What I Would Tell My 15 Year-Old Self (who was crying in the toilets of her new school)

Last night something happened that made me want to be able to tell my 15 year old self a few things…

Back in September 1997, I started “lycee”, I was the only one from my senior school, who went to this school so I knew nobody. At the time I was shy and felt so lonely on the first day, when everyone seemed to know somebody that I went into the toilets to cry, I will never forget it. Well Adele of September 1997, I wish you had known the following because it would have cheered you up for sure. This is also a message to anybody, who is really shy or doesn’t have much confidence.

I will leave what happened last night to the end, the first thing you need to know is by choosing the better school but the school where you knew nobody you changed your life by taking the hard route. This is because you will do so well in your Baccalaureat that you will go to a great university in London and leave rural France behind and your life will change for ever, you can’t imagine the people you will meet or the places you will go. Also you might not have any friends on the first day but you will make friends for life that you still see today. You’ll watch rugby together go on holiday together, go through many “firsts” together. Here are some pics of the good old late 90s…

 

Even after you leave France and go to university, you will go on holiday with some of them:

 

Your shyness will disappear bit by bit over the years and your confidence will build, you will still 20 years later have moments of absolute doubt and this bloody impostor syndrome will rear its head from time. But you need to know that the people you meet at university, the job you get in The City and the people you meet after that will change your life completely. And it’s all because you chose a different path in 1997 and then an even harder one in 2000 when you went to university in London.

I wish I could tell you that the following will happen:

  • You will actually start enjoying and become good at public speaking. You will get up at a wedding in Sweden, 6 months pregnant with no preparation and give a speech in front of everybody. You will chair a meeting of finance people in both the Four Seasons hotels in Paris and Geneva and get them to talk about data (not something you are aware of in 1997 but it will become a big part of your life). Sadly but very bravely you will give a great speech at Dad’s funeral. When in 2000 you get your life-changing Baccalaureat results, you will be interviewed (well you will actually go up to the journalist and ask to be interviewed) by French national television.
  • You will turn up alone at a pub in February 2013 to meet 20 traders and brokers for drinks before the England-France match at Twickenham and talk with all them without any issues despite not being like them, finally  the one person you know will arrive later. You then watch the game and end up hours later at a private members bar in London, meet a famous actor (you don’t recognize him but he turns out to be “Mister Grey”) and give him all sorts of life advice. YOU give an actor advice, the girl, who was too shy to call a swimming pool to ask them their opening hours.
  • You will end up with people from very different backgrounds to yours, many times at dinners where everybody else was born rich but you will fit in because after years and years of mixing with different people you get more confident and learn that money really doesn’t necessarily mean people are better than you (far from it).
  • You will meet Jeremy Corbyn and ask him for a selfie (same with Eva Longoria), you will speak to Monica Lewinsky, you will sit next to the US basketball team’s wives at the Olympics, you will tell a Bollywood star you have never heard of her etc. You just are not scared of speaking to people anymore.

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The list goes on, you will end up in ridiculously amazing places and the main lesson you will learn as far as being shy and speaking to strangers is: “what’s the worst that can happen?”. Not much it turns out, a few people will be rude but in 99% of cases, it will be fine. I want to tell you it will all be fine, you will do so much better than you ever thought, you won’t cry in a toilet again from loneliness (for other reasons yes, clearly it’s not all plain sailing) and on September 29th 2019, you will be in a fancy restaurant in London and will go up to Olivier Giroud (Arsenal and now Chelsea and also France player) and tell him you are big fan whilst he is eating with his friends. You will hesitate and think to yourself “what’s the worst that can happen?”, the worst thing would be not to talk to him because you probably won’t meet him again so you go over and have a chat et voila, don’t worry Adele of 1997, you made the right decision.

 

 

 

Solo-Parenting Is a Only Taste of The Logistics of Single Parenting

I was going to watch Baptiste but I just wanted to add my two cents to a debate going on on Instagram around whether you can understand what it feels like to be a single parent when you are “solo-parenting” for a period of time, meaning your partner is away.

My main point is that ALL parenting is hard and as a single mum of one, I have no idea what it’s like to have 2,3 or 4 children and looking after my daughter and a friend of hers for a few hours will never compare to doing it 24/7.

Now what I also believe and agree with is that parenting alone for a while gives you a taste of the logistical juggle that single parenting is but not of the emotional side of things. Yes you’ll realise that not being able to ask ANYBODY to help makes things a lot harder at home and you’ll realise that you need to be super organised to avoid chaos but you won’t know all the feelings that go with it and the sense of permanency of the situation and the lack of emotional support from the other parent.

