Monday, 6 June 2016


This summer will mark three years since Ava's dad & I split up. And three years I have been navigating the scary world of parenting solo. When I first embarked on this journey I was ridiculously scared. My fears running from 'what if a broken home will scar her for life' to 'how the hell am I going to do this on my own'. I was scared that Ava would grow up to resent the fact her Dad and I weren't together, that she would be scarred and confused by living between two homes and that I would end up dying alone because who the hell wants to take on a single mum with a toddler?

I'm not saying I'm an expert at the single mama life. Far from it. I am plagued by insecurities that I might be doing it wrong every day and constantly question my actions as a single parent. I miss the security of having a strong relationship with the father of my child, I miss having someone to share not only the good stuff but the bad stuff too. I miss having someone to wipe my tears when I think I'm getting it wrong and someone to tag team me in the good cop/bad cop routine when she is acting up.

But I am also immensely proud of how far we have come. Of the obstacles I have tackled on my own and conquered. Like getting her to sleep in her own bed or being the only voice of discipline in our home. It's a daunting position sometimes and although I urge you not to take too much heed of my advice, I have compiled a little list of tips for any scared mums out there who are terrified of embarking on this unbelievably fulfilling yet terrifying journey on their own....

  • Understand that you will get it wrong. It's hard doing it on your own and many times I have crumpled on the sofa in a heap after a particularly stressful day. Burying my face in a glass of wine and Googling parenting tips. Once I was even so low I went on NetMums (shudder). Sometimes you will give in way too early because you just can't stand the feet stomping anymore. Sometimes you will be ratty when you shouldn't be and they will fall out with you for an hour for being grumpy. But other parents are also getting it wrong. They are just getting it wrong together. 
  • Don't feel guilty for picking up your phone. I constantly give myself a hard time about being on my phone too much. And given that I am a regular lifestyle blogger who works in social media, I probably am. Try and find a balance that works. If your child has started hiding your iPhone then you probably need to tone it down a little. But don't feel bad if you are pretending to video her singing Uptown Funk in the bath but are actually just scrolling through your Instagram feed. We've all done it.
  • Sometimes they will make you feel like shit. Ava hero worships her Dad and her 4 year old head still doesn't see the harm in telling me how much she prefers him now and again. Despite this Ava and I have a strong bond and I know deep down she loves me to death. When they decide to inform you that you are completely crap and that their dad is perfect, don't take it to heart. Apparently it's normal. And I should know, I've Googled it enough.
  • Don't feel bad for being pleased when you hand them over. Sometimes if they are driving you nuts you feel immense relief when you drop them at their dads, only to miss them so much you feel like your arm has been cut off when you return to your empty home. Also normal. There's plenty of women in healthy and committed relationships who are more than happy to send the kids out for pizza with their Dad as soon as he returns home from work simply so they can wallow in a bubble bath. They don't feel guilty - why should you?
  • If she cries for her Dad whenever she gets a row or hurts herself don't convince yourself that she secretly wants you to move to Yemen. After a serious amount of investigating (and possibly some coerced spying), I can confirm they do the same at their Dad's and cry for you when they scrape their knee or don't get what they want. So don't be fooled.
  • As the old saying goes 'It's not drinking alone if the kids are at home' - or something like that. Sometimes I try and hang off from having a glass of wine until Ava goes to bed. This only works when Ava actually goes to bed at the usual appointed time. If the kid is still doing laps of the living room at 9pm and you are gagging for a Sauv Blanc then just pour one. While I draw a line at sinking the bottle and waking up the next morning on the sofa, wine is most definitely a good friend to the knackered and frazzled single mama. 
  • Sometimes you have personality clashes. While I love Ava to death, her and I don't always see eye to eye. It's been pointed out a few times how similar in nature we are and I believe that may have a lot to do with it. She has started snapping back at me in that 4 going on 14 way she has recently adopted and she keeps refusing to smile for selfies (cause she knows how much that winds me up). Before the age of 5, Ava has mastered the ice queen pissed off look that took me years to perfect. Kinda proud of her on that point.
