Single Parenting – A Child’s Eye View.

When Amara Eno asked for contributions to her Single Parent project I was really interested – not because I am a single parent but because I was raised by one. Often single parents and their families are judged or stereotyped negatively; I wanted to share my experiences as a child from a single parent family because my upbringing and the way my mum raised me has made me who I am and I would challenge anyone who negatively judged me, or my mum, for being a single parent family unit. You can have a look at Amara’s fantastic project here http://www.amaraeno.com/3791628-the-25-percent-ongoing#1

I distinctly remember the night I first heard my parents argue. It wasn’t like a ‘you do the washing up, no YOU do the washing up’ type argument, it was an explosive one. My sister and I slept in bunk beds and I was asleep on the top bunk. It was dark so it was late and something woke me and I remember, rather oddly, the smell of onion rings in the fryer hitting me instantly. Despite living with us, my father was rarely at home. He was more like someone who visited us occasionally than a father. He was either working or out drinking. So when I awoke to his voice it was a bit of a surprise. He was aggressively shouting at my mum. I recognised, even then as a child, that there was both fear and upset in my mother’s voice as she defended herself verbally. I didn’t feel scared but I definitely had a sense that this was definitely not the way it was supposed to be. Something felt wrong, uncomfortable even.

Weeks later my father’s belongings were in suitcases that sat at the front door. I didn’t know then, but I do know now that my mum had been scared to ask him to leave for many months because she had been an unemployed housewife for many years, she had a big mortgage and two children to feed. She was miserable with him, and physically at risk of his malicious, alcohol fuelled temper. It was only as an adult that my mum told me he had tried to strangle her once. She confided in friends and decided it wasn’t in anybody’s best interests, both us and her, to keep my father at home. She made the incredibly brave decision to leave him.

The second he walked out my mum’s life drastically changed. We went from being a financially secure family living in a large three bedroomed house to living in a two bedroomed flat; my mum went from being a housewife to having to take any job that came her way. She only took work that would allow her to work when we were at school so that she could continue to drop us off and pick us up. During all of this change, my mum never once suggested to us that what was going on was hard. She maintained a smile, said it was all an adventure and turned up every afternoon to collect us from school. I remember at meal times there would only be two plates out on the table, one for me and one for my sister. When we asked mum why she wasn’t eating she would respond with  ‘Oh I’m not hungry’ or a ‘Don’t worry, I’ve already eaten’ and as children we believed her. It wasn’t until we were a lot older that we realised that during that time she couldn’t afford to eat if she fed both her daughters. My Dad had moved out and refused to pay any maintenance or child support. He barely ever turned up to have us for the weekend and when he did, he sometimes asked my mum to drive us half way there because clearly a 30 minute car journey to see his two daughters was just too much to ask of him.

Despite this, mum never suggested he was a bad father or that we were in a bad situation. As I got older and started to ask for the trainers, designer clothes or games consoles that everybody else had at school, she was forced to be honest and tell us that she couldn’t afford to buy those things. As a parent now myself, I understand now how heart breaking that must have been for her. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t raise my kids to believe that money, designer trainers (you have to re mortgage your house for a pair these days!) and computer games grow on trees but having the resources to say yes occasionally is a real privilege really, particularly when you compare it to the ‘No, we can’t afford it’ response that my mum had to give us time and time again over many years.

Of course, we were just little girls then and I’m sure we threw our own fair share of tantrums over that answer. It must have hurt my mum so much. I see that now I have children of my own.

My mum went through a turbulent time, single parenting us for many years. She was so strong throughout. Our father continued to disappoint us every second weekend, not turning up, sometimes without notice and sometimes with the most ridiculous excuses. I think my mum definitely felt that she had to make up for where my father fell short. She would take us on days out, even if they were on a budget, and she would invest a lot of time in ensuring that we were happy, well balanced children despite the way in which our father messed us around.

