The Reality of Being a Single Parent Working From Home.

I’ve always had dreams. At primary school, I thought I’d be famous as my best friend and I made up our own shows and performed for the school, I dabbled with the idea of being in a successful rock band but my bad attitude and teenage laziness meant I only ever learnt 4 songs on the bass guitar. It sort of came back in college when I strived to be the next Annie Leibovitz, but I was never really that good at channelling one particular talent, like many teens I was easily distracted by friends and boyfriends.

Yet that all changed when I became a mum, something inside kick-started an ambitious streak, suddenly I needed to prove to myself and my son that I could be a good mum and have a career. It was never about not enjoying just being a mum, far from it. It was the making of me and gave me a determination and focus which had always been lacking.

I also knew that I needed to provide for my family as much as my husband, that the days of him going out to work while I stayed home and kept the house clean and kids entertained was just not possible if I wanted to have holidays and a home big enough for a few more kids. It needed to be a team effort.

For a while it worked perfectly for a while, I finished my degree and found the perfect job which allowed me to be around for my boys and a stepping stone to a career I’d been aiming for, at that point, as a working mum I did have it all. My husband and I tag parented, and for a while, it worked

Then things changed; meant my marriage crumbled beyond repair and now I was stepping into a whole new world as a working single mum, my optimism became my drive telling me I could still do this.

While on the outside I probably appear to have it all. I can work from the comfort of my desk at home, I have the freedom to drop off and pick up my youngest son from preschool and change my working hours as and when needed. The reality is very different.

That ambition I mentioned, it’s very much still there. More than ever in fact. Now I’m doing this all on my own, it’s all down to me to earn enough to make sure they don’t miss out simply because things didn’t work out between their dad and I.

It’s not so easy when you don’t have a husband coming home at the end of the day to take over with the kids while I complete work deadlines. I can’t get up early in the morning to go for a run with the dog while the kids are still asleep, freeing up precious work time later when they’re all at school. Life as a single working mum is all about juggling and careful time management. Just as it was when I was married, but now I don’t have a backup partner.

The reality of being a single parent, working from home is –

about using your free time constructively to catch up on work and housework while still maintaining a personal life.

It’s about grabbing every free minute of the day and night to reply to emails, or making phone calls. working while cooking, walking the dog, standing in a super maket queue and walking up to pre school.

It’s about working late and getting up early. Working while watching TV just so you know what the rest of Facebook is talking about so you feel you’re in touch with reality.

It’s all about balance; giving your children undivided attention while resisting work and not fretting about getting it done. Something which I often get wrong.

But on the flip side, I don’t have a husband coming home in a bad mood after a bad day at work, I don’t have the worry of being home at certain times to cook dinner. If the boys and I are out for the day in the holidays there’s not rush to get back. I don’t have someone moaning that I’m working in the evening,  unaware that I don’t have the luxury of just stepping out the door to go to work in the morning without making sure the kids are sorted for the day and coming home to relax. That stress is gone.

Plus I get every other weekend, while my kids are with their dad, to catch up on work if need be.

And while I often wonder if my life might be easier if I went out to work every day, at set times and not bring my work home with me, I wouldn’t be following my ambition and I wouldn’t have the flexibility like I do now.

Plus, my kid’s won’t be living at home forever.

So while I perfect the single, work from home, mum lifestyle, it is only temporary.

And I wouldn’t change it for a thing.

The reality of being a single parent, working from home is about It's about grabbing every free minute of the day & night to meet deadlines

 

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Tips on managing the amount of time children spend online

This post is going to make me sound like a right hypocrite but I’m weighing in with the do as I say not as I do card. Mum Rights and all that. You see, I’m a mum of 3 boys who love their devices, the youngest not so much as he’s on strict and easy to govern rules, the teenagers – sheesh! But here’s the tricky bit; my job means I spend most of my working time online and when I’m not working, I’m paying bills, shopping, reading & chatting to my friends and family on WhatsApp or messenger.

I live and breathe online, even my gym and run sessions have an online element via the apps I use, which makes me preaching to my kids about managing the amount they spend online a little weird and super hypocritical.

I guess the angle I’m coming from though, is from this; I’ve seen how inactive my boys are when using the internet and they simply haven’t got the self-discipline which I have on making sure they’re balancing out their online time with some active. It’s not just about phones, Play Stations and PC’s in the home too. I’m worried about how much of actual life they’re missing out on, from the car journey conversations we don’t have as they’re glued to their screens, or the days out they’re more interested in snap chatting rather than being in the moment.

We do have rules, like no phones at the dinner table, my youngest having very limited iPad time and my 13-year-old has an hour screen-free time before bed. I’ve suggested this to my 17-year-old son but that’s the age where I’ve really had to loosen the reins. The lightbulb moment came though, after finding out that children aged 5 to 15 are spending an average of 15 hours a week on the web, my teens, rather worryingly, can easily nudge over 15 hours when they’ve added in a lazy weekend.

