How I Make It Work – Self Employed, Single Mum, DebbieBy Jo Middleton
My name is… Debbie, I’m 41 and live in North Yorkshire.
My family consists of… Myself, my son (who is almost 2yrs old) and our German Shepherd, Bodhi
I’ve been a single parent since… I was 12 weeks pregnant, through choice.
My work life balance is… getting better! When I first had my son I suffered with severe post-natal anxiety and I couldn’t stand to be away from him, so I left my career as a general manager at a sports brand and decided to take extended maternity leave. When I did return to working, I took a job that I was overqualified to do to allow me the head space to be a parent too. I finally decided to have counselling for my anxiety issue, which was still dominating my life almost a year later, and this was the catalyst to my recovery. After speaking about these issues I felt I got a lot of confidence back and started my own business in July 2020. I am extremely fortunate that this allows me to work from home and around the needs of my son.
My secret to getting everyone ready in the morning is… always having a fully stocked baby bag, so I just have to get us washed and dressed, then we can grab it and go… and I usually do my make up in the car!
My support network consists of… my mum (for ad hoc childcare and emotional support), my brother and sister in law (both have been single parents prior to meeting each other), my friends with kids (for moral support and kiddie meet ups), and my friends in sobriety (I stopped drinking almost 7 years ago now).
The bit I find hardest is… being away from my son. My co-parenting relationship with his dad was very tumultuous in the beginning, and we eventually went through the family court system as we were unable to agree on the best living arrangements for our son. A year into that arrangement things are considerably better, and we all work hard to be friendly and have daily contact with each other when he is with the other parent.
My me-time consists of… baths, walking and podcasts. I still struggle with anxiety at times, especially during this pandemic, but I have some good coping mechanisms – getting outside is usually the best cure, and having a dog gives me an excuse! I really enjoy catching up with friends over coffee or dinner, and hopefully 2021 will see more of this.
If I could change one thing to make life easier… I would make counselling available to all new parents. As an older mum, (geriatric, as the medical professionals so kindly referred to me as), I felt a monumental shift in my mental health after having my son. I was overwhelmed with love, riddled with worry, and left doubting my ability to cope. I think if I had sought help earlier, or my anxiety had been identified by health visitors, then my journey into new parenthood would have been different. There is so much shame around feeling like you cannot cope, which for me was only made better by talking openly and through connection with others in a similar position.
One thing I love about being a single parent is… the bond between my son and me. When I am with my son, he takes my whole focus. We go on mini adventures to the woods, seaside, or farm. I am making the most of him wanting to spend time with me, as I know it changes as they grow up.
Dinner times at our house are… messy! And I would not have it any other way.
Our bedtime routine is… usually early as my son likes to start his day between 4-5am, so we usually do bath time straight after dinner, then snuggle in my bed for a movie with a bot-bot.
My best single parenting hack is… try to stay in the present moment; stop worrying about the future, all it does is stop you enjoying the little moments with your children.
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