Rosie, Liz, Sian and Josie – a small thank you!

I don’t think many of us who were at the afternoon charity session of #cybermummy will forget the occasion any time soon. The short video presentation very quickly took everyone in that room far far away from the hubbub of the main event.

In complete silence we listened in to Liz Scarff talk about the #blogladesh campaign (the reach they had to so many millions of people is just staggering – I know the whole room was thinking well done Liz and her team). There was passion in her voice that drew us into doing nothing but listen. Some of the images and stories we heard about were haunting. We heard about the thin dividing line that is life and death for too many people.

Rosie too spoke with a steely determination. I hadn’t met her before, but she clearly had this desire to get across to us that things can be done by everyday men and women. And backing up what Sarah Brown said in the morning session – there really is nothing stopping any of us!

Mummytips spoke just a few words. That was all she needed to do. The effect of the Bangladesh trip for Sian was there for all to see. Watching  @porridgebrain in an act of brave sisterly support, walk to the stage and take the microphone was a privilege to watch. As with Liz and Rosie there was fluency and meaning in all she said.

The session ended I had become subdued into silence. I had, in truth, become reflective. It was time to put the questions to bed and just absorb what I had just heard. Not heard. Experienced.

A while later I took myself off to a quiet corner. An image jumped into my head of me in an alley way just to the side of Exeter Cathedral five years ago. I remember it well. I was having a full-on, full-blown panic attack. It was three in the afternoon. I’d dropped my shopping and a work briefcase. That was lying open and papers were flying everywhere. I was rushing to my car where I would sit and hide and breathe into a paper bag that I used to keep hidden under the driver’s seat. I knew I needed to cease the panic quickly, and get back home to be with my girls when they came home from after school club.

When a grown man of 41 finds himself crumpled on the floor with food shopping all around him and all his work papers flying all over the place – and he feels so panicked all he can do is shake and hold his head in his hands and cry, you can guess that that man needs a bit of support.

It was then that a female solicitor who worked in Sourthernhay (where my office was at the time) came running up to me and asked if she could help. I must have looked liked I was in a real mess. I was in a mess.  She did nothing more than pull me up to a wall where I could sit. She put her arm around me. She didn’t say anything. After a while she collected the few bits and pieces that were scattered over the place and came back to sit down next to me again. It was then she asked what I needed to do urgently and was there anything she could do…

…By the time I got to my car I knew she would have arranged for my daughters to have been collected from school by a neighbour. The friendly solicitor lady understood that I could not go and collect them like I was. She said she would organise everything. She was even able to take down the right numbers of the school and what have you by using my mobile phone and doing it for me.

Back in my car, with the panic attack subsiding I was overtaken by a feeling of being completely overwhelmed. As a man, my job was to provide. I knew (having just escaped from work early yet again) that my days of paid employment couldn’t go on like this. But more than that, as the primary carer for my two daughters I needed to be there for them. All single parents will know that feeling of increased responsibility – it’s a heavy burden at times.

I looked at my situation. Tucked away in a corner of a multi-story car park. Hiding from the world. No more tears would come. A vomit stained shirt. My career coming to an end – I knew I wasn’t doing my job properly. But more than that it was 7 o’clock. My girls would by now be more than worried! The voice that said “Bob, you are a complete and utter fucking disaster” was mine.

Some people call these “black days”.

Back at #cybermummy I found @porridgebrain sat at the back of the hall. I asked her where all the men were in Bangladesh as they didn’t appear in many of the slides. I asked if they minded their family receiving charity? I think I had quite a few questions actually…I wasn’t best placed to hear her answers though, I think I was still in another place…! Sorry Josie – we’ll have that conversation another day.

Over the last few days we have all looked aghast at our televisions and newspapers. In Somalia and the Kenyan borders we see and hear of mums and their children quite literally starving to death. Stories of malnourished younger children being left by their mums so they can continue to try to keep their other children alive are beyond heart-breaking. The gravity of this situation is, to my mind, unthinkable, and unimaginable.

