What I Wish I’d Been Told About Divorce

I’ve been divorced now for nearly 8 weeks and aside from getting used to my new name, (after much consideration I’ve gone back to Miss Williams as I just couldn’t get my head around using the Mrs title when by law I was no longer married) I’ve also had time to reflect on what it actually feels like to get divorced. Now bear in mind that mine had been pretty easy compared to some of the stories I’ve heard, but none the less, it was still a process I went through.

Looking back over the year it took, from the day I sat in the solicitor’s office and told her why I wanted a divorce, to the day I received my Decree Absolute, I’ve now realised just how much of a monumental journey it was. There’s no denying that divorce is going to stir emotions, no matter how happy you are about your new life ahead, there will be days when you feel like a failure.

Nothing like inviting 100 people to a party, accepting all their presents, spending silly money on a dress you’ll wear once and then saying.

“Oh by the way, we made a mistake. Sorry we wasted your time, but hope you had a good day.”

It all feels a little false now looking back like everyone was pretending; playing a game where we all get dressed up. I said those vows for life, we’d made a family and that was that. Only it wasn’t, and I’ve now spent the same amount of money rectifying that mistake. When I see couples celebrating 50 years marriage, I can’t help feeling a little sadness in the reality that it’s very doubtful I’ll ever reach that milestone, divorce has made me see marriage very differently and If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, its that divorces can cost more than weddings.

And another thing, don’t expect your solicitor to be your confidant, friend or counsellor. They’re there to do a job, it’s a business arrangement and at times it felt more like they were making things more complicated just to eek out a bit more money from me. I learnt quickly to try to keep things simple just to get the job done as quickly and cheaply as possible. While they are the professionals, I wasn’t convinced they had my best interests at heart. Emotions just don’t come into it.

Now that’s the bad stuff out the way, let’s crack on to the surprises…. in all honesty, it was never as bad or as complicated as I imagined.

Now my divorce is completeI've looked back over the last 18 months and there were a few things I wish someone had told me at the beginning which would've taken away the worry

The kids will be alright

My children seemed to take the transition very well. I never talked about what was happening, kept everything age appropriate and checked in regularly to see if things were ok. I had amazing advice from other parents who’d been through a divorce and followed their advice. My boys proved that they were much more resilient than I’d given them credit for, swapping houses every other weekend became the norm very quickly.

You get a new lease of life!

And that’s a biggie. That’s something I NEVER anticipated. The 1st few months were spent doing things just for me, something I’d never done before. I booked haircuts in my child-free days, I recycled most of my clothes and started again. I joined the gym and embraced a much healthier lifestyle. Not having someone else to think about at meal times meant I could cook what I liked, the boys tried new foods and joined me on the healthy bandwagon.

We ended up changing our whole daytime routine, totally relaxing the rules.

Days out were no longer confined to getting home at 5 pm to cook dinner, evening baths moved to morning showers and weekends were relaxed and impulsive. My breakthrough moment came the morning after a night out, as my foggy, hungover head cleared and I processed the fun from the night before.  I realised the biggest change in me so far, aside from the confidence and optimism that I could do anything I set my mind to, I realised I’d started doing something I hadn’t done in a very long time; I danced.

A good night out for me now consisted of well and truly letting my hair down and strutting some questionable mum moves on the dancefloor while laughing and singing. I was finally just me, I can’t tell you why I’d never felt comfortable dancing before, but now the rhythm swept me up in a way where I just didn’t care who was watching or what they were thinking.

 I danced like no one was watching,

apart from Hayley. Hayley was watching – my partner in crime, the lady to my right, doing equally dodgy moves.  And were we bovvered? Nah.

Now my divorce is completeI've looked back over the last 18 months and there were a few things I wish someone had told me at the beginning which would've taken away the worry

You’ll gain friends and get used to being on your own

(see above ) I was amazed at the people who rallied around me in the early days, people became incredibly selfless and supportive for which I am eternally grateful. You do find you gravitate a little towards other singletons or divorcees as you have something in common, and while I may have lost a husband, I gained a few more fabulous friends.

