I hate hearing the 'C' word before the first of December, and it really irks me when I walk into shops mid October and all the decorations are hanging about the store, with huge displays of tinsel and baubles for sale in the center of the stores - it shows exactly what Christmas is about these days - consumerism, unless you are a broke single parent. I loathe consumerism and that we live in a capitalistic world, brainwashed into buying 90% of crap that we don't actually need so that big business can keep making their fat pockets even fatter, but I also feel no joy in the lead up to Christmas due to not having enough money to buy my boys some of the things they would like. My last couple of Christmases we have been dead broke, and this Christmas we are steering down the barrel of it being our poorest one yet, but what we lack in money, is made up for in friends and family, and this is where our joy in Christmas lies.
I know that I'm not the only one who gets stressed at this time of year, it's something that thousands of us sole parents have to face, it kinda goes with the territory of being a sole parent. So what do we do to keep our sanity at this time of year instead of sinking in a pool of our own misery? We focus on what we do have; our children, our health, a roof over our heads, food (as plain as it may be for some) in our bellies, our family, our friends, be grateful for what we do have, as the true meaning of Christmas is far from what society would have you believe these days. Lets get back to basics, whether you are religious or not, the true meaning of Christmas started with Christ. I'm not saying that we all should be celebrating Christ (especially since I am open to everyone's different beliefs), but I mean the basics of good decent values and morals; be kind to one another, show love for one another, smile at a stranger and ask them how their day is going, help someone less fortunate than you - even if its as simple as making a sandwich for the local homeless man down the road. At this time of year charities are crying out for help - whether it be monetary or hands on, taking your kids to volunteer at a local charity could turn out to be the best gift that you give them this Christmas.
Yes I hate the 'C' word before the 1st of December, but it is also a word that can stand for so much more than those flush money hoarders importing cheap goods into their chain store would have you believe. Christmas can be a time of great meaning and gratitude, lets teach our children what it is really about!
I have just completed my degree, three long, challenging and sometimes torturous years, with a tonne of sweat, tears and swearing, but I’ve finally got there. No one is more amazed than I am myself, I doubted myself so much and had times of wanting to give up that I never thought I’d see the day that I’d completed this degree, so one of my big lessons throughout this is self-belief! We can achieve mighty things.
I am now a qualified community developer and social worker, and it feels good. I have grown so much and today I stand as a completely different person to the person I was when I started this journey. I want to let you guys know this because I want those of you who are considering studying to do it, and for those of you who are part way through your studies to carry on, don’t give up, you can and will do it.
Studying as a single parent is the hardest thing I have ever done, I thought being a single parent was hard enough, I thought I knew what stress was, to be honest – I had no clue just how hard and stressful it would be. It took stress to a whole new level. I’m being honest as I want those of you who are considering taking on study to be prepared.
Here’s a few study tips:
· Put time aside daily Mon – Fri for your out of class study, and keep your weekends free for your children and yourself, your children will be a little neglected as you won’t be so available to them (it sounds bad, but is a normal reality of studying for all parents whether they are single or in a partnership) and you will need to make time to dedicate to them.
· Financially it’s going to be hard, real hard, do what you can to save money beforehand, and learn to budget. I’ve had to finance myself to the hilt just to be able to live day to day with the bills paid. Unfortunately the Sole Parent Support Benefit or the Student Allowance is not enough to live off, especially if you live in Auckland like I do. Fortunately the government were talking about implementing the Accommodation Supplement into the Student Allowance from next April, if this goes ahead, and if your child’s other parent pays a decent amount in child support (which you receive when receiving Student Allowance) then this may make life a bit easier financially for you.
· Sign up to Market Research companies to try and earn a few extra dollars, you never know just how handy those few dollars will be.
· Join a study group made up of other people in your class, this will be a huge benefit, talking things over, sharing ideas and just hearing about how other people feel helps with you learning and absorbing what you have just been over in classes.
· Make time for you, just you, without the kids, without your study books, just you and some peace.
· Celebrate the end of each semester. Each semester is another milestone passed, and it deserves to be celebrated, even if it’s just relaxing with a glass of wine.
· Check campus noticeboards, TradeMe and other website for secondhand text books. If you want to buy them new, then I recommend www.bookdepository.co.uk it’s in the UK, but they provide free shipping and most books are a lot cheaper than what you’ll find them here. Also check online for them in ebook form, you may be able to find a free copy, that’s if you can stand being able to work from digital copies (I prefer paper, which is ironic considering I’m a greenie who likes to play my part looking after the planet).