The image I have of Somalia, with the backdrop of violence and chronic poverty is that of a country having something akin to a panic attack. A period in their history when everything is wrong and nothing quite works. Recovery will take years.

Like many of you reading this, the question “what can I do to help” hangs heavy. We all want to do more, but probably don’t know where to start.

Well #cybermummy helped with some answers to this question. The overall strategic solutions for devastated countries like Somalia now lies with world-wide governmental coordinated cooperation. Of that there is little doubt. But what we can do as individuals is to make sure our elected representatives in Parliament keep these issues and our concerns on the agenda. We can all book an appointment to meet our MP or send them an email…it costs nothing.

And the other way to keep these issues up the task lists of Governments is to support the campaigns like those orchestrated by Save the Children and those other charities working at the coal face. And this can be done by using their charity shops, by making the odd donation, and by plugging their work on social media like twitter. It really can make a difference. That’s the charities saying that by the way, not me.

My lady solicitor friend on that dark day a few years ago now, spent ten minutes with me, made a couple of phone calls, and had the heart to put her arm around me. For her, it might have been a slight inconvenience during a busy day. For me and my small family, she gave me space to recognise that I needed help. I owe her much.

Adding a link to your favourite charity from your blog, and offering the occasional supportive blog post or RT…these things take ten minutes. You may think it’s nothing. But it is! 

you can visit the Save the Children website here

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About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded www.onlydads.org in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
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29 Responses to Rosie, Liz, Sian and Josie – a small thank you!

  1. Karen Jones says:

    oh Bob ! I’ve always felt you needed a hug whenever I saw you, but though I would be invading your space. I won’t hesitate again. You brave man to reveal such pain for all to read.

    I keep typing stuff and deleting it. I’ll save it for another time xx

    Just remember there is a limit to the pain in the world you can shoulder when you are vunerable yourself. xx

  2. It’s crazy that on the news on telly, they showed the struggles in Somalia, directly followed by the space trip news. I know they are only bringing us all of the news, but the irony of it made me sad. Whatever happened to those drought resistant crops we developed? Evidently not drought resistant enough!!!

    Bob, that empathy that you have there is a gift to hang on to. I’ve found that is one of the best things to come out of the trauma and panic, that I’ve experienced in my life. Some people warm to empathy and respect it greatly. When I watch or read the sad news, it helps to put my past to rest and me to count my blessings. Reflecting is what I do to move forward.

    Sending you a virtual {{{{{{{{Hug}}}}}}}} cos I think this stuff is not easy to write about. Links to charities in blogs are a good way to spread awareness.

  3. mummytips says:

    Bob,
    You just made me cry…
    Next time we meet I’ll be fighting off Karen for that hug.

    The men in Bangladesh…
    They don’t care for their children and are generally found sitting around in large groups chatting and smoking. Their job is to simply create the life and not to care for it.

    Keep doing what you are doing.
    xx
    Sian.

    • onlydads says:

      I didn’t mean to make you cry for heaven’s sake! But I’ll take the hug 😉

      Men in Bangladesh – it’s interesting. I had the good fortune of spending a lot of time with a mentor during my 30’s. He was an economist with the world bank. He used to talk to me about poverty around the world. His line was that until men see the value in having all women educated and playing their full role in society the world is doomed…

      …I know what he was saying now more than ever!

      Bob x

      • mummytips says:

        He was right.

        When we were in Bangladesh, we had the most amazing Save the Children worker with us. Her name is Anika and she really is the person responsible for changing my life.
        I connected with her – to be fair, I think we all did. On our last night together she told me about a book she’d recently read… she tsaid that I should read it too.
        So right there at dinner on my last night in Bangladesh, I logged on to Amazon UK and bought the book so that it would be there waiting for me when I got home.

