The Family That Eats Together Stays Together

My family, plus my son’s girlfriend have just polished off a big roast lamb with all the trimmings. It’s important for us to eat supper together during the week because I think otherwise it would be so easy to stop communicating – even just basic stuff like telling jokes or reliving memories or discussing what everyone in the family is up to at the moment. In these antisocial days of technology I can see that if I let them, everyone would be gobbling their food in front of the laptop or iPad or TV, completely immersed and failing to engage in that most old-fashioned of concepts: having a conversation! At weekends I try to keep to the same policy for at least one meal per day – we all sit down as a family.

With teenagers you need to deliberately and regularly create opportunities for interaction, or it’s easy to temporarily lose touch and become strangers living under the same roof and only having perfunctory discussions about laundry or revision, rather than allowing time for them to share the things that are really important to them at the moment. I feel very privileged when my sons confide in me and ask my advice about something. I also try very hard to keep in mind how lucky I am when one of my boys wanders unannounced into my office or bedroom, flops down and starts telling me about their day. Whichever “urgent” task I’m in the middle of can surely wait a bit whilst I listen – after all, they’re my most important priority!

Do you have a similar policy in your household, or maybe you’d like to share some other tips for keeping communication channels open with your child? Leave your comments in the form below.

“THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available to order on Amazon.

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Stick To Your Guns Or Go For The Popularity Vote?

As a parent, especially as the lone parent it can be quite wearisome to always do the right thing. After all, you are the one who has to play both good cop and bad cop and do rules, playtime and hugs – sometimes all in the same day! That old threat that our mothers used – “Wait till your father gets home” is clearly not relevant here, as he’s never coming home…So do you give in because it makes things easier in the short run? Here’s what one of the single mums in my book had to say:

The biggest mistake that I made was over-compensating with things to make him happy for that moment. But it continued on and that’s when I go away from what I thought my true parenting skills were, you know–being so diligent about making sure that he had his chores and making sure that he appreciated money. I think at that time I was so tired that I started falling away from what I really believed I should be doing as a parent, and that’s when I just started spending the money on him. It would make him happy and then that would make me feel so happy but then 2, 3 weeks later he’d start again and he’d want something else to make him feel better. Of course he was just a kid and he didn’t realise that it was just a Band-Aid, and it’s not going to make it better in the long run. I knew that too but I think it was just easier to do. I don’t think I was trying to take the easy way out but I was tired and that became the new normal for me, just to hand things over like that. So at this point even now he’s struggling with the value of a dollar and how to balance his cheque book, and I ‘m trying to help him be good with his money and to help him realise that it’s not a free ride- you don’t just stick your hand out and someone gives you something. So that’s something I look back on and really wish that I’d reached out to someone and gotten help sooner or stopped it early on.

So don’t be afraid to do the right thing, even if it’s tough. parenting isn’t a popularity contest and your children need loving but firm guidelines to help them feel secure at this challenging time for all of you.

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My book, “THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available to order on Amazon.

A Rich Inner Life

At my book club this evening we were discussing “Clever Girl” by Tessa Hadley. Although we all found the central character -herself a single mum- profoundly unsympathetic, the author described particularly well what it means to be clever and imaginative and how this needs to be nurtured. Indeed, I believe that this inner life of thoughts and daydreams and self-talk is especially vital for single mums. Somehow you can get through the hours of drudgery which are unavoidable with children if this aspect of you is alive and well. For me, one of my greatest treats was enjoying a glass of wine and a book whilst soaking in a long hot bath once both the boys were safely tucked up in bed. It restored me to adulthood after a day of baby talk and gave my poor brain a rest from its endless reliving of the day my life changed inexorably. If I wasn’t immersing myself in fiction then I wanted to read a book that would help me to find some answers to the endless “why”s and “what-if”s of the end of my 15 year relationship. One of the reasons that I wrote this book, however, was that at the time there just weren’t enough books that really spoke to me of what I was going through at the time. Sometimes I felt like reading something wry and lighthearted about life and love’s ups and downs, whereas on other occasions I really wanted some purely practical and no-nonsense advice written by someone who really knew single motherhood and who preferably spoke from personal experience.

“THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How to Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available now on Amazon and hits the shops on 1st July.

