NEW ZEALAND: How Facebook Saved Me

NEW ZEALAND: How Facebook Saved Me

Maybe you’re the same? I get teased a lot about my Facebook use. But not by people who get it.

Five years ago, I was in a miserable marriage and experiencing phenomenally low energy levels. I wonder now if I was bordering on depression. I had a nine year-old, a six year-old and a two year-old, and my life pretty much revolved around them because I had to choose to do one thing well. I was 43 and experiencing some intense bleeding as part of peri-menopause and my iron levels were teeny as a result, I was seriously sleep-deprived and I was trying to convince the world I was right about everything.

I was prickly to those who annoyed me and many people annoyed me. I was very, very fragile. I was trying to keep my boys protected from some  intense dysfunction within their wider world, and ensure they felt loved but not entitled. I felt isolated and I had some serious self-development to do. I had baggage I needed to sort out. It wasn’t my fault I was in this state but it was my responsibility to change it.

To be clear: I have many dear friends in real life and lots of things I can talk about. I am interested in stuff. But most of my people are busy parents who aren’t always available. My interests have always been eclectic, so finding those who can sensibly discuss things I want to discuss is rare, when in survival mode, it was impossible. Personal development wasn’t new to me but it was on the backburner because there was no space in my head. So I joined Facebook, and it began.

Have you changed after using Facebook? It may seem weird to those who haven’t had it as a lifeline. I did. I found one mini tribe after another that shared my interests: I could be part of a group that got *this* but didn’t have to know *that* about me. I was given new information and new skills to learn. I became more circumspect about whom I told what. I could chat with people at 5.00am or 12.00pm, when no one in my real world was around. I had proper fun for the first time in years. I learned to laugh and tease and flirt with men, and to put in boundaries to maintain greater self-respect, and not be fazed when people didn’t resonate with me and ghosted. I learned a lot about speaking in a way that I could be heard and listening to understand, not to respond. I learned about some really alternative ways of looking at the world.

I learned to be the me I had been before other people had convinced me to be something else that suited them. I ditched the shell and found a spine.

And the response has been outstandingly positive. My sense of self has soared. I have slowly translated all my new self into the real world and am loving life in a way I could never have predicted. I am healthy all round. How about you? Does your online life reflect your real life? It’s an interesting thing to ponder.

As things do, this has cycled around: I am now faced with the reality that some of my online people are Trump people and therefore, not my people. The internet has limitations: no tone of voice, no body language, no instantaneous vibe to resonate with… or not. Interpersonal cues take longer to decipher. It’s a curious thing and I understand why those who don’t get it, don’t get it. In the end it comes down to this: I value my mini-tribes in ways that anti-Facebook people will probably never understand. Cheers to you all and a heartfelt, thank you.

What’s your Facebook experience been like? Are you even on Facebook?

 

 

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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NEW ZEALAND: Happiness is Now

NEW ZEALAND: Happiness is Now

It was a very short time ago that I was seven years old imagining that 10 was very grown-up and close to being a teenager, and the Millennium was so far in the future that my head hurt to think about it. Yesterday, or thereabouts, I was 19 recovering from a minor relationship breakup, wondering whether I’d find someone to marry and trying to imagine what it would be like to be a person’s Mum.

Today I am 48 and alone again. I get to be the parent of three incredible human beings and I, pretty much, get to do everything that comes with that. And I’ve never been happier.

I get to get up in the night with my youngest who needs to go to the loo and anyone who has a nightmare or wants a hug. I get calls at random hours to go look at the stars or the moon – “Look I got you a duvet, Mum. Come join me.” It’s not entirely beyond the consciousness of  these mini-mes that I am up at 4.50am week days. They know I am also being woken by hot-flushes. They have seen me have sudden moments of realization that the cat isn’t able to get to the litter-box, if I don’t get up immediately and open the door to the garage. They know I suddenly rush about organizing something, right now, right this second before I forget. But they don’t realize I also do all this at 3.00am or 2.10am or 12.55am.

I haven’t read a fiction book for myself for years, though I used to read one a day at times. I rarely exercise, or clothes shop, or get my haircut.

I work where I can laugh and sometimes get real, adult conversation. After work there are the countless errands of groceries or pharmacy visits or book stores or stationers, maybe if I’m lucky catching up with friends. There’s people to call when organizing four lives, the washing to get in and a house to be kept if not clean, at least hygienic. There’s meals to prepare most nights and children to teach how to prepare them on other nights. There’s homework and school meetings and fundraising and parent-teacher interviews to be a part of. And when I get home at night after I’ve been at a school meeting, if the dishes aren’t done it’s my job to at least wash them, and meat to get out of the freezer for the next night’s dinner.

