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It’s not easy to know what to expect what you become a single mother by choice. For anyone , becoming a parent is a journey into the unknown. But for those of us going it alone, there are very few role models around us to show us how our life might be.

While more and more women are choosing single motherhood it’s still unlikely that anyone in your close circle of friends and family has gone ahead of you on this path. So, after someone in a Facebook group asked what those of us who’d already done it wish we’d known beforehand I thought I’d write a post to share with you the benefit of my hindsight!

Frankly, I don’t think I’d have listened to some of these tough lessons if I’d been told them before. Some things can only be learned by experience. I don’t think any of us can really know what we’re taking on by becoming parents, until we’re in it.

But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

1 | I wish I’d known that it’s OK to ask for help.

When you decide to become a single mother by choice that doesn’t mean you have to do it ALL alone. I’ve heard other solo mums saying ‘I made this decision, so I can’t expect other people to help me, I have to be able to cope alone’.

No, no you don’t. I thought I could cope alone. But I couldn’t. I really struggled when my daughter was tiny and we were in Sydney, on the other side of the world from my family. But I very rarely asked for help. Until I was on my knees.

Being a solo parent is a real test of your resilience. As someone who’d been able to cope with pretty much everything life had thrown at me so far, I thought I should be able to cope with this too.

But I wasn’t nearly as tough as I thought, or maybe I’d never really been tested before. Trying to prove I was capable and independent became self-destructive.

In the end I not only moved back to the UK to be near my family, but then a couple of years later I moved in with my mum.

Now I readily admit I need help. I would never have admitted my vulnerabilities before.

2 | I wish I’d known how relentless parenting is.

There’s no way you can understand that fact until you’re in it. Living it. Until you’re up for the umpteenth time in the night and know you’ll have to do it all again tomorrow, that the responsibility will never not be yours.

You can’t hand in your notice, take annual leave or switch off at the end of the day. You are a parent 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ALL THE flippin’ time. Even as I write those words I know they are not enough to communicate the reality of being alone with a baby or toddler day after day.

There’s no-one to hand over to at the end of the day, or even to unload your worries to. No-one to help you decide whether your little one’s temperature really does warrant a trip to A&E. No-one to take the bins out when you’re ready to drop with exhaustion. There’s only you.

Notwithstanding point 1 above, you need to accept that it’s going to be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. There’ll be moments when you’ll wish you hadn’t done it. But it will get easier. It really will.

3 | I wish I’d known how much vomit I’d have to deal with.

Actually, I’m glad I didn’t know that because I’m not sure I’d have signed up! I used to have a vomit phobia!

Being solo with a vomit-covered child, bed and floor is quite a challenge. Every winter I hope this will be the year we’ll be spared a bout of gastro, but it hasn’t happened yet.

This year after bout number two I told my daughter that I think she was sent to cure me of my vomit phobia. Because while I used to panic and get anxious about her vomiting, now I take it in my stride! And she’s now great at getting it in the bucket nearly every time…

(Top tips: Towels on the bed if poorly little one sleeps with you. Cover sofa and any exposed surfaces they sit on with towels too. At night add a second layer of bed sheets underneath a waterproof sheet, so that in the middle of the night, you just have to whip top layer off!)

4 | I wish I’d known how precious my unlimited leisure time was!

Before your baby arrives luxuriate in and truly appreciate alll the time you have to suit yourself with no time limit. Because once you’re a solo mum you won’t have it again for a very long time!

So lie on your sofa reading a book knowing you can do it all day uninterrupted! Swan about in the shops taking your time to choose a new pair of shoes. Enjoy being able to grab your bag and leave the house without having to take half of it with you! Ah, the freedom!

When E was tiny, knowing that every tiny bit of alone time I got had an – often extremely short – time limit on it really got to me. So if, like me, you revel in your alone time, make the most of it!

5 | I wish I’d known how much I’d regret all the money I frittered away on pointless rubbish!

