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Archive for February, 2010

Psychologically it gets easier–you get used to it–but logistically it just never gets easier.

Last night I had a volunteer meeting. I have missed every meeting since the Ex moved to Bob, because the meetings are held on the night he used to pick up PP. Since then I’ve either not been able to find a sitter or PP hasn’t been well. Last night I finally got a sitter–and the irony of paying for the privilege of volunteering does not escape me–and it wasn’t easy either, since the first sitter backed out on Wednesday because she got sick and I had to find a replacement in less than 24 hours.

She arrived, I set out, and got stuck in traffic in a snowstorm. My iPhone map stopped working and I got lost, three times. After an hour of driving around on slippery roads trying to get to a volunteer meeting and paying a sitter to be able to do so, I gave up and drove home.

About two months ago, also having paid a sitter to come take care of PP while I tried to get to a volunteer gig, I spent 1 1/2 hours on transit to get there–thinking–I’m PAYING someone to be able to sit on the subway.

I hate this. Why does it have to be so complicated and freaking HARD?

Maybe I would be better off accepting that the choices I made in my twenties, however influenced by the Ex and his interests they may have been, have consequences and I’m not going to be able to undo them. Maybe all this thinking about what I want for myself and for my life is counter-productive because I just can’t have it. Maybe I’d be better off resigning myself to what is, rather than keep pushing towards what I wish it were.

Can’t help but think my life would be a lot simpler and I’d be a lot happier if I were the sort of person who just wanted a stable job and a cable connection. Because that I could have, very easily.

Instead, no. I can’t be happy if I feel I’m not contributing or that I’m performing below where I could be. So I want a job where I can do good and use my brain. And I want to have that job and be able to be a good mother to PP, and be a contributing part of a community where I can do some good on issues I care about. Only there is this fucking mountain between where I am now and all those things I want, and I can’t climb over it, I can only try to move it aside by pushing one finger at a time.

That mountain is all the choices the Ex and I made when I was younger. The job I got because he wasn’t comfortable with starting a family until I had a job like this. The house we got because he wanted a house and interest rates were going to skyrocket any day, so I put off and put off my educational goals and now they are all but permanently out of reach. And now how I’ll spend the rest of my life dealing with the consequences of his freaking sex addiction in the form of all the demands single motherhood places on me while he skates off to a fabulous new life with a new gf to exploit and dupe, and gets again everything he wants.

There are no words to express how much I hate and resent him at times like this.

Should I just give up? Are my hopes just too unrealistic while PP is so young?

How much longer do I put this off for? I already sacrificed by twenties. Do I lose my thirties too?

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I applied for a job this week and got an interview for next week.

It is a big step up in terms of responsibility, challenge and growth potential–a management position at a small company in a growth portion of my field. There’s a lot I don’t know about it yet (incl. salary) but it sounds like a great opportunity right now.

It’s Beyond Bob.

Not much Beyond Bob, but Beyond Bob.

Pros: PP gets to spend more time with her Dad. It’s a lot closer to my parents–not normally a good thing, but if the new job involves travel or overtime, that could come in handy. Houses are so cheap. Lots of greenspace around. Lots of nice big parks. I’ll get to learn something new and interesting and apply some skills I haven’t had a chance to use much lately. I won’t be working here anymore.

Cons: It’s Beyond Bob.

We’d have to move. I’m not opposed to moving, but of course it is work and a hassle. We wouldn’t be living in the City anymore; I wouldn’t be riding my beloved subway all over the place whenever I like. I would have to drive to work (not much transit in Beyond Bob), unless I bought one of those cheap houses that litter the ground in Beyond Bob. Then I could walk.

That’s not much of a con, is it?

And then there’s The Trader. Who works in the City, and already owns two houses–both of which are between the City and Bob, mind you; from a commuting standpoint, I’d probably spend less time getting from there to Beyond Bob than I would getting to my current office. But then if I get it (borrowing trouble much?) and we’re not ready to cohabitate this year (which we probably won’t be) then where do I move PP and me to? Do we buy a house in Beyond Bob, which would be great for us–and then move us again next year? No. Demand the Trader move to Beyond Bob and commute to the City every day? Eek. Move to his area and then hope it works out and I’m not moving us AGAIN if it doesn’t?

Stomach ache.

Borrowing trouble, I know I know, I should just concentrate on knocking the interview out of the park and worry about logistics AFTER I get it, IF I get it. But here is a really great opportunity, potentially, that might get me into a better working and financial position and allow me to spend more time with PP. And if I do get it I don’t know what it’s going to mean for me and the Trader.