On the other hand living together as 2 parents is no panacea either, living with someone who doesn’t help is probably a nightmare and very frustrating too. The grass is definitely not always greener and I feel very lucky and happy with my situation. Nobody knows what really goes on behind closed doors and I would never assume that “standard parenting a deux” means one parent is fully supported by the other (there should be an accent on that a but I can’t find it!).

I do see how all the posts like “I’m solo-parenting this week and it’s so hard, I don’t know how single parents do it” can offend/annoy/upset single parents. We “do it” because we have no choice and personally I do it with a lot of help from babysitters, a flexible employer and help from friends and family and a healthy dose of self motivational “I can do this shit by myself” type of attitude.

To parents who are “solo-parenting”:

-if you’re going to shout about it on social media just be aware that you are indeed dealing with similar logistics to a single parent BUT it’s temporary and you are in a very different position and you might get some negative comments by the way

To single parents:

-come and be part of the frolo_app community

-join Gingerbread

-download the bubble app

-be proud

-remember everything changes so doing it all alone may not last forever

And let’s not forget that it’s only recently that dads are so hands on and helpful. My mum and grandmother were not single mums but they sure did 99% of the parenting and everything house related.

By the way mum, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for spending hours re-organising A’s bedroom before you went back to France, I appreciate it more than if you bought be a Chanel bag (however if there are any rich readers out there, I won’t say no to one).

I’ve no idea what it’s like to parent in a slum or whilst having a night job or 4 kids or a sick partner etc etc but if ever I had a taste of it, I probably wouldn’t make a big deal of it. Find your community, those who can really understand you and be mindful of others’ feelings, that’s all.

They say “fed is best” with regards to babies, I say “parenting is best”, as long as you’re consciously parenting with care and love then it’s going to be OK.

My Little Pleasures in Life

    Drinking very cold milk whilst eating chocolate
    A proper margarita
    Cashmere socks
    Cashmere anything to be honest
    Peonies in a vase
    Aveda tea
    The right hand gossip column of dailymail.co.uk
    Wearing leggings on a Friday
    Booking a holiday
    The first glass of champagne
    The tortilla chips and guacamole from Wahaca
    Aperol Spritz all damn summer
    Reading vanity fair
    The Real Housewives of NYC
    Having my hair washed at the hairdressers
    Barre Class
    My sister and Arabella doing some crazy dance together
    Arabella telling me she loves me
    Arabella lying on me
    Arabella saying “maman”

A Single Mum’s “Weekend Off”

I’ve been asked a few times what I do on the weekends A is at her dad’s (that’s every other weekend) and earlier I saw a post on @frolo_app on instagram about how lonely weekends when your children are at the other parent’s can be so I thought I’d tell you what I do and give some advice.

So here is a summary of what I did this weekend:

Friday 5.45PM: drop off A with her dad at St Pancras, this went badly as she was screaming that she didn’t want to go and wanted to stay with me. Her dad had to physically restrain her and carry her away screaming. People possibly thought she was being kidnapped!

Friday 7.45PM: cab to my friend’s birthday dinner. There were 4 of us and we had an interesting conversation about how much “outsourcing” of your children is OK. As a single mum if I didn’t use babysitters I would have very little freedom, she’s only at her dad’s 4 nights a month so other people than me do look after her from time to time. To be honest I feel lucky to be able to afford babysitters.

Saturday morning: annoyingly wake at 7.30 AM despite going to bed at 1AM and being childless this weekend. Somehow manage to go back to sleep for another hour between 8.30 and 9.30. 2 fried eggs on crumpets, 2 cups of tea and 2 episodes of Marie Kondo on Netflix and I’m ready to face the world and also now have an obsession with tidying up!

Saturday afternoon: I go to TkMaxx and find A a great coat for next winter and then go to one of my favourite places in the world to buy cleaning supplies: Lidl!!!

I spent the rest of the afternoon “Marie Kondoing” the flat and feel much better after filling bags with rubbish and stuff to take to the charity shop. How long it will take me to get to the charity shop is anyone’s guess…

Saturday 6PM: I get on the tube to go to my boyfriend’s, later we go out for very good sushi and my new obsession (in addition to Marie Kondo) green tea ice cream!