Create a budget so that you stop wasting money and start saving as much money as you can NOW! It’s only as a mother that I’ve become any good at saving money. I WISH I’d saved money as soon as I started earning it. Oh the next egg I could have built up!

So if you can find a way to save, do it. Even just £10 a month is better than nothing. They’ll be times when you really need a buffer of money to fall back on.

6 | I wish I’d known not to sweat the small stuff quite so much.

It can feel huge at the time, but it makes very little difference to how your child turns out whether or not you breastfeed. Your child won’t be damaged for life if you don’t feed them organic chicken or spend hours puréeing carrots, parsnips and sweet potato. And who cares if they’re dressed like a crazy colour blind clown to go to the supermarket?

As a single mother by choice, you need to pick your battles and give yourself a break. Perfection is not necessary. Buy the perfectly good baby food in packets, or make them eat what you eat.

Oh and ARE NOT the devil incarnate if you let your child sleep in your bed. There’s so much judgement out there thrown at mothers, the last thing you need is to start throwing it at yourself. Almost none of it matters in the long run. Trust me.

7 | But mostly I wish I’d known how much she’d inspire me.

I wasn’t very ambitious before I had E. But she has made me want to create great things. Not only that but she makes me want to stand up for what I believe in. Gender equality, flexible work, compulsory before and after school care. Things that will give her, and her children a better world to live in.

I want to prove to her what’s possible as a woman in our world. Because if I don’t show her, who will?

What do you wish you’d know before you became a single mother by choice? Let me know in the comments!

This post first appeared on Emma-Louise Smith.

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Are you thinking about freezing your eggs? If you are then before you take any action, read this post. Finding yourself single in your late thirties when you’re desperate to have a baby is a flippin’ awful place to be. I know, I’ve been there.

The unfairness of it is overwhelming. As you watch all your friends get married and start popping out kids the ‘how did this happen to me?’ thoughts are impossible to suppress.

Knowing what to do for the best is next to impossible. People will give you dubious advice and amongst those ‘Why don’t you freeze your eggs?’ is right up there. Mid break-up this is the advice an ex-boyfriend gave me. I wanted to punch him in the face.

A year later I was pregnant after using donor sperm, so obviously I didn’t take his sage advice. And here’s why I don’t recommend other single women in their late go down that route either:

Your eggs are already past their best

By the time you’re in your mid-thirties not only is the number of eggs you have left declining but the quality of your eggs has already fallen off a cliff. Egg quality is THE most important factor in the success rate of IVF, and why the success rate of IVF with frozen eggs is far higher with donor eggs than a woman’s own eggs. Because donor eggs are always younger.

According to the Human Fertility and Embryology Association (HFEA) in 2016 only 18% of IVF treatments using a patient’s own frozen eggs were successful.

There’s some great information about egg quality on the website of Extend Fertility an American egg freezing service. Check out the graph on that page that shows the steep decline in egg quality from your mid-thirties onwards.

I saw an image similar to this when I was 37 and considering my options after breaking up with the annoying ‘freeze your eggs’ ex and it was sobering.

A recent HFEA press release in December 2018 stated: “Clinics have an ethical responsibility to be clear that egg freezing below the age of 35 offers women their best chance of creating their much longed for family.”

“Where women over the age of 40 are freezing their own eggs, the likelihood of a future pregnancy is very slim and we would caution against this being a sensible option for this group of women.”

In the light of this information spending a tonne of money to preserve sub-standard eggs suddenly seems like a waste of time and money. I have serious doubts about the ethics of clinics that are encouraging women in their late thirties, or older, to part with large amounts of money to freeze eggs.

If you’re in your 20s with youthful, high-quality eggs on board then freezing eggs might be a worthwhile back-up plan. If you have the cash for egg freezing in your 20s, that is!

But even then I’d argue that it would better to just get on with starting a family sooner rather than later. I wish I hadn’t, and I’ll be advising my daughter to consider having kids early. You can always build a career. Having a family, not so.

If you REALLY want a baby, go it alone

If you’ve hit your late thirties and Mr Right hasn’t shown up yet then you have two options. Keep waiting for your knight in shining armour to put in an appearance, or go it alone.