As someone who parents alongside a partner, I can’t imagine how difficult, challenging and exhausting it was for my mum, and indeed for any single parents. Parenting is often a rollercoaster, the highs are high but the lows are low. It can be the most rewarding experience in your life but equally the most draining. When I need to go to the toilet, get changed, shower, cook (disclosure – I don’t cook very often) and so on, my husband takes the baby or takes over from me assisting with my big lad’s homework or the like. We are a team, and working as a team allows us as individuals to dip out to shower, make a phone call or take an “extended” trip to the toilet (in my experience this is one of the few places you are likely to come across peace and quiet. I often just sit, for way longer than necessary, enjoying the quiet!) knowing that he has everything in hand with the children. It’s not just the physical help that joint parenting brings, it’s that we face the challenges together, we always have someone to confide in about our shared concerns; it’s having someone to ride that rollercoaster with, someone who will hold your hand during the scary bits and celebrate with you during the bits that are exciting and exhilarating.

I can’t imagine not having my partner in crime at my side as we face the very unpredictable journey of parenting. Becoming a mother myself has definitely made me realise the sacrifices made by my mum to raise us and how challenging it must have been for her. If you asked her about it she would be very modest; she would say that she was just being a mother, raising her two girls. But I know that for those years of our childhood, she put her own life on hold. If raising us meant not eating, not going out, not having any luxuries whatsoever (by luxuries I mean pretty basic things, branded food at the supermarket, eating out at a café, having fish and chips from the chip shop) then that is what she did. And she did it with no complaint or hint of sadness.

Now I am ‘grown up’ (questionable at times, I know) I know that I am the mother that I am because of the way my mum raised me.  Her decision to leave my dad, thus protecting us all and minimising the negative impact he had on our lives, was so brave. She taught me never to accept ill treatment from a man, that a woman doesn’t need a man to survive and that having a decent man as a father to my children, who joins me in parenting, is not to be taken for granted.

I know that there is nothing I could do to return the sacrifices that my mum made for us but I do feel that my sister and I owe it to her now to give her immense support and treat her to the things that she missed out on for all those years. It will never repay her but it’s important to me that she knows how much she is loved and appreciated by my sister and I. We could have been very different people if mum hadn’t made those sacrifices and it is down to her that we have ended up being (quite) well rounded human beings (ish).

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: Jen from Life-Milk Blog

Hi folks, I hope you’re all having a fabulous weekend and enjoying the lead up to the festivities. I can’t actually believe we are so close to Christmas! This time next week and the main event is in touching distance! We braved town yesterday to get a couple of last minute bits (if I spend any more money on this Christmas please feel free to hit me round the chops with a wet spanner…) and before going I was dreading it. Who is stupid enough to go in to the city centre, a week before Christmas, with a one year old (who, by the way, isn’t much of a fan of shopping) whilst feeling very hormonal? Me. That’s who. I thought it would be hell on earth. Mainly, because it’s bad enough to be in a wheelchair in a busy place (constantly apologising for catching people’s ankles on the wheels or constantly pleading with people to actually see me and let me past, you know, that sort of thing) but being in a wheelchair with a baby sitting on your knee a week before Christmas sounded like a pretty bad plan to me. But we had to go, I’d left it too late to order the stuff online – ‘my bad’ (isn’t that what the young’ens say these days?!). Anyway, we went and what started as a ‘we’ll dash in, get what we need and dash out’ trip ended in us staying there all day. It was actually really lovely. Yes, it was busy – it was heaving in fact. But it was heaving with lovely people generally. We got stopped by a couple of people in the street who were handing out christmas cards and chocolates to the passers by – there was a slightly religious theme to the card but what a lovely gesture. My Little Miss is going through a phase of saying ‘Hiya’ to EVERY single person that she sees – regardless of whether they look friendly or not. Lots of people stopped to say hi back, squeezing her little hands, or patting her on the head. Even the ones in a hurry said hello back and smiled as they hurried past us. There were buskers in the street singing festive songs (and one very heavy rock singer who wasn’t quite so festive but, you know, not everyone wants to sing Wham or Mariah Carey at Christmas time) and shop staff dressed up as jolly elves greeting the children that entered the shops. It was lovely; it was a nice time to be a human. And we got everything we needed so I am now officially DONE! Hallelujah! I still have to wrap it all like but hey, details details…..