        The book is called Half the Sky. It’s written by the Pulitzer prize winning Nicholas Kristof.
        Anika wasn’t wrong – I did need to read that book.

        Everyone NEEDS to read that book.
        Bob, i hope that you don’t mind but I ordered you a copy on Amazon, it will be with you in a couple of days. When you’ve journeyed through it I would love to spend an evening discussing the men of the world with you.

        Ignorance is not an excuse and I know that now.
        x
        sian

  4. Claire Hadfield says:

    Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stop coping and seek help. I really believe that most people are like icebergs with their emotions, and that it takes real courage to recognise and deal with the 90% that’s usually below the surface.

    • onlydads says:

      I could not agree more. And in my experience in running OD, men find it particulary difficult!

      Bob x

  5. Sometimes finding the right words for a comment is impossible. This is one of those times.

    MJM x

  6. Cracking post, so much truth in all you said,

    am just off to add a link to my charity from my blog!

    j x

  7. WelshMum says:

    A truly wonderful post. You are right it is so hard to ask for help. Going to add some charity links on my blogs. Thank you @welshmumwales

  8. Sarah Twinn says:

    Everyone needs a hug sometimes. Sometimes a hug can help someone more than words ever will. Have been through a few dark times myself and have come back stronger and better thanks to the hugs and support from those who care about me.

    Hugs are great, in my opinion. The world would be a better place with more hugs.

    (((hugs)))

    Sarah

  9. Sara says:

    There is so much i want to say yet I can’t find the words. We all have a voice and together we can be very loud but that’s not what this blog has meant to me. Black days … I may have to come back, sorry xx

    • onlydads says:

      Hi Sara. Thank you for commenting – I’m sure all readersof this post would like to hear what you want to say…

      …my trick (if it helps) is to just say it!!

      Bob x

  10. Will says:

    It is part of the male psyche to remain strong, fix things, pay your way, protect your loved ones and dominate. However it is all a house of cards, paper thin, and sometimes all is takes is the slightest gust to bring the whole thing down. Family and job are the cornerstones of our manhood and when men lose these things we lose so much more too.

    I can’t compare my story to yours except to say that having had “black days” I know only too well that a red light, a broken shoe lace, another bill arriving and many other seemingly small things present an insurmountable obstacle. Men don’t learn how to deal with that.

    Being presented images and stories of extraordinary hardship and suffering brings much into perspective. It is tempting to dismiss your own difficulties as inconsequential when other experiences are worse than yours. However, the reality is that something deep and profound happened to you and is separate and individual from the difficulties of other people. You cannot feel guilty for struggling to cope in your world, even if the world others live in seems worse than yours.

    Having said that… Some of the issues facing our 3rd world neighbours are incomprehensible when
    considering the simplicity with which some of these things can be resolved. Politics and greed on the part of both 1st and 3rd world governments and corporations are often the primary cause of the problems and a hindrance to the solutions.

    I recently met @andyhosphysio who works with Teams4u going out to Uganda and other places to bring sporting activities to the children and adults they find there. Andy tells me that they sometimes get 3000 children turn up to these events. I mention this because the back story behind these children and their environment is heart breaking. HIV/AIDS is rife, various wars have robbed these children of their childhood and when I enquired about the holes in the photographs of the school walls Andy said this is where groups of children where executed by passing militia to prevent them growing up to become the “enemy”. Teams4u brings more people together with its events than other aid agencies can so the other agencies piggy back on Teams4u events and more people get tested for HIV because of it.

    For my part I sent a few unwanted tracksuits and cast-off running shoes with the next Team4u trip in July. It’s a small gesture but Andy is adamant that it is the small gestures that add up to something big.

    Much respect Bob

    PS. Andy says the men that survive the ravages of war and disease sit on the sidelines. Like us, they see their role as protector and provider but are far more entrenched in their hierarchy than we are.

    • onlydads says:

      Will – you comment has (and I mean every word of this) blown me away. It’s the “house of cards” analogy that did it!