I knew I wanted to have my own child, and I knew I’d rather be a mother alone than never be a mother at all. And I wanted that too much to just leave it in the hands of fate.

But I know it’s not as clear cut for everyone. Still, even with those certainties, it took me some time to let go of ‘the dream’, accept that life hadn’t worked out the way I hoped and feel reading for a different path.

The danger is you get stuck. Stuck in limbo. Not wanting to be single and childless, but unable to move forward out of fear, uncertainty. Not able to let go of how you expected your life to turn out.

If this is where you are freezing your eggs will only keep you stuck here. Stopping you from facing up to the reality that maybe having a baby with a partner isn’t going to happen for you. And let’s face it by the time you hit your late thirties your fertile years are dwindling fast.

I have friends who’ve agonised over the decision for far longer than I did.

My advice is to take action. That doesn’t mean taking the leap into single motherhood without a backward glance. But the worst case scenario is that you never get out of limbo, put too much faith in frozen eggs as insurance.

Let’s get real here. There is NEVER a good time to have a baby. Partnered or not. There will always be doubts and misgivings, questions and risks. If you wait for all the planets to align you’ll find you’re still waiting long after your ovaries have dried up and given up on you.

Knowledge is power, take control

Decide to take positive action to get yourself out of limbo. It might feel like deciding to freeze your eggs is doing exactly that but as I’ve suggested above I think it’s the opposite.

Here’s what I recommend doing:

  • Go for an initial consultation at a fertility clinic. You’ll get all the fertility tests that will give you a better idea of your chances of conceiving. They’ll arrange blood tests, and ultrasounds to check your fallopian tubes and antral follicle count.
  • Find out more about being a single mother by choice. Normalise what can feel like a very ‘abnormal’ path to take. Again, this will help you get clearer about whether it’s the right path for you.

Start here:

The one book every single mother by choice should read

Thinking about becoming a single mother by choice? 6 places to find information and support

Why I’m NOT a single mother by choice

Why so many fabulous women are using a sperm donor to have a baby

  • Join an online group for SMCs. Get to know real women who have chosen single motherhood or are also thinking about it. You’ll feel less alone and less like the only ‘freak’ who hasn’t coupled up. Meeting mothers who were living the single mother reality showed me that if they could do it so could I.
  • Make a decision. Make an active choice rather than having time take the decision out of your hands. If you take action the above, all the way up to the point at which an embryo is put into your womb you can take a pause and halt the process.

There are no guarantees that good fertility test results mean you can get pregnant. The only way to know that is to try. But if your results show that your fertility is in a steep decline then that could be the kick in the pants you need to make a decision one way or the other.

Overall my advice is – don’t let the decision about something so important be taken out of your hands. Freezing your eggs might feel like doing something, but really it’s just putting off the inevitable.

Maybe single motherhood isn’t right for you, but make a decision one way or another. Don’t get stuck in limbo. If you’re the wrong side of 35, don’t kid yourself that frozen eggs are the answer. If you REALLY want a baby it’s not the insurance policy it might appear to be.

Did you consider freezing your eggs? Or have you already done it? Tell me about it in the comments.

This post first appeared on Emma-Louise Smith.

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When I had my daughter I was the only person in my circle of friends who’d used a sperm donor to have a baby. But since then one of my best friends has also had a baby using a donor. And a couple more have looked into it. They’re still deciding if it’s the rather path for them, or have frozen their eggs. 

In fact nearly every time I tell anyone that I had my daughter using a sperm donor, someone pipes up that either they’re considering it or they know someone who is.

All these women are good people. They’re smart, adventurous, funny, and attractive. They keep fit, have lots of friends, own their own homes, have good careers and are making good money.

They don’t have two heads, bad personal hygiene, or prefer their cats to human company.

Yes,  they might have a few issues, but who doesn’t? Being baggage free doesn’t seem to be a reliable indicator of who partners up and who doesn’t. I certainly met some messed up people – and yes some with bad personal hygiene – who have managed to find someone to share their life with.

