I was chatting with my daughter recently, and we were on the ‘banter train’ which is when we joke about the things we’ve said and done to each other. It’s something she started doing a few years ago when I was overly critical of an outfit she wore, and she pointed out that it was merely my opinion and she had authority over her own mind and body. Wow! How to shut a mother up in one sentence!
Our fake sparring has evolved over the years, but it gives me the most amazing insight into the workings of a teenage girls mind. My daughter is far more mature than I ever was at sixteen, and perhaps the social media lifestyle has something to do with this, but talking to her about life, love, and all the bits in between is the best part of my day.
These chats allow her space and confidence to point out my flaws as a parent. In my day we did what we were told and kept our head down, but times have changed, and the younger generation is our only hope to sort out the mess our world is in. So, I listen to her arguments and her thoughts on my ‘rules’ and we pick apart the ‘how it was done in the olden days’ compared to now.
I’m far more relaxed with my parenting than some of my daughter’s friends’ parents. Not in a lax stay-out-till-all-hours way but in an I-trust-you-to-do-the-right-thing way. It works for us.
Our recent conversation, however, reached a part of me that I haven’t thought about for a long time. It wasn’t about my mum rules, or my persistent attempt to convert her into a Marvel fan. No, this was about how I spend my time. As she recently sat her GCSEs and had finished secondary school my daughter has been at home since the start of June. She’s bored, her friends are away, her bank account is empty, and I’m trying to work on my latest manuscript as well as launch my new Motivate Me Academy.
It was the simple fact of her pointing out my lack of ‘family time’ that hit me hard. Everything I do is for my three children. If I don’t sell books or fill my workshops, then I can’t feed them. If I don’t spend my time on social media promoting my services and products, then nobody knows I exist, and I can’t feed them. If I don’t go out to networking groups and meetings with new contacts in the hope of securing work, then I can’t feed them.
In my head, it’s a simple matter of survival but in my daughter’s head it was absence.
Instead of listening to her, I got snippy, and for the first time in my life, I told her how hard it was being a single parent.
When I’ve been asked in the past how I cope with being a single mum of three while writing two books a year and running my own business I shake it off with an ‘I just get on with it’. This is one-hundred-per-cent true. Any parent, single or not, will confirm that getting on with it is a default setting when you’re juggling life, kids, and career.
In an ironic twist, it was me who stomped off leaving my daughter to watch her TV show. I went into the garden and cried. I’ve been a single mum for fourteen years, and this was the first time I realised how damn hard it is. I’m constantly exhausted mentally and physically and totally overwhelmed by the pressure of keeping my amazing kids fed, watered, safe, happy, and educated. I don’t have anyone to talk to about it, so I bottle it all up. My own parents and friends are incredibly supportive, but they have their own lives to lead. It’s that immediate support I miss. The instant back up when faced with a situation or problem. The late-night budget planning to see if we can afford to do a big shop this week. The euphoria and celebration when your children succeed.
Being a single mum means being everything to everyone. You’re mum, dad, friend, teacher, mentor, nurse, taxi, bank, and so many other things, but without the backup.
Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t change our situation for anything in the world. I love my children to the moon and back, and our lives became so much better when we walked away from the abusive and negative past. The four of us are tough, strong, and a team, but for the briefest of moments I was reminded how alone I was.
As adults and teenagers, my kids are forging amazing lives for themselves. They’re doing so well at college and landing fabulous jobs. They each have loyal and supportive friendship groups, and I’m incredibly proud of every one of them. In turn, this means I watch from the sidelines more often than before. They don’t need me in the way a toddler needs its mother. Perhaps this is why my daughter’s comment hit a nerve. I’ve done my job – actually, I’ve done a bloody amazing job, but now I’ve got to face a future of reduced family time as they embark on their own adventures.
My daughter was merely pointing out that I was so wrapped up in providing for them that I’d forgotten how to kick back and enjoy my family. She was right, as always!