Should you mix study and motherhood?

In 2009, I found myself alone with a baby boy. I had a job but I was still filled with a sense of overwhelming dread: how on earth was I going to provide for us and give my son the best life?

As something of a knee-jerk reaction, I enrolled on a part-time Law degree course. So with my son still in nappies, I found myself surrounded by piles of textbooks, pulling caffeine-fuelled all-nighters to finish essays, before tootling off to my day job.

I loved studying and enjoyed my course but it was definitely a hard slog.  By the time I’d got my cap and gown, I was ready to say ‘enough is enough’ and decided not to go on to study for professional qualifications to be a solicitor (but never say never, etc).

With all said and done, I’m still glad I chose to study. So with this in mind, what advice would I give to parents thinking about studying? Well, here’s my two-pence worth…

  1. If you’re studying to enhance your career prospects, research your chosen career extensively before taking the plunge. I do think anything is worth the graft if it takes you where you want to go.
  2. Be hyper organised – about four weeks into each term I’d be in utter chaos, with my notes in different notebooks, handouts all over the place and behind on listening to my lectures. It takes real determination to stay on top of things. Plan how you’ll stay organised before you start each term.
  3. Maximize your time – listen to audio lectures when ironing, read notes while drying your hair… whatever works for you. Read EVERYWHERE (except when driving or operating heavy machinery, of course!).
  4. Be prepared for curveballs – the day before a deadline will be the night your child throws up all over their bed…
  5. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure. You’ve got other priorities, so accept that you can only do what you can do.
  6. Listen to your lecturers – what’s their pet topic? Chances are they might set an exam question on their specialist area.
  7. If you’re doing group work, try to work with fellow students in the same boat or who at least understand you have parenting commitments.
  8. Get involved in extra-curricular activities (no, not that kind) if you can as it helps with meeting people and can also give your CV a boost.
  9. Think about whether the course will involve work experience or a placement and how you’ll work things around that.
  10. Be kind to yourself. Eat well, exercise, spend time with your family. Heck, even put your feet up with a mag and a cuppa for five minutes every once in a while!

 

Childcare and work – how difficult is it for single parents?

So, of course, balancing childcare and work is a problem for many families – not just single mums.

That teeny logistical issue of school or nursery hours being shorter than the average working day (plus travel time) means that many of us have to fix childcare for our kids.

Sure, breakfast and after school clubs help, but often they still cost and may not be long enough to be of much use. Luckily, my wonderful parents collect my son from school (thanks Mum and Dad!), but if I couldn’t rely on them, I’d be a little bit… stuck.

So it’s not surprising to read today that, Gingerbread – the fabulous single parents’ interest group – has found that:

  • almost 50% of the parents they surveyed found that childcare was a barrier to them getting work
  • with 46% saying it was difficult to find childcare that matched work and study hours.

Is it just me who finds this deeply troubling? Surely something needs to be done to break down these barriers? After all, child poverty and poor life chances should be one of the biggest worries for those of us who want to see a happy little society in 20, 30 years time.

Thinking back to my own experience, when my son was really small he went to nursery every day. The cost was astronomical (particularly before the statutory 15 hours free childcare kicked in). And there was always the threat of a £10 fine for being late. (In truth,  the thought of having to grovel to the stern nursery manager made me more anxious than the fine).

But again, I’ve been fortunate – I work for an employer that supports flexible working and the nature of my job allows me to work from home once a week.  I can usually take time off in the school holidays (splitting holidays with my son’s dad).

But I don’t think all employers are as family-friendly or flexible as mine and that’s something that really needs to change in order to help all parents juggle work and family life. I’m sure most of us would like our wages to go towards our families rather than childcare costs.

I’d love to hear your experience and thoughts on this. How do you juggle childcare and work? Have childcare issues prevented you from working or caused you difficulty when in work? Please comment below or send me a message…

 

Awesome kids’ bedding – March 2017

There’s nothing better than seeing your little one cosied up in their fave duvet. But with kids’ tastes changing so quickly – who wants to spend a fortune on kids bedding? Here’s my top picks for cute but affordable kids’ bed linen. 

