Friday, 27 February 2009

Being a single parent Part 2: How baked beans can become your best friend

I'm one of those sad people who, when buying a new electrical item, always always keeps the instructions. Not only that but I actually read them too, and then file them safely away in my orange 'Instructions' box file for future reference. Now what does that tell you about me? Actually, don't tell me.

So it'll come as no surprise to you that when I first became a single parent I looked around for some instructions. Yes, really I did.

Instructions were a little hard to come by, but I did do plenty of reading on the subject. And boy, there is plenty to read. How to cope as a lone parent. Raising confident children. Going it alone. The survival guide to single parenting. How to raise happy, healthy children in a one parent home. The pitfalls of being a single parent. How to succeed as a single parent. And so on....

In fact there is so much information on how to be an all singing, all dancing single parent that if I read it all the girlies would have left home by the time I'd finished. No, far too much. So there was an awful lot of reading bits and pieces of books, magazine and newspaper articles and watching inspiring TV programmes about how all of society's ills are the fault of the single, and mainly female, parent. out of all of this overload of advice came a few nuggets of information which I have mentally kept filed away. Not in the orange box file, but in my head. Things such as:
  • Don't wish your children's lives away. Enjoy the age they are now and don't look too far ahead as it can be daunting. This has got me through a lot of difficult times and is something I still live by. Children grow so fast and although it sounds cliched to say it, before you know it they will be grown-ups and that precious childhood time will be but a distant memory.

  • Who cares if there is beans on toast for dinner three days on the run? As long as there is love in the house that's all that matters. I read this in a long forgotten book on single parenting and it really struck a chord with me. Why worry about things that will be forgotten about in the future? Yes, money may be tight. No, there may not be enough hours in the day to do all the other things and make a three course meal. I just want my girlies to know that are loved and that, I believe, is the best foundation I can give them.

  • Start everyday afresh. This can be hard, especially when you're going through a difficult time but I think it's a good one to bear in mind. No matter what has happened to you or what the children have done, every morning is a fresh day.

  • Never be the first person to pull away from a hug with your child. This might sound really odd, but I swear it works. I used to always be in a rush, thinking of 1001 things that need doing and even when my daughters just needed a hug these lists of 'important' jobs would be racing through my mind. Then I remember seeing an Oprah Winfrey show where one mother said she had resolved to always hug her children for as long as they wanted. Wow! So simple but so profoundly effective. I decided to try this. Now, when either of my girlies come over for a hug I stop everything (OK, don't try this when driving!) and give them my undivided attention. I wait until they are ready to pull away - and they will, eventually I promise! This one simple thing makes them feel more important than anything else I am doing, which of course they are, and for children actions speak much louder than words.
I'm really hoping these few nuggets won't sound patronising or smug. These are things that have worked for me over the past 6 years, and we're doing OK. Of course every family is different, but finding what works for you and your own children is crucial to making things work as a single parent.
Of course if you are a lone parent there is tons of good advice to be had from places like, and Or, if you prefer the occasional rantings of a real life imperfect single mum you're welcome back here anytime.
Image from here


Tawny said...

These are brilliant, I have never thought of who breaks a hug first, but I will consciously now, try and make sure it is not me

Anonymous said...

notSupermum, this post is brilliant and the most helpful post I've read in a long time. And thank you for those really useful links. The nuggets of advice are perfect.

As a single parent I also tried to read as much as I could on the subject but came overwhelmed with it all. And, as you say,my daughter would have left home by the time I got threw it all.

It's not easy being a single parent, especially when there is still such a stigma attached and we are blamed for everything. We caused the banking crisis didn't we?!! Great post, thanks again x

Jane said...

I love these - I am going to take your advice on the hugs as I am usually racing at 100mph.
Thank you for sharing

Yummy Mummy said...

I think this advice is great for any mom! and I totally appreciate the advice! You are a super mum. I also wish my mom (who was a single mum) would have had this shared with her while I was growing up. Thanks for the great post.

ps I hope you are feeling better, but I'm enjoying your posts every day!!!


notSupermum said...

Tessa, the hugging one seemed odd to me when I first heard it, but clearly made an impact as I decided to do it, and I've probably been doing it for about 3 years now. I'm sure the girls appreciate it.