So why are women like them, and me, finding themselves choosing to become single mums? I can’t speak for them all but I can make a few, not so wild,  guesses.

We’re not prepared to settle or trap someone into parenthood

I tried valiantly to settle. To want less. But I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t prepared to resign myself to a less than great, or even crappy, relationship in order to have kids. 

When I wanted to be with someone they were always the commitment-phobic type, or not in that ballpark of their lives. So I tried online dating to find men who were in that place.

I met quite a few nice guys. But that’s all they were. Nice. I didn’t want to share my life with them. They didn’t make me belly laugh, or feel that shiver of excitement.

And I definitely didn’t want to have a child with someone who hadn’t chosen to take that step with me. I had opportunities, but I’d didn’t take them. I didn’t feel comfortable tying myself, and my child, for life to someone who didn’t want to be part of our lives, or worse. My over-active moral compass wouldn’t let me do it.

The clocks ticking and the men in our lives wait too long to settle down

If only I’d been attracted to older men. I always got involved with men my age or younger who weren’t ready to have kids. They didn’t see why they shouldn’t carry on partying and being a responsibility-free-zone well into their 30s – and beyond in some cases.

Recently, I read this article (Men like me are the reason women freeze their eggs) and it hits the nail on the head. The utterly misogynistic ‘why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?’ attitude stinks, but it’s how many men think.

But women continue to get the blame for our single status. Headlines in the Daily [Hate] Mail scream that we career women ‘forgot to have children’ because we’re too busy running to meetings and climbing the corporate ladder. Or we’re too picky. 

It’s all bollocks. While many of the women I know have great careers like me they would have kids much earlier if the men in their lives had been willing.

So I’d like to see men getting an equal share of the blame for the fact that more and more women are ‘leaving it too late’ to have kids. It take two to tango as they say.

We want to get back in control of our lives

For years I felt like I was waiting for someone else to give me permission to have the life I wanted. I knew I wanted kids. And I needed a man to make that happen. Or so I thought.

So I was constantly looking for the approval or some man in the hope that he’d finally be the one who said “Yes! Let’s make babies!”

Eventually,  heartbroken, angry and humiliated, I thought “Fuck that!” I couldn’t keep giving my power away. To keep leaving what I wanted to chance.

We’re lucky to live at a time when we women can take these matters into our own hands. So that’s what I did.

We’re searching for a higher purpose in life

My generation was supposed to be happy being career women. ‘Just’ wanting to be a mother, god forbid the stay-at-home variety, was frowned upon. 

But I never bought into the ‘you can have it all’ message. Women’s rights isn’t about one path being right and another wrong. It’s about being able to choose what you want for your life be that a career or a fast ticket to motherhood.

Sure I wanted an interesting career. But I didn’t need to be the CEO. However I always imagined I’d get married and have kids. When that didn’t happen I felt adrift.

By the time I hit my mid-thirties I’d go out to bars and clubs and wish I had a reason to not be there. I’d been doing it for 20 years and I was bored or the constant self-indulgence. I felt envious of my friends who had kids who could say they couldn’t join our weekly pub/club outing.

I lacked purpose. I wanted my life to revolve around something or someone else, to be about more than just me. 

We’re fed up of the single & childless pity-party

As you get older people tend to feel sorry for single, childless people. From the dizzying heights of their coupled up life they tilt their head, look pitying and say ‘But you’re too attractive/great/pick your compliment to be single.’ Or ‘Aah, you’ll find someone when you least expect it.’

Like it’s a fate worse than death to be single. And even if most of the time we’re totally fine with being single that attitude starts to creep in. Sometimes you can bat it away but it gets it’s hooks into you. Especially those of us who really want kids.

I felt pigeon-holed. Like everyone was assuming they knew everything about me based on the fact I was single and in my thirties. That I was desperate, needy and sad.

