Does it ever make sense to send your children to boarding school?

The main reason I split my time between town and country is to work hard during the week at a job I enjoy in order for my children to have anything and everything they need.  My job moved to London and along with the excitement of the hustle and bustle that this brought it also brought the opportunity for me as a 34 year old to plan and develop a career for the next 30 odd years.

But as a result my children turned from day pupils at their Prep school to weekly boarders.  I have twins, Seb and Hermione, who are 7 years old and in September moved from Pre-Prep to ‘proper’ school across the road in the Prep department.  Their school is one of those wonderful places with acres of land, a main school building with wood panelling and rabbit warren corridors and a friendly matron always on hand to clean up a grazed knee or to provide a hug when someone is missing home.  It is a quintessential English private school with posh 4x4s in the car park alongside the odd Ferrari and Lamborghini as well as a splattering of local landowners in their dusty Defenders and a growing mix of foreign children coming to our fair Isle for what I consider to be the best education money can buy.

Within the school there is a growing boarding community which is lovingly and amazingly well run by a dedicated and professional group of very special teachers.  It is a happy, laughter filled and busy home away from home.  Children from all the years mix together in dorms to eat their meals and to share tuck and watch DVDs when they are not competitively taking on each other at table tennis.  I know that when I am 130 miles away in London my two pickles are loved, cared for and in a happy and secure environment.  As a mother this is tremendously important and affords me the luxury to be able to pursue the career aspirations I have and to enjoy my life a little as ‘Victoria’ not just as ‘mummy’.

But it means that my children are not with me.  I am not doing the basic motherly duties of the school run, cooking supper, ensuring teeth are brushed and that homework is done.  I have delegated this to the school and denied my children the sanctuary of their home, their bedrooms and their mother’s arms when they need me on a cold tuesday night when their team lost in hockey and they fell off the flip bars and had to spend the afternoon with matron.  I am under no illusions that many parents and non-parents alike are silently shocked that I can do this.  They look at me and assume that this is easy for me, that I am some feminist disagreeing with the societal norm that fathers go to work and build successful and important careers whilst the mothers stay at home.

This is not what I am.  Until my children started school I was a stay at home mum.  I took them to music classes, took them swimming and spent hours playing game after  game of make believe.  I was lucky enough not to have to work and was privileged enough to enjoy a life that most can only wish for.  The country house with breathtaking views of the Black Mountains, the Land Rovers on the driveway and the stereotypical two black labradors alongside Barbour coats and Hunter wellies.  But I was in a marriage I did not want to remain in and I was not being me.  The day I became a mother was the best day of my life and the love and pride I feel for my children is something I can not explain but I need something more.  I want to be a mother but I also want to be Victoria.

My children started school and I found a job.  James and I split and we divorced.  I had to work, I had to have financial independence.  Slowly but surely I made my way.  I rented a house on my own.  I started working full time whilst also being the main carer for my kids.  I bought a house all on my own.  My house is nothing special but it is in my name and my name only.  I look at it sometimes and think ‘wow, I did that and it is all mine’.  I am fortunate that my children can now go to private school but that means I have to work and work very hard to fund that.  They are thriving in a way I did not think they would.  Every single teacher adores them, they have friends from Reception right through to Year 8 and they are having the opportunity to try anything they want.  They do sport every day, they do music and drama and art and they learn how to drive a train on the school’s very own light railway.  What more could I as a mother ask for.

That is why as I enter the office at 7.20am every day I know that I am doing the best for the two people that mean most to me.  My work and my life in London is affording them their future opportunities.  I do this for their future, for their success and for their happiness.  But I also do it for my future, my success and my happiness.    All too often mothers are made to feel guilty for wanting a life of their own but men can work, socialise and play hard whilst also being a parent.  I hope that Hermione and Sebastian are growing up to see that I am a devoted mother but also an individual person who is building a satisfying career and a life of her own.

