Happy Fathers Day Mom

Today I logged onto Facebook (as we do in order to pass a few minutes with our morning beverage of choice) and my news feed was filled with loving posts to various men from across the board, from dads, to grandads, to loved ones of the male variety in general. Which is lovely.

It is, afterall, fathers day. The day we are told to thank our fathers for all they do for us. The only thing is, I never knew mine. He was around for a short while but soon lost interest and vanished around the age of 2 or 3. My very young mom raised three kids on her own for the most part (albeit with the help of my powerhouse super human nan who dashed between work and school to collect us and help where she could.) But on the whole, my mom raised us kids and was the one that put us to bed each night and spent that time with us.

So, I have to say, I find fathers day a bit of a funny one. I do not feel obliged to thank a man I do not know and have not seen since I was 2. Neither do I feel I owe anything to a man who made my moms life utterly miserable through neglect and abuse, leaving her as a young mom of three with no money and bad memories. He never bothered contacting us again, until too long had passed, somewhat of a relief looking back, and paid no maintanance for his children EVER, moving on to impregnante another woman whilst mom raised his first three alone. I cant be thankful to a man that by birth right is my dad, but by presence has been none existant. I can, however, be thankful to a few people and Im going to take the time to do that today, before the day is over, to give my thanks publicly, because although my mom hates these forced days where we are told what to say, I know her and a few others deserve a few good words on fathers day.

Firstly, to my step dad, Rob. My mom got remarried to a lovely man after we all become young adults (or old teenagers in my sisters case.) He has been the one who has supported her and loved her and helped her. He has also supported, loved and helped all of us kids in equal measure, individually, at different stages of our time knowing him. We have brought, in all fairness, a lot of distruption (as kids do) to his previously probably a lot more peaceful child free life. However, we have also added another dimension he never had before, a positive one, like that feeling of belonging to a unit and life being about so much more than yourself . Like having a family to call his own (without having to do the pooey nappy stage-he got the difficult young adult stage instead!). And the unconditional bond that you get as a family when you realise these are truly your people and that, even if you fall out, you know a year down the line you can see them and give them a great big hug and mean every squeeze of it. We have had our moments as a family, all of us, but you have done as you promised you would and stuck by mom through thick and thin, as you have stuck by all of us too. For that, and for the person you are, I truly am thankful that you came into our lives, having enriched ours also with something that we have never had before either. That being a positive male role model who says what he means and does what he says. One that knows and wants his responsibility and looks after those around him. I know we scare you sometimes (ha!) but I wouldnt change you being in our lives for anything. I am so pleased you and mom found each other when you did. It was so lovely talking to you today and we look forward to seeing you in August. WP_20140221_174

Secondly, to my daughters dad, Adam. The pain I felt after you left, breaking a decades worth of love, work, family, hopes, plans and life, is not an easy burden to bear for anyone. On occassions since that time, for one reason or another, things have been trying, confusing and frought. Seperations are not easy, especially unwanted ones. However, we have somehow, someway, managed to create the most beautiful, intelligent, funny little girl. We did that. I dont know how she came out so wonderful. Or so clever. Or so talented. We have had back and forths, ups and downs, trials and trouble. We have also, however, had family time still as a unit, co parenting on your days here to make sure Emi knows her parents are both around still, regardless of our personal situation, having plenty of moments of happiness, joy, friendship, laughter and pride along the way. Whatever has happened, a families bond, if they were a genuine happy family, is still there. You are still family, in whatever way we can now call it. The obvious resentment is there for me as a single mom now, doing most of the work all week on my own and being the one that now builds my life around Emi, which is so much harder by yourself. That is natural I think. I am still working on that. However, as it is a day for being grateful and thankful, I would like to say that I am thankful you still turn up when you say you will. I am thankful that you help out with the nursery runs when you can, giving me a much needed break on those days. I am still thankful that Emi has a dad and that you didnt do what a lot of men do when they leave and simply walk away and forget about her. I am not saying its perfect and you know I give you it when I think you can try harder for her, thats my job, im her mom, but what matters is you are still here. That is more than my dad did and I can only hope that it lasts so that Emi will always have two parents who want to be around her, in her life, wherever we may be, showing her she is loved and wanted. It hasnt been easy, granted, but somehow, even after what happened, Emi is surrounded by love and happiness in her home, both by me as her main person each day on our days alone together and also as a family still when you come and visit. It is so healthy to teach her to be kind. To be kind to those even who have hurt you. To be kind to those you love. To be thankful for the things you do have even when you dont have what you feel you would like. Emi still has her people around her and I am very thankful for that. Thank you for letting her enjoy opening your fathers days presents today. She had a ball. 20170221_085447

Last but not least, to my mom. We have had our ups and downs. I personally think its a girl thing because Emi already acts about fourteen at four! You dont always say what I want to hear, or you might question things I think dont need to be raised. You annoy me and I annoy you. Sometimes. Thats life. Then, sometimes, you phone me up, just for a chat, just because you miss me, just because you miss Emi, just because you want to see how I am. You live 300 miles away, yet, you are the one that phones me after ALL the important things that go on in my life, like health appointments or personal stuff, you always phone to see how it went and how I am. I was thinking about this the other day. Dont think I dont notice that. We may have fallen out before. Plenty. You have raised strong feisty women with an opinion. It wasnt going to be a smooth ride. We may have really pissed each other off before too. You may not have been able to raise us in the idealic situation we are told by society we should have. But you did raise us. You are still here. You are still present. You are still calling. You drive up 300 miles just to get a cuddle from your grandaughter and make sure you can still be involved with her upbringing. I know people with mothers on their doorsteps they dont hear from for a year at a time. You bother. You make the effort. You are someone that Emi completely trusts and puts her own care in Grandmas hands because she knows shes safe. She has decided that for herself because she feels it. You have taught her, through what you taught me, to feel what she needs to feel. To follow her emotions and to go with what she needs. You are constant. You are here. I admit I have taken that for granted in the past and as we all do, have sometimes focused on certain bits I may not like or agree with. You have also done this in return. However, we fight, we make up, we get over it, we move on. We mend, we heal, we progress, we live, we love. That is what a true family is about. To be able to tell you straight then get over it. To not always agree, but to get over it. To accept youre not always right then get over it. To be there because they want you to be ok. You, I know, would never cut me out of your life as some have done, or leave me to my own devices to never hear from you again. You are too concerned with knowing if I am ok. I hear of people, friends I know also, who dont speak to their mothers or daughters. They fall out and never speak again and years pass and they die having never spoken and one person is left feeling horrible about it. I think that must be unbearable. I would feel heartbroken if Emi didnt want to know me. I would also never even consider turing my back on her, unless given no choice of course, as I appreciate some are. Now I am in a position of being where you were all those years ago, on my own with a child, I fully understand how hard it must have been. The loniless can be dibilitating. The work load can be exhausting. The constant reminder that you dont have what you wanted can be hard to take and effect how you feel around the children. However, you managed. As I am. I am more than managing on the whole actually. Thats because of you. Because I have been raised to be silently secure enough to handle my own. To feel every insecurity but to work to the best of my ability with what I do have. To have that fighting spirit within me that you took from nan also and to simply survive, even when you feel you dont have it in you. Because the alternative is not an option when you look into the eyes of your child and know you want them to have a happy upbringing. I want so much for Emi and I know you feel the same for me. So I just wanted to say thank you. For being both mom and dad for all those years. For doing it all. See you next week. looking forward to our holiday. WP_20160620_17_38_41_Proxx

 

Motherhood is……..