I dated a bloke, only a couple years younger than me, who confessed his friends had warned him I might pierce the condom to get pregnant. Insulted I retorted that I’d have chosen someone who had a better gene pool to offer if that was my plan.

Just because I was in my mid-thirties didn’t mean I was going to be any less discerning about who I chose to have kids with.

We want Christmas to be fun again

OK, this sound a bit flippant, but it isn’t. At about the same time the pitying looks started I started to dread Christmas. It felt like an annual reminder that my life hadn’t moved on yet. That I still didn’t have the home, husband and 2.5 children that I ‘should’ have.

I used to beat a retreat from family Christmases as quickly as I could. One year I spent half the day in Heathrow airport, waiting to get on a flight to Sydney.

It was all self-imposed. I felt guilty,  and humiliated that my mum was still hosting Christmas. I felt I wasn’t the daughter she hoped for and still hadn’t given her a grand child.

We’d rather use a sperm donor than never be a mother at all

This is what it came down to for me. Faced with missing out on the experience of motherhood, of knowing what it was like to carry a child, I chose to go it alone. 

It’s not that straight-forward for everyone, I know that. I’ve friends who haven’t moved forward alone because they want the relationship more than a child. Or they’re somewhere in the middle, not certain they need to give birth to their own child, and still holding onto the hope that they’ll meet the right man before it’s too late.

Single motherhood wasn’t my dream. It’s rarely anyone’s dream. Using a sperm donor to have a baby wasn’t in my life plan. It was a scary choice to make. But for me, it was less scary than never being a mother at all.

Why did you use a sperm donor to have a baby? Or why do you think you might? Leave a comment and let me know.

This post first appeared on Emma-Louise Smith.

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It’s been over a year since I posted here. Sigh. Life, and work, got in the way. But I’ve started 2019 with a renewed enthusiasm for blogging. It’s been way too long and I miss writing and connecting with people here.

However my life has changed, so to be true to who I am this blog needs to move on too. So I’ve waved goodbye to the Self-Employed Single Mum name and moving this blog to a new home. With a new name.

Why? Well mainly because I’m no longer self-employed and I don’t envisage being self-employed again. Not at the moment anyway. But I’m always going to be a solo mum so that’s what this blog will focus on from now on.

Choosing single motherhood. Becoming a single mother by choice. And all the challenges, joys and fun that goes with life as a solo mum.

A blog for solo mums

I will still talk about money, life hacks, work, travel and many other things that I think will interest you. But it will be through the lens of being a solo mum.

I want to be a supportive shoulder to lean on for any woman who finds herself where I was nearly 10 years ago. Stuck between a rock and a flippin’ hard place. Feeling backed into a corner by an unfair set of cards you’ve been dealt. Realising that the only option left is to go it alone.

I want to offer them, and women who’ve already made the leap in to solo motherhood, a sisterhood. Because it can feel damn lonely sometimes on the solo mum express to parenthood. You’re like the other mums, but not like them too. You’re a fish out of water in a sea of two parent families. Partnered up folk who just don’t get what it’s like to be at home alone EVERY night. To show up to parent’s evening solo. To never have anyone to split the bills with, or shoulder the bread-winning with.

But I get it. I get where you’ve been, and I get where you’re going.

So I’ve moved selfemployedsinglemum.com here to emmalouisesmith.com. I’m calling myself ‘the solo mum mentor’ but I hope I’m more of a supportive older sister. The one who’s lived it before you, been in the trenches and is climbing out the other side.

Using my name gives me the freedom to be who I am, to keep evolving what I write about and never feel tied to one outlook or topic.

So, I’m spending my evenings and days off getting the new site ready – it won’t look wildly different. And from Friday, 25 January this site is on a new domain!

This post first appeared on Emma-Louise Smith.

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As the first year of blogging here on Self-Employed Single Mum draws to a close I’ve been taking stock and of the last 12 months and planning for 2018. That’s included digging into the stats for this site.

It’s been a valuable exercise because it’s given me a great insight into which posts are striking a chord and being read the most. I’ve now got a clearer idea of where to go with my content next year. That might mean there’ll be a few changes around here!

