At Broken Light Collective, a community of artists thousands strong support one another in using photography to cope with mental illness.
Recently I was on the verge of becoming a single parent (again), and I started to tighten the belt pretty rapidly. Whilst in my relationship the worries of money was never too apparent, not that I had much to spend, but I could at least indulge in a Costa Coffee once or twice a week without the price playing on my mind afterwards. Hell, I would even throw in the occasional cake just to go all out!
As soon as I started to contemplate ending life with my partner, I started to adjust my spending habits and look out for good deals and inexpensive ways to entertain myself and the children (especially during half term). Surprisingly, it doesn’t take much adjustment to get the same outcome, and even though me and my partner are still hanging on in there together, I have continued with being a bit more money aware. I actually get quite a kick out of spending less for more!!
Moors valley is a great place to go when the weather is nice, but the parking is ridiculously expensive if you are watching your spending. Instead I would park at Pottern Park on the outskirts of Verwood and walk in. The walk itself is beautiful and full of wildlife, taking you past the lakes and golf course on the way through. The route is footpath and buggy/bike friendly for those with pushchairs and young children. It takes about 25 minutes to walk in, but once we arrive we tend to pitch up at the play area, have a picnic, and then walk back. Not bad for a free day out!
Now I know most families are aware of Tesco clubcard points and how these can be transferred into days out, but I want to give it a mention for those that may not maximise what’s on offer. Basically you can exchange every £2.50 in vouchers for £10 worth of day out vouchers (I think this is the general rule, although places like Longleat are slightly different). My favourite one to do most half terms and school holidays is Adventure Wonderland, as both my eight year old and eighteen month old enjoy themselves here. Again bring a picnic (and a flask of tea/coffee), and it makes for a free day out.
For those of you with children aged 6 plus, I strolled across a gem of an offer last summer, and I have just heard it’ll be happening again this year. ‘Life’s an Adventure’ is a water-sports course offered through Dorset Council aimed at getting families to try different water-sports over a 5 week course (every Saturday or Sunday afternoon for 5 weeks). We had a great time trying out paddle boarding, Sailing, raft building, and other such things. Before each session began we would take a walk on Chesil beach and stop for lunch, before getting our wetsuits on and hitting the harbour for fun and games with other families. And get this – £10 each for the whole course! Bargain!
This blog could go on, I haven’t even gone into the traditional forest, beach and parks on offer, or the low cost toddler groups and entertainment events that arise over the year. So if you’re in a similar situation to where I found myself, just bear in mind the alternative low cost methods of entertainment out there, and enjoy spending time as a family without blowing a fortune.
“And how about you Nyomi? Where do you see yourself heading?”. I’m sat in a small room on the third floor of a particularly cold building, attending my fifth session of relationship therapy. At Thirty years of age, I had never expected to be asked this question, especially not by a relationship counsellor. Believe it or not this is my efforts for a better me, the me I once knew and lost somewhere between leaving college and having my eight year old daughter. “Well I’ve started a Saturday job at an estate agents so that I can get out and do something without the worry of childcare” I reply, to which the counsellor looks slightly disappointed by my answer, as do I, knowing that my efforts at University studying Psychology and gaining a First class honours and a distinction in my Masters was not intended to be used for an estate agent job. Don’t get me wrong, the job itself is quite good fun, I get to talk to people which I love doing, and I get to look around lovely houses that make me envious, which, believe it or not is also relatively interesting. Its not where I intended to be granted, but its a step towards my attempts to regain my place in this world beyond motherhood. It fits with my eighteen month old son, and right now that’s really all I can do unless I put him into full time childcare, which I’m currently not prepared to do (unless I’m having a bad day!).
When you’re in your late teens and early twenties you feel as if you have the world at your feet, invincible, as if you can go anywhere, do anything and achieve whatever you want to achieve, with whoever you want. That feeling of freedom and capability is so wonderful and something to cherish and develop in that moment. I look back and regret not embracing that person that I was, and now spend my time in search of her again. I know she’s inside – I just need to create the right conditions for her to appear. And the first step in doing this is to get my relationship up and running, hence the counselling.
It’s not that my relationship is terrible – when things are going smoothly everything is great. I’m happy pottering along, he’s happy focusing on work… But, as soon as there is a blip, a hiccup, and a slight difference of opinion, the world seems to come crashing down around us.
Looking at the bigger picture however it becomes apparent that the issues deemed to be within the relationship are in actual fact partly due to other factors in our lives, such as work, children, and unfulfilled dreams. With this in mind it suddenly dawned on me (I think it was around session three of counselling) that in order to get my relationship on track there is another list of things that I need to start doing in my life to fulfil a gap within. My career (or lack of one), travel and experiences, doing something that is somehow beneficial to others or for the greater good, are all things that have been on my wish list for far to long – and now is as good a time as ever to start doing something about it.