That is why my children board and why I believe boarding is not an excuse for not bothering to be a loving and dutiful parent.  Yes I admit it is a risk and in twenty years my children might hate me for it but as any parent knows you only get to bring your children up once and you do what you feel is right.  Boarding is not for everyone but for us it is everything.  For all of us life is different but in many ways the same, we are all just trying to make the best shot at it as possible.

 

 

 

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The Murky World of Dating in 2017

Being a fully paid up member of the single mum community I get to partake once again in the world of dating.  Now back in my younger days it was somewhat more straight forward.  Girl would meet boy, boy would ask girl out and then they would start ‘dating’. Oh how things change.

 

I have been separated and therefore single and carefree for nearly 3 years.  In that time I have at various times been on Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Match and all the other equally badly named apps and websites.  I have met people who clearly used photos taken 20 years ago, men who just want sex and a man who despite saying he was divorced was in fact very happily married.  The comfort and ease of being able to sit at home and swipe right or send a wink to someone you fancy means there is always the fear of ‘what if’. And also the ability to be able to keep your options open by ‘accidentally’ not deleting your dating profile.  In our throwaway society even love, friendship and emotion have gone the way of fashion, furniture trends and food fads.

 

In the spring of 2015 I met a cheeky, confident and charming chap from Yorkshire.    I fell hard and fast and we had a summer of weekends in Yorkshire, trips to London and a holiday in Portugal.  Then as we moved into Autumn, the season of death and ending, it slowly became apparent to me that there were other girls competing for his attention.  Messages popping up on a phone screen, evenings where he was unexpectedly AWOL and the earrings found in his home when I do not have my ears pierced.  I had caught him out and he did not like it.  Neither did the other girls.  His expectation that he was entitled to juggle multiple girls left me speechless and hurt.  We live in a culture where we can buy one trend of clothing in the spring and by the time the autumn fashions hit the shops we discard the now old and off trend items whilst busily stocking up on the newly fashionable.  I for one think it sad and depressing that people can so easily apply this philosophy to the matters of the heart, to love.

 

Badly burnt by the guy I renamed ‘Dickhead’ I distracted myself with my work, my kids and buying my own house.  By the autumn of 2016 I was exactly where I wanted to be professionally, socially, emotionally and mentally.  I was happy, relaxed and enjoying my life in a way I had not for many years.  Then the work Christmas party happened and the journey of love and heartache started once again.

 

Over the next few months I fell in love with a man who was everything I had ever wanted and had ever hoped for in the person who would be my partner and soul mate for now and as I grew old.  He became my best friend, my lover, my protector and the guy I was planning on spending the rest of my life with.  He loved me like no other guy had done before and I knew he loved me.  There was a very large elephant in the room though and one that would ultimately be our undoing.  Whilst maybe not still loving someone else he was living with someone else.  It was complicated, he never said it was going to be easy or quick and I do believe at some point in his life he will leave her.  That does not mean that he and I will end up together with our happily ever after.  For anyone who has been ‘the other woman’ it hurts like nothing else.  It tears at your heart and soul and eats you from the inside out.  You become neurotic, untrusting and unsure of anything that is said or happens.  Whilst he could be fully involved in my life, my kids and my world there were elements of his that I was not allowed to enter or be involved in.  Trips on his mum’s boat on bank holiday weekends, suppers out for family birthdays or even his birthday.

 

Somehow we are still the bestest of friends with a connection I have never had with anyone during my 34 years on this planet.  He is the person I can call at 6.30 in the morning when I need an urgent favour, the guy who will have my back at work and the person who is my moral compass.  In return I am the person he can tell anything to and I will not judge, I am the person who understands what it is like to be in a lifeless and loveless relationship and I am the person who will help and support him at work when our boss is on his case.  In many ways he is my soulmate but I struggle with the concept that a soulmate can be someone other then the person you marry and grow old with.  Maybe he will forever be the love of my life.