Tawny, give it a go, you should be pleased with the results!

Rosie, thanks so much for your comments. I'm always nervous about writing posts like this in case people think I'm being patronising or something, so it means a lot that you thought it was helpful. Thanks!

notSupermum said...

Jane, thanks. Everyone loves a hug don't they? I think children respond to them more when they know they're not being rushed.

YM - you're very kind. I'm enjoying posting everyday too, but spending far too much time reading other blogs!

Anonymous said...

What an absolutely wonderful post - like the others, I will be adopting the hugging tip ;)

me said...

I grew up in a single parent home (switching between living with my mom and my dad). Feeling that your parent loves you no matter how busy she or he is is so very important. Not being the first one to break a hug is a "little" thing, but believe me, it's important and your daughters will remember.

I also agree with the "beans on toast"-nugget. It made me smile. :-) If you have a few of these easy and quick dinner ideas, let you daughters choose every once in a while. It's fun and and helps with building self-confidence to be able to take part in the decision making.

You are doing a fantastic job as a single mom!

notSupermum said...

MTJAM - thanks, let me know how you get on with the hugging!

Me - hello there and thanks for visiting. Thanks for sharing your experience too. We do have a few of those quick meals and they definitely come in handy when time is at a premium, or it's a few days before payday and the money has run out!

La Belette Rouge said...

Never be the first person to pull away from a hug with your child." That is one that I wish my mother would have followed. She is one of those huggers that as soon as you engage in the hug she starts to pat you as if to say "that's enough."

And, I really enjoy some baked beans on toast and I am not even English.

notSupermum said...

La belette, that's what my eldest daughter used to say to me "you always pat my back when you want to finish the hug". So when I heard about this idea I liked its simplicity. It's a shame about your mum, but it's definitely her loss.

Btw, I hadn't even thought that beans on toast was peculiarly English!

Cybill, thanks but strangely enough my ex-husband thinks I'm an unfit mother!

lunarossa said...

Hi, these advice are really great and I too agree that they're good for any parent. Officially I'm not a single mum but my husband is never around and when he's here he's always too tired or too busy to take notice. So I consider myself an "almost-single-mum"!!!You know Supermum", we have a saying in Italian that translates more or less like this "better alone than in bad company"!!! All the best. Ciao. A.

notSupermum said...

Antonella, I agree with your Italian expression - it's true isn't it? How do you say it in Italian? I studied your beautiful language for 2 years (venti anni fa!) but have sadly forgotten a lot of it, although I can still read little bits. Ciao x

lunarossa said...

In Italian it's "Meglio soli che mal accompagnati". Don't worry, you never forget a language, really. A week in Italy and I'm sure you'll be back on the Italian "scene"! Stai bene. Ciao. A.

see you there! said...

Good advice, the part about breaking a hug even translates to Grandparents don't you think? Our DG is still a great hugger although the teen years are creeping up and I wonder when she'll want to distance herself from the "old folks" :-)


Tara@Sticky Fingers said...

Patronising or smug? Are yo kidding me, those are all brilliant bits of advice. Every single one.
I'm betting you are one hell of a mum and have made up for a lack of instruction manual!

Imogen Lamport said...

Great post- I have to admit that I do sometimes pull away first from a hug - the one where they're trying to put off bedtime forever. The rest of the time they never hug me long enough!

I just wish my kids liked beans on toast. Eggy soldiers are my quick meal of choice.

notSupermum said...

Tara, thanks very much. Like very mum I do what I think is best and hope things turn out ok. I just know that these 4 things work for me and hope other people might find them useful.

Imogen, ah yes the bedtime hug! Delaying tactics I call it. I usually tell my girls that they can have a hug when they're in bed, so at least they get ready quickly.

that girl? said...

I love these and any parent should adopt them! I in particular will be practicing the new day and hug one from now on in! Great post x

sallymandy said...

Touching and dear. Thanks for your list. I love the part about not being the first to pull away from the hug.

I'm not a single parent, but I lived as one for two years when my husband was away. You are brave and strong, and you're right...the beans on toast won't be remembered at all!

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