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.

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Feeling Overwhelmed?

single mum's survival guide logo   Single Mum's Survival Guide small pic  illustration
“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.

Peace on Earth this Christmas?

keep calmPutting aside the twinkly lights and the tinsel, the presents and the food, Christmas is often the time of year that highlights our relationship problems. Statistics show that most families succumb to the pressure of this enforced jolliness and togetherness – it’s when the cracks can show in even the most happy households. One survey I read claimed that the average British family will have at least five arguments on Christmas Day – with the first row taking place at 10.13 am! There is certainly evidence that Christmas puts a strain on couples. Statistics show that January is the busiest month for divorce lawyers. For single mums, it’s a time when many find themselves feeling nostalgic for a past relationship or feeling bitter that they are alone at such a poignant time of year. Anger and sadness can come to the surface and spill over just when we’re trying to be the very spirit of Christmas cheer for our children, friends and extended families and try as we might, once the emotions have come up it’s tough to put them neatly back in the box and seal the lid again.

Whatever your thoughts, hopes and plans this Christmas, I’d like to help you to make it as stress-free as possible, as well as passing on a few treats just for you. I’ll be sending you a little something every day between now and Christmas. 

Today’s gift is an exercise to help you let go of your past relationship and all the unresolved feelings you still have about it. This is a letter you never have to send, yet it enables you to express exactly how you feel about your ex – even if you have mixed emotions. Just go through each question, giving your answer or finishing the sentence – either in your head or on a piece of paper. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel afterwards!


  1. When your name comes up or I think of you I feel …
  2. Something is important here; otherwise I would not be feeling this negative emotion. What is it that I want?
  3. I am still angry with you for….
  4. I am sad because I think you should have …..
  5. I wish we could have…..
  6. The things I didn’t like about our relationship were….
  7. In future relationships, I want less….
  8. I want to acknowledge me for…..
  9. I enriched your life by…..
  10. I need to forgive you for …..
  11. I want to acknowledge you for …..
  12. The biggest benefit of having a relationship with you was (if there was a benefit, what would it be?)……
  13. The things I liked about our relationship were….
  14. In future relationships, I want more….
  15. Through knowing you I learned…..
  16. This has given me…..
  17. I am angry with myself for …..
  18. Sometimes you reminded me of …..
  19. And I reacted by…..
  20. I am sad because I think I should have …..
  21. I am sorry for…..
  22. I need to forgive myself for sometimes…..
  23. I want to acknowledge you for …..
  24. I wish for you…..
  25. I wish for myself…..

If you would like my help and advice over the Christmas period, do visit my website www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com, where you can find a free audio on Coping with Christmas or sign up for a free one to one session with me.single mum's survival guide logo

A Nativity Nightmare?

single mum's survival guide logoA colleague was telling me about her niece’s Nativity play; apparently it was a little confusing because it was totally non-religious, so there was a Mary but no Baby Jesus! In fact, she wasn’t entirely sure it was called a Nativity play, but she couldn’t think how to describe it otherwise! However, the kids did brilliantly and acted and sang their little hearts out, so it was very heart-warming. I still have a photo of my eldest dressed in his costume as…a camel. He was about three and a half at the time and though I say so myself, the costume was a triumph of ingenuity. I’d cut up one of my Dad’s old dressing gowns and made him a hump and a tail and a pair of camel ears on a headband. In the photo, the headband has slipped too far down over his eyes but he is squinting manfully at the camera and putting on his cheeky grin.

They are far too old to be doing one now, but when it came to the annual school nativity play in their primary school I used to take a wad of tissues in my bag, as it always brought our family situation home to me in a very poignant way. Christmas and other holidays can sometimes present a problem; there are events, occasions and rituals that have a special significance or sentimental attachment for everyone and I have found at times like these that memories and emotions can still knock me sideways–even now. Even when you think that you’re all sorted and reconciled to the way your new life is these days, don’t beat yourself up or feel embarrassed if you occasionally find it’s all too much to cope with. You’re only human after all and you’ve been so brave and worked so hard to get to where you are now. However: not only do our kids have two homes, but they also have two Christmases and for children this can be quite a bonus! So there are always different ways of looking at it.

SMSG webinar pic 1If you’d like my help to sail through Christmas, I am offering a free hour’s Strategy Session via Skype or telephone. It might just give you the strength and the strategies to make it through the holidays in one piece and at peace with your situation. Click here to book your hour with me FREE SESSION.