It has struck me lately how immensely exhausted I am.

Not just the general end of the day tiredness we all get, but a pure, absolutely shattered, all day consuming, can’t quite function enough to string a sentence together sort of tired.

However, one other thing I have noticed and think about often now I’m on my own is that I am absolutely in love with motherhood. In love with being mom and having that one special little person around me all of the time. If I could do it again I would. In a heartbeat.

I love to watch her, to play, to teach her new things, to learn together, to just be together. For some, it’s not like this, I totally appreciate that, but for me, I feel I was born to do this. To exist with her by my side. It’s the only thing I know I’m any good at. She was meant to be here.

I love it, yet I am worn by it in equal measure. I think we may all feel this way at times, especially with little ones running about. So here are a few honest thoughts on the pros and cons of life as a mamma. It’s not for those with a weak stomach. I’m straight. I’m to the point. I like to say it how it is. Of course it applies to all parents who are hands on and involved with the raising of their kids, but I think this one will hit a resonating and accurately truthful spot with a lot of the moms out there, who, lets face it, often do a lot more of the hands on kind of stuff! Here’s my tale of motherhood, worts, sick, mess and all. Good stuff too 😉 I hope it raises a smile or two. It made me smile writing it.

Enjoy 😉

Motherhood is………

Sickness: Getting in from a shopping trip and cleaning up sick before your bag is even off your back. Knowing that the frozen peas in your trendy hessian bag for life are going to defrost before you have cleared it all up, acknowledging the simple task of putting them in the freezer first is something easier said than done when you have a daughter with a severe gag reflex, who will continue to be sick, making more mess to clean up, if it’s left to linger longer than a few seconds. Realizing that your wipe clean only new rug probably will not wipe clean at all and needs to now go into the washing machine. Feeling disheartened that you know the colours will probably run and ruin the whole thing. Discovering that you are out of washing powder, having to leave the rug to sit and fester for the rest of the day until you have the energy to go shopping again tomorrow. Contemplating washing the rug the next day when it’s pouring with rain and knowing it will take at least 3 days to dry indoors, keeping a dim glimmer of hope that it doesn’t smell damp again after that long and need to be rewashed. Scraping off what you can into the bin with a spoon whilst trying not to gag yourself. Sitting on your tired knees, literally scooping up chunks of vomit with your newly purchased packet of £2.49 a pop water wipes. Feeling annoyed that you were hoping these expensive wipes, that you couldnt afford when she was a baby as she needed several packets a week then, so now buy as a treat, are now being used in great mass to clean up sick, rather than sitting for a few weeks in your bag as you had hoped, ensuring you got your money’s worth out of those pricy bastards, with an added feel good factor of being able to clean your little one’s face with a chemical free product. Having to change the bin before it’s even full so the smell doesn’t stick to the kitchen. Having to change your daughter’s clothes and give her a bath all before lunchtime, knowing all of these things should have lasted until bedtime, when they will have to be done again anyway.

Getting to comfort her and make her feel better after being sick or feeling unwell. Getting those somewhat desperate, feel sorry for myself cuddles off my little girl who really needs and wants me in those moments. Completely surrendering to what she needs and feeling that love and bond, whether it be letting her lay across my lap until she feels better or simply kissing her head and assuring her she’s ok before she runs off to play again.  Feeling loved and needed and knowing I’m helping her in that moment and offering love and security.20170530_143329

Above: Sick in all its glory. Sorry Emi. I write the truth 😉

Tantrums: Watching your child have a major meltdown at the fact you have put butter on their toast underneath their layer of jam. Feeling pissed off that they are now refusing to eat the toast you have got out of bed to make at 6.30am especially for them after they have demanded it of you since about an hour earlier. Not having the patience to pander to a little dictator at that time in the morning, so casually making tea and switching off as they scream and slam the door in the other room, probably breaking things you rather like along the way. Getting worked up and frustrated inside and trying your hardest not to scream and slam the door in return. Snapping back at them when they throw the food onto the floor, them wanting that reaction, as you see it catching your furniture along the way, making more unnecessary mess to clean up. After 20 minutes of hell, realizing it has all gone quiet and going in to see the child happily chowing down on the now cold toast they were so against a few minutes ago, whilst giggling away to CBeebies on tv. Walking off in astonishment after hearing them say they are still hungry and asking for more of the toast they apparently so hated before. Feeling mentally drained before it’s even light outside, knowing the rest of the day could bring another 3 or 4 of these breakdowns and not feeling ready for it or able to cope. Wondering how the hell you will get through the day with a start like this. Praying for bedtime already at 7am. Doing breathing exercises to keep your cool by the kettle, as you reach for the normal tea, knowing you need it in a time where you would usually be happy to settle for decaffeinated. Hearing it all starting again because the tv programme she has watched has finished and you get the blame for turning it off, somehow from the kitchen without access to the remote control. Calming her down again and taking in her requested second round of toast, only for her to refuse it and say she’s not hungry anymore. Feeling your blood bubble inside but trying with everything you have not to show her she’s got to you. Begrudgingly eating the would be wasted toast so it doesn’t end up in the bin, even though you have tried to be good and have just a banana and some nuts for breakfast that day. Knowing its a losing battle and sitting back and enjoying the toast instead whilst looking down at your ever expanding mum tum you should have shifted 4 years ago. Knowing that putting the toast in the bin would bother you more than eating it, so accepting the extra calories you didn’t initially want are an acceptable second option to otherwise pointless wasting of food. Knowing you have had bread every day for the last week and really need to cut down on starchy carbs, whilst knowing you are gaining so much comfort from them at the same time. Waiting until you have eaten the last crust before hearing another meltdown when she realizes you have eaten the toast she didnt even want because it was hers.

The rare occassions when she has a meltdown and there is a good reason behind it. Those times she breaks downs and is angry and I am able to keep my cool and let her do what she needs in letting it flow. The patience I have learned over time in how to deal with someone who has no control over how to deal with their own emotions themselves at that age. The lessons I have learned in not taking it personally. The triumph of getting through a tantrum and coming out the other end still liking each other immensly. The fact they don’t remember these things 5 minutes after it has happened but will remember me being there instead.

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Above: The come down to a massive tantrum out on a day trip with friends. I am half eating, half trying to find the will to smile and half hoping she eats her lunch and stops being a diva…thats a strained face right there…the show must go on…second pic…the face says it all…early morning bad start, mom annoyed, picky nose kid not bothered

Bedtime: That same routine every night of fighting her to get up the stairs as she does not want to go to bed. Having to physically carry up a strong willed 4 year old if she refuses. Watching as she brushes her front teeth only, really hard and really fast within about 15 seconds to make a point that she has done them. Chasing her across the landing to bring her back into the bathroom so that I can help her brush them properly. Having to hear her fake cry as I try and brush her back teeth, with her exaggerating that I am making her teeth hurt and making her sick. Once teeth are done, rechasing her across the landing again to bring her back to the bathroom to have a wee before sleep. Having to physically put her on the toilet as she protests that she doesnt even need one. Fighting against her superhuman mini person strength and replacing her back on the toilet about 4 times until she finally sits there and has a wee that sounds as if it it has been stored up there for about a decade. Watching her smirk at me as she does so. Going into the bedroom to find she has taken off the pyjamas you placed on her 5 minutes ago and dumped them on the floor in a heap. Reading her bedtime story and leaving the room, only for her to refuse to settle or wake up an hour later so you lose any chance of an evening yourself. Never getting to sleep in your own bed as she has security issues, sleeping next to her in part every night and forgetting what it’s like to sleep alone and comfortably. Wondering if when you do eventually make it back to your own room, if it will be taken over by spiders from lack of use. Waking up each morning and finding you have no battery power on your phone, when you know you fully charged it the night before. Charging it again and finding 100 versions of the same selfie of you asleep in the background and your daughter’s big face up close and having to spend the morning deleting most of them to make space on your phone again. Wondering if you should install a camera to see what exactly she gets up to in the 2 hours she is probably awake before I surface unwillingly at around 7am.

