Saturday, 27 June 2015

Single parenting when things go wrong

I don't like to admit it, but life is hard at the moment.

In general, you know that I'm an advocate of single parenting. I don't mean just for the sake of it - I'm definitely not saying "HEY! LEAVE YOUR PARTNERS! IT'S ACE OVER HERE IN THE SINGLEPARENTDOM DEEP END!"  Just that, it's possible to be happy, and a good parent, and bring your children up well, if you're on your own.

But. When things go awry - when something unexpected happens - then life suddenly goes tits up and can become extremely stressful.

You may remember that Tween had his accident six weeks ago.  My ex and I thought that, as the docs had said he could return to school after two weeks, then that would be that. All better. Job done.

In fact, we have learnt that you can't predict how head injuries will heal. Unfortunately, as we were crowbarred out of hospital with such speed, we didn't get any follow-up information on what to expect. Actually, that's a lie - I was handed a faded, photocopied leaflet advising me to go to hospital in my child's head exploded (or something), but it was about as useful as a holey bucket.

So when, a couple of weeks later, I couldn't wake Tween up for school, I was worried. It happened again two days later. And then the following week, he woke up not being able to feel his arms.

I phoned the Ward number I had been given, but it was constantly engaged. So I made an emergency appointment with the GP, who then referred us back to hospital. Multiple hours and tests later, we were released, none the wiser.

Well, actually, a bit 'the wiser', because now I know that there are no answers, and that I need to give Tween time to sleep. To recover at his own pace. Something that I had not been allowing him - not due to the pressure of school, who have been wonderful - but because I have to work.

The pressure of having to work is all-consuming. Initially, they were great, giving me a week's compassionate leave and telling me that 'family comes first'. But as the weeks have unravelled, and I have been forced to change my days at short notice due to Tween's erratic sleeping, their patience is thinning. And my stress level is mounting.

Last week I had an epiphany. The summer holidays are coming, and there is no way that I will be able to (and should) send Tween to his usual holiday club while I'm at work. So I decided to ask for four weeks off.

No, was the answer. It's too long. We want you to come in for 'Keeping In Touch' days, to work from home. You'll need to do at least two days' work each week. And you'll have to plan for the time off you have, in detail. 'But how?' I asked, 'I'm already pushed to bursting.' 'Make time,' was the response.

Listen, I don't like to moan. But employers need to realise something. In situations like these - personal emergencies - if you don't support your employees, then they are going to pop. I can see myself being signed off from work by the docs through stress. They have said that I can apply for unpaid time off, which is my best option it seems, but I am still being put under pressure to work extra time to plan for the leave, which will involve additional time away from my children and more stress (and no extra money, of course).

I would love my employer to take a more holistic, long term approach. I want them to say, "Take as long as you need. We'll shuffle some of next year's holiday over for you. We'll organise extra resource for you to take the pressure off. We'll tell some people what you're going through. We'll help you get through this."

But they aren't saying that. And as a single parent, I don't have the support of another adult who can share my load. My ex has provided some help, but asking him feels like I am asking for a favour, and it should never be like that. Ever.

And so, I battle on with my employer and, in the process, try not to go stark raving bonkers.

Friday, 12 June 2015

My vagina is noisy - the underground world of fanny farts (or queefs)

Since having children, I've noticed that my vagina has taken on a duel persona. Persona #1: a normal vagina. Persona #2: a flaccid balloon.

Let me explain. Making love with an attractive man is generally a pleasant experience, is it not, ladies (or gents)? Most of the time, the only noises emanating from the whole experience are the 'oos' and 'aahs' from the mouth hole, and some general slurping from the lady bottom area. The vagina is behaving as a vagina should, and all is marvellous.

Until of course your gentleman friend approaches from behind. And then vagina #2 takes over. As well as this, the man's gentleman stick takes on its own persona #2a - that of a balloon pump - and the inflating begins.