I’m not going to lie, the thought of being on my own at first terrified me. It was 20 years since I’d been on my own and not even sure you can count it that as I was living at home, so technically, I’d NEVER been on my own.  I can count on one hand the evenings I spent in my house without my ex.

I struggled the most when after my children left to go stay with their dad, that first hour was a killer, but I had a strategy in place and pretty soon I started to enjoy the moments it was just me to think about. Then, when my boys come home I refreshed and revitalised ready for the next round of solo parenting.

And the evenings when I do have company I love it, but also appreciate the nights in on my own; sitting in bed with a glass of wine and a movie. I was told these days would come and scoffed at the thought of ever being comfortable on my own, but they do. And when the time comes to share my home with another consenting adult, I have no doubt in my mind that the process will be equally strange to get used to; requiring a new carefully thought out strategy, compiled after intense telephone calls, What’s App messages and wine-fuelled debates with the same friends who guided me through the early months of being single.

Now my divorce is completeI've looked back over the last 18 months and there were a few things I wish someone had told me at the beginning which would've taken away the worry

Finances will not be as scary as you anticipated

I simply couldn’t see how I’d cope financially with only one wage coming in, the maths just didn’t add up. My home was mortgaged, I worked and loved my job so going on benefits was never an option and yet I didn’t want to put my children in full-time childcare, or for my older kids to be coming home to an empty house every night if I worked full time.

But is financial help for single parents;  tax credits and other benefits (such as single adult occupancy council tax) which you’re entitled to, I was lucky that I could work from home & juggle my job around my family. Being on my own every night also meant I could work in the evening or on the weekends I was childfree.

The negative is I’m limited to the events I can attend in the evening as my childcare is pretty much just my mum but I still managed to retrain and study as well as work for the first 9 months. The sheer determination to be able to provide for my boys as well as keep a roof over our heads being the driving factor.

I sat down and went through all my incomings and outgoings, working out where I could make cuts. It’s also a lot bloody easier to keep track of your finances when you’re the only one spending. Websites like https://www.gingerbread.org.uk were invaluable.

And one final word about divorce …

Please don’t for one minute think that I’m trying to sugar coat divorce, it sucks, end of. I’ve not shared this with you to champion the end of rocky patches in marriage, I still stand by my belief that relationships require work, they go through good times and bad.

You will know when those bad times become unpatchable though, and that 2 happy homes are better than one sad. If that’s you, I’m sorry you’ve reached that point and would like to think this gives you a little hope that things aren’t as bad as you think they will be.

Here’s my divorce journey if you’d like to read more;

  1. Status update. There’s something you should probably know.
  2. How To Exit A Marriage Gracefully
  3. You’re wondering how I’m feeling about my divorce?
  4. The one where I told you I was no longer married
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I said I’d do it, so I did…my first (and last) tattoo

I like to think that I’m one of those types of people who aren’t that easily irked by things people say or do, I just tend to avoid the ones that make me slightly twingy. But one quality, if you can call it that, which I will say gets me a little oh, here we go again’, are people who say they’re going to do something and clearly have no intention of doing it, you know the type; always banging on about I’m going to get a dog, I really want a dog, I’ve found the perfect dog.

No dog.

Or that big one;  I’m going to travel, I’ll be off in a few months, by the end of the year, and 2 years later it’s still the same. I’m not talking about dreams or ambitions, they’re different, I’m talking about empty promises which you soon realise are never going to happen.

Well, I made one of those promises 6 months ago, I promised myself I’d get a tattoo. Since the age of 14 I’d fancied a small one on my wrist, and I very nearly came close to getting one. Not a wrist one though, a Celtic cross on the centre of my back. Man am I glad I bottled it though if there’s one thing I have repeatedly told my children –  never get a tattoo in your teens. That’s one decision I made as an 18 year old which I will never regret (very out of character for me at the time!)

In the years that followed the tattoo parlour bottling incident  I never really considered getting a tattoo again. I had my belly button pierced which hurt like hell, and childbirth was an absolute killer, so I saw no point in voluntarily putting myself through any sort of pain.

But that all changed 6 months ago, when I looked back at how much I’d changed since my husband and I had separated, how much stronger and independent I’d become and I wanted to mark the transformation. What better way to show it that getting a small symbolic tattoo to mark the new me?

getting my first tattoo to make my divorce

And I knew just what I would get to mark said occasion.

