What you see vs What you don’t see

 What you see:

A woman with long dark hair

A Wickes blue tshirt

Black jeans

Gladiator sandals (I have trust in the weather to not rain today!)


A slight smile

What you don’t see:

That I am completely riddled with anxiety today

The inner monologue repeating toxicity and hate towards me

The battle of trying to lesson the anxiety and inner monologue 

The battle of wanting to hide or run away

The desperation of trying to find the positive affirmations to be able love or even like myself a little bit

The desperation of wanting to show up today being the me that doesn’t exist with anxiety, depression and self hate.

I get told a lot that people are surprised that I have anxiety because I hide it quite well. I’ve made, and am making, real efforts to push myself out of my comfort zone to not let anxiety, depression etc rule my life. To not miss out on amazing opportunities because of this other side of me. Knowing I need to take control of it, rather than letting it take control of me.

But the reality is that some days are just really hard. For no apparent reason.

When I wake up like this I do my best to analyse the reason, to breakdown what is going on in my life that may be causing overwhelm, so I can then focus on what I need to do to “fix it”. 

But some days, there is no reason. I can break everything down and there is no trigger. No one element of life that causes me to feel like this. And today is one of those days.

A day when I don’t want to show up, where my head doesn’t want me to show up, it wants me to fail, to break, to not enjoy amazing opportunities. To let it win.

My battle today will be exhausting. But when I’m home. I will know that I didn’t shy away. I faced the battle.


Creating a journal jar with 200 journal prompts

For Christmas I created a journal jar for someone close to me. 
This is a great way to journal if morning pages or free writing doesn’t work for you. I did this the time consuming way by getting 200 post it notes and writing a variety of journal prompts on each one (potentially doubling up on some prompts as I wrote these over a series of weeks). 

I folded up the post it notes and placed them inside a glass jar (which I decorated a little bit), and gave the person a posh journal too. 

 Feeling slightly jealous of the gift I’d created I recently decided to make my own. Although I do find morning pages and free writing easy, there are days when my mind is blank or I don’t have that instant inspiration. 
To make it easier, and to make sure I wasn’t doubling up, I made a list of 200 prompts and printed them off, cut them up, and then folded them into my own glass journal jar. 
 Although some of the prompts are a similar theme, just being worded slightly different will/can result in a different writing response. 

These are so cheap and easy to make, and are a great inspirational tool if you want to journal but don’t know where to start. 

My only rules are (when doing this myself) 
  1. I have to answer the prompt I have chosen and can’t put it back and pick another one. 
  2. I have to fill at least one page of an A5 notebook (no short answers allowed) 
If you would like to create your own journal jar, I have created a sheet with the prompts I have used for my own jar. The prompts are a mixture of lists, memories, letters and personal development. You can find the prompts here

Alternatively, you can use the spreadsheet, put number 1-200 in a number generator, and whichever number comes out you then use as your prompt and then delete that prompt from the list, the next time using 1-199 in the number generator. 
If you’d like to do this you can make a copy of this sheet to use the same prompts as me.


An Authentic Tattoo

My word for 2024 is "authentic" and so far I'm doing my best to live by this.

I've shared already 'things I will no longer apologise for' which really showed my starting point in being authentic. Being completely me and being unapologetic for it.

Back in 2015 I got my first tattoos. My whole plan was to just get some small ones. Just 'Alis volat propriis' (She flies with her own wings in Latin, and the reason my blog got it's new name), a semi colon for mental health, and a bird as I'd just been introduced to the song Blackbird (by the Beatles but a different version) and the lyrics really resonated with the point I was at in my life at the time (spoiler alert, the bird tattoo was added to with two other birds which looked shocking so all 3 were covered up).

I never imagined that almost 10 years later I'd have a full sleeve, some on my fingers, some dotted around on my other arm, chest, a few on my left left and now what seems to be the start of a half leg sleeve. 

I remember a conversation at work once where someone had mentioned a certain object and I said "Oh, I have a tattoo of that" and their reply being "Well, what haven't you got a tattoo of?". It made me laugh because a lot of my tattoos may seem random and don't all follow a particular theme other than being part of my story. 

Someone else once said "I look at your sleeve and feel like it tells your story". I loved that.

There was one tattoo I'd joked about getting for a while, and it is one that had the most "don't get that" or "you can't get that" and this year, with my word of 2024 shouting loudly in my head along with one of my life mottos of "I'd rather regret doing something than to regret not doing something" I sent over the list of tattoos to my tattoo artist and it proudly included the tattoo I had been wanting to get.

