NB: I know it’s not entirely the ‘done’ thing to talk about money, because OMG we’re British and when it comes to our wallets we keep our mouths closed, but this is something I can’t stop thinking about. And therefore something I wanted to write about. So there.
Raising kids is an expensive business. We all know that.
But how expensive is it to be a working (single) mum? That’s what I’ve been wondering.
When I accepted my job I didn’t really work out how much it would cost me. I had a basic idea in my head – Hux would need to go to nursery 3 days a week and I was already paying pre-school fees for him and a few extra hours over my free 15 for Elfie – but surely because I’d be, you know, earning a salary, working out how much it would cost me seemed a bit pointless.
The maternity checklist. To me it was less of a ‘checklist’ and more of a ‘novel’.
I remember packing my bags for hospital, and when I say ‘bags’ I mean ‘plural of bag’ because I had… what? Two? Three of them? Plus a pillow, plus a car seat, plus a birthing ball. I don’t think I have ever been so prepared in my life for anything than I was for the births of my two children.
Every time Monday morning comes around I want to kick myself. I swear I could be a kick-arse lifestyle blogger if only I had the wherewithal to take my camera out on my funtime weekend jaunts, or even record half of it on my iPhone. But I always forget to record the day for prosperity – through living in the moment (my musings on mindfulness to come in a couple of weeks, prepare yourselves) or through focussing too much on craft beers and prosecco.
So you’ll just have to use my lovingly written words to imagine your own version of my weekend, which I promise you was as kick-arse as it sounds.
If you’re living under a rock, or you know, you’re not a blogger, you might not have realised that this weekend was BritMums Live 2014. The biggest blogging conference in the UK, this weekend London played host to 700 of the country’s finest parent bloggers and boy, were we all excited to see each other.
There’s something about the relationships we form online in this community we’ve created that’s difficult to explain to the outside world. Unless you’re a part of it is really difficult to describe the bonds, the emotions, the lives we share with one another. It’s such a powerful thing and it’s never more palpable than at the times you get all those bloggers in a room with each other.
I’ve never been to a blogging conference without it being a thoroughly emotional experience for me and this year was no different. It started with Karin, who I’ve watched go on a difficult journey these past couple of years, and being able to give her a hug just got me in the gut (or the tear ducts) and that was when the weeping began. Then there was the fact I was able to sit next to Charlotte at dinner, hold her hands and truly speak honestly and candidly about the last couple of years to someone who had lived it with me. That was so very special.
Then there was the love, support and friendship from those I hadn’t seen in a little while: Steph and Bryony as always, lovely Katie, Fritha, my northern soulsisters Morgana and Jenny who are total sunshines, Alison, new friends like Becky, Lizzie and Emma, and ones I wish I’d seen more of: Chloe, Sarah, Alice and Alice, Emma (I did get a gorgeous cuddle with baby Charlotte though! And got to give her back when she cried ;), Vicki and many more…
These people are some of the most important in my life and I hold very dear to my heart the fact I would never have met them if it wasn’t for my blog. Thank-you, wonderful ladies, for inspiring me every day and for your friendship, acceptance and love. I am lucky to have you all in my life!
Emo bit over.
I didn’t over-stretch myself this year by making mad plans to go to all the sessions and events. I know I’d have a tough week at work, so I booked a couple of meetings with some fantastic ladies to talk all things IKEA (holla B, Emma and Fritha), confirmed my attendance at a dinner that evening, sat back and waited for the fun to happen. And happen it did! From a lunch at the Hoxton to drinks at All Bar One and a wonderful dinner at Pizza East… it was a great evening with some great women.
Look! Lizzie took a photo of me that I don’t hate!
Saturday was much the same in that I was totally laid-back about the day. I sacked off the sessions in favour of socialising with my favourite ladies, and you know what? I had a ball. I probably could have done with learning a bit (can’t we all do with learning sometimes?) but this weekend it was all about the sisterhood.
