Why The Breakdown of a Relationship is Like Renovating a House

single mum's survival guide logoI’m right in the middle of renovating at the moment and it strikes me how closely the process parallels the breakdown of a relationship. In my case, the renovation is currently focused on my kitchen. Several years ago, when my old kitchen was newly-decorated, I had high hopes for its longevity. It was clean and smart and fresh and I loved it. Admittedly, it didn’t have everything I wanted, so I had compromised on certain things but it made me happy and I was (as ever) optimistic about the future.

But then came the day when I realised that it had become a major problem. It was, quite literally, falling apart. Help came, as it so often does, from a familiar source and just when I needed it. My sister offered to buy my share of our family property in London, which would make possible – not only the kitchen renovation – but all sorts of other much-needed improvements.

My husband (always critical of my house because he is a dissatisfied soul and it has never been tidy enough or luxurious enough in his eyes) reluctantly agreed to help with the project. He listened politely whilst I enthused about colours and materials and how much better life would be once we’d made the changes. He even helped demolish half the cabinets and unload the new flat-pack furniture. But then he left, in the hope of finding a shinier, more aspirational property which was already perfect and would require no work and we were left with the chaos.

Luckily, the boys and I have always been a great team and so we got to work creating a new space for the three of us to enjoy and feel proud of. Clearing the rest of the room has been hard, heavy, back-breaking work and has required multiple trips to the tip to get rid of the old and make way for the new. The floor was the hardest. At first it seemed that the old tiles would be easy to chip away. But it was slow and painful work and all three of us suffered cuts and bruises. We uncovered lots of unexpected issues, including a gaping hole and places where what we thought was a solid foundation had been built on crumbling sand. It was time to enlist professional help to smooth out the floor and provide a clear, level base on which to build. But we can’t use it yet, because it takes time to dry.

Are we there yet? Not quite. There are more challenges to come and some days we’ve felt weak and discouraged. The contents of the kitchen seem to have spread all over the house; it’s slow and difficult to manoeuvre and it has made even the simplest of daily tasks exhausting.

My sons have been amazing, though, and we’ve had so many laughs working together on this project. We’ve nearly finished building all the new cabinets and next week it will all start to come together. All the blood, sweat and tears will eventually become a distant memory but the sense of pride and achievement will remain, as will the bond I have with my boys.

vivienne@thelifeyoudeserve.co.uk
www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com 
@SingleMumsGuide
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Feeling Overwhelmed?

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“Being a single parent is twice the work, twice the stress and twice the tears but also twice the hugs, twice the love and twice the pride.” — Unknown
I posted this quote on my Facebook page yesterday and received this honest and thought-provoking comment: “Don’t mean to put a downer on it but I rarely have time for double hugs as working full time, taking care of two kids and the rest is knackering”
Believe me, I really understand where this woman is coming from. There are days when it’s hard to put one foot in front of the other because you are so tired and it doesn’t feel like there’s any way off the treadmill, or any appreciation for what you do.
So how do you cope with this feeling of overwhelm? A recurring theme amongst all the women I interviewed for The Single Mum’s Survival Guide was the importance of asking for help. I know, it’s hard to do and perhaps you feel there’s nobody to ask anyway. You could do a babysitting swap with a friend, family member or another mother you trust. There may be a teenager or college student that you know who’d be happy to earn some pocket money. They could even come round whilst you are still in the house but upstairs or in another room if you’re worried about leaving your child for too long with someone new. The children get someone new to play with and you get some time to catch up on work, housework, studies, shopping or just plain sleep.
It’s also important to work out what’s really important. Take a good hard look at all you do and your expectations of yourself – along with other people’s expectations of you – and see if all of them are reasonable. I remember being criticised by my ex sister-in-law for not preparing all my own home made and organic baby food. After I had succumbed to the guilt of not measuring up/looking after my child’s health in the way she thought best I finally came to my senses and realised that I was looking after my baby perfectly adequately (I read all the packaging carefully and avoided additives) – it’s just that I was working, whilst she was a stay-at-home mum with more time on her hands. Other friends with babies stuck rigidly to routines and set times for baby’s bath, nap – even a walk in the park with the pram. That would never have worked for me, so our routines were more fluid and fitted in with everything I was juggling at the time (working, house hunting, going through a divorce etc.) As long as your child is safe, well-fed and knows that he or she is loved, the rest will follow. Make sure you look after yourself too, or you’ll be no use to anyone!
As I said to the single mum on my Facebook post: the hugs will come later – and you will be receiving them, not just giving them. It doesn’t feel like anyone notices what you do but believe me, it isn’t going completely unnoticed.