Sunday is spent with my boyfriend, we go to a reformer pilates class, which is hard but that I really enjoy. If I could I’d have a reformer machine in my house!

4.30PM: I leave to go back home and get ready for A to come back

5.45PM: A is back, she always gives me the biggest hug when she gets to the door and then the whole dinner, bedtime malarkey begins…

I realise I’m lucky I have a boyfriend and see him most Saturday evenings and usually at least part of Sunday when A is at her dad’s and that clearly fills up a good chunk of the weekend. I’m also lucky that I am very happy spending time alone and don’t really get lonely. Also in the past 2 years since my ex-husband moved out I haven’t given my flat as much love as I should have so always have plenty to do and now I’ve discovered Marie Kondo I’m unstoppable! Also I always do barre or pilates on my weekends without A and using your weekends without children to exercise is definitely something I’d recommend.

On Friday night I mentioned that I feel a bit awkward seeing my friends that have families at the weekend as there is this understanding that that is “family time” and it feels a bit odd meeting up alone without bringing my daughter. However my friends made it clear that I’m always welcome to come over with child or without, not that I ever doubted it. Don’t assume you’re disturbing any of your friends that aren’t single at the weekend.

So here is my advice for any single parents on the weekends you don’t have your children:

  1. Try and be super positive and see this time as a gift as most parents NEVER get a break
  1. It’s the ultimate time for “self care”
  2. Don’t feel bad if you do nothing, I have spent hours and hours watching the Kardashians or my ultimate favourite “Million Dollar Listing New York” and I have no shame!
  3. Follow the Frolo app on instagram, there are loads of interesting discussions on their stories and once it launches it will be the perfect app for meeting other parent’s in the same boat
  4. Try and join your local “single parents” Facebook Group or set one up if there isn’t one
  5. Use that time to exercice, it’s good for the soul and the body
  6. Marie Kondo your house!
  7. I’m always happy to meet new people so if you’re in London get in touch!
  8. When you’re ready, join a dating app, if anything it can be pretty entertaining!
  9. Do what makes you happy and relaxes you whatever that may be – this is your time

When I realised my husband and I were going to get divorced, one of the things that made me the saddest was the idea of not seeing A at the weekend but I’ve learnt to really appreciate these weekends and I actually even need them for my mental health because the rest of time parenting alone is INTENSE.

On that note, remember the following:

Dad, Here’s What’s Been Happening In 2018

Hi Dad,

I thought I’d give you a bit of an update on 2018 as it’s very nearly over!

Nobody has killed Trump yet

Brexit is the biggest shambles in UK history, nobody knows what the fxxx is going on

Liverpool are top of the Premier League

France won the World Cup (England did surprisingly well, we all got very excited and started singing “Football’s coming home” multiple times a day, we even won an important game on penalties!!!!)

Bitcoin went down the toilet (not sure it was a “thing” before you died but as you read The Times every day, you probably had heard of it)

Everyone also got very excited about using the space bar on iPhones as a cursor, who knew?!

Lana and I saw Beyoncé and Jay-Z and they were AMAZING

I got divorced on July 4th, Independence Day!

Arabella turned 4 a few weeks ago and you would have so much fun with her, she’s absolutely crazy, some weird mix of all of us, she can draw like mum and Sandie, is a drama queen like Lana and she loves attention like you (and me). You would be so proud of her, she really is the best girl in the world (obviously drives me absolutely round the bend).

Lana lived with us for a few months, which was really nice and has now moved back to France to be with the Love of her life, you need to know she is really happy, doing very well and is now my rock (I know it’s hard to believe but true!). Dad, she turned things around, you’d be proud of her too.

We spent Easter at Sophie’s with the boys, which was super nice and Louise, Tallulah and Ellie are coming for Christmas.

You would love “A star is born”.

Very very sadly both Solly and Richie (last year) lost one of their sons.

On a happier note Billy had a baby and Carrie got married!

You are the one, who gave me my love of Christmas, you made such an effort, often with limited means. Your old smelly work socks as stockings, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and brandy butter – some of your traditions that I will carry on for ever.

We’re all OK Dad, we miss you terribly, especially at this time of year but there is a little bit of you in all of us. The world has gone mad that’s for sure and I hope you get to watch the show.

Merry Christmas Dad, I’m sure many glasses will be raised for you next week.

