flung unceremoniously into a life I struggled to cope with. It’s taken me until I went to Uni to really have a handle on who I am, what I’m doing and the fact it’s my life and it’s me who is responsible for the choices I make and the direction I go. So when I say that a ‘normal’ job path isn’t really what I expected to do I honestly mean that it’s like shoving a square peg into a round hole!
I’ve been telling myself all the things you tell yourself as a parent – that sacrifices have to be made, I can’t just go off and travel the world (I’m not a secret millionaire with endless funds sat about). I play that horrible game where I tell myself I’d be completely selfish, it’s my needs I’m thinking about not my daughters. I need to give her stability and good schooling in a good area and a stable home. All those things the Daily Mail screeches at you via obnoxious headlines designed purely to create a moral panic every other day of the week. As a single parent I’m also one of the Daily Mails favourite moral panics and it’s hard not to eventually absorb some of that vitriol spewed out in my direction.
But another part of me is desperate to show my daughter what strong, intelligent and confident women are capable of. I truly believe a 1st hand global experience would be of immeasurable worth during a childhood, especially in this day and age. To step out of the box that is education (no matter how good that education is) and experience the world and really see what you normally only learn about via books has got to be one of the best experiences you can give your child surely? And I know that if I was part of a 2 parent family I wouldn’t even hesitate at taking or making those opportunities. The problem is, the minute I start to research or look online at the realities of doing this or even to think about what I have to do to achieve this I’m just engulfed by either waves and waves of negative comments from forum users or worries from friends and family or I reach big hurdles on a practical level and it whisks away the idealistic hopes I have so fast it leaves me cold. But that little voice remains, whispering at me telling me “why can’t you do it? What’s really stopping you? If you want something bad enough you’ll make it work”. And over time that voice gets louder until I suddenly tell myself I can do it, so I start searching on the internet and the whole stupid process starts all over again.
So, what’s changed? Where I am now? Why I am telling you all this?
After a long conversation with a positive friend I’m back at the beginning – the positive beginning – I’m entering my final year of Uni this September and facing up to the fact that this time next year I will be staring Life full on in the face, eye ball to eye ball so to speak and I need to decide. I don’t know if what I want can be done but I’ve stopped searching online and asking the question and instead, I’m just going to do it, or I’m going to try and do it. That is what this blog will be about. This is my 1st step on the journey to living, working, travelling, doing anything abroad with my child as a single parent. I’m plunging headfirst – I know it will be difficult. In 24 hours I’ve ranged through every emotion, I’ve gone from totally pumped and excited to completely demotivated and convinced I can’t do it or shouldn’t do it.
There are still worries that I have. I do want the best for my child. I don’t want my decisions to impact on her negatively in any way whatsoever. I want this to be our experience. I want to know that she is having the childhood that will develop her into the amazing person I know she can be and that it is doing what a ‘normal’ education couldn’t do. If at any point I feel this isn’t happening I’m also willing to come back and give her whatever it is she needs. But I can’t live a life saying ‘what if’. I need to try. So this blog will be all about that journey; I hope to provide a source or information and maybe even inspiration to other single parents who feel bowed under the societal pressures and stigmas (real or imagined). I hope to be a source of information on the routes that can be taken to achieving that dream, no doubt there will be options I don’t take that would still enable someone to live and work abroad with a child but here I will log how I try to do it. I also hope to be able to provide any information to help others who follow in my path, practical information on surviving in other countries with a child – but for this, only time will tell as it will be at least 18 months until I’m on the road so to speak. One thing I’ve learnt from the internet is that there are a lot of single parents (mostly mums) asking the questions, there’s a lot of response in the negative from people who aren’t single parents and who haven’t done it (so just opinions) and there’s not much else. I hope to be that something else – I want to be a roar (not a whisper) in the sea of negativity, a roar of encouragement, to tell people to try. If it doesn’t work then that’s OK, at least I can say I tried.
This is the base line – you’re up to date (sort of) in my life and my other posts will hopefully be a bit more bitesize than this!
So… where I am I up to today? I’m trying best to qualify myself to live and work abroad so I will of course finish my degree to the best of my ability. But this summer I am learning to drive as I’ve not yet done this and I have also enrolled on an online 120 hour TEFL course with a view to doing the more difficult and more prestigious CELTA course next summer at the Uni too. In fact I shall leave this mammoth 1st blog post here and my next one will be about those decisions and how I find my 1st day at home doing the TEFl course.
Bye for now and thanks for reading!