· Hunt out and build relationships with other single parents in your class (there should hopefully be at least a couple of others). Building tight relationships with those who are going through a similar experience really helps, you can lean on and inspire one another when it’s needed.
· If you have it, use as much family support as you can. Studying is more consuming of yourself than what working is. Study follows you home at the end of the day, and you don’t get paid for it.
I hope this helps, and if you decide to study – Go for it, you will not regret it! Do it for you, do it for your kids, and do it to give your family a better chance at life!
Loneliness is one of the big factors that single parents find themselves experiencing. I am an admin for a Facebook support group for single parents, and loneliness quite often comes up as a topic of discussion. Whether it's once the kids are in bed at night, or they have gone to spend time with their other parent, or you have an important celebration to attend, or you are just climbing into a cold bed at night wishing you had someone to cuddle up to, loneliness rears its ugly head.
I see loneliness as a process that you go through as you adjust to being on your own, and learning to find yourself. I won't deny it, I still get fleeting bouts of loneliness, but that is all they are these days, just fleeting moments of wanting someone to cuddle up to, to talk about my day, and to make plans with. I can't say that you will get to the stage of where loneliness will never occur, as you would have to be a pretty insensitive hermit to not experience it, but there are ways to limit it and lessen it's effects on you, after all, loneliness could just lead you into a disastrous relationship if you do not deal with it properly.
In the first year or two, it is a commonality to experience severe bouts of loneliness, especially as you adjust to being on your own. It is important that you focus on yourself and your children during this time, work on healing your heart and get your emotions in check. A break up is a huge hit to our self confidence, self esteem and and self worth. Not only are we trying to deal with our emotions the best we can, we also have our children who are hurting and adjusting to the new situation. A new relationship is not going to fix everything, it will only be a temporary band aid over the scar.
To find solitude it is important to focus on yourself, and create a happy balance. Here are my suggestions to help in searching for solitude;
All these processes will help you on your path to finding yourself, and to loving your self. Self love is the key to dealing with loneliness, and finding comfort within solitude!
"When you hit rock bottom, you have nowhere to go but up"
Don't hate her because she is Justin Biebers Mum! Pattie Mallette is a very inspirational single parent. She has struggled through life since she was barely out of nappies. Life has thrown her more than her fair share of challenges including repeated sexual abuse, drug addiction, suicide, poverty and depression. Pattie's story is one that is filled with pain and sorrow, but becomes so very inspirational. I read Pattie's book 'Nowhere but Up' over the Christmas break. I had already heard about her past from an interview I had watched a couple of years ago, from watching that interview and seeing how placid, humble and normal she was, I was inspired. If your life can go from the lows of the lows to the highs of the highs, then I still have hope yet. We all know how challenging single parenting is, I recommend that you either read Pattie's book, or watch her interview....... you will be inspired!
Excerpt from NOWHERE BUT UP;
"For years this disconnect had me convinced I was adopted, because I always felt like I didn’t belong.
Every now and then something would drive that powerful feeling to the surface and I’d go on a rampage. I remember one time in my teens when I frantically searched the house for a piece of evidence— anything that would confirm I was adopted. I had convinced myself my birth mother was somewhere out there. Maybe she was even looking for me.
I threw open every cupboard in the kitchen, rattling the glasses and china like an aftershock. I opened and slammed shut desk and dresser drawers throughout the house. There had to be something somewhere. Just one measly document. I rummaged through closets, tossing aside old shoes, musty sweaters, and dusty boxes of God-knows-what. I turned the house upside down that day like a narc looking for drugs.
With an unexplained desperation, I finally cried to my mom, “I know I’m adopted! Stop lying to me. Just tell me where the papers are. I know it’s true.”
My mom must have thought I was nuts. “Stop it,” she begged. “What are you talking about?” She grabbed a pair of photos and shoved them in my face, comparing our baby pictures side by side. “You look just like me! Why would you even think you’re adopted?” But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And I couldn’t calm down. Something in me was still convinced I didn’t belong. This was not my home. She was not my mother.
Damaging feelings don’t just show up out of nowhere. They’re birthed from experiences, from moments that wield the power to shape us. Sometimes we can’t even recognize the magnitude of those pivotal events until years later.