I trotted off early to get ready for my friend Caoimhe’s BBQ (remember her?). In the most grown-up step ever taken she has just bought her first (BEAUTIFUL) apartment and I was very excited to help Christen her balcony. Though it was more a terrace than a balcony, an amazing space that you’d never expect to find in central London. We had a fun-filled evening toasting her mortgage over chicken wings and organic burgers.
Sunday was the perfect tonic to a busy weekend: a walk down to Spitalfields (the quest for the perfect leather jacket continues and there are some contenders in All Saints), a burger, a nap and a lazy afternoon at the park. And a reunion with my babies! Perfection.
It’s ironic that I’ve never had less time on my hands than I do right now but I feel I have so much to say. I feel like I’ve learned so much about life in these last six months and spending the weekend talking about anything and everything made me realise that. For the first time I am enjoying taking life by the balls and sharing it with this fabulous group of people… it’s going to be quite the ride, ladies.
When you become a mum, you learn how to be tired. There are the different sorts of tired; that hazy newborn stage when you’re up all night and are urged to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ so end up zoned out in front of Jeremy Kyle while you feed the baby. The tiredness in these weeks meant I don’t remember those days save for lots of sofa and TV, but at least there was minimal pressure to get out of my pyjamas all day.
Then there’s the tiredness you get with a slightly older baby who just doesn’t want to sleep through the night. The incessant nights of never sleeping more than two hours in a row, resulting in a mama who can get up, comfort her baby back to sleep and crawl back in her own bed without even realising she’s woken up.
Next you’re presented with the toddler who considers 5.30am a lie-in. Yet you can’t go to bed when she does because, you know, those box sets won’t watch themselves and if you don’t keep those eyes open til at least 9pm you won’t get any alone time whatsoever.
But these days, oh these days I have the single-working-mum tiredness. And that my friends is something else altogether.
We’re out of the house and on our way to my mum/nursery by 7.15am so I’m required to be out of bed and on my way to dressed by 6am. That, my friends, still hurts like a punch in the face each and every day. As one who has never been a morning person I spend the first fifteen minutes of each day practicing my sailor swearing and wondering how much it would hurt to break a bone. Because at least then I’d get to go back to bed.
The upshot of this is that by the time I get to the train station at 8am I am pretty much fully awake and with a full face of make-up on feeling ready to take on the world with a cup of tea that may or may not end up on a stranger (sorry, man on the 8.22 to Euston on Monday). This feeling of world conqueror would never come to me until at least 10am in the old days, so there you go – I now have two more hours each day to make a difference. Boom!
This doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes enjoy a little sleep on the train though. Never underestimate the restorative qualities of a 30 minute upright power nap. Unless you end up in a town fifty miles away from yours on a Sunday evening because you fell asleep on a kind stranger’s shoulder… never again.
Once I’m at work I’m surprised to find out that my job requires a fair bit of thought; deep thinking about strategies, statistics, results, proposals. I can’t zone out, can’t sleep with my eyes open, can’t watch Millionaire Matchmaker. Welcome to the real world. There are meetings and presentations that require intelligent input and by the time 5.30pm rolls around (HOMETIME!) my brain is quite literally spent, devoid of any conversation or leftover intelligence.
All that thinking, it wipes you out. And yesterday I was so knackered from just being ON and THINKING and DOING that I got home, took my bra off (the first thing I do as soon as I walk through the front door at 7.30pm) and had a good productive weep. This single-working-mum thing, it’s so hard. It drains you mentally, physically, even emotionally, until you’re not sure there’s anything left.
But then I thought – who am I doing this for?
I’m doing this because my career is super important to my family; my children rely on me as the breadwinner in the house so it’s crucial I work hard. I’m doing this to show them how important it is to work hard so they can do a job you love and get paid well for it. And I’m doing it to show them that while life is not a walk in the park you can find happiness in hard graft and success.
I might be falling over from tiredness but for those little people I am setting the best example I know how. And you know what? I’ve never been happier than now: I’m doing it, I’m making a difference.
Now can someone tweet me at 11pm and tell me to turn off Orange Is The New Black?