Those evening that she does not fight to go to bed and looks forward to her routine. Those times she sets the timer to show me that she is learning and wanting to brush her teeth for 2 minutes, watching on at her little happy face as she proudly and manically brushes her teeth herself to show me. Those times she cannot wait for our one on one time in bed, curled up together, warm and cozy, with an arm around each other and a good book to share. The nights I will read to her and she memorizes the story front to back and reads it in her own way back to me. Those nights where all she wants is me by her side to cuddle her and feel secure in the knowledge that I am there for her. Those nights where she wakes up in the early hours, desperately checks that I’m still around, reaches over to hold my hand, says she loves me in a half-asleep croaky voice and falls back into a deep happy sleep. Knowing she feels loved and secure with me. Waking up to her beaming face wanting to spend yet more time with me. She’s always smiling when she wakes up. Waking up with her wanting to get on with the day and make more memories with her mom. Having some novelty funny pictures to look back on that I didn’t have to bribe her to get myself. 

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Above: One of many 6.30am selfies

Being just us two: Finding it hard some days to keep her occupied and do two people’s jobs in one. Seeing her dad on his days off and watching her love him and his time, then seeing the difference in her asking for him after times we may not see him for a while. Feeling bored with routine and no one to share daily silly things with. Wondering what the point of life is sometimes without someone to share it with. Shared life is just better. Sitting down at the end of the day after she’s asleep and having no one to share the day with and discuss or laugh about things she has done. Sitting down at the end of the day and not having any adult company to be with, to talk to, to touch. Staying mute all evening whilst knitting, knowing I’m only 30 and am already living the evening of a 75-year-old granny, yet knowing I’m too tired to do anything else anyway. Trying to keep on top of all the things we used to share as a team by myself, whilst trying to still ensure she is occupied and not breaking things. Constantly juggling money, housework, time. Feeling like giving in some days yet somehow keep being strong and doing what needs to get done. Keeping her busy so that she is constantly learning and happy, not feeling she is lacking in only having one of us here full time. Dealing with my own baggage and emotions, trying to stay positive for her and me. Establishing a new relationship with her dad, working to be both around for her and trying at the same time to not resent him too much on the long weekends he gets to not be here helping me. Constantly trying to put her before myself and what I may want. Wanting to go out but knowing sometimes it’s harder to enjoy activities with only two of us. Doing those activities you have pushed yourself to do for her and then being surrounded in parks, at theatres, by seemingly happy families and couples living the life you so wanted, and coming away feeling like utter shit. Like you are not enough for her alone.

Realizing that you can do anything when you have to. Feeling a sense of achievement when you manage something foreign to you, like building a lawnmower out of the box for the first time ever, having been given no alternative apart from not mowing the grass which badly needed doing. Knowing that you are capable and she is safe in your sole care. Having so much time together that she’s like a mini best friend and companion. Having been able to spend the really important first years of her life with her, never missing a thing. Getting to be there for all the crucial milestones. Coming together through times of grief to form an unbreakable close bond. Knowing that her not having much materially now will mean that she will appreciate everything she eventually will have in later life. Knowing that I will teach her to earn whatever she has in life and to work hard in all that she does, whether that be baking a cake or her later studies. Passing on my own life skills to her and watching her enjoy learning them. Being a little team and helping each other get through the days. Compromising together. Her insight into when I may not be feeling well and her care and love in giving me the space I need in those times, even at her tender age, she knows. Knowing she still has people she loves in her life, even if in a different capacity to the one she once knew. Knowing I am doing whats best for her. Loving how precious I am to her and she is to me.

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Writing this I have laughed and cried at what a menace and a sweetheart she is wrapped in one parcel. Kiss your babies goodnight and take nothing for granted. Parenthood is a bloody rollercoaster and it’s important we laugh at the struggles in order to get through them and appreciate the good bits in equal measure. Goodnight. I’m off for a cuddle x

How is my baby girl 4 already x

On 21st February 2017, my gorgeous little girl turned four. For any parent out there, with kids of any age, you will fully understand how fast that time passes you by. It is a strange feeling, celebrating a child’s birthday, especially when they are this young and little still.altAmXFT0bdvjntDnsyYgLIeP5pHK--RoOHbcJNb2l6WURjAbove: The arrival. Feels like yesterday

In one sense, it is of course a celebration of life and how far they’ve come and grown as a little person in their own right. It’s a time to be surrounded by your loved ones, spending quality time together, enjoying those moments and simple pleasures that are allowed on that special day, such as being spoilt with presents and eating copious amounts of cake. (We had food coloured, very bright, very 4 year old friendly, TROLL cake, for the record ;-).)20170220_153928 Above: Emis Troll cake

Those moments are all worth it and we had a great day. We had two celebrations for various family members, one being a very lady like tea party for the girls and the other being a trip to the farm with her dad, aunty and uncle, followed by visitors with goodies in hand for her for the remainder of the day. It was a special day all round and I feel blessed that everyone loves her as much as I do. Birthdays are great for reaffirming that you are in fact loved.

Above: Birthday fun!

In another sense, however, I felt some sadness on that day, even more so now it’s passed. Just that sort of sadness, that we all as parents feel, when the child, no longer your baby, gets another year older, leaving behind another year of precious memories and milestones that will never happen again for them. Its gone. Its achieved. Shes onto the next adventure already. The first birthday is always an emotional ride but nobody tells you how much harder it gets to watch them grow up with each passing year. Especially when you just have the one child and are throughly enjoying these younger years with them, it hits it home that whilst loving the child you have, you might never get to experience these milestones again with another, something I very much wanted. As a single parent who has to focus all their energies on their child rather than dating or going out etc that can be a tough reality to face. I know other single moms in the same position as me, in their thirties, feeling the same way that I do. It’s a scary time not knowing if you will get to fulfill something you know will bring such happiness. But I can only focus on her today. She does bring me a whole wealth of happiness which I never take for granted. And in turn I know she’s happy with me. We love each other and its pure and real. That feels amazing.

Above: My focus. My happy girl.

Of course, it was her first birthday without Nan too, who passed away last July and who I always think of but who is especially on the mind on special occasions such as this. I remember her being a little uneasy after I had Emi in 2013, wincing at the idea of being a great Nan as it made her feel old, but within her own time, she came into her own and with the love she had for Emi, grew to adore it. She beamed with pride when she was around my little girl. That made me extremely proud. I think about their funny little relationship often and how they used to take pleasure in winding each other up (ages 3 and 79) then taking great pleasure in laughing together and sharing some biscuits after their fun and games. I think for the first birthday without her, we did great together. 20160807_071958[1].jpg

Above: 4 generations. Nan, me, baby Emi and Mom.

