Not an Easy-Breezy Time

single mum's survival guide logoRecently my 16 year old and I had one of those conversations where you tackle Life, The Universe and Everything. During the course of our conversation he shared with me something very touching. A friend had asked him about his childhood and all the upheaval we’ve had in our lives, which (if you don’t know my back story) included his dad leaving us when he was 3 weeks and his brother 3 years old, a scary period when I was stuck in a disastrous second marriage to a Jekyll and Hyde character and the painful and confusing jordan-whitt-145327end of my 9 year partnership at the end of August.

His friend was moved to tears, which he reported had surprised him. “I mean, I know we didn’t have an easy-breezy time, Mum – especially you”, he explained, “but I’ve always thought of myself as having a very happy childhood”. And do you know: I agree. Some of our past has been incredibly sad and difficult but as a family the boys and I have kept close, kept talking and had some fun along the way. Whatever else was going on my sons had all the normal ingredients that a happy childhood needs – things like bedtime stories, fun and games, children’s parties and play-dates, fresh air, exercise, arts and crafts, days out and excursions, family time, essential rules and values, plenty of conversation and lots and lots of love.

Many of the single mums I’ve worked with have been consumed with guilt that the upheaval in their own relationships will have permanently damaged their children. Not necessarily so, I promise you. There is a well-known theory that the crucial formative years are 0-7 and that beyond that it’s too late too change what’s already been laid down. I have also heard that up until the age of 15, a child or young adult is still open to beneficial influence when it comes to the forming of their character, beliefs and values. The truth is that even as adults we are growing, learning and putting down new neural pathways all the time. It’s never too late to give your child a happy and stable childhood and even grown children can learn new ways to be at peace with the traumatic events or feelings of a less-than-perfect-past. If the love, communication and intent is there then as far as I’m concerned you are more than halfway there, no matter what life may throw at you and your child.

To get clear on your family values and how to create a happy home for your child, whatever else is happening, why not take advantage of my free strategy session?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Ways to Boost Your Energy and Motivation

lonely slide 001I ran out of energy today. My energy, happiness and motivation took a nose dive and everything felt like an effort. I’m willing to bet that you have days like that, especially if you are a single parent, single-handedly juggling so many things.

Sometimes I decide to lean into something and then learn from it later and that’s what I’ve done today. But as the evening continues, my confidence and determination are bubbling to the surface again, thanks to some research, reflection and re-commitment.

I’d like to share 8 ways I’ve found to shake off a slump in energy and motivation, making sure that taking time out to regroup doesn’t mean opting out of what’s really important in life.

1. Look at how you are fuelling your body and your mood. At this time of year I always feel extremely tempted to reach for chocolate or snack on toast or cereal. Today I’ve tried to avoid excess sugar and carbohydrates so as to sidestep that blood sugar slump which causes an energy crash and mood downturn.
2. Exercise and fresh air. We all know how beneficial this is – and the great thing is that you can instil healthy habits in your kids when you bring them along for the ride, whether you choose to ride a bike, rollerblade, play in the park, run or just take a walk. Yesterday we went for a bracing walk in the local hills and certainly got lungfuls of fresh air, as it was practically blowing a gale by the time we reached the top. But it felt so good to “blow away the cobwebs”! Today I wasn’t feeling quite so energetic but I ventured out between showers. My slower pace gave me the added bonus of noticing all the spring bulbs that are beginning to flower and reminded me of the hope and potential that most days I see with ease, even if today it was harder to do so. Researchers have found that the colour green sparks creativity and boosts motivation. Yet another reason to hit the great outdoors, even if that just involves stepping out into the garden.
3. Some time ago I watched a fascinting TED talk by Amy Cuddy, professor at Harvard School of Business, on the importance of body language. Just 2 minutes of a High Power Pose will increase your confidence and decrease your stress. It will affect your body chemistry and also how other perceive you. Try standing with feet hip apart and hands on hips, or having a big stretch with arms fully extended and see what I mean. A High Power Pose is anything that uncurls the body and opens up your stance – essentially it means making a bigger shape, taking up more space. If you feel shy doing it in front of people, try it by yourself in a bathroom!
4. Try doing one thing at a time, not multi-tasking – even if you just do one thing at a time for 15 or 20 minutes. Set a timer and see what you can get done.
5. Be mindful and bring yourself back to the present moment. Become aware of the physical sensations, sights and sounds that you are experiencing and make each chore or task a mini meditation.
6. If you can’t seem to get started at all: start with something small and work up to something bigger. Most things can be broken down into smaller steps.
7. Make a deal with yourself – for example: “once I’ve finished this I’m going to reward myself with half an hour of reading my book/ a cup of tea” etc. This works wonders for children too, and helps break up the drudgery of the day.
8. Don’t overthink your next action – just do it. Avoid the paralysis of analysis and remind yourself that once you get started there will be added momentum to keep going. There’s a fabulous mantra which I found online today – “Dream big, start small and act now”.

