Life changes

I think I’m a little high from the fumes of a certain cleaning product. We have incredibly hard water and a limescale problem; I’ve been standing in the kids’ shower scrubbing and scrubbing the glass doors, occasionally sticking my head out to breathe fresh air, and contemplating life. I’m waiting for a delayed manuscript to edit, so in the meantime I’ve been getting ahead with all the housework and laundry. All this housewifery means I’ve had brain space to draft a blog post in my head. Dog walks and housework are when I do most of my thinking.

My first-born will be 18 next month. This time 18 years ago I had no idea, no idea at all, about how my life was about to change. I had absolutely no idea how much love it was possible to feel, how much pure joy, how much fretting and worry, how much mess and chaos, how much disorder, how much your life is thrown into the air and how it settles back to earth completely reordered, priorities totally changed. To be honest, I can’t really remember how we filled our days before parenthood. There was work, of course, and there was a lot more socialising, eating out and going to the cinema and theatre, and travelling. We certainly had a lot more spare cash! But I wouldn’t change a thing. Not one thing.

It’s an exciting time for my boy and I keep finding him lying on a sofa with his eyes shut, headphones plugged in. I suspect he might be finding it all a little bit overwhelming. He has a lot to do – a personal statement for applying to university, working out where he wants to go and which course, keeping on top of all the essays for school, working the occasional shift at the local hotel, socialising, sleeping. And he’s flying to the Washington DC at the weekend on a school trip. I’m cutting him some slack.

I’ve made a couple of big personal decisions recently. The first is trivial but a big decision for me nonetheless. I’ve decided to stop dying my hair. You know, it annoys the hell out of me that I have felt the pressure to keep looking youthful by colouring my hair. I’m cross at my conforming. I don’t judge anyone who chooses to dye their hair, but I don’t want to do it any more. I’m fed up of sticking chemicals on my scalp just so I’m not reminded of my ageing when I look in the mirror. For a start, there are the health concerns but it’s also blinking expensive. I did start growing out my grey hair last year but chickened out after meeting up with a friend who gave me a good talking to and told me I was effectively letting myself go. I was at a low ebb, took it to heart and promptly booked a hair appointment. Shallow, no? Grr. Well, no longer. I am embracing my real self. It is perfectly possible to look gorgeous with grey hair by keeping it healthy and having a good cut. If people don’t like it, it’s their problem not mine. (Of course, I can always change my mind but I hope I don’t!)

My second big decision was to enrol in a local adult education art course. I did Art A’level at school and always intended to go to art college. It was the only thing I ever wanted to do but I lost my way in my late teens and ended up following a completely different path, putting away my brushes and paints for a very long time indeed. I still have them. I’ve been carting around my old palettes, brushes, paints and portfolio for over 30 years. I held on to the tiny thought that one day, one day I might give it another go. Well, I am and it’s so exciting. I am rusty but there was a spark in my brain when I started drawing again. It feels like I’m rekindling a fire.

That’s all for now. Back to the housework. Hope your week is going well.

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53 thoughts on “Life changes

  1. Both sound like great, empowering decisions for you.
    A shorter gap, but I recently started making art again after working with a gallery a few years ago that didn’t suit me and becoming disheartened and disillusioned with the whole thing. It’s a nice feeling having something all of my own again, especially after having a child which has completely changed my sense of identity. Good luck!!

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    1. Love your blog Sam. Like you I’m trying to rekindle that inner creativity and I’m hoping to kick off by trying to do a small sketch everyday. I recently visited Kew gardens and went to the gallery . The botanical art was incredible. I’ve never really liked detailed paintings and prefer more abstract work but having seen the Kew art I have decided to rethink and try something new. I have all the books, materials etc but just need to get on and do!
      This is a wonderful time in your life. It’s hard when uni time approaches but you soon get used to it and start to rediscover yourself. My boys finished uni a while ago now and have moved away. It’s always great to catch up with them but I’m enjoying this time in my life. Good luck with your art course.
      I would love to have a go at pottery but all of the local courses are booked with waiting lists as long as your arm. Maybe a workshop somewhere else would be good to try.
      Look forward to following your progress x

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      1. Thank you, Carolyn. The botanical art on display at Kew is wonderful, isn’t it? Quite inspiring. I quite fancy pottery, too… Hope you find a workshop.