Easter – A Time of New Beginnings

Easter Bunny 001It was recently announced that Cadburys would be removing the word “Easter” from their chocolate eggs, for fear of offending some of their potential customers. To me, this just seems ridiculous! But it did get me thinking about what Easter means to people, in the broader sense.

A small child might well answer “chocolate”! My boys are too old for them now, but I remember what fun we used to have on our traditional family Easter Egg Hunt. The location was generally my sister’s garden, or in my mum’s lovely old house. Her house is an ideal location – full of handy wooden beams, nooks and crannies and endless jugs, pots, boxes and containers which make the perfect hidey-hole. We adults would hide the eggs, of course and sometimes follow the smaller ones around, dropping useful hints about where to look. Eating the spoils was certainly part of the appeal for all the children, but amassing a larger haul than your siblings or cousins seemed to be equally important.

So, what does Easter mean to you as an adult? For many, it is about rebirth and new beginnings. Did you know that you can start a brand new 24 hours at any time of the day you want? It’s never too late to make a fresh start. You can use this Easter weekend as a time to have fun with the kids and reinforce family traditions. You can also use it to decide exactly what new beginning you want in your life. However: what if you find it far easier to decide what you don’t want, rather than decide on what you do? Try turning the “don’t want” statement on its head and creating the thing you do want – i.e. the opposite.

What kind of parent do you want to be?

What kind of co-parenting relationship do you want with your ex?

How do you want your home to look, feel, smell and sound when you walk through the door?

What kind of memories and traditions do you want to leave your child, what kind of legacy?

And when would now be a good time to begin that new beginning?

The Single Mum's Survival Guide - Easter Blog

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Happy Mother’s Day

I was treated to Mother’s Day breakfast, cards and gifts in bed today; the last picture is of the handmade cards that I made this morning for my mum and my sister (it’s her birthday today), inspired by these pretty mugs.

Yes, I know it’s not Mother’s Day yet elsewhere in the world, but if you’re not currently living in the UK, why not share in ours? It’s always good to celebrate!

I was having a long chat with my youngest the other day. He has a lot on his mind at the moment. GCSE exams are looming, he has a part time job and all the pressures of a friendship group going through huge changes and trying to find their place in the world. We always feel better after these heart-to-hearts and because I know him so well I can empathise and make suggestions that I know will resonate with him.

It reminded me that from the time I was a little girl, through my teens and early 20s and even now at 49, there have been times when only my mum will do! Whether I was at a loose end, feeling at odds with the world or coping with a crisis, my mum could always be relied upon to care enough to give me sound advice, cheer me up or give me a good talking to if required. When I was ill in bed she had a wonderful way of making me feel cherished with a soothing drink or something tempting on a tray. She’s nearly 87 now, so I know that the time I have with her is extra precious.

I also know, this Mother’s Day that however independent and grown-up my boys may get, it will always be my job to be there, to pay attention and to care enough to listen and be that safe port in the storm. After all, I’m the one person who knows and loves them best. So Happy Mother’s day to all of you! Keep up the good work and remember that you are irreplaceable!

www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com

 

How To Keep Going When You’re Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Single Mum's Survival Guide Illustration 5 001I have a challenge coming up this Wednesday. I will be one of the speakers at an event where the audience could number up to 50. They say that the fear of public speaking ranks up there with fear of death and the stress of divorce! Do I still get nervous? Every time! Is it worth the  discomfort? Every time! A lesson I’ve learnt in my life (especially during those intensely “character building” early years of single motherhood) that pushing myself out of my comfort zone is a good thing for me. They say that the regrets you’ll have at the end of your life are not the things you did, but the things that you left undone. For me, the joy of connecting with an audience, getting their feedback and feeling the energy in a room gives me an incredible buzz. If I can uplift and inspire just a few people in that audience, it has all been worth it.

So my question to you is: what are you putting off? What’s the one thing that would make the biggest difference to your life if you could only face up to it? For some of you it might be thinking the unthinkable and putting something in place so that you know that your children will be provided for if something happens to you. As a single mum, the idea of not being around to protect your children can be terrifying. So, imagine the feeling of reassurance and peace of mind you will have once you’ve made a will and perhaps even set up an affordable life insurance scheme. If finances are the thing you haven’t faced up to, try scheduling in a  money date with yourself to get clear about your current situation. Instead of ignoring financial difficulties, speak to your bank, speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau – or a free debt advice charity like https://www.nationaldebtline.org. My friend Bonnie Gortler is a wealth coach; here’s a link to download a free chapter of her book, Journey To Wealth  http://bgjourneytowealth.com/jtw-chp1offer/jtw-chp1offer/jtwch1/.