You might also like to listen to my free audio, “Coping With Christmas”. Click here to gain access to your FREE AUDIO GUIDE.

Are You Feeling Less Than Festive This Christmas?

single mum's survival guide logoThe countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun. Whilst shopping one day (and walking past row upon row of Christmas “bargains”) I overheard a woman talking to her friend about trying to get into the festive spirit for her children’s sake; it was obviously proving to be a struggle, because she herself wasn’t feeling full of Christmas cheer. Remembering past years when life was a struggle and I wished that Christmas could either be cancelled altogether or at least put on hold, I really sympathised with her sentiments.

I know that many parents – single mums in particular- feel under tremendous pressure at this time of year. Will the tree be sparkly enough? Will the meal be delicious and served on time? Will everyone get on? Despite the budgetary cuts suffered by Father (and Mother) Christmas in recent times, will the stocking at the foot of the bed and all those gifts under the tree be amazing enough to satisfy this new generation of technology-hungry children? For a time that’s meant to be merry and full of goodwill, Christmas certainly comes at a price in more ways than one.

Whatever your thoughts, hopes and plans this Christmas, I’d like to help you to make it as stress-free as possible.

Click here to access your free audio guide to Coping With ChristmasSMSG webinar pic 1

Finances – Keeping Your Head Above Water?

Single Mum's Survival Guide Illustration 5 001Are you dreading the next bill or bank statement that lands on your doormat? Are you drowning in debt or struggling just to make ends meet and provide your children with a roof over their heads?

Being broke makes you weak, vulnerable and miserable. It saps your energy and stops you from enjoying life’s little pleasures. It can be frustrating and deeply embarrassing; you feel ashamed to admit it in case it sounds like you are whining or begging for a handout, yet if you don’t come clean it can make you seem unfriendly, mean or lacking in generosity. When you are desperate for money your options are limited and you can make some very bad decisions when that desperation is your primary guide.

I know all this from bitter experience. Imagine that you have just reached the checkout at the supermarket. You’ve spent twice as long choosing your shopping because you are determined to root out the best bargains and the cheapest goods. You’ve already chosen, then discarded several items on the grounds that they represented a treat, rather than a basic necessity. Feeling proud of your thriftiness, you hand over your debit card, only to be told bluntly by the cashier that your card has been declined. And the other one. The woman in the queue behind you gives you a knowing look, which turns to irritation when you have to start taking items out of the trolley, to bring the bill down to an affordable level and the cashier calls her colleague (again very loudly) and asks him to replace the items because the customer wants them refunded! You flee the shop, cheeks burning with shame. And it’s not even the first time this has happened.


If this all sounds too familiar, I really want to help you to get out of the horrible hole you’ve found yourself in. You’re not alone! You can start by listening in to my free online webinar next Wednesday with Karen McGrath, a financial expert and pensions specialist who was once a single mum herself and now spends her time helping clients to take back control of their financial affairs.

Special Guest Karen McGrath

Special Guest Karen McGrath








Register here and I’ll send you your log-in details


Divorce Do’s and Don’ts – Straight From The Lawyer’s Mouth!

 In the old days lawyers- and particularly divorce lawyers – often had a bad reputation. Proof of this lies in the plethora of lawyer jokes…here’s one I found online just now: A man says to a lawyer “If I give you £500, will you answer two questions?” “Absolutely”, says the lawyer. “what was your second question?”

Although I’ve certainly met some of the old-style legal professionals (not too long ago I had a meeting with one of them regarding a possible collaboration and once she’d finished interrogating me I felt like I’d been in the dock and also in need of a stiff drink) the new face of the law is younger, fresher and far more friendly. Recent changes in the law have also ushered in an Age of Enlightenment in Family Law. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with someone who represents the future and who is helping to put collaborative law on the map. 

Gemma Hope picIn her excellent piece for my book, Gemma Hope gives fantastic advice on navigating the legal process. For my next seminar I’ll be catching up with her again to discover the current legal situation and discuss the Do’s and Don’ts of divorce and separation. Join us this coming Wednesday at 8 pm GMT – after all, knowledge is power and it’s time to get informed.

To register for the webinar, fill in the form below and I’ll send you the log-in details. If you can’t make it at 8pm on Wednesday, you can use the same link to listen to the replay.