The stages of a childs growth and progression seem to whizz by without ever standing still.  That is why I try my hardest to make the most of it and not miss anything. Teething, eating, crawling, walking, running, talking, starting nursery. Shes done all that. Shes a pro. She will be starting school this September and I have to admit that’s not a milestone I have been looking forward to. It will be such a huge change to our life, which is currently me and her together most days, that I know it will take some time for me to get used to it. I know she will love it though.  I sometimes sit with her at home, wrapped up in a cosy blanket together, watching her funny baby videos to remind me of things she used to do. She finds herself hilarious too which is so funny to see. Its amazing what you forget or need reminding of. Life is of course about the present and living in it, which we have no choice but to do to get through each day, so the way she used to say “kilky” for milky, for instance, isn’t in the forefront of my mind most days. However, to have those precious memories captured on film, to look at whenever I want, is priceless to me.

It also reminds me how much life has changed for me and Emi. I was in my family of 4, with a partner and step son, both in my life for nearly 8 years. Now we don’t have those 2 in our lives on a daily basis and especially with Emis big brother it could be months before we get a catch up these days with him, as our lives move forward, so I am so glad that I have some wonderful memories to look back upon on paper to remind me, after the hard times faced recently, that they really were very happy times for us all. It also helps me to take nothing in life for granted. Not that I ever did then. Family to me is everything. I loved it all.

Above: Happy days

I try to be in the moment with her as much as possible but to be able to capture a moment of pure joy is bliss and a memory I enjoy being able to look at when I need a pick me up or just happen to be having a trip down memory lane. Sadly, there was never really anyone around who would take pictures of me with Emi without me having to ask. Then, when you have to ask, the moments gone and its posed and no longer natural. All those beautiful, unguarded moments, such as feeding in the first days or playing together. I’m sure I would have looked a mess and probably (definitely) would have scrutinized myself in the pictures which is probably why nobody bothered to take them, but having the choice of pressing delete would have been nice. Any pictures I have are ones I’ve had to take myself, selfie style, with her sitting on my lap. I took countless, gorgeous photos of her with her dad, her brother, her family. Sometimes moms are so overlooked and then there are no precious moments to look back on in years to come. My photo albums at home are full of pictures of Emi with everyone but the person that’s in her life 24/7. Her mom. I wont forget personally of course but a reminder of happiness is sometimes so needed. I would urge anyone who sees a lovely moment to try to capture it for moms with children as they are too often the ones behind the camera being forgotten about. fb_img_14704222592891

Above: Selfie queens

I have a lot to be thankful for in terms of my daughter. Shes a little firecracker. Shes determined, she’s strong, she’s healthy, she’s a madam at times but she’s so full of fun and life that she keeps me going even when I don’t feel like it. Theres not a day that isn’t filled with some sort of laughter or fun when she’s around. Shes my absolute priority and its a pleasure to spend my days with her. I look forward to spending time with her and making it about me and her, no distractions. Kids only want your time and with a kid like this why on earth would I want to be anywhere else, especially at this stage where she’s happy, interested and soaking everything new up like a sponge!

Above: Enjoying life’s little things!

Through the personal pain I sometimes feel, I am equally excited about her growing up and the adventures we will have together. She is so lively and athletic, her stamina knocks me out at times. She is hilariously funny and loves an audience. We do simple things together like going to the park or baking. Life really is about enjoying the little things and spending a day planting up seeds for the garden may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but its interactive, its great  for bonding and it gives us enjoyable things to look forward to later in the year when our plants are springing into life. Having kids doesn’t have to be about chucking expensive toys at them as so many people these days do in place of attention. I’m sure in years to come, when she looks back at our life together, she will appreciate the time I gave her, remembering those memories more than anything I could buy her.20170227_1700091

Above: At my side through it all 😉

So now she’s 4, it’s the start of another year of milestones for my little daredevil. Who knows what this next year will have in store for her. In the last few months alone she has learned how to master the pedals on her bike, she has become a keen dancer and she is interested in taking up ballet. Her personality is in full bloom and more than anything I am excited to see how much she will blossom this year into the person I am already seeing developing before me each day. It’s safe to say I am one very lucky mamma to have such an inspiring little girl in my life. Heres to being 4 and loving it ;-). She will always be my baby though, no matter how big she gets 😉 xwp_20140601_004

Cooking for the freezer, eating well on a budget and preventing waste!

Hi everyone. I have mostly been hibernating with my little one since the start of the New Year. Keeping busy but being quite lazy (down to tiredness) in relation to what we ate. I have to admit I have been seeing a lot of toast and salad these last few weeks. Quick, easy snacks that take minimal time and effort. Luckily my girl is more of a grazer so has been happy with picnic style nibbles. Everything is fun when you’re three. 20170125_1232071

Above: Love a no cook tuna sandwich but its time to get cooking again!

Lack of motivation is a real killer! Apart from a very generous friend and neighbour who invites me round to sample her yummy food once in a while, I really had lost all my passion for cooking and eating. (If you know me, you know that’s just not right ;-).)Especially having had limited funds to eat well in the first place. The last few weeks (the dreaded after christmas reality check) have been some of the worst for me financially since managing on my own. However, seeing how rough things had become, it was the kick up the arse I had needed to take stock of my freezer situation and general attitude towards meals and planning ahead!

For the first time in ages, my freezer was almost completely bare. No back ups. No handy extra ingredients to make a meal more interesting. Nothing but a bag of frozen spinach and some bread! Dire! When you are having a hard up week as a single mom, to not have a freezer full of healthy meals ready to go is a big mistake. It’s a life saver and saves you turning to a highly salted ready meal or the local chip shop when there’s nothing to eat in the house! It’s quite easy to do too if you change your mind-set and include it into what you’re doing anyway. You always need to eat and cook. It makes perfect sense to cook something that will keep for another meal too. 20170125_2020171

Above: Getting my cook on….

So, with that in mind, I started doing something about it. A little research online and a few helpful answers from mom (who has managed in a similar situation with three kids to keep alive!) I am well on my way. Now whenever I cook im thinking will it freeze? Things now only seem worth making if I can freeze a portion for a rainy day! There are some things that simply don’t taste as good once frozen, such as pasta, and can have its quality damaged. And some things just taste damn good made fresh and that’s how it should be. However, for most of my meals, I am now using the method of eat some now and freeze some for later. With a nearly four year old daughter to feed, who always wants something, it’s the best way forward for me. It also helps on days when she’s at nursery as I don’t want to stand for an hour cooking when she gets in, ive missed her, I want to spend time with her!

Above: Precious time

So here are a few things I have found freeze really well and a few ideas of what I will be doing to inspire you to be a bit more thrifty too ;-).Nothing goes to waste now in this house!

Cake!

Yes, you heard me, cake freezes! How I have not come across this bit of amazingly delicious information before I will never know but cake freezes really well, for at least 3 months. To be fair, my mom had told me this before but I didn’t believe her , thinking the quality would be effected, but its great! Now if im in the mood to bake, I don’t have to eat it all or feel I have to give loads away. I have one slice and the rest goes in my newly appointed cake freezer drawer (honestly) and its there for when people pop round for tea or when Emi wants a bit. It will take less than half hour to defrost at room temperature (sliced) or you can take it out the night before or warm in the microwave. Instant cake! I have tried all sorts from wholemeal fruit tea loaf to orange drizzle to cake full of fresh fruit. It all works well. And it works out much cheaper to make your own. Everyone should have a cake drawer ;-).

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Above: To think I have lived my entire adult life without a supply of frozen cake 😉

Bread!