      I see so many men – holding it all together. Stressed to hell and back. We must find outlets and avenues for letting some of this stuff out.

      Can I be cheeky and ask you to write a guest post for us on the subject “house of cards”. I think this readership would love it if you could find the time.

      Bob

      • Will says:

        Thank you Bob.

        I will give a guest post some thought. Men’s frailties are a hard topic to tackle and only for you post above would I have responded like this. I have many loose thoughts on fatherhood and maybe it is time to pull them together.

        Keep posing the difficult questions and I will contribute. I love this blog and I hope many more men post and reply.

        Cheers

        Will

      • onlydads says:

        Cheers Will.

        I have been told by some that some of the issues raised in my blog are “a bit to real”….but like you, the majority respond well.

        I’ll do my best to keep it real 🙂

        Bob

  11. Rebecca says:

    Wow, Bob a moving post. It is tragic to see what is happening in Bangladesh and in other countries where people are stuggling against the odds. Having worked in Southern Africa and South Pacific I have seen it, seen how people can live in the most awful conditions, I have seen things I could not write about here, I have had babies die of full blown HIV in my arms and have had women come to our clinics on a Friday to get a female condom fitted because they know they will be raped, they know that their husbands will get paid and get drunk. There were three things that really struck me from my work overseas. One is that although there is absolutely no excuse for what these men do I couldn’t help feeling for them. Many of them were lost, thier countries were in chaos, no infrastructure, no jobs, I remember working in a squatter camp and watching these men just hanging around, it was as if they had lost their souls, there was no role for them anymore. The second thing was how many incredible people I met who, in terms of what we are used too, had nothing, absolutely nothing, but they always had a smile on their faces, they just got on with thier lives as best they could, against all the odds, and their were many. And finally, the thrid thing was what an incredible jpb some of the international charities do. In oarticular Save the Children, their work is incredible, they have teams of people all over the world who really do make a difference to people’s lives. We should support them in whatever way we can. Bob is absolutely right, stick a link to to any charity that you think is doing good work, it could make a difference.

    • onlydads says:

      Rebecca – I have NO doubt your experiences have made you the woman you are.

      What you say (from a mans perspective) is almost too painful to read…

      Bob

  12. Liz says:

    Thanks for such a moving post Bob. I’m really touched that you enjoyed the session at Cybermummy – I wasn’t quite sure how the session would go down, and was a bit nervous, but the response has really been truly overwhelming.

    Projects like Blogladesh and Passiton just demonstrate that blogs and social media give us the power to spread the word quicker, faster and further than ever before. If we all stand up for what we believe in together we can make a difference.

    If you want to blog to help spread the word about the crisis in East Africa please stop by and read my blog post here: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/blogs/2011/07/east-africa-appeal-blogging-activism-add-your-voice/

    Drop me a line here @lizscarff, or at Save the Children @savechildrenuk, get the latest news @savechildrenpr

    Many thanks,
    Liz Scarff
    Save the Children

  13. Nikki says:

    Wow, such a powerfully moving and wonderful post. Save the Children do such truly amazing work – a director of the charity that i work for is a Save the Children Ambassador.
    I would also like to add that i have a high degree of empathy regarding your panic attack, it does take huge amounts of courage to admit, recognise and deal with the emotions involved. Have been there quite a few times myself and have now definitely come back stoically stronger (well,most of the time anyway!) due to fantastic support of much loved family and friends.
    A charity (apart from the one i work for) that i feel very passionate about is ‘www.scope.org.uk’ – my youngest son was a premie born at 28 weeks, a single twin of twin-twin transfusion and sadly left brain damaged. So many people focus on what he can’t do rather than enjoying what he can do, he has the most infectious personality/smile and laugh – one of the most touching and best sounds available is the laughter of babies and children. The world would be a much more nicer place if people were more compassionate and understanding.
    Hugs and laughter, Nikki xx

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