There’s food scraps to be buried and a garden that really needs to be weeded. There’s children to be taught how to organize themselves and supervised to do so, once that’s learned. There’s chores to supervise or check are completed. There’s a cat to be fed and watered.

It’s all on me to get the car to the garage for servicing or repairs. If the house breaks, it’s my responsibility to get it fixed and to pay for those bills. The doctors visits are mine. The dentists visits are mine. The trips to the recycling depot and the dump are all mine. No one changes a light-bulb without me asking it to be done. Sometimes, things have to be ignored, at least temporarily for six months or so. It never ends.

And, it’s true, I’ve never been happier.

I know who I am and I am more likely now to call people on their b.s. that I ever have been before. I adore my house, live minutes from shops and an easy drive to the ocean, and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I have work I love and friends I think are just wonderful. I get out enough with just grown-ups. I have support I could call on, if I really have to. My boys are fabulous when consciousness over-rides testosterone, which is most of the time. And we laugh together hard. And often.

This week my house is an utter mess, my car needs to be taken to the garage, I was in bed at 7.45pm on Monday after 5 and a half hours sleep on Sunday night, I have paperwork that should have been finished a week ago, the cat has a dodgy tummy and my it was my youngest’s turn to become seven.

And, it’s absolutely true:

I’ve never been happier.

 

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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NEW ZEALAND: In Praise of Bad Examples

NEW ZEALAND: In Praise of Bad Examples

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It’s one of those things I never saw coming before I was a mother: The value of adults behaving badly around my children.

In fairness, most of the adults my boys get to interact with are fine people, who behave with maturity, have decent principles and who take responsibility for their actions. And I’m not talking about those who swear, or drink alcohol or smoke, or who have different beliefs or ways of raising their own children. Accepting that others are different in many ways is something the boys are well on the way to understanding, and these things are superficial when all said and done.

I’m talking about: the value of experiencing adults letting them down; the importance of hearing adults blame others for their own inaction or mistakes; the usefulness of having an adult’s words and actions not line up with one another; and the great learning involved when they are around adults who are manipulative, bratty, unreasonable, show blatant racism or sexism, or who are down right mean and nasty.

With these, the boys all go through the stages of mourning. Sometimes the mourning process is longer than others, depending on the closeness of the relationship they have with the adult in question. When it’s a distant relationship, it might be a casual comment or discussion in passing – the emotional impact is minor and the processing, swift. With a closer relationship, they are usually are angry or sad enough to tell me what has happened, although I have also occasionally had to remind them not to simply tell me what they think I want to hear. There seems little value in processing half-truths, and there is no value at all in having me take on a rescuer role merely because that’s what they imagine I want to happen.

There is immeasurable value, however, in discussing unhealthy drama triangles where those roles of rescuer, victim and persecutor play out, in order for the boys to recognise them and avoid them, or at least extricate themselves from in the early stages. It is useful to recognise narcissistic tendencies, adult bullies, and the difference between genuine remorse and manipulation. It is good for them to know that there is a big difference between passive-aggressively saying yes, while meaning, no, and politely but honestly declining. (That doesn’t work for me, is often enough.) They have learned who can be relied upon to keep their word or who is worthy of respect. It is to those adults whom they turn for protection and advice. Equally, they are learning which people are not principled or who consistently cannot be relied upon.

As a solo Mum, I often have times when others are caring for my children. It seems vital that they know which adults are safe and which are unsafe, not just physically but emotionally, too.

Sadly, the have had experiences where they needed to know those differences. I don’t belabour the points, but we have been through it all more than once. The 14 and 11 year-olds get the full works, the six year-old gets a very watered down version. We always discuss any positive aspects they think the person has and we then go on to list the many adults they know who don’t behave in these ways. The experience always comes before the lesson.

I finish these discussions by pointing out they can choose the behaviours they wish to embrace and those they wish to reject.

I’m all for a magical early childhood where all adults are heroes and heroines and imaginary beings are real things, but from around the age of nine this magic seems to naturally begin to subside. Rudolf Steiner called this the Nine Year Change and I have found that to be a useful label. From around then, my older boys have come out of their dream-world and into a world that is quite scary and overwhelming at times; a world in which they realise I cannot always protect them; a world in which they realise they must learn to look out for themselves. Like other life skills, I am a firm believer in helping them to recognise healthy and unhealthy people of all sizes and those adults behaving badly are a wonderful learning tool. A tool I never expected, but one I value all the same.

Have you had to help your children reach an understanding around an adult’s bad behaviour?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Karyn Wills of New Zealand. Photo courtesy of idreamlikecrazy / Flickr.

