20 questions with single mum Kirsti Hadley

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How long have you been a frolo?

Almost one year.

Tell us a bit about your frolo family.

My little boy Sonny is 10 years old and is neurodiverse. We waited 3 years for his diagnosis and it was really, really tough. After a long drawn out battle with CAMHS/seaside view that forced us to go private, our belief was confirmed. After being told that our child was not neurodiverse he was in fact diagnosed with multiple neurodiversities. Soon after, I was referred for my own neurodiverse diagnosis and have now been confirmed as ADHD with a secondary diagnosis pending. These diagnoses have changed our lives for the better in every single way and I am now campaigning to make them more easily accessible for everyone via my @generationalphabet project. 

Sonny’s dad and I have been co-parenting from the start. We are learning on the job and whilst it isn’t always plain sailing I think that on the whole, we are doing ok. I am at the very beginning of a new journey with my own dad having very recently reconnected with him after 31 years, which has just been the biggest and most surprising joy. He was never present for me as a child so I do count my lucky stars that Sonny has an amazing and very present dad. We also have a 5 year old black pug called Nova who Sonny adores.

Kill the parents in a film, no problem, but kill the dog and oh my lord, tears for days!

How do you manage a work-life balance as a single parent?

Well, my becoming a single parent happened during Covid, so it isn’t a true reflection yet BUT… Work life balance has always been a battle for me even as part of a couple. I have never had an off button when it comes to my work, which I have always put down to being council estate-raised.

As a person that has preached forever about working hard and making the most of every opportunity on offer I have actually taken my foot completely off the gas for the first time in my life to reassess because I realised that I was without a doubt running myself into the ground pre covid. I was constantly making myself sick due to burn out and I will tell you something really important about that – np one will thank you for it. Not the clients, the employers or the employees or the co-workers and certainly not your children. We have, without knowing it, lived through a productivity pandemic and I for one AM OUT. We all got that one very wrong. 

It is important to add that not everyone will be in a position to do this because of finances. It hasn’t been easy for me in that department at all but I’ve just about made it work. There is no wrong or right way though. We have to do what we have to do to survive and to pay the bills right?

We are all doing the best we can with the tools we have. I wish there was better government support for single parents and especially for single parents on a neurodiverse parenting journey. There really should be.

What do you like to do when you have time away from children?

NOTHING exciting! Rest. Tidy up. Spend time with friends. I wouldn’t change a thing about being on a neurodiverse parenting journey but it does mean that it is essential for my own mental health to keep my cup filled up. If I am not operating on 100% then I simply cannot be the mum that my kid needs me to be and that to me is unacceptable.

What do you like about the Frolo community?

The understanding. The support. The acceptance. The kindness. The community.

Describe parenthood in three words.

Relentless and brutal (lol) but ultimately the most important and rewarding job you’ll ever do.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Stop working so fucking hard you massive div.  

Best parenting advice you’ve ever received?

I’m not very good at listening to advice, even my own! I think the best advice I ever received was DO NOT listen to advice and I would add: Parent intuitively. LISTEN, really LISTEN to what your child is trying to communicate with you. 

The one thing I WISH someone had told me though is this ‘there are two types of brain, neurotypical and neurodiverse. Neither is less than the other but each requires a very different style of parenting’. I would have been more prepared and empowered earlier on had I been armed with that sentence.

Who or what is your greatest love?

Sonny-Jay, my kid. Love of my life. In the ten years since he was born he has taught me more about love and life and myself than I ever thought possible.

Where is your happy place?

Brighton beach, low tide at sunset on a warm balmy night. The beach is particularly safe then. The sound of kids playing in the sea at a time when you can actually relax at the same time is the one. I’m not a chilled beach mom and have threatened on many occasions to bring a loud hailer to the beach for safety reasons.

Is there a book you’d like to recommend to other frolos? A podcast?

The Book You Wish by Philippa Perry is game changing. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough and if you don’t have a lot of spare time to read (hello!) then the audio version on Audible is excellent and is read by Philippa herself who just has the most soothing voice ever. I won’t spoil it for you but I burst into tears at the end. 

Sophie Heawood’s memoir The Hungover Games about becoming an accidental single mum is brilliant and warming and sad and funny in equal measures. I inhaled it in a couple of sittings. 

Cash Carraway’s memoir Skint Estate is a stark reminder of the lived reality of so many single parents. It is harrowing in places so it isn’t as easy a read but I would say it’s an essential.

What Have I Done, a memoir of post natal psychosis by Laura Dockrill. The start of a very important conversation on the things no one tells you about becoming a mother. Another essential.

What is your motto for life?

If you don’t ask you don’t get. In an increasingly digital world it is very easy to think that opportunities fall into people’s laps. They do not. They are a direct result of sheer grit, determination and hard graft.

What is your greatest achievement?

Becoming the best mum I can possibly be to Sonny. I couldn’t have achieved this without going to therapy and breaking the cycle of shouting and hitting and family estrangement that I experienced growing up. 

I left home at 15 when my mum threw a dinner plate at me in a caravan on the free council holiday we were on in Wales. I still carry the scar on my forehead to this day. When my grandad died he and my mum were not speaking because of her anger issues in general and her violence towards me. I know for a stone cold fact that not only will history not repeat itself but it is going in the completely opposite direction and THAT is the biggest win ever. Looking back I do now realise how hard it was for her and for sure she was an amazing mum to my younger sister so she changed, but too late for me.

I definitely think If my mum had gone to therapy then our story could have been so different.

Any regrets?

Yes! I should have put myself through therapy sooner.

Biggest life lesson?

Oh God so many!!! My friend said to me recently that ‘you can’t control people, places or things’ and it really hit home. Not everyone will like you in this life so getting yourself to a place where you can shrug that off and focus on the people that feel like sunshine is a great place to aim for. Don’t let the bastards get you down.

Last time you laughed hard?

My kid cracks me up on a daily basis. He has emotional intelligence beyond his years and great comedic timing. The other day I told him he was a genius and he said ‘aww thanks. Tell me something I don’t know’.

Last time you cried?

When Sonny left for a week away with his dad today. I bawl my eyes out every time he goes. I know everyone says it gets easier but it has not for me. YET.

What song would you add to the Frolo playlist?

We’ve Only Just Begun by The Carpenters .

What advice would you give to someone just starting out on their single parent journey?

Gawd I am not sure I am qualified yet but I guess I’d say ‘this is going to be hard but you can definitely do it.’

Remove as many outside stresses and strains as possible and focus on you and your kid and the simple stuff. 

Kids never remember the over priced days out or fancy holidays. 

The other day Sonny’s dad was round and we all went up in the loft to sort through clutter and at the end of it Sonny said with a massive smile and happy sigh ‘this was a nice day wasn’t it?’

That says it all.

What have you learned about yourself through being a single parent?

Oh some tough stuff!

That there some things that you can only ever really rely on yourself for, which feels very sad at first but that sadness turns into liberation. That it is ok to ask for help. That factoring in plenty of downtime is more important than I ever knew.

I would like to add one more very important thing if that’s ok as it is relevant to my own upbringing.

You do not need to be the birth mother or father of a child to parent them and to be their whole world.

My grandad was the most important figure to me growing up and without him I would be a very different person. So to anyone here that has stepped up where someone else couldn’t or wouldn’t, never ever doubt that you are doing life changing stuff.

Have you enjoyed finding out about Kirsti? Read more from the 20 Questions series now.

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