I love bread. I have always frozen it but usually just buy a loaf and freeze it sliced. I have started teaching Emi how to make bread lately and she loves it. She bashes it about, loves the end result and makes her own labels for them to store them in the freezer. Making your own is also much cheaper as you will get 2 or 3 loaves out of one bag of flour, which is about the same cost as a standard loaf. I agree there’s not always time to make ones own bread (before you snigger) but if you do have a spare hour or two its well worth a try. Fresh bread straight from the oven with real butter oozing all over it is AMAZING! Slice it up and freeze the rest for some rustic eggs on chunky homemade toast or late night snacking at a later date.

Above: Emi making her bread and her homemade labels x

Pasta Sauce!

This is one of the most versatile things to make. You can use any meat, any veg, whatever you want or that is in stock and it is such a handy standby for midweek meals to have in as you can just lift it out and reheat it alongside some fresh pasta which takes minutes to cook. I just made a batch tonight using turkey mince, mixed frozen peppers, spinach and oregano, which took less than 40 minutes and has provided my freezer with three meals for the coming weeks ahead. It’s a  great way to use up cheaper meats too, I bought turkey thigh mince instead of turkey breast mince, which is about £1 cheaper to buy and probably is packed with more flavour anyway. Make it in a big batch in a large pan to go even further and in the long run it will work out even cheaper again. Perfect budget cooking and pure comfort eating to boot. Pack it with healthy ingredients and you’re onto a winner for both taste and health!

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Above: My healthy turkey and pepper pasta sauce x

Stew!

Stew is gorgeous. Such comfort food and an excellent filler on a cold winters night. Its my perfect winter food. I love beef stew cooked down using red wine and loads of onions. Again, with the same principle as the pasta sauce, meat and veg will all freeze very well once cooked. I’ve used cooked leftover chicken to then make a chicken stew, which will then also freeze. Three meals from one chicken. I’ve also sourced the cheaper cuts of beef which are perfect in stews and equally freeze really well too.

Soups!

Any kind of soup will freeze. I have been doing mainly vegetable soups as they are really cheap to make and really quick to defrost. Carrot and coriander, pea soup, mushroom, potato and leek, they are all a great way to full up on healthy produce and get some of your five a day too without really thinking about it. It makes a great accompaniment to your frozen homemade bread too! This is the main way that I use up those scabby last onions or carrots that get forgotten at the back of the drawer. Once its cooked and blitzed, you would never have known it once looked a bit manky.

Stock!

Another way to use up the slightly gone too far manky veg lurking in the bottom of that fridge of yours. Celery, carrot, onions, anything really can be bunged into boiling water with seasoning and simmered to create a lovely stock. I always strip me chicken clean, use the left over meat for soups or stir frys and then boil up the bones with some veg to make a few pots of stock, which will be frozen and then used as the base of a new dish at some point down the line. There is far too much waste in terms of food these days and there are so many things that can be done with all those slightly less attractive bits!

Other Lifesaving tips!

Eggs!

Eggs are amazing! Dont just see them as a cake ingredient. I try to use them as much as I can as they are very cheap to use per person and they last for ages! Dont overlook these beauties! And don’t keep them in the fridge!

You can use them for:

Omlettes (You can vary with the filling such as cheese, mushrooms etc)

Scrambled eggs (On toast, with a fry up, with fresh herbs, with smoked salmon etc)

Poached eggs (on a bagel, with crushed avocado, Eggs Benedict etc)

Soft boiled eggs (With toast soldiers of course, how else?!)

Hard boiled eggs (To cut up on salads, to mash with mayo for egg and cress sandwiches, to eat whole out the fridge as a high protein snack.)

In baking

To make yorkshire puddings (these freeze too!)

To make pancakes (Cook them and freeze some!)

As a binder when making burgers

As a glaze when making pastry

Frittatas (Love a slice of this hot or cold and again can be filled with whatever you have.)

Can you tell I like eggs?!

 

Natural Yoghurt!

Yoghurt is worth so much more than just eating from the pot.

You can use it for:

Eating with honey and fruit as a healthy breakfast choice

Mixing into curries or other spicy dishes to cool down the heat!

Mixing with fresh ingredients like herbs or cucumber to make individual dips to accompany meals.

Blending with fresh fruit and honey and freezing in individual ice lolly moulds for a fun task with the kids and a healthy alternative to pudding.

Mixing into porridge for the creamy version without the cream guilt.

A day or two past its used by date is still fine, don’t waste it, pour a couple of tablespoons into the blender with frozen fruit, milk, nuts and honey to make a delicious smoothie.

Make a pasta sauce. By blending nuts, herbs, cheese, olive oil, lemon juice and the yoghurt, then you have a really healthy and natural alternative to the usual cream laden white sauces.

Above: Strawberry, Mango, Yoghurt, Almond, Banana and Honey smoothies for breakfast. Someone likes to eat the fruit frozen!

Fruit!

Always keep in a good selection of fruit! It is so versatile!

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You can use it for:

Lemons can be used to make drinks, add flavour to dishes or make the perfect pancake topping! You can use the rind and juice and both of these freeze well in ice cube trays.

Bananas can be eaten whole, eaten warm with custard (classic) for an easy pudding, left to go brown and mashed into banana bread, added to smoothies.

Apples can be baked, stewed, grated for cakes, made into apple sauce, chopped over salads, or just make a nice snack for kids!

As long as I have plenty of eggs, some cupboard basics and some fruit I know that we can  make a decent meal or two with dessert too! Hope this has given someone out there a few ideas to stretch out their ingredients that little bit further! xx

 

 

Put your phones down! (Why being a phone addict ruins relationships)

I often ask myself these questions. Who needs to sit on their phones all day? What are they even looking at for all that time? Dont they have more interesting things to be doing? Using your phone is one thing but being on it all the time is another. I have known my share of excessive phone addicts. People who sit on their phones all day and night, especially in the company of others, with that in particular being something that really annoys me at times. It is like people just don’t value face to face communication or time anymore. How are relationships, including friendships, expected to be maintained or grown, if the people within them are mentally elsewhere all the time? Being present physically is not enough. I know people who have brilliant relationships in all areas of their lives and those are the people, not surprisingly, who don’t let technology take over from whats really important. Living in the moment. Building what you have. Not letting recreation time become everything over everyone.

I did some cafe watching a while back, armed with nothing but a yummy hot chocolate and a pair of eyes. In the half hour I was sat there, I was surprised to observe that only about 2 people walked past without a phone. Everyone else was looking down at their screens as they walked by. Not even looking what was in front of them. This was in Birmingham, so you can imagine there were a fair few people to watch during that short time! This is something I wouldn’t have noticed before. Until you think about something within your own life, you can be pretty oblivious to it. I remember when I was pregnant, I swear I had never really paid much attention to noticing other pregnant women before, then suddenly I spotted them everywhere. 😉 Funny how the mind works. is-17

We are, of course, all guilty of doing it to some extent. Over using technology that is. I’m no exception. I am a fan of going online myself. I am an Ebay queen, I occasionally browse Facebook and I text my family and friends to keep in touch. I thought I had a good balance with my phone/home life. I always try to put my daughter first and apart from the occasional text throughout the day that requires a quick reply or a bit of browsing whilst she watches a film on repeat for the 100th time, I thought I had it in check. Sometimes you don’t notice how things start to creep into your life and take over and I am sorry to say I am a little guilty of that lately.