Every day, over the last 2 years or so, I’ve seen a white feather. Often in the most obscure places, sometimes even floating down in front of me while I was in the car or walking the dog. A subtle reminder that my guardian angel was watching over me and that everything was going to be ok.

I’m not a big believer in the messages from the other side, I’ve had my tarot cards read and that’s about as far as my beliefs wen. But these sweet sightings were the highlights of my day.

I like to think it’s my grandad sending me a sign, I’m not sure why it’s him. My Nanny was much more upfront, more likely to give me a nudge or a tap, Nanna was a gentle soul but distance meant I didn’t get to spend as much time with her as I should have. I just have this feeling it’s my grandad.

A feather it was to be then.

Somewhere small, hidden but not in a place where age or weight gain would ravage it, the inside of my wrist seemed perfect and if I didn’t like it in years to come, I could cover it with a watch or bangle.

So off I trotted to the most modern, clean, friendly tattoo parlour I could find and less than an hour later I walked out with my new addition. It struck me on the way that I probably hadn’t given this enough though and it might hurt. I was once told I would never be able to endure the pain of a tattoo, my reply;

I’ve pushed 3 babies out my fanjo, I know I’m pretty sure I handle a small tattoo!

But I can honestly say it never hurt in the slightest, more a slight scratching sensation. The girl who inked me up was incredibly gentle so I guess I was just lucky?

So there, you go. That’s the time I said I’d do it, and I did. I got my first and last tattoo.

The perfect reminder I can handle more than people give me credit for!

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It Ain’t that bad being a single mum, honestly.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the positives with being a single mum recently, mulling it over, chatting with my fellow single mum friends and slipping it, albeit probably randomly, in conversations with non-single / married friends. Because, excuse me while I step on my soapbox, it ain’t actually THAT bad.

Honestly, if you’d asked me years ago what I thought being a single mum would be like, I’d have painted a picture of poverty, loneliness, your kids being labelled, me being at my witts end as I juggle the work/life balance, I’d probably have to give up all hope of a career. You get the picture.

But here’s the thing, it’s far from it.

I stayed in an unhappy marriage for years, believing that it would be better for our children to grow up in a home with both parents. I thought I’d never cope on my own, anxious that I wouldn’t continue to be the best mum I was striving for and I’d let my kids down, screw them up for life.

Don’t get me wrong, there were good times but you know when that time comes to admit that life would probably be a hell of a lot better for all of us if we called it a day. You assure yourself that, as scary as those first few months will be, you’ve just got to do it, ride out the storm and that pretty soon you’ll adjust.

I’m nearly 18 months in now and it just feels normal. I’ve got used to my child-free weekends, I hated them at first, the silence and having a clean tidy house was horrible, it took every ounce of PMA to wave them off without crying, knowing the boys wouldn’t miss me, they’d be absolutely fine and that they wanted so desperately to spend time with their dad. They still bounce out the door like its the most natural thing in the world to go off to Dads every other weekend, the 3-year-old squeals with excitement  “yay, it’s a Daddy day!”

So there you go, positive single parent thing number one; your kids can have a close relationship with both parents. A dad who makes his time with his children special, without me interfering. I know that’s not always the case, I’m well aware of single dads who are absolute pants at making the most of their time with the kids, I know of some who just disappear and put their own needs above their children.

I know of single mums who have done that too.

https://muminanutshell.com/it-aint-that-bad-being-a-single-mum-honestly/

You make your moments without your kids count

And those child-free weekends? They’re the times when I recharge, I catch up on housework, lock my self away and get on top of my work deadlines, I go to the gym or I meet friends for lunch or coffee. Some weekends I go out, stay out waaaay past my bed time, I slut drop across the nightclub floor fuelled on gin and girlie night giggles, making stories for Monday morning and wake up at lunchtime the next day.

Imagine that married friends with kids! Imagine having a hangover without the mum guilt of letting your child have 3 hours on the iPad while you pretend Mummy’s ill. I make no apologies for having fun, I’m not a party animal, I’m not an alcoholic and I’m not being irresponsible. Neither am I out on the man trap, I have fun and let my hair down for my friends, with my friends, it’s more about having a boogie and darn good lighthearted yarn.