I'm not even sure why I say I'd joked about getting it. I think for a while because it was just an idea that seemed silly to me really, but more based on what other people would think, but for me is something really special.

When both my children were little we used to watch 'In the Night Garden' A LOT. I remember putting it on when I was pregnant with Charles, my eldest son, and thinking "What on earth is this?!" but then, once he was born, we never missed an episode. We would recreate an episode about "Iggle Piggles Tiddle" (when Iggle Piggle stamps on the floor and a burst of water pops up) in the bath by spraying water out of a bottle. I'd ring the phone, hand it to Charles, then grab the phone I'd used to call my phone and go to another room and pretend to be Makka Pakka. Birthdays and Christmases would include a Ninky Nonk or some kind of 'In The Night Garden' merchandise, including a large Makka Pakka teddy. And despite having a fear of people dressed in costumes, I grabbed my youngest son during a visit to Alton Towers where Upsy Daisy was paying a visit and had a photo next to her.

It's got a lot of happy memories for me, particularly because at that time I was struggling a lot with my mental health and it was around this time I started writing about it and becoming really passionate about breaking the stigma, talking about it and being really open about my journey.

My boys obviously grew out of watching the programme but it's always been something really special to me (it is still to them in some ways) but it's something that now, as a 38 year old adult, I still find really comforting, to the point that when I'm in a really low point with my head and going to bed sad or struggling my boyfriend will sweetly play the theme tune to make me smile (ok, it also makes me cry happy tears too). For a while I thought it best to not admit these things but, authentic me, doesn't see why I should hide it. Realising now too, it's not really any different to adults who like Disney! 

On my right leg I have tattoos of things that bring me peace, things that I find spiritually safe, and now also things that don't fit on my sleeve I suppose! Last year I got the laughing Buddha, lyrics to two songs by The 1975 to go along with a crystal tattoo, a clog with tulips and angel wings with two hands which represent guardian angels. So it felt super fitting that I added another thing that makes me feel spiritually safe, and brings me peace.

On the inside of my right leg on my ankle, I got, tattooed on me FOR LIFE, my favourite character from In The Night Garden.

Makka Pakka.

He's only small, but it makes me smile every time I look at him. Just before he stuck the needle in I did say to my tattooist "Am I silly for getting this? Is this too much?" and he is incredibly honest with me and said "not at all". 

Do I feel regret? Absolutely not! Am I showing him off with pride at any opportunity? Absolutely yes!

He is a symbol of peace for me, of happiness, and of me being unapologetically me. 



Why us?

Any illness or disease can conjure up the question “Why me?” “why her/him/them?”. “What did I do to deserve this?”

I’ve always managed to avoid this way of thinking. I’m not sure why, at least wasn’t until last year when I sat there and realised why I think I was “given” anxiety and depression.

To help others. To write about my experiences, to openly talk about mental health, to make others feel like it’s not just them or to even understand why a loved one may be a certain way. 

But also because I can see anxiety in my son. He’s not been professionally diagnosed but as someone who has lived with this for 29 years I can see he has it. I know people will argue it is “learned behaviour” but I have always been really careful to not show my anxiety to my children and I believe if this was the case I would have two anxious children, not just one.

Last year we were going on holiday and our accommodation changed which resulted in my sons anxiety “flaring up”. Due to my experience with travel anxiety and anxiety around going to new places I was able to use my coping mechanisms to help him. And we ended up having a really lovely holiday! 

I’m currently suffering with burn out and with going on holiday on Wednesday to visit my boyfriends family made the decision to request 2 days Mental Health sick leave. After a tough 2 weeks, and then a weekend of crying and panic attacks I knew that I needed 2 days to focus on me and fixing myself as best I can in the short term so I can go on holiday to relax, and to not have things whirring around in my head.

My plan was to potentially work if I felt any better. However woke up this morning (Monday) feeling already like a panic attack was waiting for me so knew it was best to relax for the time being and see how I felt later on.

It actually turned out that this morning I needed to help my son with his mental health. 

For a second I felt annoyed, it was supposed to be 2 days for me to look after myself and on top of everything else I didn’t need something else added to my plate. But soon enough it changed to “YOU CAN HELP HIM”. And I remembered that have gone through and I am going through what I am going through to help him. 