 

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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NEW ZEALAND: Christmas Goodbyes

As a single mom, Christmas has become bitter-sweet. This year I had to say goodbye to my children at 10.30am on the 25th and I won’t be seeing them again until early January. They are home for a few days and then they leave for another 10 days or so.

Karyn's Boys

Karyn’s Boys

I’ve always loved Christmas time. As well as the anticipation of gifts and an extravagance of food, for us in New Zealand, it coincides with the start of our long summer holidays. The whole year seems to build to these weeks of swimming, beach walks, late nights and relaxation, time with friends and time with extended family. The time to make memories.

Now I am separated, my kids make many of their summer memories without me.

It’s hard enough to say goodbye to ones children on Christmas Day but, like many solo-parents, I also had to send them off to a situation which is often emotionally fraught and where the dynamics of the extended family are erratic and often volatile. On the other hand, their Dad loves them and they will have plenty of opportunities for fun and adventure, and they will (mostly) look out for one another.

I swing in my emotions around them parenting one another. I would much rather they didn’t have to do so but siblings have looked out for each other for generations, and were possibly closer and more mature for those experiences. I have seen these changes in my boys after other stretches of time away. Not what I would choose but not all bad.

My eldest is not quite 14 and my middle son is 10.5 years-old, like most siblings, they can be pretty awful to one another at home or the best of friends. These two have high emotional-intelligence and with them I have spent weeks, on and off, discussing strategies for managing different scenarios. They can Skype me whenever they want to and have safe people and safe places they can get themselves to, if the dynamics become overwhelming or feel unsafe for them. So, although I would rather they didn’t have to manage without me, I know that they can.

But my baby is only six. He just wants his Mum with him and, if unpleasant situations arise, he is too young to make sense of what is happening. I was with the older boys over previous summer breaks and could decipher situations for them. There were times when they were simply misinterpreting adult conversations, like all children do sometimes. Other times I needed to protect them from vitriol; explain mean jokes; counteract misogynistic or racist comments; or balance out blatant favoritism. I’m not there to do that for him and that is very hard on my heart.

The older boys will do what they can to help him but they are still not fully grown themselves and, quite frankly, there will be times that they don’t want to. On their return, I can talk him through things, be firm around any learned behaviors I am not happy with, and I can hug most of his broken pieces back into place. I can be his safe-place. It’s not ideal but it’s okay.

Big picture – we work better as a family with two homes. My heart hurts but the bigger part of me knows it’s the best situation overall. The reality is, I need this time to rest and be alone; I am a much better parent and person for these breaks. The boys are loved, and they will be having fun and lots of wonderful experiences. But the Mommy – guilt is big all the same and – I miss my kids.

Have you had times of Mommy-guilt? How did you manage it?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our writer and mother of three boys in New Zealand, Karyn Van Der Zwet.

Photo credit to the author.

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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NEW ZEALAND: I Am Not My Child’s Behavior

NEW ZEALAND: I Am Not My Child’s Behavior

Last week, my six year-old threw a very loud, very intense and very public tantrum. He threw it because I said, No, to a treat that I wasn’t prepared to buy for him. And yes, I did explain why I said, No.

Child throwing a tantrum

My saying, No, is not a new experience for him. He is familiar with the word and knows what it means. He is intelligent and articulate and understood my reasons for saying, No. I wasn’t too bothered by his outburst. I knew he would get through it and we would be on good terms again by the time we reached home. What was fascinating, to me, was other people’s reactions.

I really, really wish more people understood than these willful tantrums, what I’ve always called Processing Tantrums operate the same as the mourning process. It’s a process to be supported through, not stopped in some way to make me or others feel better.

My son, while in public, was initially in the Denial and then Anger and Bargaining stages. Like the mourning process, he oscillated between them but, because I held the, No, position but was emotionally as supportive as he would allow – mostly through calm words as he wouldn’t let me touch him – by the time we were five minutes away from the store, he hit the Sad stage and a minute later was in Acceptance.

But of course, the people in the store never saw those bits. They just saw the screaming and defiant child and drew their own conclusions. Most kept their opinions to themselves. Some were verbally supportive toward me or used body-language to show they understood. One woman meant very well but managed to irritate me more than the six year-old tantrum.

She told me not to be embarrassed. And seemed quite shocked when I said I wasn’t in the slightest bit embarrassed. Not one ounce of embarrassment was felt by me.

My children are not me. I am not my children and I am certainly not my children’s behaviors. My children are well nurtured, well fed, get loads of sleep, explore and take risks often, have great rituals and firm boundaries. I do my job of parenting them to the best of my ability and they’re turning out just fine.