The occasional browse on the news sites went from a few a week to being a morning routine of grabbing my phone upon awakening and making it my first activity of the day. I am guilty of saying “In a minute” to Emi many times, whilst I lay in bed reading showbiz news so utterly unimportant, as she nagged me to get up and make breakfast. It was, I suppose, a delay tactic. I’m fully aware that the minute I get up, my long day as a single mom to a 3 year old starts, who although exceedingly lovely, is very demanding of my time and energy, which is completely exhausting. It’s a shift. So whilst im not going to be too hard on myself , adjustments can always be made to improve things. Another example is my bath. A quick 10 minute dip to clean myself turned into another opportunity to watch meaningless YouTube videos whilst she played in her room. 10 minutes started extending to 40. I always spoke to her and she ran in to see me but it’s still taking away from our time. So I am guilty of that too.

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I’m not here to shame others. I’m not here to say I know best. Parenthood is a massive learning curve. Nobody knows all the answers.We all make mistakes, some of us notice and correct them ourselves, some of us don’t notice anything and never self reflect. The important thing is to try your best. If you can say you are trying, that is the best you can do. I suppose when I needed to lye in, or extend my bath, that was the best I could do on that particular day. I still gave all of myself to my daughter outside of that time for the rest of the day. But I realise if there’s a day I need a break like that from now on, I will go and have 5 minutes whilst she’s busy rather than pushing on towards an hour.

A good parent, in my opinion only, is an honest one. One who is self aware and can admit their faults. I have many. But as long as we try and look into reflecting on things too then it will all work out ok. I still get my fill of showbiz trash headlines. (A single mom needs to dream for 10 minutes about how the other half live!) I just do it when she’s in bed or at nursery now. Our time is too precious to keep wasting.

Some of the best examples of people in my life live by this same premise.

I have a wonderful friend that may not reply for days at a time, which, if you didn’t know her, you may take that as a sign she maybe wasnt too bothered about the friendship or the importance of keeping in touch. Fortunately, I know her well and know that to not hear from her is often a good thing, as it means she’s busy and focusing on work, life, family and her children. She makes them a priority as naturally they come first for her. And that is how it should be. She replies to me when she has time. Sometimes she even surprises me with a swift response or two ;-). It doesn’t matter how long we spend apart, when we reunite its lovely, because we make time for each other in those moments. We value that time and respect that each other has taken time out of our priority lives to be there. So being in the moment with her family and not looking at her phone every night is exactly the right thing to do. Family is everything, especially where young children are involved. Her partner is equally set on making his priorities the children and supporting my friend as his partner and mother to his children. I know many couple like this and they are always stronger for it. Team work always pays off! Being present is a choice.

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I have a group of friends that I see only a few times a year for birthdays etc, however, when together, we will sit and talk for hours, with not one of us sat on our phones or being distracted elsewhere, because those present is all the input and conversation that’s needed and desired. The same goes for another close friend nearby. We often share cups of tea and lunch and just talk to each other about our lives. It always feels good to talk face to face, establishes a greater bond of friendship and makes me come away feeling positive to know that I have a friend that will listen rather than be distracted elsewhere. Time is so valuable. To give your time to someone else is a gift.

My parents are another great example of how to stay interested in each other and make reality where you choose to put your energy. Each night, after spending very different days apart, they come together at the dinner table and discuss their day. Some people say old-fashioned, I think its vital to what makes their marriage a success. Being interested and making time for each other. I find it really sad when people willingly lose good relationships or friends through a general lack of being interested in them anymore. People will always appear more interesting if they are actually listened to, noticed, appreciated and don’t have to compete with a device of some sort. Back to basics.

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A lot of people in this world currently have stopped talking to each other in person, spending far too much time transfixed by liking, following, chatting, sexting, texting. There are so many platforms to entice every different sort of person online, whether that be shopping, playing games, gambling, social media or sex sites. People are too accessible. We live in a society where you can argue with your spouse over something as trivial as doing the dishes and rather than talk it through, simply go into a different room instead and arrange to have sex with someone else at the click of a button. Relationship ended in 5 seconds. There is always someone willing and eager to smooth over a bruised ego for attention and sex. That is truly frightening to me. Does anyone stand a chance? Nobody talks and fixes anymore. Likewise, people can spend more than is in their bank account getting carried away playing poker with other real online players in a different country. The thrill and the risk is what makes the fun. Often though, money is lost and the real friends in physical form are dropped and ignored for players you will never meet on the other side of the world.

I’m not condemning these things altogether, they can be useful platforms to be sociable or spend some down time. But moderation doesn’t seem to apply anymore. There is just too much. Too much opportunity. To much accessibility. It’s up to everyone else how they choose to live. I can’t tell anyone what to do. I do know, however, whats important to me though, especially after writing this, so I will keep reminding myself of that x

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Above: Pointing the camera at the only thing on the screen that matters 😉 x

The Benefits Cap. Why not just shoot us single parents now?!

I like Facebook. I like to see what friends and family are up to. I like to share a few things like pictures of my girl with people I know. It’s a great platform for sharing things in general. Today I saw a post that frightened me greatly.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/laura-dewar/single-parents-with-babie_1_b_12799568.html?1478270983&

I was obviously aware of the new benefit reforms but not in this amount of detail. I didn’t know exactly how they would harm so many lives in relation to people in my position until I read this report. As a single parent of one child, I don’t think, currently, I will lose any money each week. (I could be wrong of course but I think I must come within the cap limit. If wrong, please feel free to correct me.)

However, there are some women with 2, 3 or more children, who have been made a single parent not through choice, who will now have money deducted from them weekly, taking into account the new cap limit, meaning they will be worse off and will struggle even more than they already do. The report admits that this will leave families at risk of losing their homes, being unable to pay their bills or rent, with losses in income estimated at about £60 per week. I know the value of living off £60 per week as a single parent to one child, so I can’t imagine the difficulty people much face when forced to lose this amount of money. Especially after being used to it and having already built their initial foundation of how they live around it. The simple fact is kids cost money. Take it away, how do you clothe and feed them?

Most people have already set up their living arrangements based on the income they already get, meaning the rent will now not get paid as that deducted money will have to be covered out of other benefits and on goes the cycle of juggling money around to make ends meet, to cover bill deadlines, to feed the kids, until something doesn’t get paid, until the kids don’t get fed, until the rent isn’t covered on time. That is how it starts. One missed rent payment leads to possible eviction. Eviction leads to homelessness. (Imagine that with 3 kids in tow.) Homelessness leads to fear and desperation. Fear leads to vulnerability. Desperation leads to prostitution. Prostitution leads to vulnerability. Vulnerability leads to danger. Danger leads to loss, death or illness. Sound extreme? It can happen and does. A lot.

Not paying the bills leads to bailiffs knocking at your door with the kids watching. Bailiffs being called leads to personal possessions being taken away and never seen again to cover the arrears of the bills you can no longer pay. Losing your things leads to borrowing money from dangerous and willing loan sharks, at eye watering interest rates as most will have no other option in this situation to cover the loss of the possessions taken that are so necessary to everyday functioning in this day and age. (We need a washing machine to clean our kids clothes. We need a computer to look for the jobs you are so quick to push us into before we are ready or able.) Borrowing like this leads to significant mounting debt that stands no chance of being paid off. Mounting debt leads to massive amounts of stress. Stress and a general lack of hope can lead to depression. Depression and no alternative can lead to death in some severe cases. Sound over the top? It is not. It happens when pushed. A lot.

Stress is the one thing that is actually most likely to hold people back from gaining the right employment. To be not properly supported and then be expected to hold down a job is just not realistic. Whilst the government are busy penalizing people for daring to have fallen on hard times, how is that going to help them to become the working citizens you expect us all to be? Who wants to live in a world where we are made to feel hopeless and are punished if we ever DARE to find ourselves in a position like I am that I didn’t ask for? The benefits system is supposed to be a fall back for when you need it. There are people who say how proud they are that they have never had to use it. Well lucky you. We are not all so fortunate.