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  2. Dear Sam, this is a very moving post. First, congratulations on reaching the nominal finishing line in this game we call parenting. My boy, as you know, is just a few months older than yours. I’ve noticed a huge change in his attitude in the last few months and I’m enjoying discovering a new adult friend. It’s strange but good.
    When I stopped colouring my hair people said I was very brave in exactly the same tone you would tell someone they were stone mad. I have found the change a liberation. Full disclosure: I get brightening highlights about twice a year to lighten the bits at the back that are still dark. They are hardly noticable but suffice to convince me that I am not, in fact, “letting myself go.” You can, of course, change your mind at any moment- it’s your head.
    I’m thrilled that you have returned to your painting. How wonderful to reclaim your dream. Go for it, feed that fire and enjoy every flipping minute of it. Brilliant.
    Finally, those flower bedecked steps of yours are a joy.
    Lynda. Xx

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    1. Thank you for your generous comment, Lynda. My boy is maturing nicely, too. I suspect I’ll ease myself into the ‘au naturale’ gently so it’s not too much of a shock for me or anyone else 🙂 xx

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  3. Hey Sam,
    If my hair goes grey, I shall let it. I don’t think I could be bothered with the faff of dying my hair all the time. So more power to you for saying enough. As for the art course; I’m totally thrilled to bits for you. And so glad that spark was still there after all those years. I’m toying with using some of my scrub money to enrol on an OU course. Now that I have a little spare cash, I’ve realised that I don’t want more stuff. But I’d love to study literature. Like you, it’s what I should have done all those years ago.
    Your son turning 18 is quite a watershed moment too. I felt surprised when Sam hit 18. I felt too young to have a child that was now legally an adult. Of course when Olly hits 18, I’ll be 58, and no doubt feeling every year of it!
    Have a lovely week.
    Leanne xx

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  4. Young people dye their hair grey nowadays (why?) so you’re obviously just bang on trend. How exciting and perhaps a little bit scary to enrol on an art course. It’s good to be challenged.
    Hope that manuscript arrives before you’re overcome by house cleaning chemicals 🙂

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  5. I’ve just read your post sitting on the top deck of a double decker bus on the way back from my very jolly second photography night class at the wonderful Bishopsgate Institute!
    After finishing the two year garden design course in the summer and now this I can’t recommend evening classes highly enough, so I’m delighted to hear you’re ‘back to school’ too.
    Have to confess yesterday evening was spent having had my hair dyed though 😉

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  6. What a lovely post. Well done on 18 years of parenting, a great achievement. I have often wondered what on earth I ever did with my time before I had children. All those spare hours! I’ve never got to grips with myself or dyed my hair so basically have always let myself go. But seriously, I know two incredibly beautiful women both with natural grey hair, and both very well put together, not let go at all. I am very anti-chemicals, pro-natural, so that’s why basically. I used to pull the grey hairs out. Sadly too many now! I am so excited for you about the art course. Finding creativity that you love is so good for the soul I think. I dream of doing a calligraphy course one day. And I dream of doing writing courses now. In fact I have several bookmarked… All a dream at the moment, but I understand how fantastic it is to enrol and get to do that thing you always wanted to do. I hope you have a wonderful time, and I shall enjoy hearing all about it. CJ xx

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    1. I’m sure you are not ‘let go’ in the slightest (I hate that phrase) – from what I’ve seen, you are gorgeous. We are who we are and should be accepted for what we do rather than what we look like! xx

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  7. Oh, good for you Sam! I started dying my hair a couple of years ago, partly due to unkind remarks but mainly because I found that grey just doesn’t suit me and my pale skin! Have fun with your new course – rekindling an old passion should be fun and you never know where it might lead you…. 🙂

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  8. How exciting, the art course, and from what I saw on Instagram, you’re off to a great start. And it sounds as if your son is as well. . . that decade or so in which they really achieve independence is so cool, so gratifying. I remember when my four were still school-aged, being so impressed by a mom whose four spanned from high school through their twenties, and (while never wanting to hurry time along, as it’s already rolling so quickly) wondering what that would be like, to know that all the child-rearing theories had panned out rather well. . . and my oldest now is older than I was then. . .