It was tough. We were both tired and emotional. But we got there. He felt safe. He felt listened to. He knows I will always be there for him and he thanked me for it.

At that point I almost thanked my anxiety and my depression for helping me to be able to deal with my sons feelings and thoughts. I was able to use the right words, to tell him he is not alone, to share some of my experiences so he knew I wasn’t just making things up or trying to understand how he felt. And this is what made him feel safe. 

I may not have ever said “Why me?” But I do sometimes think “Why him?”. It’s hard when it’s your child and you don’t want things like this to take over their heads or hold them back in life and certainly don’t want to see them struggle but I wonder if maybe he is going through this because one day he will need this experience? If one day he might get a job and need to use this? Or be in a relationship and be able to use his experience? Or indeed with his future children? Or maybe even to help with me? 

This week he has been amazing at comforting me, which maybe a child shouldn’t do in some people’s eyes but raising my child to be compassionate, affectionate and kind is so important to me.

So why us? Not because we can’t cope. But maybe because we can cope, because this reminds us of our strength and because there is a reason we were chosen? To give us experience to be able to help others. 

It might break us for a while, but ultimately our strength will shine through and we will get through it.


Unseen. Unheard.

Everyday feels the same.



Shouting from the bottom.

Trying to prove her worth.

Showing her capability.

Her knowledge.

Her strengths.

Everyday feels the same.



She shouts louder.

From the bottom.

Others move past.

Around and above her.

She remains beneath.

Everyday feels the same.



She wonders if she is invisible sometimes.

A spare part.

She wonders if she belongs.

She hears words sometimes.

No actions.

Everyday feels the same.



Waiting for a change.

She questions her capability.

Her knowledge.

Her strengths.

And she starts to break.

Everyday feels the same.



She’s at the bottom.

But feels like she is sinking.

Lower. Lower. 

Wondering how this is possible?

How you can be lower than the bottom.

Everyday feels the same.



Is she imagining her voice?

All the things she is doing?

She sometimes thinks she’ll get there.

She’s moving.

But she isn’t.

Everyday feels the same.



She’s lost. 

She’s stuck.

She’s sinking.



Everyday feels the same.




Word for 2024

Back in 2018 I joined in with “Word of the Year” or “Word for the Year”. 
I suppose it’s a bit like a New Years Resolution but instead of picking lots of things to “give up” or “start doing” you pick a word that you will live by that year. 

My previous chosen words were
2018 - Routine….which I then changed to Faith.
2019 - Be
2020 - You
2021 and 2022- Mental health was spiralling down so I didn’t have a word for these two years
2023 - Enlightenment

My 2023 word felt like a bit of a cheat. I use the word “enlightened” to describe 2015 when my life completely changed. Spirituality became a big thing in my life, I started to discover who I am and who I was not, I left my marriage, I got a job and it got me to where I am today. But last year I felt like I was going through that again. It was the year I had to make changes again, to accept who I am, to stick up for myself more, to realise my worth and feel stronger in life.

My word for 2024 also seems like a bit of a cheat because it’s something else I lived by for a while but only really became aware of what a big thing it is for me around October time.
My word is “Authentic”.

I remember the charity dinner in 2022 and meeting someone from the exec board for the first time. We had a conversation about authenticity because I really admired how he is always authentically himself. He gave me the reassurance that I can be the same and show who I truly am, I don’t need to put a mask on or be someone else just to please others.

Something I have really worked on is being authentic and not worrying about what people think of me. It is easier said than done and has taken a lot of work, I’m not fully there yet but I’ve come a long way from where I was.

I cry a lot, I laugh a lot, I take a lot of photos, I have a lot of tattoos, I look a certain way because of my long dark hair, I dress how I want to dress, I like to joke about and not be serious ALL THE TIME, and so often I apologised for all of that. And through therapy I realised that there is nothing to apologise for.
Those things make me me. They do not hurt anyone and if anyone has an issue with those things then it’s on them.

I realised that the only way I am ever going to be truly happy is to be “unapologetically me”. 
If I cry, I’m not sorry. If I laugh a lot at a joke or situation (as long as it’s not inappropriate) then I’m not sorry. If you don’t like my tattoos or my nose piercing, I’m not sorry. If you think my hair should be lighter, I’m not sorry.
I’m definitely not sorry for being 38 years old and still loving In The Night Garden despite the fact my boys are 12 and 14.
Being unapologetically me will also ensure I am surrounded by people who really should be in my life. 
I shouldn't have to justify or defend my choices anymore because of others.
People who accept me for me, even if I am different to them in whatever way.