By the time my boys come home I’m back in sensible mum mode.

I’m mum and dad 24/7 ((technicallyIt aint that bad being a single mum, here's my positives in flying solo 24/5 ish give or take a few numbers)  and those times when I let my hair down make way for doing a kick-ass job when the kids are home as I have absolutely NO resentment for being chief in charge the rest of the time. I earnt my breather, my kids were safe with their dad, having fun, making memories and knowing that actually, life’s much better now mum and dad are happy and we’re getting quality time with both.

Friends are EVERYTHING

There’s also the friendships which form when you’re single parenting. I may have lost a husband, but I gained an amazing best friend. I had friends when I was married, but when you’re single, you find yourself navigating to other single mums. We have a shared understanding of what it’s like and that common ground breeds a warm fuzzy sisterhood feeling. It’s ace, I’m ashamed to say married me would’ve probably raised my eyebrows at the group of singletons being loud, happy and nonchalant in the pub. Married me, wouldn’t have realised she was most probably jealous they looked like they were having more fun than me, and given the time machine option,  I’d like to go back and remind married me-

don’t judge someone unless you’ve walked in their shoes.

I have made a vow never to underestimate the value of friendships and be a slack mate ever again. It’s those very friends who have scraped me up and dusted me down, listened to my grumbles and made me laugh til I cry.

 

You get to reinvent yourself

I used my new single status to have an image overhaul. It’s not that I never made an effort before, but my free time gave me a chance to go to the hairdressers, the gym, start running, go clothes shopping and I’m not alone, I see no shame in making sure you look good.

I’ve had my teeth straightened, changed my hairstyle, change the way I wear makeup and revamped my whole wardrobe. My self-esteem was rock bottom in the first few months as a single mum, and making an effort was not some grand scheme to snare a new husband, it was about making myself feel better, I wanted to look in the mirror and know I wasn’t the horrible, ugly person which repelled my husband into the arms of another woman.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I turned a negative into a positive. Held my head up high and strutted out of my marriage looking forward with an air of ‘it’s your loss.’ I’ve seen my single mum friends do the same, some are barely recognisable and they look AMAZING. Don’t knock a single mum for making an extra effort, it’s probably more about feeling good about themselves than what other people think

So married mums and dads, please don’t feel sorry for us. Yes, it can be hard, tiring and lonely not having a wingman, but you learn to compromise.

Please don’t judge, avoid, treat differently. Invite us round to dinner parties, bbq’s and book playdates. We’re not out to steal your husbands or feel resentment for your coupleness. We’re just like you, honest!

And here’s the thing, the last passing thought which I’ve learnt as a single mum. Mentally and physically, I’ve never been stronger, so you can take that broken home tripe and stick it in room 101.

I patched up with super glue and you can’t even see the cracks.

It aint that bad being a single mum, here's my positives in flying solo

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How Many Friends Does A Friend Need?

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships lately, not in a losing sleep, I need to find the answer sort of way. More of a ponder, I wonder, oh yeah sort of thing. With a few different friend hats on the go, I often wonder if it’s the same for everyone? I’ve always considered myself more of a floater, (not that sort of floater, potty brain) But I’ve also realised that it’s changed quite significantly over the years;

I breezed through secondary school and college with several bff’s, some I’ve never seen again and others sitting firmly in the Facebook, checking in now and then category. I’ve managed to on to one of my bestest to this very day.  We don’t see each other very often, I’m talking years without any face to face conversation, but we check in now and then and when we do meet up, we pick up from where we left off. I love that we have a shared past and experienced so many firsts, good and bad, together, she still never holds back from telling me when I’ve been a fool! And I take it, because I value her opinion, I guess you do when they’re your friend. Right?

When I separated from my husband, my friends really came good. But one really shone through, she called me daily, counselled me, arranged days out and put me firmly back on my feet with a smile on my face and my self-esteem and confidence firmly intact. I often tell her she’s my guardian angel, she signed sealed and delivered what true friendship means, now that’s what I call a friend.

what makes a friends? do you class family as friends?