I have been so excited about sharing today’s #ThisMum post with you all. It is by Jen from the Life-Milk blog and she has very kindly allowed us in to her life for a day as part of this series. I tweeted many times to invite lots of fabulous mums to join in and participate in the #ThisMum series and, to my knowledge, Jen was the only single parent to respond. I’m so pleased that we have been able to feature a single mum. I come from a single parent family; my mum was a single mum after my Dad left when my sister and I were little. I know from first hand experience that being a single parent can be challenging. I say ‘can be challenging’ because I don’t want to make any rash generalisations because every family is different but i know on a personal level that there were times when being a single mum was really hard on my Mum. After reading Jen’s post I instantly found her inspirational. Her love and dedication to her daughter comes across loud and clear and the relationship between Jen and 9 year old Kourtney sounds really really special. I won’t spoil it for you by giving away any further spoilers and I’ll let you read it for yourself. You are going to love this one just as much as I did, I know it!

Hello Everyone,

My name is Jen and I am a 28-year-old single mother to my gorgeous 9-year-old daughter, Kourtney. I currently work part-time for a local authority in corporate services as a Marketing Business Development Executive. My usual day is quite full on as I juggle it all alone and although it can get very overwhelming at times, I am definitely used to it.

My alarm clock is Kourtney… I rarely set an alarm as I can guarantee that she will wake me up before it goes off! I would say that my usual day starts any time between 6 and 6.30am, with Kourtney delving into my bed for cuddles. We have an extremely tight bond as it has just been me and her for the last five years. We lay there for about 10-15 minutes, just chatting about anything and giving each other squeezes. Sometimes it is nice and other times annoying as I could do with the extra minutes sleep… ha-ha.

Once we have finally left my bed, we will brush our teeth and wash our face in the bathroom sink. As Kourtney is nine, she is at the age where she will wash and dress herself. Whilst she showers, I will go to the kitchen and make my first hot drink of the day, this can vary from coffee to green tea… depends whether I am on a detox or extremely tired. I try to sit at my dining table for at least 5 minutes with my hot drink, to gather my thoughts and enjoy the peace, I get whilst Kourtney is getting ready. After that, I am literally gulping my tea/coffee at any chance I can get before, we have to leave out. I always make Kourtney a glass of water and leave it on the side for her as she is usually quite thirsty, when she first wakes up.

Depending on the time we have got up, at around 7.15/30am, I have my shower whilst Kourtney is now getting dressed. Kourtney likes to listen to a times table song when she is getting ready, which has a really annoying excited tune that’s far to elaborate for these zombie hours. However, I embrace it as best as I can, because I know it is beneficial.

Once I am out of the shower, I immediately get dressed and do my hair and makeup. By this time Kourtney should be ready (she operates slower than a snail,) and then I will do her hair unless she already has it in a style in from our hairdresser. Breakfast is next and I have usually prepared it from the night before… this ranges from pancakes to toasties – my daughter isn’t really a cereal kind of child. I try my hardest to not skip breakfast but I would be lying, if I said it didn’t happen from time to time. When we have finished breakfast, I collect the lunches from the fridge as I always make them the night before as well. We pack our bags, get our shoes and coat on… and were ready to leave!

This September, Kourtney started a new school which is forty minutes away and we travel by car. Kourtney always reads to me for ten minutes of the journey, apart from weekends. We discuss what she has read before turning on BBC Radio2 for the remainder of our car journey. We always arrive at Kourtney’s school about 5-10 minutes before the school bell rings as I hate rushing and can’t deal with feeling hot and flustered. School starts at 8.45am, however Kourtney’s teacher will let them in class from 8.35am – this is handy for me as it gives me extra travel time to get to work.

Once I have kissed Kourtney ‘goodbye’ and seen her off, I get back into my car and make my way to work. I went part-time as of October, this year and so my working hours are 9.30am to 2.30pm every day. If traffic is on my side, I can get to work in thirty minutes from Kourtney’s school BUT, if it wants to be a sod then it can take forty five minutes to get in. My best friend always calls me at 8.50am, as we have both dropped our kids by then and we have a catch up and gossip until one of us reaches work. I park my car, ten minutes away from work as it is free parking (YASS) and I do love walking anyway.