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I assumed that anyone who had ever made the colossal mis-decision to enter into a relationship with a married person would come to the same conclusion I had: BIG MISTAKE. So many people get hurt, so many relationships are destroyed, so little good comes out of so much pain. I thought that, even though I knew that my Ex had never come to that realization despite his many extra-marital flings, at least one involving a married woman whose marriage later broke down.

I thought somehow that anyone could see that unless you’ve directly asked the wife involved, you have no way of knowing how much of the Tale of Woe–“my wife doesn’t understand me! we never have sex anymore! our relationship has been dead for years!”–is complete bollocks. And it probably all is; probably a way of generating misdirected sympathy in the hopes of getting the girl into bed.

I thought somehow that anyone would end up, at the end of it all, with enough compassion and sympathy for the wife to have developed some inkling of remorse.

I did not reckon with the Sense of Entitlement Syndrome, as recently evidenced by a comment left by a woman on a single-mom blog I frequently read: She had an affair with a married man who lied to her about his marital status but once she found out it was totally ok because she was so happy with him, and when the relationship came to an end she found it such a positive experience she decided to no longer rule out married men.

I was aghast. My jaw hit the keyboard. WHAT? A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE? For who, exactly? For his wife? Or for her philandering dickheaded husband and his conscience-free side-dish?

Is your brain feeling as twisted as mine is while I try to construct the worldview that could support such nonsense?

(Obligatory note: Am not including open marriages where all parties are aware of what is going on. This is just about the actual old-style affairs where everyone lies to everybody else about everything. Ok? Ok.)

I remember dating the Ex, and him telling me about how he cheated on his ex-girlfriend with a married woman, and how terrible she was for having cheated on her husband. Umm…

How do people perform these mental gymnastics? How do people manage to get through their lives without having ever made eye-contact with themselves in the mirror?

It is true that remorse is what separates those of us for whom there is hope from those for whom there is no hope. It’s what separates me from the Ex, at least, and god knows there’s no hope for him.

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Which I suppose is all I can expect for February, but so far I’ve been completely frustrated with myself. Our time is tight. There’s nothing I can do about that. Our mornings and evenings will be rushed so long as our living situation continues as it does at present, and I would say it is the greatest single source of stress between PP and myself. It’s always go-go-go-go-go hurry-hurry-hurry whydon’tyouhaveyourpajamasonyetIaskedyoutodothat20minutesago. Get your teeth brushed! Have you flossed yet? PP, you know you need to put your toys away or you’ll lose them for a week. No, you can’t leave them out. Sweetie, that sounds fascinating, but it’s dinner time and you have to eat–you really have to finish your dinner–it’s almost bedtime, you’re not going to have any playtime–all right kiddo, time to get your pajamas on–I KNOW you didn’t get any playtime, what do you think I’ve been telling you for the last thirty minutes?

She wants more time at home to do fun things, and she wants more time to play with me, and both of those are reasonable things I wish I could give her but they are beyond my resources right now. If I can get the telework thing straightened out that will take some of the pressure off (I’m still working on it); other than that, it would have to come out of either sleep time or work time, and neither of those are feasible. So we’re stuck with this ridiculous schedule.

Monday was particularly tense. I spent it making her new mittens and a scarf because she’d lost her old ones at school, and her backup ones are not warm enough to be outside for long. Is it frustrating for her to watch me sew all morning? Sure. What were my other options? I took her skating with them once we were done, and that was fun, but apparently not fun enough. Then we came home and I made dinner and she was upset again that I couldn’t play with her. We need to eat! It’s non-negotiable! It set the tone for the evening: she was sad and frustrated enough that putting any of her toys away became a struggle and we spent the rest of the day arguing about why she needs to put her own toys away and she got not a lick of playtime at all.

I hate that.

If I think about it, our major points of conflict these days are:

1. Getting dressed and downstairs in the morning. It takes her at least 20 minutes, and that’s with her clothes out and waiting.

2. Eating dinner. She has a million things she wants to tell me so it takes an hour to eat and by the time she’s done it’s time to put her toys away so she gets barely any playtime.