I’ve also been giving myself a great big pat on the back for getting through a whole year of blogging, and blogging pretty consistently. I’m loving growing this blog and connecting with my readers. It’s why I started this blog and why I want to start offering mentoring for single mums next year.

So, to celebrate a WHOLE YEAR (!) of SESM, here are my top 10 blog posts of 2017:

1 | 11 reasons to love being a single mum

In nearly every month of this year this post was in the top two or three posts. Historically there’s been a lot of negativity around being a single mother so I think this full-on celebration of what is GREAT about single motherhood was a welcome dose of positivity.

2 | Inspiring quotes every frazzled single mother needs to read

When life throws you a single parenting curve ball sometimes it’s hard to see your way forward. I love quotes for helping me see a different perspective and it seems that lots of you agree. This collection of inspiring quotes are great to keep to hand to help you get a positive perspective when the going gets tough.

3 | Why I’m NOT a single mother by choice

The path I took to motherhood is often referred to as being a ‘single mother by choice’. In this post I let off steam about why I’m not comfortable with that label. I think many of you who have chosen the same path, or may do in the future, could identify with how and why I came to be a single mother.

4. It’s time to say NO! to working nine-to-five

Another rant. This time about the toxicity of traditional working hours and why it’s time to leave bums-on-seats presentee-ism where where it belongs. In the past. The campaign for truly flexible working really reached a crescendo this year so this post hit the right note at the right time.

5. The truth about being a single mum on Mother’s Day

This post really struck a chord with single mamas everywhere. I hate to have a moan, but I’ve definitely struggled with Mother’s Day in the past. This post uncovers why it can be tricky and how single mums can be prepared to celebrate the day in their own way.

6 | How to save money on food (the quick and simple way)

It’s been interesting to notice that money savings posts are the next most popular category after single parenting. I’m a big of a personal finance geek so this pleases me no end! This post contain simple, actionable advice anyone can use to get their food shopping bill under control.

7| How to manage your money: 6 steps to financial freedom on a single income

More money advice. Coping on a single income isn’t easy. Money is probably THE most stressful part of being a single mother. So finding ways to manage your money better is key being able to be your best self. This post covers the steps you can take to empower your financial situation when you’re the only breadwinner.

8 | Thriving as a single mum: 6 lessons from Lorelai Gilmore

There aren’t many positive single mum role models in popular culture so when I discovered the Gilmore Girls I was hooked. If you haven’t discovered this feel-good classic yet then quick run to Netflix immediately! (But don’t bother with the recent revival, it’s truly awful!)

Lorelai Gilmore is a single mama who’s not only a great mum but also starts her own business and lives a great life at the heart of a supportive community. There’s a huge amount to be learnt from this quick-witted mama. (If only my local cafe owner looked like Luke!)

9| 8 quick mood boosters for when everything sucks

I’m so pleased this post snuck into the top ten because self-care an essential building block to thriving as a single mama. In this post I share eight of my favourite pick-me-ups – things I do to get me out of a funk and give myself a little boost.

10 | Dating as a single mother: Can you be bothered?

At some point most single mamas get back in the dating game. Or at least think about it. I’ve dabbled here and there over the years but frankly for me it simply isn’t a priority anymore. In this post I discuss why, and what’s top of the list for me these days.

Reading through this list it’s clear to me what direction to take my content in next year. 2018 will see more posts about:

  • solo parenting
  • personal finance
  • self-care

I’ll be moving away writing about self-employment (yes, despite this blog’s name!) and online business because that’s clearly not what most of your want to read about.

Do you agree? What was your favourite post of 2017? Let me know in the comments.

This post first appeared on Emma-Louise Smith.

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Hey there lady-friend. Look, I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions. BUT today I’m going to share with you a promise I made to myself this time last year. I want it to be your commitment to yourself in 2018.

I originally wrote this as part of email sequence I sent to my subscribers but it’s too important to only be seen by a select few.

ps. I don’t think the ‘superwoman’ problem is specific to single mamas but because we’re shouldering the responsibilities of a family alone most of the time it can be particularly damaging.

