Single Motherhood and Coronavirus

I was inspired to write this by this blog that Charlotte a single mum of twins and my best friend’s old boss wrote: https://womeninfamilylaw.net/how-is-covid-19-affecting-women-in-family-law/

“I really feel for you Adele, I really do” – this is what a colleague said to me at the beginning of “this situation” and I think it summarises things quite well: you really feel the weight of “single parenting” during a time like this but you also feel the support, I do anyway. I just wrote “a time like this” as if any of us have ever been through anything that compares, this is clearly NOT the case!

The first day I worked from home my daughter was still at school so it was fine, that lasted 3 days and then on Monday 23rd of March the concept of “it’s just you and me kid” took on a WHOLE other meaning! The night before I attempted to write a timetable and simply had no idea how a school day is even structured, all I knew is they did phonics in the morning and something called “5 a day”.

My first “homeschooling” failure was the fact I couldn’t even find the right section on her school website with all the homework etc. I had to email them to ask! Since then I’ve probably been on that page 3 times. Just like Charlotte mentions in her blog I quickly decided/realised/was forced to remove the whole concept of “homeschooling” from my life basically. I didn’t know how to do it, for example I asked A “how do you learn mathematics” and she replied “we watch a video”, hmmm super helpful. I didn’t know how to make her do school work or how much she should be doing or anything! Thankfully social media (which yes I’m addicted to and heavily influenced by) started having many messages about surviving and not worrying too much about homeschooling, which made me feel better. 2 friends of mine who are teachers also made it clear it’s even hard for them! I’ll be blunt, the parents (and it seems to be mums more than dads) that are proudly telling the world how they are “bossing” homeschooling and how much their kids are doing ARE NOT MY PEOPLE! My people are the mums, whose main concern was the ability to stockpile wine. I hardly ever drink at home but now it’s definitely a daily event. So homeschooling is not happening, she’s 5, in Finland they don’t start school til 7 so that’s that. I nearly forgot to mention that for one day it was heaven. A’s dad works for a very big American bank and they sent me a nanny for a day and it was like Mary Poppins, she looked after A and at the end of the day cooked dinner for both of us, I nearly cried as nobody cooks me dinner. Sadly that night lockdown was announced and I had to tell her not to come back.

What does she do all day then? Scatter everything from her bedroom all over the flat and balcony, do some drawings and watch TV. That’s all and that’s fine. She’s made all sorts of things with her toys and teddies, WOMAD festival, a cinema, a hairdressers, a village etc. Her imagination is quite impressive, however an active brain does mean a LOT of questions all day every day! She has also participated in some work calls: “can they hear me mummy?”, “what’s a database?” Etc The work calls are the hard part as yes it’s cute when they make an appearance but you do have to concentrate and so I quickly came up with the “lollipop” technique. One call=one lollipop and sometimes I keep tv time for call time as well. On Thursday she spent 45mins on a FaceTime “play date” with her friend whilst I spoke to a client. When I have to be fully focused on work that’s when being a single mum is hard because there is nobody else to keep an eye on her, play with her etc. My cousin and his fiancée have a rota throughout the day of who looks after their daughter, I don’t have that so I’ve ordered an iPad. Technology and chupa chups are my co-parent.

However I’m lucky that she went to her dad’s the first week of the Easter holiday. I thought I’d miss her but I didn’t, I needed the break so much after 2 weeks of intense one on one time 24 hours a day. I’m usually a big outsourcer and have no shame in admitting it. I have a cleaner, Arabella has regular babysitters, I use Hello Fresh so hardly have to do food shopping, I don’t iron, I pay people if anything happens in my flat etc. Suddenly no cleaner and my dishwasher broke. There are only 2 of us but somehow this meant lots of washing up because like everybody we are eating at home 3 times a day. Talking of cleaning, when I explained to A that we had to do the cleaning now , she said we should “watch a video on YouTube on how to do it”. For her it was clear mummy had no idea how to clean anything as she’s never seen me do it! I’m not that bad but I still can’t work out how my cleaner gets so much done in a few hours. Getting a new dishwasher this week was like Christmas. I really appreciated the week I had off, I decluttered, did loads of online Barre classes, watched a load of episodes of Billions and worked uninterrupted. It was night and day compared to the weeks before.

I don’t often feel “different” being a single mum except for on a few occasions like last summer at a BBQ where I had to leave early to take A to her dad’s and it was a drama because she wouldn’t leave and I so wanted to just be there with my husband and be like everyone else. I know that will happen again in the future. Lockdown has definitely made me feel the single mum thing, before it even started I found it very stressful planning for it alone, what food to buy etc and I suddenly had a much stronger desire than usual to put an end to this living alone business.

Now I have to finish on a positive note. For the past 2 Fridays, I’ve been hosting “cocktail hour at The Ned” on Zoom for Frolo (a single parent app and community that all single parents need in their life!) and it’s been so nice to meet new people and bring a bit of joy into their lives for an hour by recounting some of my “stories”. Indeed some single parents are not speaking to ANY other adults at the moment so I’m really grateful to be able to do that, if it cheers one person up then I’m happy. Also the support I have felt is heart warming, colleagues and friends that call or check in with me daily, offers of help from so many people. Finally 2 things that have come out of this: music and love. I’ve never listened to so much music in my life, some tracks will forever be associated with lockdown for me. It keeps me sane, distracts me, makes me emotional and all the dancing in the kitchen with A will never be forgotten (I could do with her wanting to listen to something else that George Ezra though). Love is clearly all we need, nothing else matters. I miss the ones I love dearly and know that everything will be OK long term. Stay strong everybody !