I started to look at people who I look up to and whose characters I am attracted to. And realised that they all had one thing in common. Being unapologetically themselves.
Jennifer Lawrence being a key example of this. I love how goofy she is, how she takes the mickey out of herself, how she is very openly “THIS IS ME” and doesn’t apologise for it.
Dawn French, Matty Healy (ok, slightly controversial and he has had to apologise a few times), Claudia Winkleman, Jim Carey, Rylan Clarke. I watch and listen to these people and it gives me a boost to know if they can be themselves and be in the public eye then I can be who I am in the small world I’m in. 
So 2024, my year of being fully authentic. Unapologetically me.

Making choices for myself, reducing my people pleasing, not being sorry, accepting who I am and saying “let them” to people who don’t accept me for who I am. No longer wearing a mask and protecting other people and putting them before me.
What would your word be for 2024?


Things I Will No Longer Apologise For

Tomorrow is my last session of therapy. I’ve had my therapy via self referral through the NHS so have been limited with the amount of sessions I could have. We managed to get another 6 sessions added on but they have now come to an end. 
I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.

I get on with my therapist so well. We’ve both said that “in another life” we would be great friends. We both really enjoy the sessions too. I already know I’ll really miss her. 
In my session last week. After a 3 week break over Christmas, I was able to really pick up on my growth and things I’ve learnt. I felt so proud of myself but I also know there is a lot more we could have done, and from now on it’s up to me to keep up with the practices we’ve put into place and to continue to work on myself and keep this version running.

We covered a lot about me being a people pleaser. As a result I’ve put others first a lot and let people walk all over me, treat me how they want and although at the beginning of last year I decided to take steps to change some of those relationships, I still felt a kind of guilt for doing what was best for me. 
One thing she picked up on is that I will apologise for a lot of things to please other people. Things I shouldn’t be sorry for. Things about my character which are part of me, not offensive to others and are others issues if they don’t like it.
I wanted to sit and make a list of those things. To show how far I’ve come, where I’m at and as a reminder if I have a “relapse”.

What I choose to do with and to my body. 
This being tattoos, piercings, what I do or don’t wear, how I have my hair or what colour my hair is. Lash extensions, how dark I do my eyebrows. The style and colours I have on my nails.
Also included in this is my weight. It doesn’t matter what size or shape I am, it only matters if I am happy with that. And if I’m not happy with it, it’s on me to recognise that and do something about it.
My weight, my tattoos, my hair, piercings do not change who I am inside. Putting on weight can make me self conscious and affect me in that way but my tattoos, the way I dress, my hair etc boosts my confidence and makes me feel more me. That’s not a bad thing surely?

My emotions.
I have always felt really self conscious around 2 things in particular. One being that I laugh a lot and the other being that I cry a lot, not just at sad things but at happy things, cute things, memories, photos, songs, all sorts!
It doesn’t hurt anyone so why should I be sorry about it? If anyone doesn’t like it then it’s on them.

How I choose to spend my time.
I can feel sorry and guilty if I just want a day or even an hour of doing nothing. If I want to sit on my phone and just look at TikTok or play games for a while then it’s completely ok. The only time it isn’t is if it truly affects how I take care of myself, my children or my house. But this kind of goes in line with one of my favourite quotes. “Sometimes, it’s ok if all you did today was breathe”.

Things I am into.
So what if I like to listen to songs on repeat? If I want to only listen to The 1975 in my car for a while. If I want to listen to 21 Seconds by So Solid Crew because one day I want to be able to recite all of the lyrics. If I listen to crime podcasts as I go to sleep and watch crime/true life shows which are dark before I go to sleep rather than a comedy or something light hearted?

Taking so many photos.
I take a ridiculous amount of photos. I'll take photos of buildings, animals, flowers, food, people. I love taking photos and one of the main reasons I do it is because in a situation when I'm anxious or overwhelmed I find it hard to really "live in the moment" and take in what is going on. By taking photos when I look back the next day it gives me that reminder of what I did and how I truly felt about that which would have been taken over by anxiety and overwhelm at the time.