    I was so sure, in my 20s, that I’d never dye my hair, but I have to admit that I quite enjoyed playing with highlights and rinses, etc., for years (um, decades!). Two years ago, I had it chopped short and let the grey grow in, and I haven’t regretted it at all. So easy to care for, no need to fret about roots. . . and yes, obviously, the savings are considerable. . . I suspect you’ll find it a fascinating process in many ways, and not a big deal at all in others. Will be curious to see if you end up writing about it.

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    1. I’m sure we are much more tuned in to our children and self-aware of our parenting than generations before us. It’s fascinating to witness their growth and development, isn’t it? And we grow and develop alongside, which is a good thing. As for the hair, I have a very good hairdresser who’s going to help me (and I’m sure will advise if it looks terrible!).

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  9. Excellent decisions Sam. It is wonderful that you are pursuing your dream with paint and brushes.

    Congratulations on 18 years of successful parenting. Time flies! I admire the young people today, they have so much to think about. I don’t think I’d cope very well with all these things myself. I wrote my first personal statement at the age of 40 and I found it really hard.

    I grew up in a hard water area and my mum always insisted that we wiped down taps and walls after a shower to prevent a build up. We had a squeegee to quickly clean the glass door. I hope you have not been overpowered by the fumes 🙂

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    1. I should have added ‘guilt and shouting’ to the list of what I didn’t know about! I’ve certainly found my inner fishwife since becoming a mother – I don’t think I ever really shouted beforehand…
      You’re right, all the young people I’ve encountered are pretty marvellous.
      If only I could persuade my children to wipe down the shower after use..!

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  10. just a word of encouragement about not dying your hair anymore: don‘t chicken out again, it takes some time till the colour has grown out, that‘s true. I made the same decision 7 (?) years ago. and people do not remember me with dyed hair anymore. in fact, they meanwhile admire the gray meches … and I always tell them, I pay a fortune to get these done 😉
    good luck
    r.

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  11. I am so with you on all of these: limescale, hair and art. Yet I lack the time, nerve and money (I admit laziness comes into play) for all of them. How do you dissolve years of neglected limescale on a badly designed shower (my 18 yo son has just moved out and I realise I should have been paying more attention). And as for the hair: I would love to stop but absolutely cannot tolerate the very obvious line if I grow it out. What’s the solution?

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  12. I feel like I’ve won the lottery today finding your IG account and blog! Congratulations on the parenting milestone! My daughter turned 21 earlier this year and I’ve been wondering where those years went so quickly. I’ve also been struggling the past few years with the decision not to dye my hair. It seems so trivial, but I think just represents so many issues. I almost broke down my resolve, but this week my hairdresser said not to bother, and after reading your blog, I’m going to let it go once and for all!
    And, best of luck with your art course; what a wonderful new adventure for you!

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    1. What a lovely comment, Ingrid. Thank you. There are so many subtle pressures on us to look a certain way. It sounds as though you have a good hairdresser – hang in there!

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  13. Doing those mindless cleaning tasks leaves the brain free to wander in all sorts of directions. I’m shocked to realize that my children are all in their 30s now whereas I don’t feel one bit older than 45. I think they are catching up to me. It’s wonderful to see them with their families and careers and to sit back and enjoy the hard work of parenting (that never, ever ends).
    I dyed my hair for about 10 years, but upon turning 60 last year, I decided to stop. The line was terrible until I went and had a few highlights to blend everything. What a difference that made! Now I’m eagerly awaiting the growing out of the last of them because my natural colour with the grey is much more attractive, even to my hairdresser!
    Enjoy your art course and the rediscovery of an important part of yourself.

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    1. Thank you, Lorrie. Highlights sound like the way to go 🙂 When we’re young, we like to think we feel older inside than we are and when we’re older, we feel younger inside. Funny creatures, aren’t we?!

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  14. Ah, the Change, or many changes, more like! I stopped dying my hair for all the reasons you outlined and I think it gives other women permission to the same. Start a revolution! I’m not certain it is possible, but can your hair dresser match your roots and dye it all gray? Growing it out can be hard, but doing it all at once might be easier. A stylish cut will win others over. 🙂
    I wanted to share a tip about limescale. I struggled with it for years, then discovered vinegar! Natural! and it does a better job than all the products I tried for years. For glass, 50/50 mix vinegar and water, spray on wait a bit, wipe and rinse. May require a couple goes. Porcelain toilets– pour in a cup to a quart depending on how much buildup there is, and let set as long as you can. Not recommmended on metal (or rinse really well, as it will corrode).
    Lastly, good for you on following up on your art – so good for your soul!