3. Putting her toys away. Our rule has been that she needs to put them away herself in the evening or lose them for a week, but this is not working anymore. She leaves them out knowing I will stick them in storage for a week and not caring because she has so many other toys to play with instead.

~~~~~

1. To have any hope of getting to work on time, we need to leave before 8:00 (and that defines “on time” as “less than 20 minutes late”). To leave at 8:00, PP needs to be eating breakfast at 7:30. To get downstairs for 7:30, I need to wake her up at 7:15 at the latest and have her clothes ready (and her lunch packed). Even then I need to give her lots of reminders about getting dressed and brushing her teeth and putting her boots on (“What an adorable puppy you are! What beautiful fur you have! But you need to get your boots on NOW, sweetie.”)

The main thing for this to run well is for me to get out of bed by 6:45. If I don’t, nothing else goes right. But that’s hard for the sleep-deprived single mom to do, and there are many days I fall right back to sleep after turning the alarm off.

Still, this one is doable.

2. Eating dinner. It takes her an hour.

Given when I get to work, I leave around 5:15, pick PP up at the daycare around 5:45, and we get home just after six–in the winter, it’s the best we can do. In order to be in bed for 8 she needs to start getting ready for bed around 7:30. That gives us about 80 minutes.

And she spends 60 of them eating. These are not elaborate dinners, either. We’re talking reheated spaghetti-and-meatballs, grilled cheese sandwiches, soup and toast, scrambled eggs. Five-minute dinners, because on weeknights five minutes is all I’ve got.

I love talking to her but she needs more playtime. As it is she gets a few toys out while I’m getting her dinner on the table, plays with them for a minute or two, once supper is done she talks to her dad for a few minutes and then it’s time to put the toys away.

It sucks, and no wonder she’s frustrated.

I try to chivvy her along a bit (“PP bunny, it’s not playtime, it’s eating time. Sit down and eat your dinner quickly and you will have more time to play,”) but it doesn’t work. I need a strategy that will encourage her to eat her dinner in a more reasonable time period so she can get some actual playtime in the evening.

I suppose there are a few elements to this:

a) She needs to stay at the table rather than get distracted by something she wants to pick up or a story she wants to tell me or a picture she wants to go look at.
b) While at the table she needs to actually be eating. Not telling me all about the chihuahua puppy she’s going to buy when the guinea pigs are dead and how cute and soft and fluffy it will be and how she will hug it and it will lick her and she’ll love it very much and it will sleep in a puppy bed in her bedroom.

If I could even get her to finish eating in 30 minutes that would help. Then she’d be done by 6:45 and she’d have 30 minutes to play before needing to put her toys away, which isn’t much but is more than what she’s getting.

Can I turn it into a game? If we had one or two of her favourite toys “eating” dinner with us at the table, would that encourage her to keep her butt in her chair? If one of them had her desert and she had to finish her dinner by 6:45 in order to get it? It might be worth a shot.

And if I wrote it out for her too, maybe, and showed her that in order to have playtime she needs to finish eating for 6:45. Sort of like a combination of Playful Parenting and that chapter in Nurtureshock where they talk about preschoolers making Play Plans to develop better attention and discipline.

3. Putting her toys away.

This is exacerbated obviously when she barely has time to play with them, and hopefully if we can deal with the dinner thing this won’t be as frustrating. But again: if she puts her toys away FAST then we have more time to play beforehand, and more time to read stories and snuggle before bed afterwards.

The rule’s not changing: if she doesn’t put them away before bedtime she loses them for a week, because my own schedule is also planned in ten-minute increments and I can’t pick up after her every night–nor should I, she’s six.

But maybe I can think of a way to turn it into a race: can she finish picking up her toys before I finish clearing away dinner, for example? If she does, can she “win” an extra bedtime story or song? And if I am cleaning up at the same time she is cleaning up maybe it will seem less “unfair” in that peculiar 6-year-old calculus of justice.

I’ll give it all a shot and cross my fingers. Single mothering, Dear Readers, is hard and sometimes it feels like it never gets easier.

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Short-lived, as it turns out.

He’s backing out of telling his ex about us again because of his fears that he will use this to try to attack him in the courts and reduce the time he gets with his son.

Now, given her previous behaviour, this is perfectly credible. I understand why he feels that way. I understand why he’s so eager to avoid it, and why it feels like a huge risk that he can’t take right now. What I don’t understand is why he’s told me–twice–that he’s willing to take that risk only to change his mind at the last minute. And what I don’t understand is what kind of future a relationship can possibly have if it’s being held hostage by a crazy lady who lives on the other side of a large ocean.

I keep going back and forth. Of course he doesn’t want to risk it, of course he’s already terrified of losing his son, why do I want to push him into this? I don’t, of course. I want him to put his son first. I wouldn’t love him if he was a crap dad. After everything he’s gone through at this woman’s hands, anyone would be terrified, anyone would want extra security and reassurances. Why can’t I give that to him?