Not actioning an email straight away.
I have got myself in a habit of never being able to have an unread email. If I’m working on something and see an email come through I have to read it, and more often than not I’ll action it and reply straight away. This is something I need to step back from and instead prioritise things. Does it need an immediate reply or can it wait an hour, or until the next day?
The problem with how I have worked with emails is that I’ve set up an expectation and people to  expect an immediate reply or action and will assume I’m on annual leave if I haven’t replied in half an hour.

Sticking up for myself and realising my worth.
This is where I also have to use a technique from therapy of having awkward conversations. Putting myself first and not pleasing others before looking after myself. And also feeling like I don’t have to explain or justify myself, which I am still struggling with but will get to eventually.

Bigging myself up and being proud of myself.
I truly feel like if you don’t big yourself up and realise what you are good at etc then how will you progress, how will people know what you’re good at? There’s obviously certain ways to do it to not come across egotistical but saying “I did a really good job with this” is completely ok. It’s the same as positive affirmations right?!

Being authentic.
I’ve worked really hard to accept who I am, my personality, my character, my mental health, my struggles, my strengths and my weaknesses. I’m not sorry for who I am. Not anymore.


Christmas Dave

December 24th is Christmas Eve for many but for me and my boys it’s what, in 2023 we referred to as “Christmas Dave”. It was the  first year ever I was not spending any part of Christmas Day with them as they were celebrating with their dad (which I was excited about for the 3 of them). So we decided to bring Christmas Day a day early and combine the words ‘day’ and ‘eve’….Christmas Dave!

We spent the 23rd sorting the house out, I had an urge to pop to the church yard my grandparents ashes are laid so took the boys there and we put some flowers down then popped into the pub next door for a Prosecco (cokes for them), and then went home to carry on making sure we were sorted for the next day. 

Harry was sleeping in my bed due to a spilt drink on his bed making his mattress wet and I chose to sleep on the sofa. 

Despite the boys not believing in Santa for a couple of years now we’d still continued the tradition of leaving a snack and drink out for him. This year though we didn’t. After they went to bed I sat on the “cuddle chair” in the lounge, Christmas lights on, Real Housewives on the tv, and it hit me how different Christmas is now.

Harry had said himself that “It doesn’t feel like Christmas” and I had to agree. I think now the lack of school Christmas performances, school Christmas discos, not having to be secretive about presents due to them knowing they are all from me, the TV schedule not being the same as it used to be, all contributed. I’ve vowed to find alternatives to make Christmasses a bit more Christmassy from now on.

I put their joint presents under the tree, and their Christmas sacks on the rocking chair and against the fire surround and stood back and felt really proud of myself.

I know we say Christmas isn’t just about presents but for me it is a big part of it. My love language is gift giving. I love it and dare I say, I’m quite good at it.

When I look at the pile of presents I have got my children I don’t think they are spoilt, I don’t see it as bragging, I instead look at it with pride that I alone, as a solo parent, work hard enough to be able to treat them to these things and to be able to afford it. (They also don’t go to any kind of clubs and get anything they want with their pocket money so don’t cost me much at all during the year!)

When I was a housewife I used to have to ask for the money to buy Christmas gifts so, even 8 years on, I am still loving the freedom and novelty of choosing what I get and what I spend.

At 1:30am, laid on the sofa feeling a strange feeling around how Christmas was for us I eventually decided to get some sleep. Not knowing if they would continue the tradition of getting up at silly o’clock to open their presents or if they would be a “typical pre-teen/teenager” and sleep in (I was hoping for the latter).

Unfortunately it wasn’t them that woke me up. I woke up unable to move as I’d obviously wriggled around enough in the night to completely swaddle myself in my duvet. I looked at my phone and had a Whatsapp from Charles.

They then walked into the lounge and helped me untangle myself.

“Merry Christmas Dave”.

I used to have the rule of not opening presents until we were dressed in nice clothes, hair done, make up done (me, not them) but this year instead made myself a coffee and sat next to the tree and we opened our presents. 

Typically our Christmasses since my divorce have seen them open their presents, us then have breakfast, them tidy their presents into their rooms and then me dropping them off at their dads. This year though. They disappeared and I was sat alone, with a glass of Bucks Fizz, hearing the rustle of Lego packaging and Lego bricks being built by Charles, Harry setting up his Alexa. I made us chocolate pinwheels and briefly saw them as they came down to eat them before disappearing again.

My dad called to let us know he was on his way round to do the present exchange. “Merry Christmas Dave”. It meant so much to me that he acknowledged what that day was for us.

