So, you might be wondering why I started writing these blogs that occasionally appear on your Facebook newsfeed or maybe you’ve never given it a second thought, but I’m going to tell you anyway! (So if you don’t want to know the reasons…look away now!)
To help others
The main reason I write my blog is to (hopefully!) help others in similar situations to those I find myself in. It’s certainly not a pity party. I try not to moan and I do aim to inject some humour if I can. Personally I find it reassuring to read about someone who has had a similar experience to me, so I hope others find it helpful too. I have written about the reality of living with MS, bereavement, single parenthood and setting up a charity along with others on anxiety, anger and changes to the benefit system. My hope is that others will find reassurance in reading my experiences, even if it’s to make them feel that they’re making a much better job of it than me!
Raise awareness and challenge preconceptions
I love to write to raise awareness about different topics that the general public may be unaware of. Fortunately most people don’t know what it’s like to live with a chronic condition, especially when many of the symptoms are invisible. So I try to explain what that’s like so that people have more of an insight, because there are actually many people living with all sorts of ‘hidden’ illnesses and it would be great if there was more of a wider understanding.
I like to try and challenge preconceptions too. Following my experience of bereavement, both personally and through the charity I run, I realise that the general understanding of grief and more specifically how children grieve is often misunderstood. I hope that some of the blogs raise awareness about the needs of these children and families and how we are seeking ways to meet them.
It’s also a good way of talking about issues that are often more difficult to discuss face to face, like mental health issues. It’s a whole lot easier to write it down and share than it is to drop it into a conversation, but it means that people who are experiencing similar difficulties know they’re not alone and might even feel able to ask for help or at least talk about how they are feeling with someone else.
It is also a good platform to raise awareness about political issues like changes to the benefits system, the NHS and education. I get to vent my spleen about injustices!
I’ll be honest, I do find writing therapeutic. I have developed a love of writing that I’ve never had before. Iwrite privately for my eyes only too, I don’t share everything publicly, but there are occasions that I think it’s worth sharing a version of my thoughts more widely.
However, these blogs are not me spilling all of my innermost thoughts onto the screen, they are the edited, relevant highlights. It is therapeutic as in positive and helpful, but not therapy as in treatment. I firmly believe that the internet is not the place the bare your soul, but I think a little self disclosure can be helpful.
Because I have been encouraged to!
It’s all your fault! I wrote my first blog to mark World MS Day and was overwhelmed by the positive feedback I received from people…not just my friends (who have to be nice…it’s in the job description), but even some people I didn’t know!! So I thought I’d give it another go and that was well received too! So, it grew from there. I don’t publish blogs regularly, but more as topics arise and whilst the feedback remains positive I’ll keep doing it 🙂
I never felt I was very good at writing at school. I got a respectable B in my GCSE (and we won’t mention the A level result) but I was never confident in my ability. I got an ok degree, but again the writing didn’t come easily. It was always a challenge to reach the word count required for essays, but now I often have to cut down what I write because it’s too long! I think I found it difficult because it felt like it was all opinions about stuff that didn’t really matter. Whereas this stuff does matter. It matters that people going through tough times don’t feel alone. It matters that people have a better understanding of disability and grief and lone parenting. And if sharing a little of my experience provides an insight into those areas or helps to reassure someone in a similar situation then I think it’s worth it.
So what’s next? More of the same I think. I will continue to write about topics, causes and ideas as and when they arise. Regular readers will know I have been asked to write guest blogs for the national charity MS-UK, so that’s an exciting opportunity too. They say everyone has a book in them, I’m not sure about that, but a few hundred words in a blog? That I can do.
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The other morning I asked my 10 year old the somewhat risky question of how he would describe me. He said I was kind, helped him with his homework and that I was a good ‘only parent’! At first I thought he said ‘you’re only a parent’ and was ready to give an extensive list of reasons why there was no ‘only’ about it! Then I realised he meant ‘only’ as in ‘single’ and I was rather touched that he thought I was doing ok!
I have always admired only parents, even before I became one. I marvelled at their strength and ability to manage it all on their own when it was so tough when there was two of us! Parenting is such a challenging job and you receive absolutely no training for it! As all parents know, children don’t come with instruction manuals and even if they did, you soon realise that they quickly become out of date. Just when you think you’ve read theirs and might have them vaguely sussed…everything changes and you realise you actually don’t have a clue!
So, when only parenthood was thrust upon me 2 years ago, I didn’t really know what to do. As I’ve written about previously, in the early days after my husband died I found it difficult to make a decision about anything. I couldn’t decide what to wear or what to have for tea, let alone make parenting decisions. All of a sudden, when my son asked if he could go somewhere or do something I had to decide whether he could or not. I had to think…could he? Should he? Was that ok? It took some getting used to and I have certainly made (and continue to make) mistakes along the way.
But there is another not so negative side to this. There is no conflict between two parents. If I make a decision, that’s it. No negotiating with my other half if we have different views on something. No disagreements and no arguments. So if my son plays with a (soft!) football in the house that’s ok, because I don’t mind, but it was always a bone of contention between me and my husband.
Discipline is another issue. As someone said to me recently, there’s no ‘good cop, bad cop’…there’s only ‘bad cop’ and you’re always it! All the discipline lies with you and it can feel like you spend all your time nagging and saying no! There’s no one to share the disciplining duties with…you are the sole focus of the ‘Can I? Can I? Can I? Pleeaase can I? Everyone else is going/has one/doesn’t have to/takes it to school’ (delete as applicable) You get the idea. However, on the positive side there is no playing one parent of against another. No tension caused when one parent says one thing and the child goes to the other parent to see if they can get an answer they like more.
Being a parent is the most amazing, tough, rewarding, emotional, fantastic, frustrating job ever and to be an only parent is a mixed blessing, but a blessing all the same.