Well, because if I do, then I put my life and my future and by extension PP’s life and future on hold waiting for this woman to have a spontaneous personality transformation, which seems unlikely, to put it mildly. Because if it’s this hard for him to tell her he’s seeing someone and Trader-Tot will meet her, how the hell will he ever tell her if we decide to move in together? And then how can we make any plans for anything if everything must first pass the test of Won’t Make His Ex Call Her Lawyers?

Completely torn. My needs and PP’s needs on the one side, his on the other. Both reasonable and fair, and seemingly incompatible.

I can’t tell him he needs to tell her. If she did go nuts over it and drag him through the courts again, even if he won and didn’t lose any time with his son, even if it just cost him a few more hundred thousand dollars, I would never forgive myself. It can’t be my choice, it needs to be his choice.

But that doesn’t mean that I can wait forever. Five months isn’t forever of course but I think it’s long enough to get a commitment on this that actually sticks.

Back and forth. My needs or his.

What I’ve told him is that he needs to give me a plan for this that is not dependent on her state of mind or reactions, with a timetable he will stick to, and that I won’t forgive him if he backs out again so he needs to be really, really sure that whatever he commits to is something he can actually do. He can talk to his lawyers, their mediators, a counselor, whoever he wants, and develop a plan. It doesn’t need to be my plan, but it needs to be a plan I can live with–asking me to wait five years, in other words, won’t fly. And then he needs to carry through before I will meet Trader-Tot or he will spend time with PP again. Kids stay out until we can prove that this hurdle can be met.

Only I said it with extra yelling and agitation.

I don’t know what to do or what to think.

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There’s a big buzz in single mom circles about a new book that’s just come out. You might have heard of it. It’s called Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.

I don’t intend to read it, because I’m not its target audience. All along my problem has been settling too quickly for Mr. Nowhere Near Good Enough, and then suffering miserably for having done so. Since leaving the Ex I’ve tried to teach myself to raise my standards and have expectations, and it’s been tough but worth it.

I have however read many reviews and interviews with the author, and here’s the thing: the title is written for those people who actually believe that finding and falling in love with someone “good enough” is settling because, heaven forbid, he’s not perfect. Forgetting that they themselves are not perfect, and that no one deserves perfect, for god’s sake. If it had been titled for a reasonable audience, it might have been called: “Marry Him: You were lucky enough to find a great guy who leaves the toilet seat up sometimes. Congratulations!”

Because “settling” in the context of this book has been described, variably, as not striking a guy out because he’s balding, wears the wrong kind of ties, went to the wrong law school, is half an inch too short, or likes Toni Braxton. That’s not “settling.” That’s “not being a complete fucking entitled bitch.” Pardon my language.

Maybe it should have been called: “Get Over Yourself: He doesn’t want to fish your hair out of the shower drain for the rest of his life either.”

It’s like ED. There he is, 37, never had a serious or live-in relationship, and he thinks it’s the girls. He just hasn’t met the right one yet. He’s waiting for his socks to get knocked off. One day he’ll find her and then everything will work magically, forever and ever. Please. It’s him, it’s all him, and thank god he hasn’t “settled” (and that is what he would call it) because it would only make his girlfriend/fiancee/wife miserable too. Or the RG, early forties and never married nor, I don’t think, has he ever cohabited, because no one has ever been up to snuff, and if that doesn’t clearly result from an overblown sense of entitlement I don’t know what does.

Is it just me, or is this a variety of narcissism? “I am so special and wonderful that I deserve to have every item on my fifty-page list ticked off by the guy of my dreams, who will arrive on my doorstep one day and make me happy and loved forever and ever, without effort or compromise, amen.”

Even Brad Pitt isn’t Brad Pitt. You think he doesn’t have bad habits that drive Angelina crazy? Even George Clooney isn’t George Clooney. You don’t think he’s still single for a reason? Whatever hollywood fantasy you’ve got built up in your mind about the Perfect Guy who is out there somewhere just waiting for you, I’ve got news: he bites his nails, or leaves his dirty dishes on the table, or sings in the shower, or has the world’s most annoying best friend, or always pays his bills the day after they’re due, or is going to start losing his hair next year, or his mother lives down the street and will be having supper with you every night. There will be something. I guarantee it.

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rings and things

The Trader came back from a business trip to Also Far Away on the weekend, and he brought me two of these:

One as a ring, one as a charm on a necklace. Very pretty, no? I am wearing it as instructed by the internet, on my right hand, crown on top.

“And this way I never have to get you another ring,” he said. “We can just switch hands! But I probably will.”

So, you know. Things are going pretty well there. And I am forcing myself to breathe normally and not get ahead of myself and remember to think but not shut off, and it’s quite a cacaphony in my head as a result.

Not only do I trust him, but I trust my trust in him, if that makes sense. Considering the last seven years, that is something.

I’ve been married twice and this is the first time anyone has ever given me a ring, of any sort.

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