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    1. Thanks for the tip, Eliza. I have used vinegar in the past but this time it needed more powerful intervention. I do prefer using natural products, though. Re the hair, it’ll be interesting to see how it goes/grows!

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  15. Good luck with the art course, I look forward to seeing some finished works on the blog. My problem is not only going grey but bald as well. It’s much tougher for us men you know😀Have you tried diluted vinegar as a shower glass cleaner?

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  16. I think you might want to spend more time with kinder friends…. why should grey be letting ourselves go.. grrrrrr. makes me cross. Be who you want to be, and if you dye it again do it because you want to, not because society thinks you should. We moved on from corsets and bustles, surely women can move on from applying chemicals to themselves.. sorry rant over. x
    18 is a proper milestone isn’t it, my first born was 18 last year, it still surprises me!
    Have fun on the art course, it sounds fantastic.

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    1. I often think of things I could and should have said after the event. I totally agree. Like I said, I was at a low ebb. 18 – bonkers, isn’t it?!

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  17. Oh Sam, well done for ALL these achievements – you can justifiably be proud of them all 🙂 If we manage to meet up in the future you will see another example of what you could use on your hair: hair chalk. I have a different coloured ‘streak’ depending on the colour of the dress I am wearing… 😉

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  18. What a lovely post Sam. It is funny what you say about your hair. Between the age of about 18-32 I had my hair coloured religiously. Then, after I had my second child I just couldn’t find the 2-3 hours required to sit at the hairdresser. Spending that time fretting about my babies just got too much. So, I gave it up but continued with regular cuts. My children are no longer babies and circumstances are changing…as they so. I have tried several times to get back into the hair colouring routine recently and every time I have made an appointment I have had to cancel it for various reasons, the universe telling me something perhaps!?

    I hope you share some of your drawings with us one day. Enjoy the moment! x

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  19. Two good decisions, Sam! I stopped coloring my hair the year before I retired and wish I had done it earlier. It’s quite easy to grow out with a good hairdresser. As yours said, well-placed highlights will ease the gray in without any obvious transition line. My hairdresser had a lot of fun doing mine and it inspired several other women I knew to do the same thing. And once it grew out, I was surprised by how shiny and silver my hair was–I love it.

    As for the art course, I suspect you will find that you are full of suppressed art just waiting to get out. When I started doing creative things with my hands again after many years working at a desk, it was even sweeter than if I had been doing them all along.

    Good luck to your son with all his upcoming decisions.

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    1. Thank you, Brenda. Making time to do creative things is the hardest part, so booking onto a course has given me the shove. I love seeing all your creative endeavours on your blog. You’re one of the people who have inspired me 🙂

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  20. Sam, this is great news! How exciting to be revisiting something so special to you. And as for your hair decision- good on you! I’ve always thought grey hair was very attractive and don’t consider it letting yourself go at all, quite the opposite in fact. xx

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  21. Congratulations to your son on his 18th birthday, those are wonderful words to describe the past 18 years. I have gone grey over the summer and have not regretted it, I found lots of encouragement on the internet and from friends who had already taken this step. I have become more creative over the last year and it has been so rewarding!
    We too have such hard water and I hate using chemicals and do try to use vinegar and lemon juice – but I do need to keep on top of things for it to be effective, sometimes I do have to result to stronger stuff! Sarah x

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  22. I’m catching up with reading, Sam, so please forgive the late comment! You’ve really started a debate here with the whole hair colouring thing. I confess I do colour when I can be bothered, it just smartens everything up slightly, although I may be the only one who notices! Grey hair looks fabulous on all ages and I’m edging that way myself (hopefully both grey and fabulous, haha!) I think we should all do what we want with our looks and never mind anyone else.
    Have lots of fun with your art course; would love to read how you get on. I’m hoping to find time to do some pottery soon and really should get my brushes out again. (I trained as an illustrator pre-parenthood.) Caro xx

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    1. Thanks, Caro. Yes, grey and fabulous is the desired result! Do try to find time to paint, draw, potter, etc, if you can. I’m thoroughly enjoying the art course and wish it was more than 2 hours/week!

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