He stayed for a couple of hours, playing with the games the boys had got as Christmas gifts, and then left to do his final food shop for Christmas Day.

That’s when it hit me that whilst we were celebrating that today and in my head I was trying to convince myself it WAS Christmas Day so I didn’t feel the loss of not having that properly with my boys, for others it was different.

I watched a Christmas film with Harry and then we stuck with our Christmas Eve tradition of having party food for dinner and played “5 Second Rule” whilst we picked at mini pizzas, spring rolls, prawn toast and pigs in blankets”. 

As much as I normally love party food that day I didn’t so much because I knew shortly it would be time to get them ready and drive to their dads.

They disappeared again, getting their stuff ready whilst I tidied up. I thought I could hold it together but I broke down.

Harry appeared and asked if I was ok. I told him I was but he knew I wasn’t and hugged me tight. I think I continued crying for a whole hour.

I dropped them at their dads, they were both excited to be going there and were really sweet giving me a big hug and letting me know they’d speak to me at some point the next day.

I drove to my boyfriends, trying to pull myself together so he and his 2 boys didn’t open the door to a sobbing mess. I managed it. Phew!

I walked through the door and his sons ran through and gave me a big hug. 

He then followed. As they went back into the lounge and we stood in the kitchen I asked him if he’d told them to do that. He said he hadn’t. They’re a tiny bit younger than my boys so they put down a drink and snack for Santa, went to bed and announced goodnight to me via Alexa and we relaxed.

6:45am. My boyfriend told me I could stay in bed and get more sleep if I wanted and he would go down to be with his boys. I declined. I got up with him, made a point of moaning about Santa being messy and leaving a big pile of crumbs on the tiles in the fire place and we watched them opening their presents, and we exchanged the presents they had got both of us.

My sons were also on the radio on Christmas morning. Their dad is a radio presenter and was doing the morning show and Harry was his co-presenter. It was lovely to almost feel like I had him with me that day without actually having him there.

11am, I offered to drive the boys back to their mums so Tom could have a sort out before we exchanged our presents together. I quite liked that I still had that role of transporting children to “the other parent” and it made it feel a bit more like Christmas Day again to me.

I got back, opened my presents….including a print out of Mick Hucknalls face (I'm not even going to add any context here because I love how random it sounds) and then we got ready for our “rebellious, untraditional Christmas afternoon and evening”. We went off to the pub then went to the local Indian Restaurant for food (taking my Mick print off with me). It was really lovely and the atmosphere was amazing. It helped bring back a feeling of Christmas Day for me. I napped on the sofa when we got home, then we watched TV and ate the leftovers from our Indian at just gone midnight. Being an adult is amazing sometimes!

Reflecting back, although the 24th was different for us and involved tears it was really special and despite the fact I think this year I will have the boys again on Christmas morning, I’ll quite miss our special Christmas Dave.

Mental Health of a Solo Parent - Part 2

Something I want to cover is people's understandings of what solo parents feel (or at least my feelings as a solo parent).

As I stated before I feel really lucky that I have 50/50…I hate this word really but will use it because I don’t know what else to use…custody of my boys with their dad.

It was something we mentioned literally 2 days after we separated and it’s been that way for 8 years.

It works for us and it works for our boys and for our extended families.

I have them Monday afternoon-the following Monday morning, dropping them off at school and then not seeing them again until the following Monday afternoon after school.

It didn’t really hit me until 2 years ago that since 2015, and for the remainder of the time the boys live at home, I only spend 50% of the year with them. And reflecting on that is really hard because I feel like that’s already 50% of the last 8 years I have missed out on. So I’m really trying to embrace the time I do have with them now.

I’m really lucky that my boys seem to enjoy spending time with me. They’ll have time in their rooms playing on their consoles or building Lego but more often than not when they know I’m in the lounge they’ll come down and will sit with me. Which is a lovely feeling.

Things I feel:

Guilt - On rare occasions I will ask my mum to have the boys if there is a work event or some kind of event (theatre show, gig etc) I don’t want to miss out on. I pick and choose these events carefully because they do eat into my precious time. I feel guilty for sending the boys away when I’m going to be enjoying myself but I do have to remind myself that they enjoy spending time with my mum and she always says it's a privilege for her to be able to spend time with them. It just doesn’t make it easier.

I already feel a huge amount of guilt at not having enough time with my children and hate to add to that.