And what about the children? It’s all very well saying “Dont have kids until you can pay for them yourself”. This isnt Cinderella. We all know, deep down, that life is not that simple. Some women are raped and anti-abortion so keep the child whilst dealing with the aftermath mentally of that horrifying ordeal for the rest of their life. Other women work really hard for a family and get abandoned by men who claimed they were the world but in time had no intention of sticking around leaving the woman to do all the hard stuff by herself as the child gets older. Others fall pregnant even with the safest and most assured methods of contraception. It can’t always be planned in the way the fairy tales or society tells us it should be. Meet, date, consummate, get engaged, buy a house, get married, start a family, live happily ever after. Yeah that sounds great, in reality it happens to very few of us. Punishing people for this all just leads to one big mess and who suffers? The people who were the last people who needed benefit cuts. Single parents with children under five and the children they carry with them. Single parents who really need the help with children under school age. Its ludicrous this had been deemed acceptable. It’s the last place the cuts should have been made.

I understand fully that cuts NEEDED to be made SOMEWHERE. But this is all wrong. Why do I see people in my area who have never worked a day in their life, sat outside at all hours, in their pyjamas, smoking pot and drinking all day whilst claiming DLA. Are they disabled? No. Could they work? Yes. Are they lazy and choose to claim disability  to get out of work? You know it. Are they wasting their benefits on unnecessary drugs and vices? Of course. Openly. Why are they not having their weekly income cut or abolished completely? How do they slip through the system yet innocent parents that really need support get punished so that society feels better about them existing? It madness. Cuts could have been made else where.

I have worked none stop since I was 16, right up until I had my daughter at 26. When I stopped working, due to there being no free childcare for under 2 year olds and having no family around us to GIVE us free childcare, my partner worked instead. The plan was ALWAYS supposed to be that once she hit nursery age, with his income already in place, anything I earned part-time over those two days she was attending would be an extra bit of income that would benefit our family, allowing us both to work and contribute. Unfortunately, from age 2, before our daughter started nursery, he left us. Is that my fault? Should I be punished for this? Do you think I enjoyed through the personal grief having to admit I would now join a group of society on Income Support that were belittled and looked down upon? Should I be made to feel any worse than I already have done since we watched him go and knew we would from that point onwards struggle just to eat properly?

I can hear some of you saying “Well she’s in nursery now, why don’t you just work now?”. People have said this to me too. Yes, she gets (on paper) 15 hours of free childcare per week. Due to it being an all year round nursery and with the staff rates being taken into account, they spread this out over the year, meaning she actually gets 12 hours per week, over 2 days, from 9am-3pm. So for me to “just go to work”, with not much outside help to fit around what I needed to be able to do to work, I would have to either find a job for just those hours (not taking travel time into account), earning less than I receive now as I wouldn’t meet the 16 hours requirement for working tax credits to be exempt from these cuts, or I would have to work 16 hours plus per week, paying out of that income for an extra day at nursery, again making me no better off or possibly worse off. On top of this, finding a job to fit with her nursery hours and collections will be hard in itself.

I have heard so many people, and friends, with young children themselves saying “We do it, why should you sit on your arse all day”. So many people go on Facebook rants about how lazy single parents are and how if they have to work then so should we. Firstly, anyone doing it properly never sits on their arse. Its full-time. You know this. You have children yourselves. You do a good job too. You know it aint easy. Secondly, you answered your own question. “WE do it.” Together. As a unit. To co-ordinate pick up times, to swap childcare duties on days off, to share household responsibilities, to have the dinner ready for the other person when they get in, booking annual holidays off to cover childcare between you for those who don’t work in education and don’t naturally get these same times off throughout the year as their kids. It is so easy to say “Just do it” when you have no concept yourself of what it takes to raise a kid by yourself. No idea of what it would take to juggle all of that life with a child under five by yourself. It is no walk in the park. 

Up until now, it has always been accepted that if you have a child under school age you were not pushed or required to work until they were in full-time school. This I feel is right.  That they are pushing now to change this to seemingly demonstrate their power, will to save money or to make a show of people already suffering, is wrong. It is not possible. By all means, when Emi is in full-time school next September, I will be working. She will still only be 4, but the hours at school will help me with finding a job that will fit better around that. I will not have to pay for all day childcare, her main school hours will at least be covered, therefore I will have less barriers holding me back from earning and working. That will be the right time to go back to work. It makes logical sense. But the benefits cap and the government in general is not what you would call logical.

What doesn’t make sense to me, is the belief by the masses of the propaganda allowed in the media to discriminate against all single parent claimers as a whole. For instance, a newspaper headline may shamelessly document a family who happens to claim £19000 “free” benefits per year, squaring them up against a hospital worker earning the same each year in a more “hard-working” manner. With the media, its black and white, its right and wrong.

What I want to know is, when you see a headline like this, do you instantly think “scumbag”. Or do you think of the reality about what that figure is covering and where exactly the money is going? Are you actually being brainwashed enough to believe that the parent is pocketing that amount of money each year for themselves to live on?

My rent, for example, works out at nearly £5300 per year. This is in a relatively cheap area. Imagine if that headline covered the cost of a London rental? This is paid directly to my landlord. I never see that money. Yet this figure is always included in the total figure of what “scum bag” claimers like me are getting. We don’t get it.We dont see it. My water rates are nearly £400 per year. My gas and electric nearly £600 per year. That is just for the two of us, being very careful to switch everything off we don’t use. Imagine the cost per year in a four or five person family unit? That is before food, clothing, phone bills, tv licence, kids costs for school etc, all the extras kids and babies need as they grow like nappies etc.

Do you really believe that people who genuinely claim as their only income are “laughing” at all you “hard” workers who have to earn your money whilst scum like me rolls around in excess? If you do think that, you have been misinformed. When you take into account travel and basic living expenditure on top of the other bills, it does not leave a lot. Anyone going on holidays at the tax payers expense and bragging about it must have other income they are not declaring. I for one am not into drugs myself. And that’s not trying to generalise myself. The type of people that flash this magical cash that has seemingly appeared out of nowhere are very often dealing or associated with drugs. Anyone like a struggling mother would probably be more likely to do a bit of cash in hand cleaning and not declare it just to feed her children, she certainly wouldn’t be flashing it, or proud of not declaring it. People need to eat. 

I know what it is to eek out your last £2.00 of the week  on the cheapest food you can find to get you through the next few days until there’s money in the bank again. I know what it is to have to feel ashamed as you cash in your saved up few pounds worth of coppers at the bank, just so you have emergency money on your card for things like milk over the weekend incase you run out. I know what it is to hold off from putting your heating on at all until at least December, preferring to sit with a jumper, blanket and hot water bottle rather than run up any more money and be landed with an energy bill you don’t have the available cash to pay, worrying your child is cold at night in a freezing flat, so much so that you sleep together to keep each other warm. I know what it is on the income I receive for my daughter, how it feels being 3 months behind with paying the water bill because it’s the last bill that gets chased and the kid needed to be fed first so you ignore it for a few months because you can, always stressing its hanging over you and hoping your services aren’t cut or you’re not hit by legal action for ignoring the red warning letters.