When my dad left us, it ripped a hole in my heart—one that began filling with thoughts and feelings that would challenge and ultimately damage my identity and self-worth. The wound of being abandoned travels deep and forever changes you.
Even today I can still close my eyes and feel the emotional chaos that marked my heart when he walked out. I was only two when my dad left, but I still remember it vividly, as if it happened yesterday. In fact, it’s my earliest childhood memory."
Full Circle Interview with Pattie Mallette
I will warn that this interview has a lot of content about God for those who are not religious. I looked pass this though to hear her story.
Being my first week off from Uni means the stress levels have come down, and it is about time I tackled a couple of my vices and made some changes. I got abhorrently drunk at my end of Uni drinks on Friday night, I knew I would as I needed a blow out after all the stress build up from having five assignments due all within the space of a week (sometimes you wonder if the lecturers really do want you to pass?). I very rarely go out as I have my boys fulltime, and quite frankly I am quite over the pubs, bars and clubs scene, I am enjoying my nanarism and at this age getting off your tit has nasty consequences the next day.
So I polished of my bottle of wine, had a few more bottles of beer and chain smoked through a pack of cigarettes, and it brought me to one mother of a hangover on Saturday. A sore head, dashes to the bathroom to bring up the last bit of water I had drunk to try and keep myself hydrated, luckily I had no children home and could spend the day recovering. As I lay dying in bed, I swore to myself and I swore to God, that I was never drinking alcohol ever again, the same old story that we all do when we are trying to recover from a hangover. I made a pact with myself that now that Uni was over, it was time that I started putting sometime into me and improving my lifestyle. It was time to give up smoking and eating crap food, time to start exercising and eating right, and clearing the fog out of my brain that had inhibited it over the past month of assignments, crap food, and lack of sleep. It was time for change.
Approximately 6 weeks ago, a new gym opened up locally that I had been waiting to open since March last year. As I had been on the waiting list for it to open, I was contacted when they had their opening date to organise a pre-signup deal. Off I went and signed up, but their opening date fell in the first weekend of the school holidays which meant I could not start until my boys were back at school, or that was the excuse I told myself. The school holidays came and went, and then the pressure of the final few weeks of Uni mounted. I had huge amounts of study, assignment writing and group meetings to attend. I never made it to the gym.
Yesterday being Monday and the start of a new week, I decided it was time to start at the gym. The usual nagging of excuse finding littered my brain, but it was time. If I was serious about making change, then I had to start now. On Sunday night I texted my friend Rob whom attends the same gym to find out if he was going for a work out, he was, so we made a time to meet at mine at 9.30am Monday morning.
Monday morning I was nervous, I hadn't been to the gym for about a year and a half, and I had piled on the weight. And unfortunately for us larger people, the majority of people who attend the gym are fit good looking people. I weighed myself once I had risen for the morning, as weighing yourself in the morning before anything passes your lips gives for a more consistent weight reading. I looked at the scales; a whopping 86kgs, I was officially the biggest I have ever been, even heavier than when I was 9 months pregnant with each of my sons. I remembered one of my colleagues from when I was on my Fieldwork Placement earlier in the year, who had also undergone the same degree as I, stating that on average her and her class mates had put on 12kgs throughout the 3 years of the degree. I had said in return that there was no way I could afford to put on that amount of weight, and here I was not far from it.
Monday was the start to a healthier lifestyle, I also had decided to start my diet of natural foods. I was to only eat food that was made by nature, and not in some factory somewhere. This diet consists of eating fruit, vege, nuts, legumes, seeds, healthy oils such as extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, meat from grassfed animals, chicken and seafood, the gifts from mother nature that provide all the nourishment that our bodies need. There was to be no processed man made foods, I knew if I was to get healthier and lose weight then I had to stick to this diet, and I knew that it wasn't going to be easy.
