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Bent Becky

Bent Becky

Guilt is only a burden when you bend down and pick it up… apparently. Unfortunately, I keep bending.

Our last post saw Lea talking about whether it’s right that the children should always come first and how, as a couple parenting our four children, we don’t think it is – for them or for us.

One of the reasons I find it hard to let go of the idea that we SHOULD be putting them first is because I feel guilty if I don’t.

I feel guilty for considering my own needs, guilty for not making everything about them – whether that’s money, food, holidays, days out etc. Hell, I even feel guilty when I encourage their father to step up and have them more!

Take an incident this week for example…

My children’s father had agreed to have them on Friday and take one to a party she’d been invited to. He was meant to arrive at ten to be there on time. This was my day to work. That morning he announced he couldn’t come at that time, cue me (why not him??) scrambling around trying to arrange transport to the party and work out why he thought it was ok to drop this on me an hour before he was due to arrive.

Also cue me feeling guilty because neither child wanted to go to him for the weekend and were quite happy he wasn’t coming.

In moments like this I want to scoop them up and not make them go. But is that really the best thing for any of us?

After a lot of cross words from me, he finally came and collected them much later than agreed. When I packed their bags I snuck their school uniforms in the bag with the idea of telling him he should take them to school on Monday (they were due back with me Sunday afternoon) given I’d lost work time that day.

This didn’t feel ideal at all given I’d not told the children this, but I’m at the point where I feel forced to take drastic measures to get him to step up and take his parenting responsibilities seriously. Not only does it impact my working time and ability to make money but it also demonstrates to the children that they are not his priority.

After a quite spectacular row and him venting on me what I suspect is his anger at himself, he agreed to take them to school (something he never does). This feels important in so many ways…

First, because his children need to experience him having an active role in ALL aspects of their lives. Not just being a fun daddy (or not) for 1.5 days a week.

Currently I organise everything for them:

  • School stuff –  homework, spellings, reading, trips, dinner money
  • Activities – forest school, violin lessons, dancing, play dates, sleepovers, parties
  • Emotional well-being – sportscasting, processing, talking, listening
  • Physical wellbeing – making elderberry syrup, ensuring they don’t eat too much shit, talking to them about looking after their bodies…the list goes on.

Second, because my kids want to home educate at some point and there’s no way I can do that on my own. The more engaged he becomes in ALL aspects of their education now, the more chance we have of making that a reality for them instead of a promise that’ll never happen.

Third, because I want them to have a relationship with their father and experience him as just as capable of meeting their needs – albeit in different ways – as me…or do I?

This is the tricky bit. Whilst part of me, of course, wants this for them – hell my relationship with my own father was a once a fortnight job that didn’t feel enough – another part of me wants to keep them away from him and his influence!!

I want to be their number one. Not ideal! I suspect from hearing other women talk that this is common.

Letting go of our children is really difficult, who are WE, after all, if we’re not their everything? When motherhood demands so much sacrifice from us how do we be ‘us’ when we are only ever defined through our children?

No wonder we have feelings of guilt for giving them to other adults to look after – even when it’s their other parent, for fuck’s sake. It feels like a massive taboo…

Society tells us that mothers shouldn’t want to do that; that mothers should be the primary caregiver. Mothering as a verb comes with an implicit all-encompassing assumption that your children are your entire world.

We are ALL sold down the river by these narratives…

Fathers because they assume there is no place for them other than as a bit part actor to the mothers leading role. This then often stops them learning or having the confidence to step up and parent their kids and develop a strong relationship with their children accross all areas of their lives.

For the kids, well they often don’t get to see the model of both parents stepping up and parenting them competently (and incompetently at times!) which then repeats the narratives of whose job child rearing is when they become adults themselves. It also denies them strong loving and more complete bonds with their fathers which will sustain them throughout life.

Mothers because it is unrealistic to expect or want one person to be another person’s everything. That’s symbiosis and doesn’t end well for either party. Mothers need time and space for themselves aside from their kids.