So it was recently new year, 2016 appeared out of nowhere, and at this point I began to think about me, myself and I. Firstly I decided I wanted to start running. I had run 10 K the previous April and really enjoyed it to my surprise. So many people kept telling me how much they enjoyed running, and I really couldn’t understand the appeal until I started. At first I hated it! But after a few weeks of pursuing with it, I could see why people did it. For me it was about getting out of the house and letting off a bit of steam at the end of a day. Listening to music that I enjoyed via my iphone, I quickly learnt that it was a way for me to have some head space and ‘me’ time. However when the cold came in and the evenings became dark and wet, I lost interest – and now I want to get it back.
My second thought was about making more time for friends and socialising. Too many of the issues I was having in my relationship was due to lack of conversation. My partner, having been at work making ‘unnecessary chat’ all day, wanted to come home and switch off. This meant that he didn’t want to start conversations with me. Now this really bothered me, because as far as I was concerned I had been at home a large part of the day with children. Of course I would see other mums at playgroups and in the school playground from time to time, but its not quite the same as having a conversation with your partner at the end of a long day. Personally I love nothing more then to have a chat about one another’s day, no matter how mundane it might be.
We met half way and attempted some conversation, but I started to arrange more goings out with good friends who enjoyed my company. I don’t know why I hadn’t done this sooner to be honest, I was soon reminded of the importance of good friends who I could speak feely to, and who I enjoyed listening to, and importantly, laughing with! Cinema trips and dinners out from time to time really helped my confidence and happiness grow. The best thing I arranged was a catch up with a close friend I hadn’t seen in almost six years ( I know, I don’t know how I allowed that to happen, although its easily done when you both have busy lives I guess). My first weekend away in two years. We met up in London, drank coffee, ate food, and talked non stop for two whole days! It was fantastic, and I reminded myself of how important it is to make time like that for myself now and again. Yes I missed the children, and I was really anxious about leaving my 18 month old overnight, but he survived, and he got to spend some quality time with his dad which both of them appeared to appreciate. I urge any other mother to do the same if the opportunity comes up – it really is important to have time for yourself, even if its just a few hours.
Earlier I mentioned how difficult it is to have a career around children, or, in my case, to find a career. That is partly why I decided to write, and hence why I am writing this blog for all of those who are in the same situation as myself or who just want to listen. Its actually my birthday this week, and I would absolutely love more then anything in the world to have a digital camera. As a sixteen something year old I dreamt of being a photographer, not of normal things like weddings or portraits, but of tornadoes and volcanoes! I no longer want to put my life on the line to get an incredible tornado photograph, but I would enjoy going out and getting trigger happy with a decent camera. Who knows, I might even get good and make a career doing something I enjoy, or I might just make writing and photography a hobby for myself. Either way it makes a nice change to have good options whatever happens.
The final biggy on my list of things to do is to get out there in the world and help others in some way. You know that feeling you get when someone is really grateful because you held the door open for them, or waited patiently whilst allowing someone to cross in front of you before driving? Well I would like to get that feeling more often. In a previous life I used to work with families with the Children’s Centres, and this used to provide me with incredible moments of feeling I was doing some good in the world. Although I feel that role had its time, I have now got the ball rolling with helping the homeless through a charity called ‘Hope for food’ in Bournemouth. This was triggered by the huge appreciation a homeless lady showed recently when I bought her a simple cup of coffee.
Since making these positive steps recently I have started to feel the return of the previous self slowly making her way out of the shadows, and I urge anyone else out there who is having the same feelings of emptiness to do the things that you once enjoyed, or the things that you never got around to doing. I absolutely promise you that it will make a big difference to you and those around you.
Sunday afternoons, a time to relax and refresh right? Wrong! As I escape within this article, chaos is upon me. The 8 year old is singing non stop, the dog is chewing the babies toys, the baby is chewing the dog toys, and my partner sits slumped in the rocking chair, looking desperate and fed up, glancing exasperated in my direction occasionally, before leaving the room entirely to escape upstairs.
Its amusing to think that some people would describe Sundays as relaxing, but for the parents of this world I’m pretty sure surviving Sundays is all that matters. Funnily my partner has returned from upstairs wearing headphones, playing rock music. It’s all about survival.
So what else is there to do on dark Sunday afternoons in the middle of winter? Scrabble. No, the baby wouldn’t enjoy that, and neither would the intellect seeking other half. Another walk? Nope, the one this morning involving the baby screaming the woods down was more than enough to put anyone off achieving their 2000 step count! And nobody appears to be able to agree on a film to watch – fluffy puppies in Christmas hats is definitely not appealing to my sit on the couch nature (not that I get chance to ever sit and watch anything anyway!).
Pub?! Yes, the pub. Christmas drinks for the adults and dinner for the children (we can have the microwave curries later!). Wimborne has some great pubs, and a new one I recently came across is ‘The man in the wall’, which is a Weatherspoons (cheap then), and yet it seems a bit more classy then some of the others (depending on the time of day you visit). I ordered in the mulled cider, whilst the children had a Christmas dinner to share. The food was really good, the service was great, and they provide crayons (because it really isn’t that difficult for those that don’t!).
Topping it off, we had a quick stroll into Wimborne square afterwards, and were greeted with Christmas lights and chiming bells from the minster. For the first time during the month of December I finally felt festive and excited about Christmas! Will I go again the next time I’m climbing the walls on a Sunday afternoon – abso****inglutely!