After weighing myself, I went downstairs and woke my boys up to get ready for school. I normally skip breakfast, eat a banana or grab something once I get to Uni which is normally the gorgeous sushi from the local sushi shop. I made us all porridge for breakfast, which my eldest loves, and the youngest likes it when it suits him. I gave the boys a light sprinkling of brown sugar over their porridge and milk, whilst I kept to plain porridge and milk which I have eaten plain for a longtime before the decided lifestyle change. Half an hour later we piled into the car for the school drop off, when my eldest reminded me that they had cross country that morning at school. Ok, it looked like I wasn't going to the gym at 9.30am, so I thought I would ask Rob if he minded going to watch the kids cross country, he worked at the schools afterschool care program so I didn't think he would be too fussed. When I arrived home, he had arrived and was waiting for me. I put the cross country past him and he agreed to go and watch before heading to the gym. I'm glad that we did watch, as my eldest came in third for the year 6 boys, and my youngest came in fourth for the year 1 boys, another proud mama moment - I was rapt. I also have a little sister whom is four months older than my eldest (we have different fathers, and is another story for a different day), and who also attends the same school, she came in sixth for the year 6 girls, so I was also very proud of her.
Cross country over, and we were heading for the gym. The nerves started to kick in, I don't know why, but they did. I told Rob that he had to take it easy on me, I hadn't exercised in a long long time, he laughed and agreed. We started on the treadmill, I made the pace a few notches slower than what I used to have it at when I had worked out previously. 20 minutes down, and we moved on to the weight machines. I know to burn fat faster, you have to build muscle, so I went with doing two reps of 10 on each machine. Afterwards, we headed back to the treadmill for another 15 minutes, then over to the mat area to do some abdominal exercises. I said to Rob that I hated planking, and was hopeless at it, he agreed with the dislike and we decided to have a competition to see who could plank the longest. I knew that I was about to get my butt kicked as Rob is quite fit and frequents the gym on a regular basis, but if it was going to add a little bit of fun to planking then I was all for it. Rob started his timer on his phone, I was expecting to last 20 seconds, I was shaking like crazy and felt a little wobbly, my poor body started aching, Rob called out 45 seconds and dropped. Oh my gosh, I had just beaten him, I couldn't believe it! Neither could he, so he called for a rematch. "Ok, lets go again then" I said, I felt a bit more confident this time. "One minute, stop" Robbed called out when we had reached a minute, and then he dropped, I had beaten him again! And boy did I give him some cheeky stick, he came back with the excuse that it had hit a minute and he said stop so I had not beaten him, I guess it was a blow to the male ego to have the fat girl beat him, but it was the boost I needed to get me into the fitness mode. We did our stretches and headed home.
Today is a new day and the start to kicking my disgusting smoking habit. I was out of ciggies, and did not want to buy anymore. I had started my healthy eating yesterday, and was feeling good from that and the gym. My friend Claire, and her 2 year old daughter were coming over for a visit after lunch. Claire smokes also, so I knew I would most probably end up having a ciggie.
I headed to the gym in the morning with Rob again, and bumped into one of my class mates there. Yay, I knew someone else who was attending the same gym, someone else I could talk to while working out to make it less boring. As it is with me, if my brain is distracted while I am exercising, then I don't really notice the challenge of exercise, but when it's not distracted I notice it, and I start making excusing to myself to shorten whatever exercise I am doing, I'm very good at self sabotaging at times.
During Claire's visit I had two ciggies, I thought that it was ok and that I would start a fresh tomorrow. When she offered me a third one, I thought no I don't need it, I will be ok. I didn't tell her I was giving up, as I don't like telling people in advance in the case that I don't follow through.
So here I am on Tuesday night, about to head off to bed. I haven't had a cigarette since 2.30pm, and I have come to the conclusion that I won't be having another one. I gave up smoking 6 years ago for 3 and a half years, and started again when I relocated back to Auckland 2 and a half years ago as everyone else around me was smoking so I thought what the hell why not join them - it was one of the stupidest things I have ever done. I learn from my mistakes, and that is not one I am likely to make again. When I gave up 6 years ago, I did it because I actually didn't want to smoke, and as I really didn't want to smoke, it was not hard to do. Over the past two years I have quite often played with the idea of giving up smoking, but I never wanted to give up, so I didn't. This time round, I actually don't want to smoke, so I know that the last cigarette I had today, will be the last one that I ever have addicted to nicotine. Thank goodness for carrot sticks, bananas and nuts that have gotten me pass the urges tonight.
Change is in the air, and change is happening! My life is about to change for the better, join me as I blog my journey.
Hi I'm Chon, I am in my early 30's and I have two wonderful boys who are 12 and 7 years old. I have just completed my degree as a fulltime student, as well as being a fulltime parent, and now I am in job search mode. I have decided to blog my journey to not only help myself, but to help others out there in similar situations. In solidarity we grow, not only in strength, but in mind and heart!