 

Although I am not in my chosen career, I do enjoy what I do plus it is my time to be my 28 year-old self without a child in tow. As I mentioned before, I am a Marketing Business Development Executive and my role involves running campaigns and maintaining a relationship with our clients across the United Kingdom, through various platforms. I consider myself to have a very good work ethic and as I am the only one in my role, I have a daily hefty workload to manage. I have both a photo of Kourtney and a drawing, which she made for me on my desk. It is my daily reminder for me, to never give up and to always work as I want to be the best role model for my princess.

My day goes super-fast now I am working part-time, I usually have at least two meetings day and 50 odd emails that I aim to respond to within the same day of receiving it. I do have the option to work from home but I only do it, if I need to i.e. Kourtney is sick or it is the school holiday. I write a to-do list at the start of the week which usually increases as the week commences; however I do aim to complete everything by Friday or I will end up switching on my laptop on the weekend and doing work.

 

I leave the office between 2.30 and 2.40pm and head straight to Kourtney’s school. I absolutely adore being able to do the normal school as previously she attended after school club and collection was at 6pm. Most days we head straight home as I like to keep Kourtney in routine as much as possible, apart from Wednesdays as she has gymnastics after school. When we arrive home at 4pm, I immediately empty and wash Kourtney’s pack lunch box, whilst Kourtney unpacks her school bag and changes out of her uniform. Hold on… actually I remove my bra as soon as I get in – I despise them!!!

Once we have sorted ourselves out, I prepare a healthy snack for Kourtney which will range from fruits to oatmeal bites. We have a catch up about our days and then we either crack on with home learning or free play dependent on the day. As Kourtney attends Saturday school and I am preparing her for an independent or grammar school for her secondary education, it is very important that we do home learning 3-4 times a week. We do home learning or free play for one hour and then it is dinner time. Obviously, my days don’t run as smooth as I would always like it to but hey… that’s life!

 

The time is usually about 6/6.30pm when we have finished dinner and I always wash up straight away to avoid a huge pile up whilst Kourtney gets into the shower. I will also make our breakfast and lunches at time so any hot food has a chance to cool before they go in the fridge. Once I have finished giving the kitchen a quick whizz, we are settle on the sofa to read for ten minutes and do our peak & pit – a concept I introduced to describe the highlight and downfall of our day. We have a discussion on what we have read and then myself of Kourtney, records our comments in her reading record. This will usually take thirty minutes in total and the time will be roughly between 7 and 7.30pm. Kourtney goes to bed at 8pm and will tidy her room and get all her things by the door ready for the next day.

 

Once I have kissed Kourtney ‘goodnight’ and seen her off to bed… IT IS OFFICIALLY ME TIME!!! Although, I would say it is 50/50 of me getting to enjoy the things I like doing. Sometimes, I can kick back and watch a movie with a glass of wine or chinwag on the phone to a friend; but other times I am either doing work on my laptop or cleaning somewhere in my gaff (no rest for the wicked.) I always have a bath before bed as I like to feel fresh and relaxed as possible before I go to sleep. Once I am fresh as a daisy, I delve into bed about 10/10.30pm and aim to be asleep, at the latest 11pm, ready to do it all again the next day.

 

Links:

Email: LifeMilk@mail.com

Blog: Life-Milk.com

Insta: LifeMilk_

Twitter: LifeMilk2016

Told you you’d love it! Thank you so, so, SO much for guest blogging for me, Jen. I have really loved working with you. I’m going to steal Jen’s ‘Peak and Pit’ concept – what a fabulous way to get children engaging in conversation over the dinner table! Hopefully using Jen’s fab idea I’ll get more than a very grumpy ‘I dunno’ answer to every question I ask my teenager about his day! Massive thanks to Jen for sharing her life with us for a day; before you do anything else give Jen’s blog a visit, you will LOVE it! You can find it here

I’ll be back on Tuesday with yet another fabulous mummy and the #ThisMum series will wrap up a week today with another fantastic post to close the series. It’s been an amazing project to work on and I have met so many fabulous, inspirational mums as a result.