I also feel guilty at not always being able to help them. When they’re at their dads they’ll message me and I have to say “you’re at your dads, he needs to deal with that” and it’s hard but it’s a rule I have to put in place to make sure I’m not invading his time, space or his parenting style.

Hassle/Not a team player - If work in person meetings or events fall on a week I have my children I have to make the decision if I can/want to go. I base this on, as I said, if I can go - this will be due to my mum's availability, and if i want to go - if the boys have gone to my mums already in the past month then I don’t like to then send them off again and make it a regular thing, or if I just feel like I don’t want to miss out on time with them. I then worry that this makes me seem like I’m not a team player or let the team down. 

I worry that I come across as being difficult and being a brat.

This is when the work/life balance comes into play and I have to make decisions based on my family and what is best for us and most of the time with things like this, my children will come before work.

I hate that I have to say “This doesn’t work for me because I have the boys” and potentially for dates needing to be reworked around me, but I have always been clear of my situation and it’s not something I’m ashamed about. It’s not as simple as “Get a sitter” or "Ask their dad to have them" because there are the emotional factors that come with it too.

Pressure - As I said in a previous post, I look after the school uniform buying, any school trips, any school issues etc and it can be a lot to do on your own. Not just financially (although their dad does help with some of the financial stuff but then along with that comes the awkward message asking for money). 

The boys also have more of an emotional, open relationship with me than they do with their dad so even when they are with him I am the one they will come to (via phone) with any issues they are having and feeling. Which is absolutely fine and I love that I am their go to person for that, but it can then be hard not being with them whilst they are going through something and when all I really want to do is give them a cuddle.

Long distance parenting isn’t easy all the time, it’s really hard to switch off.

Pride - Although these are material things I look at the pile of birthday or Christmas presents and can’t help feeling proud that I was able to make my children happy and provide them with these things on my own.

Also pride in the things they say and do that I know has come from things they learn living with me. 

And pride in how they cope with living in two different houses, with two people who parent and live differently. They are incredible boys and have coped so well since the beginning.

Mental Health of a Solo Parent - Part 1

I want to open this by saying that although I have been in a relationship for almost 4 years, we don’t live together and therefore I am classed as a “single parent”. I actually hate the term “single parent” and prefer the term “solo parent”.

I became a solo parent in August 2015. I had no savings, no job (I was a housewife/stay at home mum) and no plan on what I was going to do.

On November 2nd 2015 I walked into Wickes Lowestoft to start my first day. I was late to my first day and my second day (even late to my interview) due to mum duties and was convinced this wasn’t going to work out for me.

The thought of not getting past the 3 month ‘probation’ period was always heavy on my mind. 

We were selling our marital home and I needed a secure and steady income to be accepted to rent a house, which already felt possibly like a challenge due to being on a low, one person income.

I needed a secure and steady income to be able to afford to feed my children, to put petrol in my car to get them to school, to take them on days out, to clothe them etc.

I got the permanent contract and felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. That challenge of being a solo parent was ticked off.

But then there are logistics. I was working 24 hours a week,  I needed to get two young boys ready and get myself ready. I need to make sure my children are at school on time and I get to work on time, which is always a challenge when battling traffic across Lowestoft.

I need to make sure the boys are booked into after school club or have someone else to collect them after school. I only have my mum in town and she worked in the afternoon so that was always a challenge.

I worked every Saturday and had the boys every other weekend so had to come up with a way of getting them looked after the Saturday I had them. In the back of my mind, always, that I only got 2 full days a month with them as I only had Sundays.

I have to manage finding someone to look after them if they are poorly and off school or choose to “let the team down” and stay at home to look after them. 

I remember someone once saying that “children are an easy sicknote” and it stuck with me all the time and despite never using my children as an “easy sicknote” I always felt guilty if I was off due to them.

I remember clearly one day December 1st, 2016 to be exact, we were walking into school and my youngest son, Harry, went to put his hand on some railings, they were icy and as a result his hand slipped as did his whole body and he fell into the road. A car slammed on their breaks and was ridiculously close to hitting him. He had a large bump on his head, which the school cleaned up for us, and we agreed it was best to keep him home to keep an eye on him due to the bump and possible trauma. I was a mess. I couldn’t stop crying, the school did a great job at supporting and comforting me but I remember so clearly thinking “Work will be angry. I’ll be letting people down” and over and over “Children are an easy sicknote” “children are an easy sicknote”. So I decided to drive to the store with Harry, take him into the store and to go over to my manager and to tell them face to face that I needed to stay home. He was really supportive but I felt gutted that I had this feeling of having to prove why I needed to be home. To parade my childs bumped head as evidence. I didn't have to do this, but I felt like I had to. (The sicknote comment wasn’t made by the manager, but a colleague no longer with the business). 