First, let me tell you a story…

Once there was a single mum who thought she had to prove to the world that she could cope alone. She’d ‘chosen’ to have a baby by herself so she had to just soldier on bravely, shouldering all the responsibility, all the work and all the stress. Didn’t she?

She insisted on living by herself, running the house, paying the bills, doing all the cleaning, cooking, caring for the child AND running a business.

Nurturing, teaching, disciplining, loving, worrying, getting up in the night, doing the school-run, worrying about money, stressing about work.

And slowly starting to resent that it was ALL on her.

But still she refused to give in. Her mother kept saying she could come and live with her. But that would be admitting she couldn’t cope alone, wouldn’t it?

And that’s what being an adult was all about. Coping. By. Yourself.

Until her mental health came crashing down.

The stress, fear and anxiety came spilling out in outbursts of anger her child took the brunt of. And as depression that left her numb with resentment about doing all the nurturing, cooking, cleaning, earning and worrying.

She could barely get out of bed. She ground to a halt. She couldn’t stop CRYING. All she kept thinking was, “Why me? Why is this all on my shoulders?”

Then a little voice in her head whispered: “Because that’s how you insisted things be.”

Only then did she finally give in and asked for help. Only then did she admit that she COULDN’T do it all alone. And only then did she realise she didn’t need to. That it was all in her head.

There were people there waiting for her to let them in…

Yes, you’ve guessed it. That story was about me. For a long time. Five and a half years of my daughter’s life to be exact.

The good news is that when I sought help it came in bucketloads.
  • I no longer live alone, I live with my amazing mum, who’d spent years trying to convince me that being with her was the best option for us all.
  • I found a great counsellor – for free on the NHS – who taught me how to deal with my anger before explodes in a horrible mess on all those around me.
  • And I turned to friends who’d offered up their support without me having to ask.

I KNOW only too well how much you want to be seen as capable, like you’ve got your shit together. You want to be on top of things, setting a great example for your kids, and disproving the stereotype of the stressed out single mother. You want to be the best mum you can be.

That’s all well and good. But there’s only YOU.

You don’t have to do it all alone. And the more you try, the more resentful you’ll feel and the more likely you are to come crashing down. Like I did. Exhausted. Burned out. Stressed out beyond belief.

And then what? There’s only YOU.

But there needn’t be.

STOP taking on so much. Stop trying to take on more than any human being is capable of shouldering.

STOP trying to prove you’re fucking superwoman. You’re already bloody amazing for coming this far, but don’t martyr yourself, like I did, trying to prove you can do it all. Who are you doing all that proving for???

START admitting your vulnerabilities. Start admitting you need help. And witness the best side of humanity come your way as a result.

So, my last word on this is, take help when it’s offered. Seek help when you need it.

Your children deserve a human, flawed, real and happy mum, not a stressed-out, fragile, wannabe perfect one.

Do you free like you have to do it all alone? Do you find it hard to accept help, or ask for it? Let me know in the comments.

This post first appeared on Emma-Louise Smith.

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It’s time for the November Single Mum Love In! (Slightly late I’m afraid, sorry about that!)

In this monthly series of posts I link up to the awesome and inspiring posts and articles I come across as I scour the web researching single mum fabulousness!

I also thought it would helpful to share the great resources, tips and advice I come across. Sometimes I think everyone must know about the things I discover already and am always a bit surprised when they don’t!

I see this series as a way to support the amazing community of inspiring single parent bloggers and advocates I’ve come across via this blog. I try and support them all through my social media accounts – mainly on Twitter, so do come and find me there!

Check out Single Mum Love In - the monthly round-up celebrating ground breaking mums shattering the single mum stereotype!Click To Tweet Single mum inspiration

It’s not easy answering questions about absent, or in our case non-existent fathers. I’ve always been completely open with E about her donor and how she came into the world. I love the positive angle My Single Mummy Self takes in this posts, The D word: When kids ask about an absent Daddy.

