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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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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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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The Secret Recipe For Christmas Happiness

 

Xmas webinar slide 1 001Many families have their favourite recipes at Christmas, handed down from one generation to the next. I know that I was lucky with learning to cook and appreciate food because my mum was a stay-at-home mum who not only came from a proud line of Yorkshire women renowned for their culinary skills but had also done a Cordon Bleu cookery course when she was first married. Even today you could drop in to see my 86 year old mother and guarantee to be served a home made delicacy appropriate for the time of day. If it’s lunchtime it might be a mouthwatering roast with her home-grown vegetables and famous Yorkshire puddings or one of her East African curries. If it’s coffee or tea time it will be a melt-in-the-mouth Ginger Thin or during the Christmas period, a freshly-warmed mince pie. Many of us don’t have the time or the energy to bake these days – I know I often don’t. However, despite the potential sticky mess, it is well worth making the effort to cook with your children. You can involve them with age-appropriate tasks, from choosing the ingredients at the supermarket to preparing, mixing and decorating the finished result; it also pretty much guarantees that they will eat the finished result, which is a sneakily effective way of dealing with a child who is a fussy eater! Moreover, you are creating togetherness and fond memories and developing their skills and confidence.

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.

mince piesToday’s gift is the recipe my mum and I always use to make mince pies at Christmas time. In my opinion they are far nicer than anything you could buy and well worth the effort and time spent in the kitchen. Children love to help assemble these and for a fussy eater you could substitute a spoonful of jam for the mincemeat filling.

INGREDIENTS

560 g mincemeat (the sweet variety with chopped fruit, sold in jars)

350 g plain flour

75 g lard

75 g margarine

a pinch of salt

For the top:

a small amount of milk

a small amount of granulated sugar

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).

You will also need one (or two) trays of 6 cm pie tins, one fluted 7.5 cm pastry cutter and one 6 cm cutter.

Instructions

Make up the pastry by sifting the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and rub in the fats (bring them to room temperature and then cut them into small cubes first, to make it easier to blend). The trick with pastry is not to overhandle it or get it too warm at this point, so mix it quickly with your fingertips by lifting the pieces of fat up high over the bowl with the flour (so you are letting plenty of air in) and rubbing it gently and lightly through your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Use a knife to begin with and then your hands, then add just enough cold water so that the ball of dough leaves the bowl clean but is not too sticky.

Leave the pastry to rest covered in clingfilm (Saran Wrap) in the fridge for 20-30 minutes, then roll half of it out so that it’s as thin as possible but not breaking and cut it into twenty four 7.5 cm rounds, gathering up the scraps and re-rolling.

Then do the same with the other half of the pastry, this time using the 6 cm cutter.

Now grease the pie tins lightly and line them with the larger rounds. Fill these with a good spoonful of mincemeat, but don’t overfill as they split in the oven. Dampen the edges of the smaller rounds of pastry with water and press them lightly into position to form lids, sealing the edges.

Brush each one with milk and make three snips in the tops with a pair of scissors. Sprinkle with a small amount of sugar. Bake near the top of the oven for 25-30 minutes until light golden brown.

Cool on a wire tray and when the mince pies are cool, store them in a Tupperware or airtight tin. To serve: mince pies are best eaten when they’ve been warmed in the oven, either on their own or with cream or brandy butter.

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

Secretly Dreading Christmas?

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It’s not quite December, yet already the customary Christmas madness is creeping in. Here in the UK it seems like every other advert on TV is showing happy families gathered around the Christmas table, tucking into a festive feast – or snuggled up and cosy around a Christmas tree, a small child squealing with delight at the perfect gift, whilst its proud parents hold hands and smile indulgently.

But what if you can’t see any chance of achieving that happy scene? Christmas can seem like an especially cruel way of reminding you that you and your little family don’t fit in to those idealised ideas. I still remember my first Christmas as a single mum and how very bleak that midwinter was for me. Despite the valiant attempts of my mum and dad and my two sisters to create some Christmas cheer, it was hard to come to terms with the fact that it was my baby’s very first Christmas and his father wasn’t there. I had no home of my own, very little money – even to buy presents – and the future looked anything but rosy. Then later on (and still to this day) came the challenge of Christmas without my children, as their dad claimed his turn.