In need of an extra boost? Book an hour’s free Strategy Session with me.

My book, The Single Mum’s Survival Guide, is for sale on Amazon.

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Advice – Easy to Give, Hard To Take?

We are all, at some time or another, in a position to both give and receive advice.

Both ends question-mark-1026526_640of that conversation can be fraught with difficulties and objections.

Over the weekend I was mulling over an issue I had at work. I am definitely someone who has to remind myself to compartmentalise on occasion, as worries at work can otherwise disturb time with my loved ones and vital moments when I should be switching off and recharging my batteries!

I was discussing my dilemma with my partner and he gave me the solution or action that he would take, yet pointed out that it was all very easy to give advice, which was generally ignored by the person who actually had to take the action as they already had their own individual ways to work through a problem and communicate with others. We laughed at how much easier it always was to see (or imagine we can see) exactly how to solve someone else’s problems.

This morning I was hard at work in my office when there was a knock on the door. I opened it to admit a somewhat tearful friend of my son’s who had an urgent dilemma and really seemed in need of some good advice. The first thing I did was to discover what she saw as the problem, what she had tried to do to solve it so far and what she now saw as her available options. Generally speaking, as was the case this time, there are more avenues to go down than there first appear to be. We talked through some of these and I reassured her that in my experience at least, honesty is the best policy and will often disarm even the angriest of detractors. With further encouragement from her friend (my son), this gave her the courage to decide how to respond. Happy (but still tearful) hugs ensued when the problem was resolved.

Today I talked to a colleague and discussed my options again. When I arrived at a solution to my own problem, he made the comment that I had actually known all along what the best thing was to do. I realise that this is true but also acknowledge how helpful both those conversations – one with my partner and one with my colleague- were in allowing me the courage of my convictions and the spur to take action.

So is it pointless to give advice? Absolutely not, just as it’s always worth listening to someone else’s proffered solution, even if you choose your own course of action. As a coach, as a friend and most especially as a parent, I believe that it is possible to help when called upon for advice – but that this help should encompass being a sounding board and asking the right questions, then giving the support and encouragement so that the person in question can make their own decisions. Today I’d urge you not to feel helpless when someone asks for advice, but to embrace the opportunity in assisting in their decision-making process. And when someone gives you advice: don’t reject it out of hand, nor mindlessly follow it but use it as a starting point for finding the decision that you knew all along.single mum's survival guide logo

Is It Possible To Ever Achieve Balance?

Balance. It’s the hot topic, whether it be work-life balance or parent-self balance; and for single mums it gets a whole lot more complicated.

Show me a parent, particularly a single parent and I’ll show you a whole load of mixed feelings about balanced-stoneswhether they have – or will ever – achieve a good balance.

Let’s look at parent-self balance. Yes, you are a single parent and your children are the most important thing in the world to you. But how can you be a healthy, happy parent if you don’t attend to your own needs as well as theirs? As a healthy adult, you will need “me” time to keep you going.  In an article for the Telegraph, TV presenter Cherry Healey explains her belief that the “me” time she carves out prevents her from going into overwhelm and means she is less likely to snap when the pressures of everyday parenting start to mount. She explains that in the weeks where she can’t find that time, she really feels the difference. Healey argues that this time, instead of being “entirely for me” is actually “entirely for everyone” because of the positive benefits that impact the whole family when she takes that vital time for herself.Read Cherry’s article here

When I was writing my book, one of the women I interviewed scoffed at this concept of “me” time, or free time. As far as she was concerned, it was non-existent! And yet if you are really creative in the way you look at time it can be done. The next trick, once you have that precious chunk of time, is to be fully present and not waste it worrying about other things. I found some great ideas on ways to spend and not fritter away your me time, whether it consists of five minutes or an hour in this post on the Web MD site.

Then there is the question of how to strike the balance between your adult relationship with a partner and that as a parent with your child or children.Of course in families where the biological parents are still in a relationship together as well as jointly raising their offspring – either in the context of a marriage or committed relationship – this balance is just part of family life. I’m not suggesting it’s easy, but it may be easier than other scenarios. Because once you start bringing other people into the mix the balance isn’t a given, it’s something you have to consciously create.