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Now this adage is not entirely true, because it’s hard to imagine that I could be fonder than I am already of my two sons. However, it would certainly be true to say that absence makes you appreciate each other more, as evidenced by the arrival home of the children tonight after a weekend with their dad. My youngest and I snuggled up and got cosy whilst he related tales of the weekend’s activities and showed me his history project. It always feels like the house is pleased to have them home again – the silence and peace when they are away can seem eerie sometimes; once they are safely home again, even when they are sleeping soundly, the silence has a comforting fullness somehow. So make the most of the time they are away – not just to recharge your batteries with some “me time”, but for the fond reunion when they return to you.

“THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE- How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available now to order on Amazon and the book will be in bookstores in July.

Clear Out The Clutter

I like to have a good clear out and get rid of clutter on a regular basis; now, if truth be told some people will never have to do this because they never accumulate enough clutter in the first place. They move through life smoothly and efficiently, shedding the unnecessary as they go. But for me and a lot of women I know, there’s some clutter still left to clear. As a single mum you may have the physical effects of your old relationship – photos, valentines cards, mementoes of your time together.  Don’t be too hasty to purge here because there might be things like photos that your child may really appreciate having in the future- after all, this is documentation of family history. Perhaps they could live in the attic -out of sight- until your child might want to look through them, by which time they might not seem so painful to you to behold.  Then there’ll be the mental and emotional clutter – the pain, the hurt, the anger and the regrets. Isn’t it time you had a clear out, to make room for a happy new life? All the readers of my book are entitled to a free session with myself or one of my associate coaches. I’d like you to have the opportunity to clear out your clutter now. Haven’t you waited long enough?

“THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available to order now on Amazon.

Retaining Your Integrity

I’ve been faced with a couple of situations at work today that will require some tough action and doing the right thing, as opposed to the popular or expedient thing. In discussion with a colleague, the word “integrity” came up. It’s a high value for her, as it is for me. It got me thinking about past challenges and dilemmas that I faced as a single parent.

In a confusing world of contradictory emotions and conflicting interests, single mums can have a tough time maintaining their integrity and staying true to their values. Well -meaning friends and supporters might be enthusiastically promoting revenge, disruptive game-playing or other ways to punish your ex. Tempting though some of these strategies might be when you are newly-wounded and in the crazy first days, what will that really achieve for you in the end? And how might that impact your children? When I was interviewed recently about my life and why I wrote my book this topic came up. I simply replied that you will have to look at yourself in the mirror and be able to hold your head up high, so maintaining your dignity seems like the only viable option to me. There’ll be so many occasions through the years when there might be pressure from your ex or his family or a new partner to conform to their plans, compromise your parenting principles or agree to things that normally you wouldn’t be happy with. In desperate times you may be tempted to give in, cheat the system or massage the facts in the name of sanity or survival. After all, look at all the indignities and tribulations you’ve had to suffer as a single parent- who can blame you for wanting an easy life? But the short-term gain will in no way make up for that guilty sinking feeling which tells you that you have not acted in alignment with your values. Be true to yourself and years from now, when the dust has settled and the current challenge has long passed, you’ll be pleased you did.

“THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available now on Amazon and hits the shops in July.

A Mother’s Pride

Today my tall and handsome 17 year old son excitedly shared with me his plans for the web design and internet marketing course he plans to attend on leaving school. I’m so proud of him and the young man he has become, as well as the productive and successful adult I’m sure he will be in the future. I look back to the time when his father left (my son was 3 years old then) and I first became a single mum. Being a parent has always felt like my most important job in life and days like this make it all worthwhile. Here is what some of the single mums in my book have to say:

 Louise So, I suppose somewhere along the line I’ve done a good job, with the immense help of my family, even though I haven’t got everything right. Somewhere along the line I did OK. Despite the most horrendous stuff that’s been thrown at us we have survived. Just always make sure that the kids are alright, no matter what.

Emer. That’s what got me out of being a flaky art student, the fact that I had this focus and it pushed me massively through life, and I’m extremely proud of everything that I’ve achieved. I’ve got my two degrees and I’ve got my MA and my post grad and now my teacher qualification and a good job. If I hadn’t had my daughter, none of that would have happened. Definitely not. I would be backpacking round Australia, working on some banana farm or something!

Elaine I could never regret marrying my ex because I’ve got these two wonderful children. So don’t regret what you’ve done in life.

As I state in the book, I do feel it’s a real achievement to have raised happy and productive people in our children and we should applaud ourselves and each other for the milestones we reach in parenting.

“Everything I am is because of my mom.”
—Sarah Michelle Gellar

“THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up the Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available now on Amazon and will be available in bookshops on 1st July.