The guilt we often feel though is pervasive and is based on the strength of the narratives that outline what motherhood is meant to look like in our society.

When we can’t or no longer want to live by these narratives, guilt is the common consequence. How dare we step outside of those narratives and define motherhood differently?

Sadly most of the time it is other women who are our worst enemies.

We’ve certainly had the biggest anti-feminist responses from other mothers. Is this because so many of us feel the pull of this all-encompassing guilt and we’d do anything to avoid feeling it ourselves including judging others when they step outside of the ‘good mother’ role?

So what happened in my weekend situation?

Well, after I’d been told that I was like a witch stirring a cauldron trying to come up with new ways to make his life difficult (Like really??!! Like I don’t have enough on already??!! Like asking the father of my children who cost me half a working day to compensate that by having his own children and taking them to school constitutes some kind of black magic??!!), he sorted himself out. Made their pack lunches, had them overnight and took them to school the next morning!

On talking to him afterwards I could see the pride that he’d done it, the delight that they’d enjoyed it so much and his confidence on a high. He also enjoyed telling me they wanted him to pick them up and go home with him that night! (That’s a whole other world of pain and panic in letting go of them for another post!!).

For now, I’m getting over the exhaustion of standing up to him, the anxiety about insisting he be more to them and enjoying their obvious enjoyment that ‘Daddy did it’ and Daddy gave enough of a shit to do some hard stuff.

I am also, as always, extremely grateful to Lea, who shows me where I need to face my own hard stuff around letting go, and supports me through it all, despite the tears and flouncings that often accompany it. She’s a wise one that girl…not least because she aint bending to pick up any goddam guilt. Now that is something to aspire to!

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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I’ll Tell You What I Want, What I Really Really Want…

I’ll Tell You What I Want, What I Really Really Want…

Dear Lea,

This feels really hard, telling you honestly all the things I really want! Telling you in my last letter all the things that I knew I didn’t want, having already created them for myself felt a damn sight easier than this! I want you to know that regardless of the feelings of shame and embarrassment at sharing this with you (and others!!) I’m not going to hold back, so here goes…

One of my biggest wants I already have – to be in a loving, sexual, intimate relationship with a woman who is willing to process her own shit! Now don’t get me wrong it’s fucking hard work as we both know, but it feels so worth all the onion peeling, fear, pain, triggering, flouncing and arguments and the past two years show us just how far we have come and how much we have unravelled with each other and our therapists’ help.

I’d like to take this a step or two further though!! I’ve never been or wanted to be married and yet with you I really long to one day be your wife. We’ve talked jokingly about who would propose to who and you said you would want to propose to me because you’ve had that experience and I haven’t and, as much as I protest, I know that I would really like that. BUT, and it’s a big one, I only want to be married if we carry on keeping our relationship as healthy as we can, jointly working on our stuff, learning, growing and evolving together. I don’t want to be a dead weight.

My most painful want centres around a career. More than anything I want something that gives me the feeling of pride, pleasure, joy, worth, achievement, self respect. I have never had that and the closest I have ever come was being at University. Never seeing myself as particularly bright more reasonably average, my degree and, to a lesser extent, my Masters, were a real thrill as I was so invested in learning and felt that I could write, and well. My First meant so much to me and yet I’ve never been able to repeat the feeling it gave me – of being immersed in something, invested in it and having people take notice of me.

Years ago I read something that said often the thing we were ‘born to do’ is one of the first things we wanted to do as a child. Leaving aside my desire to be the first woman in space, the first thing I wanted to do was to be a writer. 