I am currently dating again and over the last couple of months I have been exploring that theme of balance all over again. I have two well-balanced and easy-going young adults living at home. Whilst they are clearly not keen to have another male adult take up position in their home just yet, they are delighted that their mum is out having fun and have given my new relationship their blessing. I am having a great time and rediscovering all sorts of things that I love to do (like visiting art galleries) with someone like-minded, whose company I really enjoy. I am also lucky to have a partner who is respectful of my responsibilities.

Despite all this, I have worried at times about whether I have found that balance between giving enough time to a new partner and allowing enough time at home to keep the household running smoothly and make sure that my boys are not missing out too much on my help and support. I’ve been concerned that we are still communicating well and spending enough time together. Do I get it right all the time? No. I can tell when I am getting it wrong and spending too much time away from home because the house starts getting messy, the laundry piles up and the children and I miss school, college or work deadlines. I feel anxious and my confidence and sense of self begins to get submerged. Other signs that your life is out of balance may be that you are not sleeping well, find yourself drinking or eating too much or finding it hard to concentrate. Pay attention to these symptoms, stop and ask yourself what’s really going on and whether there is an underlying thought or emotion that needs your attention.

As far as relationships go, one of the important things to remember- particularly for an old romantic like me – is that partners, especially in a new relationship, need “me” time too (however tempting it might be to become really wrapped up in each other and all the delights of a new-found intimacy). Time apart can be a blessing and ensure that both individuals maintain important friendships, commitments and interests outside of that new relationship.  It’s more than likely that a new partner will have their own children and responsibilities, which will need the same careful consideration as yours do. Besides, excessive neediness in a relationship can translate as clingy and off-putting.

So how can you achieve the right balance in a relationship when you are also a parent? It has to come down to communication and it will be up to both of you to negotiate a pattern that works for you. It may be harder to be spontaneous, particularly if one of you has small children but you can always plan ahead to snatch that time together. A single mum I spoke to recently explained how great it was just to get a few hours to spend with her new partner one evening a week – even if they just spent it watching TV and having adult conversation! If this all sounds very practical and unromantic: maybe it is, but as a single parent you do need to be practical and any potential partner worthy of you will recognise and respect this because it’s got to be part and parcel of the package that comes with you.

And what about the children? Don’t rush into integrating your partner into their lives immediately. Your children might still be dealing with issues from your breakup, or be feeling insecure about any new changes. In my case, my children are old enough and confident enough to articulate their feelings about this and so I can explore this and any other future changes without ruffling any feathers. The decision is always yours as the adult and nobody would suggest that your children should dictate your choices in this regard but I do believe that children of any age must have a safe space to express honestly how they feel about proposed changes that may affect them. If this relationship is right there’s no need to rush because you’ve got plenty of time and if it isn’t then you’ll be glad that the children haven’t been too saddened or traumatised, even if the adults in question are.

Perhaps you feel that it’s all just too much like hard work to have a relationship at all? I know that at various stages of my single mum journey I have been advised just to stay single for now. I could concentrate on my work and studies and make the most of time on my own and of course in many ways that would be simpler (albeit, from my point of view anyway, lonelier). The single mums I’ve worked with in my coaching sessions have often felt very keenly the conflict between wanting to be fulfilled as an adult woman, yet mindful of their role as mother. However, as author Dr Ellen Kreidman explains in her book Single No More, you should feel the guilt and do it anyway because otherwise you’re going to resent the fact that you’re not dating and this resentment can negatively impact the children in any case! As she explains: ” The best gift you can give your children is the example of a well-balanced, happy adult life. Everything you do and say and feel is a lesson for your children. When you take care of yourself emotionally by enjoying your life and the people who populate it, you’re teaching your children how to become healthy, happy adults as well.” 

Am I learning and getting better at finding the balance? Yes, I believe I am. Balance: it may not be a straight line – more likely a zig-zag path,  but we need to make sure that in the end the average is somewhere near the middle. I think the thing to remember is that it changes all the time and we must just learn to adjust as we go along. For me, the best guideline I have is to go on my gut feelings and to keep tuning in to the signals I am getting from the significant people in my life and from my own inner sense of equilibrium.