We Wait

How can I not write about the Coronavirus…it’s the worst thing that’s happened to the world in my lifetime. Now everything I write is from my point of view and I’m aware it’s a privileged one as I live in a flat in London with one child only and have a big roof top space and am still paid a monthly salary. Still here are some of my thoughts.

First I keep thinking: what if Dad was still alive? What we have to say about this? Probably quite a lot of inappropriate things with some truths thrown in. I’m not sure how he would manage with the pub being closed…social distancing was the opposite of what he did his whole life. He had no interest in “alone time”. “Social distancing”, one of the things I had never heard of or said until a few weeks ago, it’s amazing how new words suddenly become so common such as lockdown, coronavirus, confinement etc…home schooling on the other hand is not part of my vocabulary, I prefer “survival”!

Secondly being a single mum has taken on a whole new meaning recently. I had to plan what food and other supplies to buy alone and I found that quite stressful, nobody to share the responsibility with. Then came lockdown and 24 hours a day with a 5 year old, nobody to keep an eye on her whilst I work, nobody to cook, nobody to clean and especially nobody else to sit next to on the sofa during the endless TV watching. I really felt the “I live alone” thing once this started and it’s not something I plan on keeping up for ever that’s for sure! However and this post is about being positive and I have lots of positive things to say , however I’d rather be alone than stuck with someone I can’t stand and I’m not alone really, I have many video calls and messages. I have really felt the support and love from my friends and family. The whole “you find out who matters and who cares” in these situations is very true. I’m so lucky to be “locked down” with my daughter, as much as it’s tiring and the never ending tidying up, cooking, cleaning, 6AM waking is ageing me rapidly, she is showing such creativity and humour and great ability to play alone, I’m so proud of her and she really is making it easier for me than it could be. Yes there are bad moments when she won’t get dressed, wants to participate in work calls and moans it’s “boring” but overall we are doing well. I don’t usually get to spend more than 2 days in a row with her. She goes to her dad’s next Friday for 9 days and it’s going to be long but I will need a break by then! The saying goes “you only get 18 summers with your children”, well as hard as it is, we’ve been given another summer and should try and appreciate it as much as possible

I’m not going to mention all the horror such as: being away from family, increase in domestic abuse (I couldn’t sleep because of this last week), deaths, economic impact etc…instead here are some ideas of what good could come from this (for the world and at my personal level): we now have proof the planet can recover to some extent from all the damage if pollution levels dramatically decrease, remote working is now proven to work, I’m now doing Joe Wicks every day so will soon have a super hot body (well I’ve done it twice!), if you were unsure and ever wanted to test your relationship: things must be becoming crystal clear by now! No excuse for a lack of spring cleaning: charity shops are going to be overwhelmed with donations after this I’m sure. Appreciation for hairdressers is also going to soar. Companies are showing their true colours (someone needs to come up with a Coronavirus rating to be added to ESG scores, yes I sell financial data for a living…) Appreciation for our health service and other keys workers has gone up and will hopefully stay up. The sense of “we’re in this together” is strong. The way wealth is distributed could change (wishful thinking).

Just imagine when this is over how good that first drink in a pub will taste (I’m dreaming of my first Aperol Spritz), that first hug, that first kiss, that first day back at school, that first concert, that first swim in the sea, that first time you walk back in a restaurant, that first bbq with friends and family, the first time children are reunited with their friends, that first holiday! There will be many firsts and I’m sure things we used to take for granted and didn’t appreciate will just feel better. We get to go things again for the first time and it’s going to be amazing.

Coming Full Circle

That’s me on my wedding day in June 2012 at Shoreditch House and today I’m bowling all my self doubt and “negative core beliefs” away after an amazing event at that same exact venue. I hadn’t been back since my wedding day and hadn’t realised how much of an impact this workshop that included guided meditation and “Emotional Freedom Technique” would have. It was emotional, powerful and made all the more poignant by the fact not only is it International Women’s Day but N that I met through Frolo, which is a community for single parents invited me along. How life has changed in those 8 years.

From the outside I bet I seem to be dealing so well with being a single working mum but it’s not always easy. Yes I am proud of how I’ve coped but still it’s moments like cooking a Sunday roast for 2 people only when it really hits you and then the trauma (of my life until now I guess) also shows itself in the good old imposter syndrome at work for example. It’s all linked.

There is nothing like repeating things like “childhood is fxxxxxx hard” and “I am OK, I am amazing” etc in a room full of women (and 2 men) whilst visualising your 3 main “negative core beliefs” disappearing into a river for ever to feel empowered. As my colleague T would say “be more Beyoncé” but as the lady said today “even Beyoncé has self doubt”, it’s making sure that’s the least often possible that counts.

I know this might sound a bit “air fairy” but it helped me. When I was a teenager, I was told by my step dad that I was such a cold person, I would never love anyone fully nor would I be completely loved. Shit like marks you and there was a lot more, that’s just one example. A few failed relationships and a divorce later and I can tell you all sorts of doubt sets in BUT I will do my best to stay on this new path of strength and positivity. I just wanted to write this down so I don’t forget this moment. I do love my life and in particular all the women in it, I am very lucky in so many ways  but it doesn’t mean I always feel like Beyoncé. I’m closing the door shut on all of that.

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: