How I Make It Work – Gemma, Single Mum & Digital DirectorBy Jo Middleton
Gemma Stevenson is a single mum to Florence-Ava and juggles parenthood with a full-time job as Digital Director for a skincare brand. Here she speaks to Frolo about how she manages early mornings, bedtime routines and everything in between.
My name is… Gemma Stevenson.
My family consists of… myself and my beautiful little girl Florence-Ava, who is 2 years old.
I’ve been a single parent since… February last year when my daughter was only 18 months old so I am very new and fresh to all of this. It has been the hardest year of my life and dealing with lockdown on top has added an additional level of complexity.
My work life balance is… the biggest juggling act ever. I am Digital Director for an incredible skin care brand so during lockdown my workload quadrupled with stores closing and everyone shifting to online. At the beginning I was trying to work like I wasn’t a mother and trying to mother like I didn’t work – this was quite frankly ridiculous and quickly changed. I was the one putting this pressure on myself, not my company, and with the endless Zoom calls it became hard to hide a 2 year old. Instead I embraced it. I started to be honest with people and push back on meetings when it was too hard to juggle. I have been on calls with Florence-Ava asleep on my lap and I have even mastered changing a nappy whilst hosting a meeting!
I am now very strict with my time – I finish work at 5pm to do the nursery run and I am very open with my team about this. I flex my time and catch up in the evenings when she is in bed rather than adding additional pressure to myself in the day. When I am with her I want to focus on her and only her and I am trying to be strict with this. My advice here is to be honest with the people you work with and be proud of your primary job – parenting.
My secret to getting everyone ready in the morning is… preparation! I pack Florence-Ava’s nursery bag the night before and lay her clothes out ready for the morning. Cartoons are a welcome distraction to allow myself to get ready too. Florence-Ava is motivated by food so she knows she has to stick to our routine in the morning in order to make it in time for breakfast at nursery. Weetabix bribery at its best. A cup of tea on the go is a winner for me too!
My advice is to be honest with the people you work with and be proud of your primary job – parenting.
My support network consists of... so many people near and far. My parents live 5+ hours away and my brothers both live abroad so this has been tough for me, especially during lockdown, but the support I have via the phone and WhatsApp is always there from them. I have an incredible network of mums around me locally and an incredibly supportive friendship group that is always checking in on me.
For me becoming a single parent has made me realise how lucky I am to have such amazing friends and family and I have such an appreciation for every act of kindness no matter how big or small. However, it can feel quite isolating at times. Spending lockdown working from home and only having a 2 year old for company in the evenings and at weekends can take its toll so I’m making a conscious effort to be friendly – I always speak to neighbours and fellow parents at the nursery gates.
I don’t know any other single parents so discovering the Frolo app has helped me relate to other parents going through the same challenges and thought processes. Single parents are super heroes and I never realised how many super heroes were out there until this year.
The bit I find hardest is… doing everything myself. There have been so many times I have wished someone could hold Florence-Ava just for 5 minutes so I can get something done, or questioned when I’ll ever be able to have a dinner before 9pm… impossible when you cannot even contemplate cooking until after bath/bed time and that’s when they actually play ball and go to sleep! BUT doing everything by myself has definitely helped me build the most incredible bond with my little girl. We’re a team, we really are. I know she is only 2 but I truly think she has my back already.
Becoming a single parent has made me realise how lucky I am to have such amazing friends and family and I have such an appreciation for every act of kindness no matter how big or small.
My me-time consists of… running! I love exercise and I need to it to clear my head. However single parenting does not lend itself well to running….so I invested in a peloton bike so when she naps I spin. This has been a game changer for me.
If I could change one thing to make life easier… Selfishly a chef! I hate cooking and have no time for it but I love eating. Also, I would love to find a way to have more me time, even just an extra hour to make time to reply to friends and family.
One thing I love about being a single parent is… the bond I have built with my little girl. We are figuring everything out together and she supports me as much as I support her.
Dinner times at our house are… the only time Florence-Ava sits still. I love watching her enjoy her food and having this time with her. Knowing she eats well at nursery all week I am also less worried about what she eats at weekends.
Our bedtime routine is… prepping her bag and clothes for the next day together, then at around at 7pm bath time fun, followed by milk, stories and cuddles.
My best single parenting hack is… don’t be afraid to accept offers of help or be afraid to ask for help. Single parenting is tough be kind to yourself and let others help.