There are many things I’ve unexpectedly become in the last few years, things that have surprised me. Young mum, gym goer, yoga and meditation fan. Juice lover is one of those things: who would have thought 10 years ago when I took a can of coke to be an acceptable breakfast beverage that I’d become one of those people chugging on green juices first thing? Not me.
Yet here I am, daily blitzing up enough fruit and veg to feed a family. And enjoying it… weirdo.
I find that juices really set me up for the day. It’s the vitamin injection and boost I need to get going in the morning, leaving me feeling full, satisfied and bursting with energy (OK, this bit does depend on how much the kids were up the night before…). If I’m working in London I’ll drink my juice first thing at 6.30 which means I need a bit of sustenence to get me through to lunchtime – I eat dried mango – but if I’m working at home a 9.30am juice carries me right through til lunch.
I use a mixture of green veg with a bit of fruit thrown in for sweetness, but you can really use whatever takes your fancy. Sometimes spinach is substituted for kale, sometimes celery for cucumber or raw courgette… you get the picture. I never leave out the handful of grapes and apple though as I find they give the right amount of sweetness I need to counteract the veg. I stay away from blending beetroot though, buying it only in cold pressed juices as blended beetroot turns my teeth red which can be a bit awkward and that first pee you do after drinking a beetroot smoothie… it’s scary.
My blender is a Vitamix TNC Black. 010231 Blender which will pulverise the crap out of absolutely anything but this combo of ingredients shouldn’t be too much of a workout for most blenders. I drink mine out and about from a Copco Sierra Tumbler, apart from this morning as the straw has gone missing *side eye kleptomaniac children of mine*.
Next up on the juice front is a three day cleanse… watch this space.
Because – who knew? – commuting into the big city five days a week is kicking my arse in twelve different ways. Getting in at 7.30pm means that all my (limited) remaining creative juices are being sent in the way of my evening freelance work and I’m literally so tired that when I sit down to blog the words just don’t come.
I have a million and one thoughts on the world of work from the eyes of a single mother which I’m sure I will regale you with very soon (try to contain your excitement, OK?), but for now here’s what I’ve been up to, told through the medium of Instagram filters, starting with last weekend…
My current favourite late-night destination: Duck & Waffle. Food, views and a Portugese white to die for. There is seriously nothing better than a midnight dinner date up here taking in the glittering lights of London below. I like to order the Duck and Waffle, obvs.
…late nights followed by new favourite hangover cure, a (not too) spicy Bloody Mary. Sipped at Broadway Market before a sunny stroll along Regent’s Canal. Pretty blissful, right?
Yet MORE socialising. First it was my lovely cousin’s birthday party in Camden then on to a fancy dinner and tequila with these two lovely ladies: Hannah from Mum’s Days and our friend Alex. We danced our socks off at The Kensington Roof Gardens and it was awesome.
Sunday rooftop times with Jamie, McNulty and the boys. Coppa Bar & BBQ is a fab sunny day destination just on London Fields; we whiled away a good few hours here.
Oh, did you know? I’m a commuter now #zzzzzz. Had some painful moments leaving Hux at his new nursery last week “MUMMY! NOOOO! GO BACK IN CAR”… weep. He’ll settle in soon enough but it makes me feel sad that he misses his mama so much.
Burger date! Current favourite London burger joints: Byron (Brick Lane… the MK restaurant just isn’t as good) and Meat Mission. MM’s monkey fingers are INCREDIBLE. Still want to try Patty & Bun.
It’s beautiful Bryony‘s birthday today and to celebrate Steph came to stay! We had a boozy blast on Saturday night and I woke up the next morning snuggled up to Steph in my bed. Her husband’s a lucky man, I’ll tell you that.
Most importantly – getting in some quality time with these two. I have missed them like you wouldn’t believe and seeing their faces when I come home from a busy day is the biggest treat. I’m working hard to make our evenings together count and it’s going to kill me when they’re with their Dad all next weekend. The transition has been tough for them – Hux with his new nursery and Elfie asking where mummy is and why does she have to go to London all day? – but we’re getting there.