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 
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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

 

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

Forgiveness Is a Gift You Give Yourself

 

Single Mum's Survival Guide CARTOON NUMBER 11 001There was a time a few years ago when I started to have terrible dreams about all the people in my life who have hurt me or let me down. The plots changed and became a changing cast of characters over successive nights. These ranged from my first and second husbands, childhood and college friends, a scary ex-employer and a dear friend from schooldays who now has a new life and interests and no longer makes time for our friendship. The one thing they had in common was that they were all people who had left me with unresolved feelings of sadness, hurt, loss and resentment. It may well have been that writing my book and going over painful old ground had dredged up all these old wounds and brought them up for me to look at and resolve once and for all. You may well find that at a time of great stress and emotion in your life, such as the events that caused you to find yourself starting out again as a single mother, you have a similar experience of introspection. This can be a very uncomfortable process, but one thing I have learned in my own work as a transformational coach, hypnotist and Beyond NLP practitioner (not to mention in my own life) is that emotions will continue to resurface until you deal with them, so this can be a liberating and cleansing time for you if you only let it. Forgiveness of yourself and others and the process of letting go of these emotions and thoughts that no longer serve you can finally free you from the shackles that would otherwise hold you back and impede the fantastic progress that you are making with your new life.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” —Lewis B. Smedes

“Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.” –Suzanne Somers

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” —Marianne Williamson

As you move towards the end of this year, how good would it be to move on feeling happier, lighter and freer, without the burden of resentment and bitterness? My gift today is a guided meditation to help you do just that. Find somewhere quiet you can listen to this session, close your eyes and enjoy the journey.

Click here to listen: The Forgiveness Process

If you would like my help and advice, 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

You Can’t Enter Your Destination Until You Have a Start Point!

Single Mum's Survival Guide Illustration 16 001It’s hard to set a course for where you’re going without a starting point. Just imagine typing a location into Google maps and asking for directions, without entering a start point! In the next few days I’ll be sharing an excellent goal setting process which will set you on track for a happy and productive 2016 but before deciding where you want to go, you must first look at where you are now. This doesn’t need to be a depressing task – in fact we often forget all the many achievements we have accomplished because we are so busy focusing on what we still need to change or get done. Try this on your child over Christmas. You could find out what three things they are really happy with from this last year, three things they didn’t like and three things they liked and what they are most proud of. Celebrating successes is a fantastic tool to enhance your child’s self esteem – and yours!

Today’s gift is the gift of reflection as we approach the end of the year. It comes in the form of a video from author and coach Ben Brophy. You might want to have a pen and paper handy and pause the video whilst you answer the questions, like I did!

 

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

 

 

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!

END OF THE RELATIONSHIP EXERCISE

  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