Messages from old friends and new, once word got out, sending love (and not just wanting the gossip) saw me through those darkest days too. They’ll never know how much they helped.

I hope they do now.

And that floater thing, (I’m sure there’s a better term than that, answers on a postcard please.) Over the years, I’ve dipped in and out of friendship groups. But it’s the tough times which really cut the wheat from the chaff, these are the times when you find out who the real ones are and who to metaphorically swipe left on. I’ve sacked a few off for one reason or another, usually loyalty, can’t be doing with that two-faced nonsense. If you’re caught out, you’re out. Simples. My Scorpio sting takes no prisoners when I’ve been hurt, I can stone wall like a pro.

There’s also one more thing which puzzles me; Just because you’re related, does that stop them being a friend? Some of my other closest confidants are my parents, siblings, aunties, and cousins. I count them as my friends too, regardless of blood, we genuinely do like each other and above all, we ‘ave a laugh. That shared sense of humour must be in the blood.

what makes a friends? do you class family as friends?
And finally, there’s the ones I’ve gathered up over the years, the ones I put in the fun category. My wine buddies to go forth and get merry with, we keep it light, sometimes gin brings out the deep and meaningful moments. But generally, we gossip, laugh and go home. Perfect.

So a friend for all occasions, regardless of who, what and where horses for courses! It may not be your cup of tea. But it suits me! It’s not counted in how many you have, how close you are, everyone needs a different friend for different occasion, just as long as there’s trust, happy times and dependability,

That’s what I call a friend.

<insert smilie face, maybe a winking one even>

 

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Is 40 the new 25? Why I’m refusing to grow old appropriately

If you’d have said that at 41 and a half I’d be fitter, healthier and slimmer than my 25-year-old self, I’d have laughed in your face. (Then secretly hoped you knew something about my destiny than I did.) Optimistic me likes to hang on to any glimmer of hope, while gullible me will believe anything that you tell me if it’s going to make me feel good. Yet the bizarre thing is, it’s true, along with many of my fellow forty somethings who are refusing to attach themselves to the notion of what 40 should look like.

Not one to pigeon-hole an age or say what’s right or wrong, but in my twenties I had already decided that once I hit 40 I would cut my long brown hair short and stop trying to keep up with fashion,  I’d dress sensibly, probably at Boden, and take up a craft like hobby. Weekends would consist of routine of ferrying kids around to sporting events and gardening. Or so I thought.

Why exactly I decided that would happen is a little bonkers given that my mum was doing things at 40 for the first time, and still very much the life and soul of the weekend party goer. The 2o years between us meant nothing when you were raising the roof and mock pole dancing at family functions with a who gives a fidget attitude. She taught me well!

I think back to how I was behaving at 25 and it’s possible I peaked too early, maybe that’s why I took a restock of my life? I’d done sensible and it was time to claw back those prime years while I still had time.

So after F-day had passed I gave up red meat, joined the gym, started teeth straightening treatment and bought a whole new wardrobe of ageless clothes and make up. I even tried eye liner flicks (and failed) considered facial fillers (not brave enough) and switched to listening to radio 1 (sorry Jeremy.)  There are some things which I won’t be doing, like joining Tinder (might be subject to change) and getting ‘down in da club’ all night, I need beauty sleep and my feet ache if I dance too long in heels. I’m not a complete lose cannon, plus the teenage sons who lurke in my house somewhere might abandon me totally.

There’s always a catalyst to a radical lifestyle change and I suspect that the end of my marriage was mine. Suddenly I had weekends to fill and time to focus on Ali the person and not just Ali the wife and mother. Didn’t see that one coming at 25!

And 41 I have no hesitation in admitting my age,  I’ll be keeping my long brown locks, touching up my roots every 6 weeks. I’ll keep trying out the latest fashion, cursing when appropriate and blasting out the latest chart hits in my sensible Mercedes A-class.

One thing I’ve learnt which comes with age, aside from a little wisdom and a chunk of hindsight, is the confidence to not give a toss what others think of you.

And I have a sneaky feeling that I’m not alone in the 40 somethings growing old in appropiately.

I'm joining the growing number of 40 somethings who are refusing to grow up and grow old gracefully in the most sensible manner possible.

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