 

New suitors come and go and I am currently quietly excited and optimistic about a forthcoming date with a guy who is, to borrow Love Island terminology, my type on paper.   But with the pressure now released from the relationship with my ‘soulmate’ I am as unsure as ever over whether I am any closer to what every one wants, a happy ending.  At least now being back in London I might have more opportunities to meet ‘the one’.  Now if only I could do that very un-London thing of actually talking to some of those handsome bankers on the Waterloo & City line I see every day!

Town v Country

So having had the luck, and perhaps some would say curse, of moving around the country during my childhood and now adulthood I am left wondering what  I am best suited to; town or country.  Now being in a position where I get to enjoy both simultaneously I might just be able to find the answer.

London is great, arguably the best city in the world and a kaleidoscope of cultures, lives and stories.  I wake up every morning in leafy Barnes in South West London with a myriad of very expensive 4x4s parked on the road outside, a plethora of basement excavations and loft conversions being carried out at any given time and the need for an expensive blow dry just to walk to the middle class bakery of choice Gail’s. But it’s home and it feels like home.  I first lived here 10 years ago and fell in love with the way the Thames meanders through the village , the 5am wake up call of the first plane descending towards Heathrow and the very convenient 23 minute train journey from Barnes Bridge to the metropolis that is Waterloo and the City beyond.  It is a bubble of middle class and upper class life in modern day Britain.  A snapshot of those who have succeeded in life and the lives that this affords.  It is testament to what happens when you work hard, invest in the right property at the right time and end up with three kids at private school, posh wellies, a slobbering Labrador or two and a set of Range Rover keys on the hallway table. It is leafy and very slightly ‘Surrey’ but you have the convenience of being able to book an Uber, order a Deliveroo and walk to cafes and shops with everything you need.

But the South Circular is best avoided at most times of the day, the house might be expensively and tastefully furnished and loved but it is a terrace with a small garden and the pain of having no parking space outside your front door when you get home from Waitrose with bags of shopping in the pouring rain.  There is the constant challenge to be keeping up with the Joneses, to be making sure Arabella and Ptolemy are attending the correct variety of extra curricular activities and the 12 or more hours a day your spouse works just to be able to afford the mortgage.  I do wonder if many of the people I pass on my way to the 6.31am train are happy and satisfied with the way their lives have turned out.  Do the positives really outweigh the negatives?

On most Saturday mornings I get to wake up, jump in my car and head west along the M4 to a place called Ledbury in Herefordshire. First you pass the junction with the M25 and you start to breath a little more easy, Reading goes by and then it’s like you have left the hustle and bustle of your busy life behind.  Things slow down, everything seems more relaxed, the sky seems bigger with more space for life.  Along the A417 I gradually pass by all the Range Rovers coming from my part of London as they descend on their second homes in the chocolate box Cotswolds.  Yes this is the country but it can have the feel of just a ‘country’ version of  London.  As I head north and west the countryside really opens up and the moment I cross the border into the other place I call home everything changes.  Herefordshire is sparse, beautiful and like no other county I have been to.  The red clay soil, the precise lines of apple trees in the cider orchards and the sight of a field of Hereford cows.  There is no smog here, there are no planes flying over and at night you can see the stars and hear nothing but silence.

But unless you are in a town you will be lucky to get 3G let alone 4G, broadband is slow, people drive slow and at harvest time forget gettting anywhere in a hurry.  You have to get in your car and drive if you want something as simple as a pint of milk.  Life is not so convenient, it is not quite so easy.  I do wonder if this is mentally and emotionally a better way to live?  Is it a better place for children to grow up and retain some of their innocence before they enter their teen years and the not so great world of social media? Or is it old fashioned and very slightly backward?

I don’t have the answers to my questions, perhaps I never will.  What works for one is not the same for someone else.  All I can do is enjoy both, live both to the fullest and hope that my stories and experiences strike a cord with all who come across this blog.