You have encouraged me to get onto Patreon and begin writing the book that has been in me for some years now…and yet…I still find it hard. Possibly because of the lack of deadline but deeper than that because fundamentally at my core are two beliefs that run contrary to me succeeding at things. 1. That I have very poor self esteem and don’t believe I am capable. I think this comes massively from my relationship with my mother – she has very little confidence and I think played out an “I’m not OK, you’re not OK dynamic” with me, as well as creating a symbiosis between us where I came to believe that I couldn’t function without her. This still plays out today as evidenced by the impact a simple text message from her can have. 

Early, on the morning I was going away for a couple of days with the children, she messaged me to check I had got someone to feed my cats. A simple and kind message one might assume and yet it feels so symbolic of the entire dynamic between us. I can’t be trusted to deal with things without her and she needs to have involvement in my life – to be needed – even though I am 44. This symbiosis I’m sure is the basis of my big/small stuff, where I constantly feel I can’t do things and it is further compounded by my inner child’s ingrained belief that if I am big I won’t be loved. I think I’ve had to play small for both my parents to ensure I got the love I needed as a child. ‘Be the good girl but don’t be too good that you detract from us and don’t need us’.

This is all still around for me right now and I spend my days swinging from trying to keep going and working on my projects small step by small step to feeling utterly inadequate and useless when the fear of not being loved, if I continue getting big, kicks in. I also recognise that I don’t want a career to have to give me something that’s missing in me – a sense that I’m OK just for being me. I can see that’s what happened for my mum and she continued to not feel good enough, which when she retired became hugely noticeable again. So while I want a career I love I want it to be from a space of OKness to begin with.

So on the career front my biggest dream is to write a series of adventure stories about the kind of utopia that I would like to live in. I’d like it to be thought-provoking but not in a twatty way and ultimately I would love it to sell. Big dream? For it to be on the Big Screen. There I’ve said it. But first steps are to write it!

Alongside my own personal career stuff, I’ve been overwhelmed and fascinated by how much I love working on LemonAid, our joint project, together. It feels like it reflects our relationship and the fact that I don’t feel like I’ve ever been in an adult healthy relationship before and I’m still learning to trust and believe that all these wonderful things between us really are real and possible! Working together in the way that we do continues to be life affirming, fun, challenging, and deliciously enjoyable. Long may it continue!!

I would love for LemonAid to grow and for us to continue doing more with it as we continue evolving. I’d like more people to subscribe to the blog and, importantly, find value in it. I have a vision that I’d like it to be like a secret club where an army of middle aged, fierce, strong, capable, beautiful, sexy, wild women, all wearing our LemonAid T shirts and drinking coffee (or vodka) out of our LemonAid mugs! 

This leads me nicely on to money and abundance. This is a bit of a sticking point for me. I want more money yet I somehow believe money is dirty and shameful! Two beliefs working against each other. As I research for my book, money is often one of the most challenging aspects to consider from a utopian perspective. I fundamentally believe that capitalism stinks and that it needs to go and yet I am creating my book within a capitalist system where I need to make money to survive! Tricky. It feels wrong and brazen to say I want lots of money but I do. I’m tired of having so little that I’m constantly in a state of anxiety about how I’ll manage. I remember when a close friend bought me ‘Get Rich Lucky Bitch’ and just the title sent me into a major frenzy!! There is still much work to be done here…

One of the reasons I want more wonga is because improving my health can be a costly business. I currently experience fibromyalgia and to manage it I need to eat well, and generally look after myself in many alternative (non prescriptive drugs) ways. I try to eat as much organic food as I can afford, but would like to see a functional medicine professional, have some regular massage or physical treatment and to be able to afford regular supplements. I’d also really like to be able to go on holiday somewhere hot more often as I need the sun on my bones and do more physical exercise somewhere warm.

On the relationship front I want to continue getting clearer about me, having a stronger sense of my own boundaries and knowing when it’s the right time to let people and things go and not settling for relationships that leave me feeling drained or out of alignment. This has been a steep learning curve over the past two years and I confess to finding it a period of grieving for friendships that weren’t giving me what I wanted and relationships with family where I consistently removed my boundaries and allowed myself to get triggered repeatedly.