I love you

Xxx

For Those of You About to Fall

A friend of mine recently told me about one of her friends whose husband had suddenly left her for a colleague. She described feeling like she was at the top of a very steep slide and she couldn’t stop the fall. I know what she means and I want to tell her and anybody else who is ever at the top of the slide that yes the fall hurts but you land, you always land and you might land somewhere better than when you started. To quote La Haine “ … Mais l’ important n’est pas la chute, c’est l’atterrissage.”.

I was recently lucky enough to attend a brunch where Jo Malone was speaking (this was at The Ned, which I am obsessed with so it was definitely one of the better Saturdays of my life! Thanks again Ruth), she is very inspirational, I was on the verge of tears at least twice, there really is nothing better than strong positive emotions. One thing that she said that struck a chord with my divorced self was “Struggle takes you to such great heights”, think about that for a minute the next time everything seems to be going wrong (you know like when your hike hates you, the dinner has burnt, everything went wrong at work and there is wine in the fridge….). The old cliche of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is true”, indeed I’m pretty sure anybody whose marriage ends badly is a little wiser the next time…

Anyway back to the slide down. I’ll never forget my first meeting with my solicitor, having to explain why I was there, what had happened, what the financial situation was etc. That was the rope of my slide. It made the end of my marriage very real and was the beginning of the divorce process which can be horrendous, mine wasn’t easy but it could have been so much worse, I didn’t have to move for a start so I know how lucky I am. Realising I had to share my daughter was heartbreaking as was the day I had to transfer a lot of money. But guess what? I actually enjoy the weekends when I’m alone and my flat is now 100% mine and best of all I had a divorce party with a divorce cake that tasted better than my wedding cake and I have a very big smile on my face on the picture of me cutting in…

So my advice is : find your “separation/divorce village”. You need your family, friends and a good solicitor. You need wine or chocolate or both, you need spa days with your girlfriends, you need lipstick, you need a new bra or two, you need dancing in the kitchen with your child, you need sunsets in Ibiza, you need to listen to Beyonce’s Lemonade on repeat (“Becky with the good hair…), you need that feeling on the first New Year’s Eve after separation, you need to remember “mieux vaut etre seule que mal accompagnee”, you need Bumble for when you’re ready to come across a load of weirdos but some good ones who will help you move on, you need a haircut, some pink shoes and you need to believe you can get down that seemingly never ending slide and land on your feet. Not only will you land on your feet, your divorce will be pronounced on the 4th of July, which is Independence Day and you’ll have your delicious cake and eat it.

Girl, you can do it, at some point you have to let yourself fall. The single mum club ain’t that bad, I welcome you into it and it doesn’t have to last for ever.

One Year Older…

I turned 36 a month ago and was reminded today that Sex and The City is 20 years old…time is flying! I am going to start with saying that I have really been finding it quite tough recently. Indeed the life of a single working mum is bloody hard and I am one of lucky ones as I have a job and support. Also it was the anniversary of my dad dying, which didn’t help. Still I am feeling better, maybe it was because today was sunny or because I ate loads of M&Ms or because a few things reminded me of how lucky I am and am going to try and keep dragging my mood and confidence upwards over the next few weeks (slowly does it).

I have never been great at self care and have a tendency to not only keep my emotions in but also to “catastrophize” ( ; ) TM ) and then I closed a car door on my thumb, got really bad PMT, somehow convinced myself I was rubbish at my job (I am not), felt fat, wasn’t sleeping properly, got post holiday blues, indeed who wouldn’t feel sad at leaving this:

And ended up in some kind of downward spiral. A good and wise friend of mine asked me what I was doing about improving things and basically concluded that I needed a “win”. He was right so I spent a ton of money on Amazon buying all sorts of books, my mum arrived for a week, I looked at my performance at work and realized I am not rubbish, got some encouraging words from an old friend, spent Saturday evening at The Ned, which I love, slept more, bought some bargain shoes at TkMaxx, watched TED talks, discovered Love Island, cried and cried again and I am very happy to report that things are looking up! There were always going to be some tough moments during a divorce and following losing a parent whilst bringing up a feisty child to say the least:

So yep, I do have my vulnerable moments, moments where I actually wondered if I wasn’t depressed but took time to analyse the situation and make adjustments such as trying to sleep more and accept that I get really bad PMT since I gave birth. Losing a night’s sleep because I was in A&E for my thumb really didn’t help and was one of the catalysts for this not so great period.

Anyway, it’s time for Love Island, which is basically self care. Bisous everybody (bright dresses and smiles are a good thing!):

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