When Snoo and I started our new life together, re-embarking as it were onto the journey of becoming mother and daughter as a team of two, I also made the decision to for us to completely re-locate to a new town. The reasons for this were:
- Previously the town we lived in was where I’d met her father. And due to how things had gone with him I had never settled down there and had never had the opportunity to make any friends.
- I wanted to put a decent amount of physical distance between us and my ex to eliminate the risk of bumping into him all the time.
- In my life before the ex I had lived in Manchester for most of my life but (with the exception of my Dad) all my family, Mum & Step-Dad, Brother, Sister, Aunt & cousins all lived in the Peak District.
So it seemed to make sense to live where all the other troops would be close to hand and I would have a ready made support network nearby. I hope to talk more about my relationship with my family later but that really would be a whole other discussion.
All these members of my family have lived here for about 8 years now, my brother and sister went to school here and they all have jobs, friends and everything you build up over that length of time in one place.What I should mention now is that this is a small town, and can have a touch of the Royston Vaseys about it. Everyone knows each other, they’ve all grown up together, many of them went to the local community school & everyone knows each others business.
I knew no-one.
Although in my head, coming to a town where I was totally anonymous and no-one (namely my ex) would know where to find me sounded great, it didn’t take long before I started to question my decision. It took a while of course. For the first 2 weeks Snoo and I stayed in the spare room at my Mums house while I tried to recover a little from having finally got away and we looked for somewhere to live. In that respect I was very fortunate, we found a lovely little house and because (small town syndrome!) the landlord knew my parents, he knocked a little bit off the rent so that I could afford it. We moved in, and spent a few weeks in isolation with the exception of my family popping in and out to check on us. I spend a lot of time sat on my sofa with my baby, crying and trying to muddle through how this had all happened to us.
But after a while, days turned into weeks, into months and I started to feel like we needed to be doing more with our days. I knew that Snoo and I needed to get out and socialise with other Mummys and children for both of our sakes.
The very idea of going out and talking to a bunch of people I had never met before, many of whom I guessed would have known each other for years horrified me. I had had my confidence completely destroyed over the last 2 years by my ex, I found it difficult to look people in the eye during conversations and couldn’t bare for even my closest friends to hug me. I avoided speaking to any man including silly things like making sure I would go to a checkout with a female cashier in the supermarket. If anyone asked me even a very simple question I would stutter and um and ahh before I could answer and I constantly felt as though everyone thought me incredibly boring and stupid.
I didn’t care if I never made any new friends. I didn’t want any, I just wanted to be left alone with my child. I knew I had her and that was all I needed. I didn’t trust anyone and I felt I had nothing to talk to anyone about anyway.
In February last year I found my life line. I had been taking Snoo to a few Mum & Baby play groups a week, trying my best to talk to people but admittedly I had struggled. Then my sister asked me how I would feel about covering a shift for her in the pub where she & my brother both had casual part-time jobs. In my past life, I had done bar work on and off for about 6 years. I absolutely knew what I was doing and used to love it. So I agreed to cover her for the night and she would look after my Snoo. If I hadn’t so desperately needed the money I would have been too frightened, but a silly thing of a 7 hour shift in a pub turned out to be my saviour.
I arrived, terrified, shy and sure I wouldn’t make it through the night. But by 11 o’clock, the bar was heaving, there were 5 of us working and I didn’t have time to think, I just had to smile and serve drinks. I even started to exchange jokes and banter with the other staff, I accepted tips, smiles and brief exchanges of conversation with the customers.
I began to enjoy myself. By the time we had locked up, it was nearly 2am. I felt exhausted, my skin shone with sweat, my cheeks flushed from rushing around all night, my ears rung from the noise of the band, my feet ached. And I felt happy. For the first time in so long I had laughed and not because I had to. For the first time in so long I had been myself, a young woman with her own thoughts and personality, not just Snoo’s Mummy.
Since then, I have done one night a week in the pub. Although it’s difficult because I have to leave Snoo with a member of my family, doing that has been invaluable. I have slowly but surely recovered my confidence and I have built a group of friends who invite me to go on nights out with them or whatever else they’re doing. Of course, I rarely do because with my Snoo is where I want to be but I have learnt that if I’m going to raise her properly then I also need to hold on to my sense of self, if I define myself entirely through her I cannot teach her the importance of knowing herself and her own personality and that she will one day become independent from me too.
One morning a week I volunteer at a local Mum and Baby group which I help to run and lead the children’s singing nursery rhymes at the end of the session. Almost every day now, I meet a friend for a cup of tea at my house or theirs, or we take our children to soft play and have lunch or go to the park and feed the ducks. As much as it terrified me I have finally found the confidence to reach out to others and make friends in this town and I can now say that I really do feel happy here. The people like my ex in this world are out there yes, and of course there are too many of them, but there are so many good people. Particularly other parents who have also come to feel lonely and isolated after having their children and becoming separated by this new lifestyle from our old friends. I would hate to think of anyone feeling as alone as I did when I first came here and so I want to better myself by being kinder, by reaching out to anyone who wants a friend because I have found nothing worse than feeling alone.