The in-between stage is the hardest though I guess and some of the new relationships being formed feel on a different and healthier basis. I also want to get better at standing up for myself. My default is to mop up other people’s feelings, especially when they are negative, which I can usually sense. I allow myself to be manouevred into the ‘small’ position to protect other people feeling their own ‘small’ feelings. That doesn’t mean I want to go round pointing out and attacking their stuff unkindly, but I want to be able to challenge them fairly when I feel they are making assumptions or judgements about me and my life to make them feel better about theirs.

Long term I would LOVE to be able to have my parents in my life without falling back into old patterns. I don’t feel strong enough for this yet but that’s the goal! I also think I’m starting to feel that it’s OK for me to choose to want people in my life who are willing to be vulnerable and who want to grow. My parents and several friendships have left me feeling that this is some flaw in me to want more authentic connections, and I don’t buy that anymore. If they don’t that’s their choice (possibly based on their own fears) but I do, and the rewards are many!

I definitely want to continue having fun and living a fuller life. Some of the things that we’ve done together have made me feel deserving of life, of time to myself, of spending money on myself, of doing fun things not always with my children. This feels sooo important for my mental health, for the health of our relationship and consequently for my children! Our Lemon List details many of the things we still want to do together, and it’s often growing daily!! Some of the highlights so far?? Elizabeth Gilbert In London, Taylor Swift at Wembley, Kate Rusby’s Xmas Concert together and Bath Spa are definitely highlights but so are my first time kayaking in the sea, our first child-free holiday and my regular bouquets. One I’m really looking forward to is us doing a Tantra course together!

Fun obviously features with my children too. As I work through some of the harder aspects of my stuff and notice the impacts it has had on my relationship with them, I remain fully committed to getting as healthy as I can for me and them. There are lots of things I’d love to do with them, especially as part of our blended family. I’d love us to travel together at some point, to do more fun cool stuff. But right now the focus is firmly on helping give them emotional ground so that wherever we go and whatever we do, that is a given.

Giving Back is on my goal list but I still feel there is much selfish work to be done on me first. I won’t feel guilty for that. It feels necessary and important so that when I give, it comes with the right intentions, rather than to save others as a form of personal projection. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things I want to be doing in the meantime mind, and we’ll be trying to incorporate these into the whole ethos of LemonAid. Part of this giving back I want to centre around my desire for community, of bringing people together. While I currently help you (a bit!) with the Newark Circle I really want to reinstate the women’s meal meet ups that I organised and met you at several years ago. But you know all this because we’ve been discussing it for weeks and it’s now starting up!

All for now my lovely. So glad I manifested you from my, albeit underwraps, unconscious want list into glorious technicolour!! X

Hello you,

Ok, so what do I want now, having made this leap of ours and being 2 years in? Good question!

 I currently feel very resistant to doing a vision board – not sure why – I have tried a couple of times and feel uninspired, unmotivated and even resentful (being restricted to a particular format?!). I feel like my sense of what I want is hazy, vague and not definable, nor depict-able by twatty pictures I might find in a magazine or on the internet. I don’t want it to be represented by formulaic, stock photos of ‘things’ that already exist…I want it to be unique, created by me, and not by anyone else (my core value of freedom coming to the fore there, eh?!).

And this entire exercise of asking for what I want is from a very different place of two years ago, where more of my life is where I want it to be… 

I’m in the kind of relationship I want, with a woman that I very much want, in every way. I have the kind of day-to-day routine that I want – spending time with you, my children and on my work, both my stuff and our joint stuff together.  We’ve worked through the intimacy stuff and we’ve both said we want to take this even deeper by doing a tantra course together. Some of the fundamental of what makes me happy are now in place, where they were missing before. So which areas still need some work?