I hate that people paint this “scum on benefits” picture of EVERYONE on them. I also hate that people who work assume that people who claim are out to spite you or somehow getting one over on you. Claiming benefits isn’t about you. Until you have to do it, you wont understand that Mrs high and mighty “I work and you don’t”.

Say this does happen as they want and all single parents are pushed into working part-time regardless if it makes them better off or not, just to right things in their minds on some form in some office somewhere and so that the poor woman ensures her kids are not made homeless? Will there even be enough jobs for this anyway? I have looked at the Directgov website today and through the limited amounts of part-time jobs available, most of the ones I could find were night work or evening work. How does a single mom like myself with no close family or supportive partner do night work or evening work? Who watches Emi whilst I go? It works in theory in your little minds in your top paid jobs, sat behind your big desks in your nice suits your maid has ironed for you, whilst you make these rules up that are so unrealistic it would almost be laughable if it didn’t harm so many lives.

Single parents with babies will have to now search for work to meet the shortfall in benefits cuts if they cannot pay their rent. That will be their only option. Working for nothing, to pay the rent, to cover the babies child care, with nothing left over. Its disgusting. Before there is ANY free childcare at age 2? Are you kidding me?

I am not a fan of this government. However, I am even less of a fan of people who are not in the position to judge but do anyway. Stop it. You have no idea.

Parents, on their own, having to apply for help, should not be pushed into work until the child is in full-time school, unless their job income can cover their costs and they can realistically do it alone . My daughter wont even be 5 when she starts. They should be given choice or at least support and training during this time so that when they do return to work they are better qualified to get a better wage. There is currently no support in place, only unrealistic pushing which will make the mothers and childs lives twice as hard as they already are. The benefits system should be set up and in place to allow this much needed support to happen. Not to BULLY already hard done by mainly women into further hardship to save a few pounds. 

Train Travel with a Toddler. (8 Rules to Stress Free Travel)

Yesterday we made the long journey from Birmingham to Cornwall to visit family. We have done this journey a few times before, mainly when my little girl was a baby, a time when she didn’t move too much and was able to quietly sit, or sleep on my lap for hours on end whilst other passengers cooed over her cuteness and dribbly smiles.

My daughter is now heading towards 4 years old in the new year and can only be described as a live wire! She moves, she jumps, she sings whenever and wherever she wants to, as loud as she wants to! She has the energy of a flea and the attention span of a typical 3 year old, always looking for the next thrill and never wanting to sit still for too long!

So I have to admit I had not really been looking forward to this journey at all this time. 6-7 hours over three trains with a toddler confined to one space is not the ideal fr me or the other passengers! However, it actually went ok. I find to travel with children you have to learn lessons as you make mistakes. And I made lots of mistakes previously. Something I was determined not to repeat again. The last time we made this journey in June this year, it was a nightmare. It was the first time since she was tiny that I had travelled by train this far with her and I got it all wrong. I assumed that because I had booked my trains with connections, this meant that I would be guaranteed to get where I need on time. BIG MISTAKE.

RULE 1: NEVER ASSUME YOUR TRAIN WILL BE ON TIME!

PREVIOUS ERROR: My train was delayed but I actually managed to get the earlier one by ten minutes from my town to Birmingham. Even by taking this early positive step, the train then sat on the tracks outside of Birmingham New Street for 15 minutes waiting for a signaling error to be fixed or something, meaning I then had to rush to my main train. We had to rush, bags, toddler and all, down the escalators, where at the bottom she fell and came down arms and legs spread on her stomach at the bottom! I couldn’t comfort her as the doors were just shutting on the platform , we made it with about a second to spare, having to get on at the wrong carriage and drag a crying child and our cases through about 3 carriages to get to ours.

LESSON LEARNED: This time I was having none of that rubbish! You can’t rely on delays not occurring, so I got my first train an hour earlier, meaning by the time we got to Birmingham we even had time for a sausage sandwich and a hot chocolate. We had loads of time on the platform and without the rush were able to get in the carriage we needed at the right end. Such a relief this time!

RULE 2: BOOKING A TAXI MEANS NOTHING!

PREVIOUS ERROR: In june, I booked a taxi for 8am the following morning. It was confirmed. 8am came and went. No taxi. No contact. I called and was told a booking for first thing in the morning isn’t guaranteed. I am sure this is just my local rubbish company. I had to book with another firm at short notice which in itself nearly made me miss my first train.

LESSON LEARNED: This time, I said no taxis. Simple. Waiting on the trains is bad enough without stressing about even getting to the station!

RULE 3: TAKE SNACKS. LOTS OF SNACKS.

PREVIOUS ERROR: Thinking a good breakfast and a packed sandwich was enough to keep a toddler interested.

LESSON LEARNED: Kids like choice. This time I packed picnic bits like fruit, crisps, flapjacks, bread sticks, cheese…nibbly bits. It kept her snacking, filled her up and filled ten minutes for me on the journey every time she wanted a good rummage and little personal picnic, laying it all out and taking her pick.

RULE 4: TAKE LOTS TO DO.

PREVIOUS ERROR: I had hoped that looking out of the window at passing sheep and a few pens and paper might suffice. Wrong!

LESSON LEARNED: This time I was prepared. Magazine. Pens. Paper. Games on phone. Film to watch. She still spent half of the journey moaning and restless but I reckon it saved me about 2 hours of potential additional strops being prepared with activities.

RULE 5: BE REALISTIC

PREVIOUS ERROR: I used to be one of those people, pre-child, who would purposely book the quiet coach on the train so that I could avoid noisy children when I was travelling alone and wanted to bury my head into a good book. It is true that until you have kids you have no empathy for what the parent is going through in trying to travel long distances with children on the train when they don’t have an alternative option. After having her, I became very aware that I needed to try to keep her as quiet as possible incase the other passengers got annoyed.

LESSON LEARNED: In want of better words, screw em! Yes you can be considerate, which I am, but there is no way she is going to be quiet for a 6 hour journey. There is also no way she is going to stay in one spot for that long. If they need to walk up the aisle a little staying close to your seat, let them. If they need to stand up and look out fo the window at the sea as it passes by, let them. Do what you need to survive that ordeal!

RULE 6: DONT BOOK THE QUIET COACH

For the reasons I said above, people book this for a reason and you need to be honest with yourself that your kid is NOT going to comply to the quiet rule on a journey of any length.

RULE 7: DONT ASSUME BOOKING A SEAT BY A TOILET IS A WISE MOVE

I have always done this as kids need it all the time. However, you then have to put up with people by your seat constantly, or the effects of an unkept and dirty toilet, such as the smell, wafting past you every time the doors are opened. I wont be putting this one down as a priority choice next time! The toilet was in a right state on our journey down, so much so I carried her in and hovered her over the seat. The things we have to do 😊.

RULE 8: DONT LOSE FAITH IN GOOD PEOPLE

One of my biggest concerns about travelling alone is managing my child with all my bags, over big platform gaps and between stations! I am instantly nervous about these things before they happen. I have been touched by the amount of people (mostly business looking men on their way to work) offering to carry my cases between trains, reaching out and helping my little one onto the train or just offering their seat so we don’t have to stand. I didn’t struggle or have to ask for help once on this journey, it was simply given or offered, which I thanked or accepted gratefully. There are still some chivalrous people around it seems!

Those are my 8 rules to travelling with a little one. I hope it helps at least one person feel a bit better about a long journey ahead! My girl actually had a 30 minute nap at the end of the journey which was well timed to take stock of making sure I had everything in order to get off. Sometimes they do surprise you 😉.I will be prepared for the return journey in a few weeks! x