Wednesday, 12 August 2015
The Marriage Break-Up Blog
Pardon my French but I don't know if I'm on my arse or my elbow at the moment! What a difference a couple of weeks make. I've gone from complaining I didn't have enough work to do, to trying to set up and market a new business, write financial workshops and classes, keep up my magazine column and write 30 press releases for clients in the US! I'm absolutely exhausted! But I'm also the most excited I've been in a long time. I can't wait for these workshops to start, I want to help EVERYONE! Funnily enough though I forgot one particular group of people, which is rather ironic because I am one and that's solo parents. I think we deserve our very own workshop because my God some of us have it hard and so many of us have no one. Nobody to support us, nobody to bounce ideas off or to give advice. As many solo parents know, you can go for days without talking to another living soul except your kids!
I'm not complaining though. As I told Sunday Star Times reporter Rob Stock the other day when he was interviewing me about how to manage financially after separation, compared to most solo parents I have it super easy. I've never had to fight for child support from my ex, in fact we never fought about anything throughout the whole dividing up of assets and all that. Neither of us begrudged each other having anything, it was all very civil and straightforward. Emotionally it was hideous and very, very sad but with regard to who got what, there were no dramas. Equally we never had to go to court, there were no bitter custody battles and our child support agreement is done privately. In that respect I am extremely lucky. In any other respect I'm like anyone else who has gone through a marriage break-up. I've seen a lot of my friends go through them since I did almost three years ago and whilst everyone's individual circumstances may be different, the array of emotions and their harrowing intensity is the same. We might not experience them all in the same order, but we experience them all.
I never really wanted to write about this stuff but a) Rob told me I should and b) after his article came out at the weekend I received some incredible, heartrending emails from solo parents who have it much, much harder than I do. They are right and so is Rob. Rarely does anyone know what they are truly getting into when a marriage ends. Even if you are the one ending it and think you have done all your homework, nuk - you cannot be prepared enough. There will always be a moment down the track when you wish you had known something from the start, some financial entitlement which could have made things so much easier, something more you could have done to protect yourself and the children who depend on you. So for Rob, the beautiful people who wrote to me and anyone else in the same boat or thinks they ever might be, this is for you.
Being a solo parent is not all bad. The best part is, you can be yourself. Anyone who has ever felt unable to do this will understand what I mean. You no longer have to justify or explain your decisions to anyone or worry what anyone else thinks. You also get to control the TV remote. If you are lucky enough to have your kids living with you, being a solo parent can strengthen that bond more than you can ever imagine. You're a team, it's you and them against the world. I will always cherish and be grateful for this time I have had with my kids. I might not get it right all the time and it can be daunting being the one always having to make the call with regard to advice or discipline or helping them to make important decisions but my God it's a brilliant feeling when you know you have done a good job. To anyone feeling exhausted or overwhelmed parenting your kids alone, it may feel awful right now. Awful and lonely and endless but trust me you will look back on this time one day and realise how amazing it was. Tough, yes. Quite possibly the hardest time of your life. But also an amazing time and a time where you will realise you are capable of so much more than you ever thought. Although I still haven't plucked up the courage to use a chainsaw yet...
The early stuff is the scariest, which I'm sure you can imagine, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work that out. But I don't think anyone is really ready for how scary it actually is. At various stages you will undoubtedly ask yourself 'What the hell have I done?' In my case the first time was when I went to WINZ. As my boys would say, shit got real. It was daunting doing all the paperwork, it took so long, there was so much stuff I needed to bring and remember and the whole time I was looking around thinking 'I don't belong here. I don't belong here'. I still hate the place and I still think that whenever I have to go there for any reason but you just have to get over yourself. One thing you learn real quick when you're a solo parent - you do what you have to. The scariest part of all however was my first night in my newly purchased house. I lay there freezing my arse off in my new room, the owner of a brand new home and a brand new mortgage in my name only. Everything was still upside down all around me, it all felt foreign and wrong and the enormity and finality of everything hit me. But things always seem worse at night. I got up the next morning, the sun was shining, I took our two rather bemused and disoriented dogs for a walk on the beach just like I had a thousand times before and I knew I was going to be OK.
One important tip, and it could be the most important - get legal advice. I didn't and I was lucky, I have an ex who has been nothing but fair to me and didn't stitch me up but he could have and the majority of exes will do their darnedest to make your life more difficult. The stories I hear just break my heart. They don't think about the fact they're depriving their kids; all they care about is getting back at you, hurting you. Many of us, especially us more emotional women, concern ourselves more with keeping things as normal as possible for the kids and plan 'nice' things to look forward to such as finding the perfect little house to make a new start in but you have to try and think logically, not just emotionally. Protect yourself from the outset and get reliable advice.
WINZ get a pretty bad rap but I've never found them anything less than brilliant to deal with, however many people are quick to rely solely on them for help and miss out on other avenues. Ask other solo parents what help they get. I've never met another solo parent who doesn't have something enlightening to share. Their situation and circumstances may not be identical to yours but nine times out of ten they will have something valuable to impart. With regard to WINZ and Inland Revenue, communicate with them regularly. Don't be fooled into thinking you are getting all the help you are entitled to, there is often a good chance that somebody has missed something and if they have they will take action fast. A lot of solo parents struggle and there is nothing they can do about it. But a lot of solo parents also struggle and there IS something they can do about it. If you are struggling to keep yourself and your children warm and fed, GET HELP. And if you can't get help or you don't know where to go, message me on Facebook and I will get you help. Repeat after me, Number One Solo Parent Rule - You Need To Look After Yourself. We are too quick to go without and make sacrifices for the sake of our kids but the bottom line is solo parents can't afford to get sick. Because if we do we can't work. Not only that, if you get sick there is often no one else who can look after you or your kids so you have to keep dragging yourself around getting sicker and sicker until the wheels fall off and you wind up in hospital like I did last year. The stress of the enforced separation from my boys was almost worse than the illness itself! So please take it from me and do whatever you can to stay healthy. Don't ever feel guilty about it because your kids need you to be well too.
I was asked recently if I get discriminated against as a solo mother and I said no. I never thought I did until I went job hunting but yes, I actually do. Being the sole carer of a child deems a person unreliable apparently, you see. I admit that this revelation made me very VERY angry. What a load of shite! If anything, solo parents are even more reliable because they appreciate the work and need the income more than anyone! When you consider also that my kids are old enough to drive a car, buy alcohol and vote it's bloody laughable. But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if your child lives with one parent or two; if that child is sick or needs you, any parent will surely put them first. But whatever, people will always think what they want. Ignorance is bliss, I probably would have thought the same about solo parents until I became one.
It's been a long post today and I have more to share of a far more lighthearted and humorous nature but I'll save that for another day. I still have press releases to write and workshops to plan and I can't even remember what else! And to anyone who heard me talking to Danny Watson on Newstalk ZB yesterday? I had NO idea I was actually live on air. No idea at all!