If you are secretly dreading Christmas then please know you are not alone. Through my own 13 years’ experience and by talking to many other single mums, I’ve gathered together a treasure trove of tips and tricks to help you to not only survive Christmas this year but make it memorable for all the right reasons.

This audio recording will provide you with a host of encouraging tips and tricks for not only coping with Christmas as a single mum but making it memorable for all the right reasons.

Click here for your free audio guide

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Watch Your Mouth!

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I set out early on Saturday morning, feeling excited about attending a course run by the incomparable Shaa Wasmund. A glowing example of female business success, Shaa went from journalism to being the only female manager in the male-dominated world of boxing, to helping James Dyson become a worldwide brand with his innovative vacuum cleaners. From there she went on to form Smarta (a UK small business advisory service), become a multiple bestselling author and entrepreneur and win an MBE for services to business and entrepreneurship. She is without doubt an inspiration to working mothers everywhere and I was in a buoyant mood as I pulled into the petrol station to fill up with fuel for my journey to London.

As I queued at the till, I became aware of one of the servers, who was holding forth to his colleagues in a loud voice. He was still talking when it was my turn to pay but by now his diatribe had taken on a rather more disturbing vein. The phrase that stood out for me -and all the rest of his captive audience- was “Women are all thieving b*tches!” His colleague and I both remonstrated with him but there was no apology forthcoming and as I returned somewhat shakily to my car, I looked up to see him glaring malevolently at me through the window of the kiosk.

It’s not the first time, of course, that I have witnessed such blatant misogyny. It soon became apparent that my second husband had a deep-rooted mistrust and scorn for women which bubbled away below the surface only to erupt with frightening consequences and perhaps it was his echo that I heard in this other man’s voice that made me feel so disturbed and distressed. Don’t get me wrong. I have met the odd man-hater in my time too. I was once a guest on a talk show about victims or perpetrators of infidelity (thereby lies another tale!) and a fellow guest had a tattoo on her arm which proclaimed “Trust No Man” in Japanese! The parallel term for misogyny (hatred of women) is misandry (hatred of men). Let’s stop these terrible generalisations right now. Whatever life or one particular member of the opposite sex has thrown at us, surely it’s no justification for perpetrating aggression and prejudice towards an entire gender? We need to watch our mouths before our children mark our words and a whole new generation learns to hate.

For more details of my book, to download my free report:”The First Three Steps To Solving Any Problem” or to book a free coaching session with me please click here http://www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com/

 

Why Macaroni Cheese Matters

Yesterday my 18 year old made macaroni cheese for the family’s supper. Nothing groundbreaking about that, you may think (although those of you with teenagers may already be recognising how momentous and unusual this event this is!) The thing is, he wasn’t asked to do it, or doing it because he felt he should – he genuinely wanted to cook for us.

To put this into context, my youngest is a keen cook and regularly treats us to home made bread and other delicacies – he made a delicious apple crumble the other day with apples from Granny’s garden. His elder brother, however, is not only an extremely fussy eater with an alarming penchant for fast food and ready meals, but also very preoccupied with girlfriend, work, college and all the important things, like going out with friends, marathon film viewing or X-box sessions. Most weeks now I ask him what his plans are, so that we can make the most of him when he’s at home and available.  I am well aware that my time with him living at home is finite.  Luckily, we love his girlfriend and my house is like a second home to her now but my son is an ambitious and talented young man and he’ll be wanting a place of his own before too long, more than likely with her. I am so proud of the life and career I can already see him carving out for himself, in his deeply-felt values, skills and determination and when he makes his mark on the world (as he surely will) I’ll be there, cheering  him on from the sidelines as always.

I suppose what touches me most these days are those small but important signs that family is still important to him, that he is still thinking of me and appreciating my support and encouragement. A quote I love about parenting is that you must give your children both roots and wings, and that is what I’ve always tried to do as a parent. So, you see, Macaroni Cheese matters  – and guess what? It was delicious!

If you would like a free SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL STRATEGY SESSION with me via phone or Skype, I’d be delighted to speak to you. Book now with this link: http://meetme.so/VivienneSmithsingle mum's survival guide logo