The Single Mum's Survival Guide - Easter Blog

Are you Wallowing in it, or are you Wading Through it?

single mum's survival guide logoThere are so many ways to cope with the loss of a relationship, but some of them will make you feel a whole lot worse…

Denial- you assure everyone you are fine but you realise that you are drinking too much, eating too much or laughing just a little too loudly. You may even be dating again with a vengeance and using -often unsuitable – other people to make you feel better (this is not fair on the person you have picked for this job, and it’s not worthy of you). You may be pretending everything’s fine but inside you feel like a jelly that’s slowly dissolving into a puddle. Quit pretending and ask for some help. You don’t have to share this with everyone, but it’s important that you tell someone the truth (even if the first person you admit this to is: yourself!)  Once you’ve done this, get some help. You might pick a couple of close confidantes that you can talk to when things get really bad, or you can write it down and use a diary or journal to help get some of the angst out of your system. If you are unwilling to unburden yourself to a loved one, come and see me or another professional – we are paid to listen and we actively enjoy the process of assisting you in processing what you are going through.

Obsession – you are stalking your ex online, or pumping his friends or family for information about him, even if that information serves only to make you feel more miserable and depressed about your split. No contact is the best way to go here and if you have to communicate over the kids: do that but only that. Don’t use your children as a way to initiate unnecessary contact or prolong a dialogue about what went wrong and who did what to whom. That way madness lies! Work out a strategy to communicate with your ex so that you don’t feel bruised or battered after every exchange.

Withdrawal – You have become a recluse. You’ve stopped going out or seeing anyone and you have started to withdraw from even the most innocuous of interactions. You need to heal and some alone time is a must but beware of becoming too lonely when actually a visit with a friend or family member might be just the tonic you need. If you are afraid of breaking down and weeping all over anyone you speak to, practise a phrase that you can use when your lower lip starts to tremble – something along the lines of “Anyway, let’s change the subject- tell me about you!” And then do just that. Don’t keep returning to the subject, give yourself a break.

So are you wallowing in it, or are you wading through it? It will take time, but make sure that you are taking a small step every day in the right direction. You may not be running yet, but I can help you get to the other side!

Book your free no-obligation Skype strategy session here

Email: vivienne@thelifeyoudeserve.co.uk
Website: www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/singlemumssurvivalguide/
Twitter:https://twitter.com/@SingleMumsGuide

The End of The World As You Know It

Sound dramatic? That’s how it feels when you’re dealing with a breakup, whether it’s your decision or his (but especially if it’s his).

Today I took my visiting Spanish student to the new Tom Cruise film, Edge of Tomorrow. Without giving too much of the plot away, Cruise’s character gets lots of chances to improve the drastic situation he finds himself in. But only if he dies first.

To me – and to many of the single mums who tell their stories in the pages of my book – the end of my relationship did indeed feel like a death. The curious thing is, though, that like the character in the film, we all (in different ways) found that this gave us a unique opportunity to start again, wipe the slate clean and improve our situation. I want all single mums out there who are going through those nightmare early days to use the book as a resource, to get through to the other side. Writing the book certainly changed my life – and I hope that reading it will change your life for the better, too.

I’m launching my book, “THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” on Friday 4th July, 7.30 – 9.00 pm at The Steyning Bookshop, 106 High Street, Steyning, West Sussex. If you’d like to come and meet me and get your signed copy, come and join me for a glass of wine and some nibbles and you’re welcome to bring a friend.

It’s Not Fair

As a single mum, particularly in the early days, when you are still adjusting to the situation, it becomes all too easy to spend your time bitterly bemoaning your fate. “It’s not fair, why me? What have I done to deserve this?” You wistfully imagine just how much rosier life would be if you were in a relationship. Then everything would be better. You wouldn’t be worrying about making ends meet, or dealing with lawyers, or finding childcare, or dealing with all this emotional upheaval. If only you had a loving partner,then everything would be OK.

The truth is that it’s not just what happens to you, it’s how you deal with it that counts. Sure, you’ve had a basinful, but there are ways to deal with those challenges that will minimise your stress. It’s why I wrote the book and why I have included chapters on the most common issues that single mums face – dealing with the breakup, keeping your head above water financially, the legal stuff, all the emotional and practical help that I wish I’d had at the time. My book is for you, so that this time in your life can become one of your proudest achievements and a chance to create the life you deserve.

“THE SINGLE MUMS SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available to order on Amazon and hits the shops on 1st July. If you’d like to come and meet me and get a signed copy of the book, come along to The Steyning Bookshop, The High Street, Steyning, West Sussex on Friday 4th July at 7.30 pm. We’ll be celebrating, so there’ll be wine and nibbles and you’re welcome to bring a guest.