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1.
Graffiti World bedding Range, George. Single Duvet, £8. (was £12).
Matching items available, prices vary.

I love this graffiti-inspired set from George at Asda. Perfect if you don’t want to opt for the latest Marvel hero. Matching items include: fitted sheet, rug, fleece, cushions, curtains, lighting, funky signs and wall stickers.

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Credit/Source: George

2. 
Magical Unicorn Single Duvet Cover and Pillowcase Set, Tesco Direct, £14.90
Matching items available, prices vary.

With rainbows, fairies, flowers and unicorns, this kid’s bedding set – available from Tesco Direct – is truly majestic. The reverse-side features a pretty repeated rainbow design. You can also track down a matching quilted throw, but it’s a little pricier at £25.

unicorn-bedding
Credit/Source: Tesco Direct

3.
Paw Patrol Rescue Toddler Bedding Set, Argos, £8.99 (save 1/3)

My little one is eight, so I missed the whole Paw Patrol thing but this bedding set for Argos looks perfect for any fan of those mighty mutts.

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Credit/Source: Argos

4. 
Trolls bedding Set – Single, Argos £14.99

I love the vibrant colours of this Trolls duvet and pillow set. It’s sure to have your little girl dance, dance, dancing (with joy)!

trolls.jpg

Credit/Source: Argos

12 Things every single mum knows…

Here are just some of the life skills you learn when bringing up kids alone…

  1. How to keep a mental checklist of everything we need to do for the next month. To do lists? Who has time to write those?
  2. How to hold an in-depth discussion about Pokemon/Frozen while secretly planning tonight’s dinner
  3. Coloured socks are your foe… unless you enjoy trying to reunite long-lost sock twins.
  4. Batch cooking is a lifeline. Saves time and money – what’s not to love?
  5. How to stand up for ourselves. We rely on no.1 – so best not mess with us!
  6. Shame-free shortcuts – whether it’s ironing just the collars on shirts, or piling mess in cupboards before our guests show up – we know how to look like we’ve got things under control.
  7.  How to do full face make-up in 30 seconds flat.
  8. How to carry a shopping bag on every finger. Less about strength, more about determination. We’re not going back out to the car again!
  9. How to play both Good Cop and Bad Cop when it comes to discipline.
  10. Housework? Mañana! We’d rather spend time with our little ones today.
  11. How to whizz around a supermarket like a Formula One racer.
  12. Whatever life throws at you, keep on going.

Agree? What would you add to the list?! I’d love to see your comments below!

Have you seen my epic Single Parent Survivial Guide? (Yes, that’s right, ‘epic’ – I’m using self-promotional bloggy marketing speak now).

You Baby Me Mummy

Hello, and Welcome.

So I’m just going to come right out with it.

I don’t really know what I’m doing here. This is my first blog. I have some ideas – mainly in my head.  But I did write some thoughts down on paper earlier (clearly, embracing the digital revolution).

I was planning on winging it and learning on the job. A bit like motherhood.

What I do know is that I want this blog to be for women like me: single mothers who work their butts off every day to bring up their little ones. That is, women who perform circus-worthy juggling acts and spend their waking hours:

  • fixing breakfast while the iron heats up (meanwhile, shoving washing into the machine with their feet)
  • combing their hair while putting on mascara
  • hunting down missing shoes and rounding up PE kit
  • Paying the bills/worrying about bills
  • YouTubing ‘how to fix a leaky tap’ to save calling out the plumber
  • [Insert umpteen bullet points here depending on your particular lifestyle]
  • cooking dinner while helping with homework
  • listening to their kids read before bedtime
  • Before, finally, collapsing in a crumpled heap on the sofa.

Single-parenthood is a tough gig. There’s no denying that. But I want this blog to be an upbeat place. As well as my experiences of being a lone parent, I’d like to talk about the things I love – fashion, design, homeware, cooking… because, well, I just like that stuff.

I hope if anyone should stumble across it they find it an interesting read. I’d love to hear from you…