Health – I really want to keep processing my emotional stuff so that it takes less of a toll on my body. As you experience by my regular 5am awakenings, the insomnia for the past 2 years doesn’t feel great and I’m still prone to my body visibly ‘acting out’ my emotional stuff with random skin rashes, out-of-the-ordinary illnesses and numerous accidents. I am too sporadic on the fitness front, as well as the healthy eating front. I would really like to be physically super fit, super healthy and back down to my ‘fighting’ weight which is probably a stone lighter than I am 

Finances & Abundance – after taking my foot off the pedal business-wise for a while as our personal stuff has been so much in focus, I want to boost the coffers. I want to be in a stronger financial position for the long term, able to easily pay off my mortgage, keep this house to rent out as a source of income and buy at least another one (ideally I want to buy the row of houses I’m in). I want us to live together, FULL time. I want a compact but spacious house and easy-to-maintain garden. I want us to be able to take trips whenever we want, work when we go, and sometimes (maybe!) take the kids with us…with a nanny in tow 😉

Career/Business – I’d like the location independent circles to grow far larger, organically – to create a large, committed and active community of progressive, forward-thinking women who aren’t constrained by borders or any kind – mentally, emotionally, physically, geographically. I’d like the circles to become a force for good – a little like Together Rising – which opens up career and travel possibilities to women everywhere that they never knew existed. I’d like LemonAid to be a similar force for good, with a more personal focus…to encourage other women to wake the fuck up! It feels like more of a precursor to what we’re doing at Location Independent – “wake the fuck up” with LemonAid, now look at the possibilities being location independent can bring you.

Children – I’d really like to take my kids to NYC to stay with their uncle, and to the Philippines and other parts of Asia for them to learn more about and immerse themselves in Asian culture. Giving them a sense of their history/family feels like a really important piece of the puzzle that was missing for me and I want to give it to them. I’d like to create more of a ‘worldschooling’ experience for them, as they grow older, and broaden their horizons and experiences far more than currently. (Just gotta get over my own reluctance to travel and desire to stay close to home currently, while I work through my stuff!). 

Relationships/Family – I want to meet my birth mother and my birth family. I want to be welcomed, accepted, acknowledged and feel the sense of belonging I hear about from folk who reunite with their birth parents (and yet I know I need to remain unattached to the outcome ?). I’d like to form deeper relationships with more like-minded, local people – friends  – whether ‘local’ is Newark or elsewhere. And I want to continue to be more ‘me’ with you, to be able to fully open up and let you see the whole of me, more easily being able to share the dark corners without shutting you out and retreating to my island. 

Fun – I want to go to Devon regularly and on spontaneous trips to London and city breaks with you. I’d like to travel as a family of 6, when some of the dynamics have calmed down a little!! And I definitely want to go to another Taylor Swift concert. I want to be in the audience for Strictly Come Dancing. I want to have my own glass-blowing studio, or at least very easy access to one. I want to have my own/have easy access to a workshop – to become skilled at both woodworking and car maintenance!! I really want to convert and design my own camper van – to be able to take us off on road trips with a comfortable, custom and luxurious space to stay. Van porn is definitely in my Instagram feed at the moment!!

Personal Growth – I want to get better at anticipating my own shit and being able to walk down a different street…

THERE’S A HOLE IN MY SIDEWALK – by Portia Nelson

Chapter 1: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost… I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2 : I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend that I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in this same place. But, it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3 : I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit … but, my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4 : I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter 5 : I walk down another street.

I want to get better at getting out of the hole if I fall in. I want to change some of my defence patterns – to not need to retreat to my island so readily, or to abandon, or to lash out. I want to take that Energetics course together. And I want to keep playing more of my guitar – possibly write my own songs, though that doesn’t feel like something I can do which is probably why I don’t want it (yet)! 

So not a small list of wants, right?!

And even as I write this, I’m already scanning my head for things I probably do want but am still afraid to say because, on some level, I don’t think I can have/do/be them…or I don’t like the thought of what it might take to have/do/be them!

xxx