Their job is to use me as their home base. Their job is to seek comfort from me when they choose to do so. Their job is to move away from me as they desire, at their own pace, in varying amounts as they are so driven. Their job is to learn that things don’t always go their way but they can survive that process and be, not only okay but also have a better understanding of their world and how to reasonably accommodate others, when it’s all over. Their job is to complete the mourning process when they hear that word, No.

I hate to think what would happen if my boys did not learn to properly process, now as children, with my support and understanding. Would they end up being abusive partners because they couldn’t respect the personal boundaries of others? Would they think they were above the law? Would they end up depressed because they got low grades, for what is a low grade but A. Would they stop taking chances and blame everything and everyone else in the world for their inadequacies? I suspect they would. I know plenty of adults who have these characteristics in their personalities.

So, if you see my boys throwing tantrums be assured I am comfortable with the short-term stress of supporting them through those times. They are processing.

I believe it’s worth the short-term pain for the long-term gain of raising kids with character. Their anti-social moments are not their permanent states.

And, really, truly, any tantrums they throw do not embarrass me. I am not my children’s behavior. I am their mother and their lighthouse.

Have you ever had a child tantrum in public? How was that for you? How did other people react?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Karyn Wills of Napier, New Zealand. 

Photo Credit to Mindaugas Danys

 

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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NEW ZEALAND: Leaving a Sad Relationship

NEW ZEALAND: Leaving a Sad Relationship

sad relationshipI didn’t have a bad marriage.

I wasn’t beaten or mistreated.

My ex never had an affair.

Money stressors were manageable.

We rarely argued.

To the outside world we seemed absolutely fine. But we weren’t.

It was, for me, an intensely sad marriage. And for a long time I couldn’t work out why. Here was a perfectly pleasant man who wished me well and who responded to my affection. He worked hard and was what most of us would call a “good guy”. He still is. But my self-esteem was dropping and my mood was becoming a habitual mix of frustration and melancholy.

It was one of those slow drifts downwards, like water eroding rock.

Then, around 10 years ago, he was diagnosed with something call Alexithymia. It’s not a mental disorder but more of a fixed personality trait. It’s common in those formally on the autism spectrum, in those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and in some of us with attachment issues from our early childhood.

Basically, anyone with Alexithymia cannot identify the bodily sensations that go along with their emotions. They still have the same sensations but are unable to distinguish between them and label them. They also have a very limited imaginative life, which sounds fine, until you realise predicting outcomes and taking steps to avoid the less desirable ones, are in fact, a product of our imagination.

These two issues give rise to a deep lack of empathy and ability to relate to another human being. Sympathy –the intellectual understanding of the experience of another–can happen but the actual feeling of an emotion, as another has it, in the sense of true empathy, cannot.

For me, this meant I would have to be sobbing in front of my ex before he understood I was sad, and then have to tell him to give me a hug, as the appropriate response. He did not mean to be uncaring. He just never understood subtle body language or had the instinctive responses that most of us have.

There are always three choices in a situation: To alter it; to put up with it; or to leave.

For many years I did my best to see if things could change. I offered to go back to work, so he could get therapy. I suggested counselling, on more than one occasion. None of these offers were ever taken up.

The more I read about Alexithymia, the more I realised… I would never be taken up on any of these. People with Alexithymia see the rest of us as over-emotional and confusing. They cannot see why they would leave their completely logical realms. Their idea of a perfect partner is a kind body in the house with whom there is as little emotional deviation and routines are maintained – this was exactly what our marriage was.

As time went by, I became increasingly distant and detached. At times, I became unpleasant and down right bitchy. Then, around three years ago, someone asked me what made me happy. And I couldn’t tell them. From being someone who was a perpetual optimist, I was by then emotionally dead – aside from experiencing frustration and melancholy. It was a massive wake up call and I knew something had to change.

It did take three years for me to be ready. There is a comfort in familiarity that is enticing. But in the end, my physical body was beginning to suffer, my older boys were finding the emotional disconnect from their father tough going and the other side of the leap to leave seemed less stressful than staying.

I am sure I was by no means the perfect partner either. But I share this here because these are immensely lonely and soul-destroying relationships to be in – and many who are in them either think they are going crazy or that they are the only ones ever to have this experience or some combination of both. But neither are true.

You’re not crazy. You’re not alone. The shell of the outside relationship that the world sees is not the whole story.

I understand.

Have you ever known someone with Alexithymia? Tell us your tale.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our long-time contributor and mother to three in New Zealand, Karyn Sparkles Willis.

The image used in this post is attributed to Nathan Jones. It carries a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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