One suggestion for managing their time online is trying out the Digital 5 A Day which provides a base for a family agreement about internet and digital device use and while the framework isn’t so suitable for my 3-year-old, it is a reminder to keep his iPad time limited especially when I’ve seen the change in his behaviour when he comes off even after 15 minutes.

 

One suggestion for managing their time online is trying out the Digital 5 A Day which provides a base for a family agreement about internet and digital device use

So my main concerns centre around how to manage the amount of time my 13 and 17-year-old spend online while both at home and at school.

I’m starting with empowering my guys to manage their own time, helping them to be mindful of how much they use their phones (the above digital 5 a day is the best resource for this) and tasking them to:

  • make sure they have complete screen free time before bed
  • make sure they’re active and sedentary times are balanced
  • regularly talk about staying safe online

There’s also some other options to explore, including installing extra security onto all devices, like Kaspersky Security Cloud, which gives parent’s the option to manage and adjust their children’s screen time, select which websites they can see, and stay informed of their whereabouts via GPS. As much as I’d love to think my children can be trusted, it’s still my role as their parent to set boundaries.

They know how to use privacy settings, as well as the report and block functions on the websites, social media channels and apps they use. But it’s also up to me to be on top of my game. It helps that I do know a thing or two about social media, but even the SnapChat ghosting update had me surfing the web to understand it, make sure I was properly clued up and able to discuss making sure they weren’t oversharing to strangers. Ironically, it was via some Facebook posts that I found out about it!

It’s safe to say I’m a pro of the whole online world. I’ll argue the benefits of its corner to anyone, but I also see the dangers and how the flip side is one where my boys live in a virtual world more than the real one. So it all comes down to balance, in a nutshell, and using what tools there are available to help you and your kids make sure they’re getting that balance as well as keeping safe online at all times.

And if I need to bring out the mum card to remind my boys that Mother Knows Best, then I will!

One suggestion for managing their time online is trying out the Digital 5 A Day which provides a base for a family agreement about internet and digital device use

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Simple changes, big results… I’m Gonna Get Me a Watch

Funny old thing time, you either have it or you don’t. I don’t these days. That’s the long and the short of it,  I’m always rambling on that there isn’t enough hours in the day or I just don’t have the time as I charge around the house at the end of the day putting away washing and mentally trying to work out how much work I need to complete before bed time.

I’m my own worst enemy as not being organised is my downfall followed closely by a lack of self-discipline. I start each day with the best intentions, but as I work from home, it only takes me checking my phone and I’m down in a rabbit hole of answering emails or messages, already chasing my tail as I try playing catch up to get ready, then running out of the door in a fluster.

I’m pretty much always late these days too, and I hate that. If I’m running late I can feel the stress building up and that’s one area I really try keep in check. I’ve got this firm belief that stress is a huge precursor for many illnesses and I simply don’t have the time to be ill!

So what’s my plan?

It’s simple, I’ve started wearing a watch, a nice fancy day-to-evening Marc Jacobs number (heavily reduced at Plus Watches as luck would have it.) I chose to go bling-bling in the hope that something stunning wrapped around my wrist will encourage me to keep looking subconsciously checking on my time in an effort not to be late. Something eye-catching, that was my plan.

Why I ever gave up wearing a watch I'll never know. I'm so much more aware of time now; organised me is back!
And it’s working, mainly because I love pretty things, I’m like a magpie. I was thinking of going down the fitness tracker watch route but my gorgeous little sparkly rose gold number makes me feel just as good as clocking how many steps I’ve taken would’ve. I’m so much more aware of time now; where I need to be, how much time I’ve got and just being a super wiz bang organised lady.

Why I ever gave up wearing a watch I’ll never know, and the best thing is, I can put my phone down a little more, even leave it at home if the kids are with me. I can feel my iPhone addictions slowly loosening the reins as I have one less thing to rely on it for.

And it all started by a good old-fashioned wrist watch!

Why I ever gave up wearing a watch I'll never know. I'm so much more aware of time now; organised me is back!

Disclosure

This is a collaborative post

 

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Breezing the seasons with Hello Day Supplements

Have you ever noticed how your skin or general well-being takes a little adjusting through each new season. I’m always ready mentally for the change, I love seeing trees turn shades of red in autumn, the anticipation of snow in winter and gardens coming to life in spring. Physically I’m not always as good as catching up, my skin especially gives a little grumble and my winter afternoon slump isn’t as easy to embrace when the skies are blue and spring walks are beckoning.

So this spring I took a little helping hand with some carefully tailored supplements from Hello Day. My box came with the promise of vitality, libido stimulant (yeah, I won’t be sharing how I got on with that, my mum reads this!)  a digestion detox and finally something to help with my circulation. Initial thoughts lead me to think that in 6 weeks time I’d be very happy, energetic, tactile (read that bit as you like) single mum with great bowel movements. Not a bad place to be at 41, I’d say.

Joking aside, just knowing I would be on the right track to helping reduce some of the burnout tiredness which comes with my lifestyle thanks to the magnesium in the vitality supplements was enough to hook me in. I’m guilty of burning the candles at both ends; working to the early hours then waking with my 3-year-old early the next day.

I’d considered taking Siberian Ginseng in the past to help nudge me in the right direction and I had high hopes it would this time, as well as improving my mental and physical energy. The vitality supplements also contain passion-flower to induce calmness, great,  as I always stress at balancing my personal and work life.

I’m not worried about watching my weight at the moment but there’s always room for improvement to help with a body detox. The detox supplements promised to do this by improving my digestive tract health and appetite. I fell off the healthy bandwagon for a while and to get me back on it, a gentle detox was perfect kickstart.
It’s been a month now since I completed everything in my Hello Day box so I thought it was high time I reflected the effects it had had. The whole energy thing was the first thing I noticed an improvement with, that afternoon slump which always hit disappeared, helping me focus on work and be a lot more productive during the day. So much so that a month on from stopping this supplement I’m back to fighting off the urge to nap come 3pm. (Time for a new box I think!)
Hello Day boxes certainly lived up to their promise to helped see me through the season change in a nice, subtle way. It’s not so much you notice how good you feel but rather, you don’t noticed how much you’re struggling to adjust. In a not knowing a good thing until it’s gone sort of way.
You still with me? I know they’ve worked as since stopping them, I’ve finding I could do with some help with my fatigue and mental sharpness.
I’ve been browsing their site looking at what else I could do with help with and there’s certainly some scope for a stress and relax supplements in my life to see me through school holidays and ward off burn out as I combine juggling workloads, childcare and mum guilt.
And the Sleep Rest promise of some relaxation to help me fall asleep naturally is music to my ears. It combines natural ingredients such as Valerian to cope with a busy lifestyle and daily stress, and Lemon Balm for a positive mood and calm wellbeing.
I guess you could say that my little experiment worked and I’m ready to step back into starting my day with the helping hand, if only to get me through this niggling urge to take a nap while I’m trying to finish this post!
breezing the seasons with a HelloDay box of supplements
Disclaimer
I received a complimentary box of Hello Day supplements in return for sharing my experience of using them.
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Top Tips For Working From Home

I’ve been working from home for 4 years now, grabbing snippets of work time when ever and where ever I can. With a laptop perched on my lap, I’d multitask most evenings with the TV on in the background or wake up and switch on while in bed. It suited my needs at first, with a baby and no set free time it was always a case of getting on with things as soon as the opportunity arose or putting those endless moments breastfeeding a baby to good use.

Recently though, I’ve been a lot more constructive with my time. Work has picked up and my youngest going to preschool has meant I’ve got set hours in the day to crack on. This was the perfect opportunity to reassess how I work and get the most out of my child free day. It’s so easy, when your home is your office, to never have an off switch and the nature of my job means I can get a little done on my phone while waiting in a que or walking the dog, but I also needed moments to just get on with tight deadlines or scheduling work so I could go away. These are the main switches I’ve made to make sure working from home has worked for me.

Create a defined workspace

I tried this once before by arranging my dressing table into a multiuse area but it was so difficult to keep organised that I found it easier sitting at the dining table. The main problem with working this way is you have to keep clearing it away and would waste precious moments looking for my diary and notebook just to get started.

By investing in a small desk from Kit Out My Office, which I should proudly gloat, I put together all by my self while entertaining a toddler and not swearing. I’ve rearranged my dining room to create a small office area and have noticed a massive difference in the amount I can achieve, as well as being much more organised in general.

Fresh flowers help it blend in to my dining room and not look so officey, a ‘keep positive’ quote as well as essential oil room diffuser calm my stresses (I’ve currently have Meditation by Oleo Natural Bodycare sitting pride of place ) While there’s space for my Pirongs organiser, super stylish Kate Spade notebook as well as my BusyB paperwork folder  which are all to pretty to hide away!

I chose a desk with a small drawer in my dinning room colour scheme  to keep all my clutter away and one place so I don’t have to keep getting up to find things, wasting precious time.

top tips for working from home

Lock The Front Door & let friends or family know your work times

When everyone knows you’re always around, it’s easy to be the go-to person they can pop round to see whenever. I love having guests and chatting over a coffee but when I have deadlines to meet, it can be hard giving your guests your undivided attention while you’ve got the nagging worry you’ll be in for late night and you can hear emails pinging away on your phone.

So I have had to start to be quite firm and let people know I’m working and not available. It’s much easier to be upfront than come across rude as you’re trying to maintain a conversation while your minds elsewhere, unless you’re having a really good gossip, I’ve always got time for that!

Use a timer app

And finally, as I have a few different clients for my freelance work which all require different amounts of time, I use the timer app Yast, (other apps are available!) which makes sure I’m diligent with my working time, don’t over or under work. You can assign each client separately and it just becomes second nature to start the timer every time I switch clients.

It’s very easy to get carried away on a campaign and find you’re doing way more than expected so I check in at the end of each day to balance my time and plan the following day accordingly.

For me, maintaining a good work / life balance has been key to making sure I enjoy my job and that my  working is time is as productive as possible equaling less stress or that feeling that your never away from my desk!

Disclaimer 

This is a collaborative post 

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