I found myself at some points putting work before my children, because I felt I had to. 

In 2019 I had an opportunity to join the Support Centre which would mean me moving from part time to full time, partly working from home and partly working at the office in Watford.

It was a really tough time for me because I didn’t have anyone around me to help me with the decision or to support me.

My mum thought it would be too much and that a single mum couldn’t work full time and travel to Watford every week etc. 

Other than the decision to leave my marriage this felt like another brave decision I had to make alone and after weighing up the pros and cons:

Pros - More money, more opportunities, a career I never thought was possible for me, working Monday-Friday meaning I had all weekend to spend with my children, the days I can work from home I can collect them from school and continue work when I get back.

Cons - Not as flexible with changing the days I had the boys. The boys' dad and I have the boys 50/50 and we would always be quite flexible if the other one needed to change any days we had them so this was less of an option due to travelling to Watford. Working full time meant less time doing household chores or booking doctors appointments, haircuts etc for the boys.

The pros outweigh the cons and I’ve never looked back.

I’ve been extremely lucky that any managers I have had in the roles I’ve had since joining the support centre have been really supportive of anything concerning the boys.

I remember during lockdown when we found out about homeschooling and I felt so overwhelmed. My manager at the time didn’t have children so I worried he wouldn’t understand and I sent a Google chat in the morning saying I needed to navigate working from home and looking after the boys and he couldn’t have been any more supportive. He was incredible. I worried for nothing!

Lockdown created a new routine for me and their dad. We used to do 3 days with me, 4 days with him, 4 days with me, 2 days with him. It was on a fortnightly rotation and although it meant we felt we got to see them more often it did cause confusion for the boys and almost every morning “Who are we with tonight?”

With the “stay at home” rule we decided to have the boys one week on and one week off to reduce how often we were leaving the house. And it worked really well for them to be able to settle in whichever house they were in for the week, helped us with a more structured routine and we’ve kept that going ever since.

I have questions around “Do you miss them?” “Is it not really hard?”

And the answer to both of those is YES! Of course.

But I have to look at positives:

I am SO grateful and pleased that their dad wanted us to share them 50/50 and that they have that time with their dad.

The week I don’t have them gives me a chance to breathe and be Lauren rather than Mother. 

When we have time away from each other it’s nice when we then get together again because we spend more time together and really treasure our time together.

The week they're at their dads I get to spend a full week with my boyfriend. I usually joke that the boys and my boyfriend share 50/50 custody of me.

I had to learn to almost switch off thinking of them or talking about them when they are with their dad because it can be hard. I can get lost in thoughts of “Are they ok? Are they warm? Have they eaten enough? Are they happy? Are they sad? Have they been cuddled today?”. I have to trust that they are ok and hand that control over.

The week they are with me can be tough and can be full on because it’s just me and them. I have to work, make sure they are happy, cook dinner, keep the house in order etc etc. I don’t have anyone able to help with that although we are now starting something where they each cook dinner one night a week which has been great.

If I’m poorly or having a bad mental health day/time I don’t have someone who can support or help out. Similarly if they are poorly I don’t have anyone who can help out.

I am lucky though that they are amazing boys and will step up if I’m not very well and will look after me and will look after themselves as much as they can to help me out.

Even though we share the boys 50/50 I am in charge of sorting uniforms and school supplies, making sure haircuts are booked in, doctors appointments are down to me, I deal with any school issues, so there does feel like an added pressure here sometimes and can affect me a lot. Especially when I have to deal with these things during the week when they are with their dad.

This is a lot longer than I expected and actually hasn’t covered what I even wanted to initially. This is why freewriting and opening a laptop and letting your fingers and mind connect can be so good. 

As there are a few things I’d like to cover I’ll do a few parts of Mental Health of a Solo Parent so all my words and feelings can get out there.

What you see vs What you don’t see

 What you see: A woman with long dark hair A Wickes blue tshirt Black jeans Gladiator sandals (I have trust in the weather to not rain today...