At first it's hardly noticeable. But soon, the uncomfortable bloating sensation starts and you know that the #2 flaccid balloon is being slowly inflated. At this point, you are hoping for a quick finish, because if it continues, the balloon soon gets to fully-stretched, and a rather unnerving 'I'm about to explode' feeling comes over you (no pun intended).
The bleedin' balloon pump now feels like a screwdriver (no pun intended) and there's no choice but to tell the balloon pump operative to evacuate swiftly.

Which he does. Because you're screaming at him to GET THE F*CK OFF.

Now here, you have two post coital choices. 1: to tighten everything up in your nether regions and never relax, ever again. Even talking is out. And possibly breathing. Or 2: Let riiiiiiiiiiip with the initial queef*. And the minute it surfaces, you will laugh. And when you laugh, you've opened the flood gates. You've let the inflated balloon off, and it's metaphorically flying round the room with a very noisy PPPPRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTTTTT. The fanny farts are loud, they're strong, and they seem never ending. You can kiss your love-making goodbye, because by this stage, the balloon pump will have shriveled to a piece of blu tac.

If there are funnier things in this world than a vaginal fart, I have yet to find them. It's something to do with their context, I think; love making is generally a serious exercise, particularly from behind. There's focused work to be done and you're both in the sexy zone. So when a massive, uncontrollable trump punctuates the Marvin Gayeness of it all, laughter (at yourself) is the only choice open to you. Which is a shame, because laughter promotes further, uncontrollable queefing (see above). Meaning more laughter, more farting...and so on.

The good news about fanny farts is that, although loud, they don't smell. The ejected air has only been in there for a few seconds, probably, and unlike your botty trumps, hasn't travelled through your colon, picking up poo smells en route. Presumably then, unlike proper farts, you can't set light to them either. So don't try that at home.

Whilst 'researching' this post I came across two amazing things. One is this article from the Telegraph published this January, in response to a poor woman whose noisy vagina was troubling her.

I started reading it 4 hours ago and have only just stopped laughing. (Not very grown up.)

But the best the -THE BEST THING - is this video. Put down your tea. Turn off the telly. Stop having family time.

Because, as a fitting end to this post, I give you three golden minutes of: The World Queefing Championships.

Altogether now: "Don't shit yourself, Debbie!"

Until the next time, then.

*Queef - a vaginal fart

And then the fun began...

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

My Favourite Place

Bath, from Prior Park

Having lived in Birmingham, Brighton, and London, I find myself bringing up my children in Bath. When I moved here 12 years ago, I felt it was like a working museum; the buildings are so homogenous, they almost feel unreal. (Even now, planning is so strict in the city that all construction has to be in (or at least 'faced' with) Bath stone.) There is a Georgian festival every year where people parade through the city, dressed as Mrs Bennett or Mr Darcy. There are the Roman Baths, of course, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. The Arts flourish here; there's a literature and a music festival, a fringe, and three wonderful theatres. There are supposedly more choirs here per capita than anywhere else.

To temper the toffee-nosed middle-class-ness of it all, there are two universities and, in the summer, numerous language schools which flood the city with Italian and French students.

But the best thing about Bath - the BEST thing - is the fact that it's surrounded by hills. And so, if you climb to the top of pretty much anywhere, you get an amazing view of the city.

I took this photo in the winter from Prior Park, a landscape garden in the safe hands of the National Trust. It's 18th century (of course it is!) and is an absolute gem. The wonderful Palladian bridge - at the bottom of the photo - has 18th century graffiti scratched into its fabric. The sweeping valley has cows grazing on it from time to time, and the lake at the bottom is filled with fish. Oh, and there's a tea hut. With lit braziers (not brassieres, mind) to keep you warm in winter.

And five minutes' walk from Prior Park is the Bath Skyline, a six mile circular route around Bath with unbelievable views. It's apparently the most downloaded walk from the NT's website. More info here:

If you visit Bath and come to Prior Park, don't bring the car. There's no parking available (which makes it relatively quiet); best to catch the red sightseeing bus or the No.1 - or get your walking shoes on and hoof it up the hill.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery