THRIVING AS A SOLO PARENT

MOTHERHOOD, THOUGHT-PROVOKING

I stumbled across Fleur Emery’s Instagram by accident and was intrigued. She appeared smart, but also like she had a story (my fave kind of person), here she gives us insight into a part of her journey… 

  • I didn’t know I was going to be a solo parent when my daughter was born but here we are, four years in and thriving.

  • Another thing I didn’t know and didn’t understand was the massive difference between being a single parent and a solo parent. 

  • Single-parent life, where there is an active, contributory co-parent affording you Wednesday night and alternate weekends ‘off’ feels like a universe away from the 24 hours a day 7 days a week life of solo parenting where there is no input financial or otherwise from a co-parent, where everything is down to you.

  • I remember wanting something in the evening when she was a few weeks old and realising ‘ah yes, you can’t nip out for the next 15 years’

  • Of course, I live in the real world and I know that co-parenting with an ex-partner, especially one you really loved and hoped to grow old with can be devastating and traumatic. Seeing them with a new partner and all that stuff, I know it can be unbearable and I am sorry for your pain and know that I am spared that.

  • This is my story though and it is about going it alone and how to be happy doing it.

  • I want to caveat that the following things that have enabled me to be really happy are probably just a series of things I accidentally got right, I didn’t read the books, I didn’t make a strategy I just took some decisions that really worked for us so here goes.

  • Rewind to five years ago; the first thing that I accidentally did right when I got pregnant is that I immediately recognised that the life I was living in a big flat in Soho with Scandinavian furniture and all the trimmings was not sustainable. This sounds obvious but I know a lot of people who bury their head in the sand and think that they will just take their new kid to gallery openings or get a nanny, but I saw that pretty much everything had to change and fast.

  • Before then I had been living for the day; a few years earlier my best friend had taken his own life, another very dear person had died of an overdose and I was earning good money for the first time ever. The combination of those things and believing I would never be a mother had resulted in me earning and spending as if tomorrow would never come, a big f**k you to the world.

  • I didn’t have any savings, but I had great clothes and fresh flowers in every room and don’t even talk to me about the thread-count on my hotel-quality bed. After peeing on a stick and getting the biggest surprise of my life when the lines went red, I waved goodbye to my old life, ‘thanks for the good times’ I thought and sold everything on eBay.

  • My life was reduced to a few bags of clothes, my dog and a computer and I headed back to where I grew up, by the sea, an hour’s train ride from the nearest branches of Aesop or Toast. I recognised that the girl-about-town part of my life was over, and I slammed the door on it happily.

  • As well as leaving the financial pressures of London behind I was also returning to a smaller community where support is easier to access.

  • The love and encouragement from my family and women I have met has been so key to making things work for us and one person in particular above all others.

  • I decided early on to look for a childminder and not a nursery and that turned out to be the best decision I could have made as it brought Danielle into our lives, a natural mother and gorgeous, funny, energetic human being who also parented me a bit as I learned how to look after my baby. You hear about the stress of nurseries charging a pound a minute if you are late for collection, the stifling rules and compare it to the loving second home that Danielle’s family offered my kid and I see that she saved us in lots of ways.

  • The main difference between a childminder and a nursery is that it’s a love relationship: in a family of 2, adding another woman to love us turned out to be the sprinkle of magic that we needed.

  • Sometimes finding or getting people and things isn’t the key to being happy as a solo parent, that is what I have come to understand. It’s not about finding a partner or getting a bigger house, it’s about letting go.

  • I feel like letting go of the fantasy of a certain type of family, letting go of the sadness that your child won’t have two loving parents at home for them, that things that are possible when there are two of you won’t be how it is for us.

  • Letting go of where my career was headed and won’t get to now, the dreams I had for myself that I surrender every day.

  • What I am talking about is acceptance and I think that the cultivation of acceptance that I have worked hard on for nearly 20 years in recovery from addiction, that has been the deep work. People are the way they are, there are things I can never know and never change, resentments are toxic, unconditional positive regard is the only way. I see these words on the paper and understand how distant they can seem when you are hurt or outraged, how trite they might look, but I don’t care about that.

  • I know that the spiritual pursuit of acceptance through meditation or religion or the 12 steps, however, you seek it, that it is worth it, and it makes everything possible. It is only through accepting what I can control and what I can’t that I can be happy in the moment, in my life, right now.

  • And then there is the work itself and more letting go, the daily surrender of our old ambitions and the re-calibrating within what is possible and what needs to be done.

  • For me understanding exactly how much money we need each month to survive and keeping that number as low as possible was the first step to taking control of this. I use tech to help me, Xero to check money in and out of my account each morning and to invoice, Acuity scheduling to manage bookings and Instagram and LinkedIn to talk about my work and create leads. All of these I can do in bed while my daughter sleeps next to me.

  • Use tech well, skill up, get your tekkers on, there are so many great apps that can help you. Sell things on eBay, sell valuable things on Vestiaire, rent out things you can’t sell on Fat Llama, rent your home out on Airbnb when you are away. Everything has to have a purpose and save money in this system and resourcefulness is key. Having multiple small revenue streams, being brave and selling services that are outside your comfort zone for small amounts of money.

  • In the first few years after my child was born, I managed social media for people, did interior decoration, a bit of personal shopping, wrote some business plans, helped a not for profit win a grant. I never really minded what the work was and all of this work I found through social media.

  • It’s only really now that my working life is starting to get back in a real rhythm, it takes a while. I think what I got right is that I took pride in turning the few hours childcare I had into money.

  • And the acceptance that every night I am home in bed at 9, the surrendering of what life could have been, the planning of finances to be able to earn enough money working part-time, the building of a community or fellowship, all of this enables me to be here now.

  • All this leads to the most important part of all: that when my kid dances her dance or tells me how she feels or leans her head against me that I am here, really here with her; in body and mind and spirit. That I am free to delight in her as a person, to protect her and commune with her and listen to her and love her and know her. By letting everything in my life become smaller that this connection becomes bigger.

  • I don’t know what the future holds, I can’t imagine that we will ever live any way other than this. I thought this list was about work and logistics but really it is about love.

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7 Comments

  • Reply Chloe Dorling March 9, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    I absolutely 100% needed that and resonate with it. Solo parenting is bloody tough, an emotional rollercoaster of the highest highs and deep lows (for me anyway) But I would not have it any other way. Would love to meet other solo mums to have a cuppa and a chin wag with 🙂

    • Reply Jellie March 11, 2020 at 11:14 am

      You should check out the Frolo App! It’s for single parents and a great way to meet other in your area xx

  • Reply Andrea Hanson March 10, 2020 at 9:45 am

    I unexpectedly shed a tear at the end of this list. Your desire to be a truly connected parent and the changes you have made to enable this to happen -whilst doing this on your own-is amazing. Wishing you and your daughter continued happiness.

  • Reply Zoë March 11, 2020 at 10:22 am

    Hi Chloe,
    Have you heard of Frolo? It’s an app and community for single parents and makes it really easy to connect with likeminded single parents in your area and beyond for meet-ups, support and advice. The lovely Fleur is on it too! You can download it via http://www.frolo.co.uk 💛

    • Reply Chloe Dorling March 11, 2020 at 8:28 pm

      Hey Zoe, nope never heard of it but going to download the app right now. Thankyou very much for telling me about it! X

  • Reply Natalie March 15, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    Hi, great arrival, and really honest, although my adaighteta father see her 1 every fortnight on an inconsistent basis, I identify 100% with the solo parent. I think as single parents we don’t need more labels though, it’s about shared experiences it’s about support, it’s bout empathy and understanding, it’s about tbe children, it’s about us.

  • Reply Natalie March 15, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    Aaaaag to predictive text, I meant great Read not arrival

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