This was written and published in 2016. Enjoy. Rachel
I have written many blogs on food, on training, on wellbeing … but never have I written about the one thing that is most important to me … being a mum.
Any mother will tell you that motherhood is the most wonderful experience, and I love my son more than I ever thought possible. I am utterly blessed to have such a beautiful, caring child; but the reality is that motherhood is tough, especially when you are doing it by yourself.
It is bed time snuggles and morning kisses.
It is tickles and giggles.
It is messy baking and charmingly drawn scribbles.
It is beauty and wonder as you see your child grow and change every single day.
But, it is also spending an hour making a dinner only for them to decide it “stinks” and demanding a cheese sandwich.
It is locking yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes just to have some “you time”.
It is your child’s refusal to get dressed in the morning when you’re in a rush for school.
It is having them declare that they have done a poo on the floor.
It is treading on left out lego pieces.
It is missing your friends birthdays because you cannot get a babysitter.
It is having your child scream in your face at the supermarket for 30 minutes because you won’t buy chocolate cereal.
It is feeling like death and still having to get up to make a dog out of playdough.
It is praying nobody in your new mums group asks how old (or young!) you are.
It is finding your child’s artwork all over the table…and the floor…and the walls.
It is putting together an entire household of flat pack furniture with them climbing on your back.
It is the guilt of walking to the car after leaving them with a childminder so you can go to work.
It is reinacting Starwars battles 937 times and enduring a paddy when it’s time to put down the lightsabres.
It is not having a clue what to do when they are crying because they have tummy ache in the middle of the night.
It is having no one to share their first steps, first words and special milestones with.
It is having them tell strangers “my mum has a big squishy bum.”
I always use to portray an image that I was on top of everything.
That balancing motherhood, with work, studying, training and maintaining some sort of social life was a walk in the park.
I think all mothers try to.
But if we do not speak about the truths of parenting, then women cannot always make educated choices about motherhood, especially single motherhood.
And, the reality is single motherhood is relentless.
It is an emotionally draining rollercoaster.
It is the constant fear that what you are doing is not good enough.
Yet, us single mums make it work.
Through the tears and tantrums and failures and falls.
We wake up every morning knowing that for eternity we choose to put someone else’s happiness before our own.
To teach the hard lessons
To do the right thing (even if we aren’t sure what that is)
And to forgive ourselves over and over again for doing everything wrong.
Here are my top 10 tips to survive single motherhood …
1. Embrace the present moment
It’s tough. It’s tiring.
But they aren’t little for long.
So cuddle them, tickle them and treasure them as much as you can.
2. If you don’t ask the answer will always be no.
Being a “strong, independent woman” asking for help has never been my forte.
But parenting will drive the majority of us to near breaking point at some time or another.
So ask for support, ask other parents when you are unsure, ask family to babysit when you need a break and ask for a shoulder to cry on if you need one.
3. Work on your social life
None of my friends have children.
Try as hard as they can, they will never understand how tiring “popping out for a girly drink can be”.
It is an effort, not only finding a babysitter. But being up at the crack of dawn before attempting to survive the morning routine and school run stress, onto do a full day of work before playing Avengers, feeding, bathing and reading a story about a monster 400 times before trying to find the energy to jump in the shower and find some clothes to wear other than leggings to go out in.
It is an effort, but a worthwhile one.
4. Swipe when you’re ready.
Dating as a single parent is daunting.
It took me two years to start dating after I gained “single mum status”, and another two years after that relationship broke down.
When you already have a love of your life, it is sometimes hard to think about searching for an adult one.
But being proactive in the dating world is important. The longer you leave it the more independent (and apparently intimating) you get.
Just meeting new people to talk about things other than potty training, Mr Bump or why it is good to chew with your mouth closed is sanity saving.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff
The washing basket is full.
The kitchen floor is a little sticky.
The trainers are muddy.
A child will not remember if the house was kept immaculate.
They however will remember the time you spent with them.
The washing can wait.
6. Self-care is imperative
Us mums often feel responsible for looking after everyone else.
But we can’t be everything to everybody.
Learn to prioritise. Learn to say no.
Take time out for you.
For me, my happy place is the gym.
I used to feel guilty for going.
Now I realise that when a woman is feeling good about herself it is far easier for her to raise her child to be a wise, resilient, happy and loving being.
7. Follow your dream
Joining the single mums club doesn’t mean you have to forget about your career, travel or other life goals.
You may just have to re-think the process of reaching the goal.
Nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough.
Children don’t need “stuff.”
Adults don’t need “stuff”.
It is not only messy for the house, but also for the mind.
Unless it is beautiful or useful … bin in (or donate it!)
The best things in life aren’t “things”.
9. Be a role model
Unfortunately children do not do as we say, they do as we do.
The best way to raise honest, resilient and head strong children is to be honest, resilient and head strong.
To fail over and over but never give up.
To follow through on promises.
To love them unconditionally.
10. Remember love always wins.
No matter what mistakes we make.
No matter how ugly we feel.
No matter how tired we are.
As long as our kids feel loved, we are doing great.
(Plus only us mums have the power to heal a wound with a kiss.)
Live life fully