But what if you understand the need to take action to improve your life but it just doesn’t feel real or attainable? Or perhaps you’ve been doing well but you hit a wall and don’t feel you can continue. Here are some magic words that I learnt from my mentor, Dr Sheri Kaye Hoff:

“I decided to…”

“I’m in the process of…”

“I love the feeling of…”

I tried out one of these magic phrases just recently. I have been doing brilliantly with my running but this week I really found it hard to motivate myself. It was a cold, wet and windy evening and I’d had a busy day. All I wanted to do was curl up in bed and enjoy being toasty and relaxed. However, I found myself saying to my husband “Although I don’t feel like going out running, I love the feeling of having just completed a run – the satisfaction, the sense of achievement”. Sure enough, I found myself out there pounding the pavements and even better, that was the first time I’ve run for 25 minutes straight with no breaks! You see, I’m in the process of training for a 5k run because I decided to challenge myself this year!

For a free and confidential Strategy Session with me, just use this link: http://meetme.so/VivienneSmith

http://www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com/

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February – The Month of Love?

Single Mum's Survival Guide Illustration 13February is traditionally celebrated as the month of love. Statistics report that here in the UK £557 million will be spent going out on romantic dinners, £461 million on presents, £173 million on drinks, £211 million on flowers, £115 million on chocolates and £57 million on cards. So where does that leave single mothers? Some of you will be going out for that dinner, receiving the card and marking Valentine’s day with a happy heart. You may be embarking on a new relationship, in the throes of early lust or love and wondering if he’s Mr. Right. You may even be contemplating introducing him to your children. This Valentine’s day could be a perfect test, to see if he matches up to your romantic expectations!  In my book, I give you some suggestions for how to tell if he’s right for you.  Continue reading

Good Riddance to January?

Help!Are you glad to see the back of January? Not only did we suffer torrential rain and flooding, Blue Monday and Failure Friday (which was on 22nd January, the day when the UK’s collective willpower is most likely to be broken), yesterday was the final day for self-assessment tax returns to be completed. Still recovering from the culinary  and financial excesses, we wonder if our waistlines, bank balances and the weather will ever be the same again!

Even if statistics show that by now 80% of us will have failed in our New Year’s Resolutions by now, my friend and fellow coach Dawn Tarter suggests making a NOW Year Resolution instead. I love this concept – it means that now is the time to start and you can press start on a daily basis! Two other hugely helpful ideas I heard recently are the following:

Don’t set goals, set schedules instead.

Focus on practice, not performance.

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t set goals – you have to have a plan to feel a sense of purpose. The trick is to break it down into steps, actions, habits of movement, speech and thinking. Don’t start judging yourself too soon, just focus on putting one step in front of the other and before you know it those actions and habits will have become so deeply ingrained that they will indeed produce results and get you to your goal. If you look too far ahead it can be overwhelming.

To give you an example: I always hated running. Give me walking, swimming or badminton and I’m a happy girl. But running? Who wants to be pounding the pavements and gasping for breath? Surely people didn’t really do it for fun, did they? Well, this year I made a big commitment. I am doing the 5K Mud Monster Challenge in aid of Chestnut Tree House, a wonderful local charity. My plan is to get comfortable with the running first, before I get comfortable with the mud (don’t worry, no mud wrestling planned!) So I found an app called Couch to 5K. It breaks you in gently with a mixture of walking and running, gradually increasing the periods of running until you are used to it. I have completed fourteen runs since New year’s Day and guess what? I’m actually enjoying myself! Yes, it’s challenging but I am really rather proud of myself and I know this is a habit that I’ll continue, even after the charity run is over. I’m taking it one run at a time.

Do you need some help changing your thought patterns to support those positive habits you’d like to put in place? It doesn’t need to be a health goal – it might be to do with increasing your confidence and improving your communication with your ex, or creating a better bond with your child. For a free and confidential Strategy Session with me, just use this link to book a convenient time. Wherever you are based, the scheduling tool will show you availability in your time zone. I’ve worked with all sorts of situations and my clients are as far afield as England, America and Australia – that’s the beauty of Skype!

http://meetme.so/VivienneSmith

http://www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com/

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