  • Don't compare yourself. You know those sassy celebrity single mums you see looking flawless, wearing 6" Louboutins and carrying the latest designer nappy bag on one arm and a ridiculously well behaved baby on the other? Well behind those women is a team of stylists, make up artists and nanny's. You're doing this on your own. And if you are managing to make it into work without scrambled egg/stickers/soggy cereal on your shirt then believe me, you are doing well.
  • Try and stay on good terms with your ex. I'm lucky enough to be in one of those annoying ex situations where we have managed to stay pals. Good pals in fact. And we regularly take Ava out for something to eat or babysit for one another. It's not always easy, but try your very best to stay friends with your ex. It's so much healthier for the children. 
  • Likewise, even if you want to kill him, never ever bad mouth the father of your child in front of them. I could literally want to throttle Ava's Dad (and we have had our moments), but I am nothing but complimentary and encouraging whenever Ava talks about him. I think this is important in maintaining Ava respects and never resents me.
  • Likewise always encourage and  nurture a healthy and regular relationship between them. I have explained to Ava on many an occasion that her Dad is her closest ally, that what they have is important and special and that I will never get in the way of their relationship. Having parents who divorced when I was a child, it's important to me that she understands this.
  • But it's ok to cheat. It's hard on your own. If you are working a full time job, looking after the kid and are basically frazzled then sometimes it's ok to just give in and give them a biscuit before they've had their fish fingers. You can't be a perfect parent all the time. See also: letting them stay up till 11pm when your friends come over for drinks and shoving the iPad in their face so you can sleep a bit longer when they decide that 6am is perfect getting up time.
  • You don't have to fit in. I turned up at a 5th birthday party yesterday on what was a super hot and sunny day wearing a tight white vest and rather short Daisy Duke type denim cut off shorts. All the other Mums were wearing stretchy leggings and floaty skirts. I felt a bit out of place and self conscious for the two hour duration and I think there might have been a couple of dads who got a swift slap to the back of the head for averting their eyes in the wrong direction. But just be you. I'm hardly over the hill at 32 and I don't always dress in typical mum clothes. While I draw the line at turning up like something out of Pretty Woman, don't ever try and feel you have to fit into some sort of cookie cutter mum mould. 
  • Try to avoid the mindless, soulless black hole that is soft play. Don't get me wrong, it has its place and I have opted for that polystyrene fire retardant hell a few times when I have just needed a coffee and a chance to read my magazine. But mix it up by getting out and about as well. Ava and I regularly take off on a Saturday in search of new adventures. There's always a million beaches you haven't discovered yet, castles you haven't explored and museums you haven't almost got kicked out of. Discover them all together and make some memories.
  • Read. Read. Read. I am the first to admit that I sometimes let Ava go to bed and watch cBeebies on the iPad (usually on a Saturday night when a day of castle exploring has left us knackered). But during normal routine bedtime we always make time for story time. I love these 15 minute periods at the end of each day where you can cuddle up and encourage those amazing little imaginations with a Disney story or a Katie Morag trilogy.
  • Finally listen. I try and listen to everything Ava tells me. No matter how small and insignificant it seems. Because it's not small and insignificant to her if she is taking the time to tell me. Her stories range from how Abbey in her nursery class got her nails painted ultra violet, to the 12 reasons she doesn't like bananas to how Sophie at dancing gets to stay up till midnight every night and eats Walkers Extra Crunchy for dinner. If you don't listen to the little stuff, they might not share the big stuff when they get older. And if you can't listen to all their inane chatter all the time then at least get good at pretending.
Please note, I am by no means a parenting expert, as you will know if you read this blog regularly or follow me on Instagram or Twitter. But I hope some of my little tips help some of you other mamas out there. Or that you can even just read this and relate while swilling on a large glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and absent mindedly telling them to stop painting the walls with Dairylee. 

I guess if I could sum up my advice in one fell swoop it would be this:

The way to be a successful single mother?

Stop trying to be a successful single mother.

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