We might all have different stories about how we became solo mamas, but Rainbeaubelle’s article about being widowed, single and dating reminded me that we have far more in common than that which divides us. We all face judgements and putting ourselves out there and dating as single women is often a minefield for a variety of different, but similar, reasons!

You can always rely on Emma Johnson, from Wealthy Single Mommy, to have a controversial point of view (most of which I agree with). Not only does she think that as single mums we’re more likely NOT to date a man whose first wife was a stay-at-home mum, but also that as women we have a responsibility to not treat being a SAHM as the ‘ideal’. While it’s a perfectly valid choice, it’s not always ideal, and despite societal pressure to conform to this fantasy of the perfect family, it never has been.

This month’s roundup couldn’t be without a nod to the festive season. Single Parents On Holiday have hit the nail on the head with their list of top 10 tips on how to survive Christmas as a single parent. Of course, if you can afford it one of their holidays would be the perfect way to escape Christmas chaos!

Single mums & work

Friday, 10 November was Equal Pay Day, the day on which because of the gender pay gap women effectively stop earning in comparison to men. For every £1 a man earns on average a woman earns just 86p. This gap hasn’t narrowed at all since 2015. This isn’t just about persuading employers to pay women more, it’s about deeper societal issues that push women towards lower paid jobs, and the barriers to equal pay that are put in our way. This Talented Ladies Club article articulates well why women earn less than me and what we can do about it.

And if discrimination and inequality in the workplace weren’t reason enough here are 10 reasons you have to quit your job according to James Altucher. He’s the author of tone of my favourite books, Choose Yourself when I share this article on Twitter it always gets a huge response. Be warned, when I first read this article in 2015 I did actually quit my job!

Are you blogger or are you trying tin increase traffice to your business site? I thought I’d learned most of the traffic building tricks – having time to apply them all is another matter! – but I’m always on the look out for new techniques to learn. There’s much to admire about over 40s fashion blogger Catherine Summers from Not Dressed As Lamb and her post about increasing your blog traffic is well worth read! She recently won an award for ‘Most Addictive Blog’ so she’s definitely worth learning a thing or two from!

Single mum money

So yes I’m always harping on about budgeting. But how do you know how much to allocate to each area of your life? How much is too much? And how much should you be saving? It’s hard know if you’re on the right track so discovering this article about the 50-30-20 method was super-helpful. Obviously it’s going to be slightly different for all of us depending on our income and core living expenses. But if you’re new to budgeting this method makes things super-simple! (I like the word super!)

On Self-Employed Single Mum this month Coming up in December!

In breaking news you might have noticed that I’m gradually guiding this blog to be less about self-employment and more about ups and downs of single motherhood in general, particularly as a single mother by choice. I’ve just spent some time analysing my stats for 2017 and those topics are by far my most popular content. So this month I’ve blocked out some time for planning lots of new content for 2018.

What would you like me to write about in 2018. Let me know in the comments.

In the meantime December is packed full of Why you need to stop trying to be superwoman, how to start planning your week on a Sunday, how single motherhood saved Christmas (for me at least!), AND my guide to getting to grips with goal setting for 2018.

Want to make sure you don’t miss a post? Click here to get all my posts by email.

Thank you!

To any of you who have mentioned, shared or commented on any of my posts over the last month – a BIG BIG thank you. It’s your support that keeps me writing this blog. Every time I get supportive comments and mentions on social media it’s spurs me on to write more.

I share most of the articles and resources I’ve mentioned here on Twitter, so come join me there and you’ll see just how much support and community there is out there for us single mamas.

You could also get my tips, advice, ramblings and (sometimes) wisdom straight to your inbox by entering your details in the box below – plus I’ll send you my free self-employment guide!

ps. got an article or blog post you’d like me to feature here? Tweet me!

This post first appeared on Emma-Louise Smith.

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How do some people manage to have a debt-free Christmas? Is that even a thing? After all, it’s the time when traditionally your credit card gets a battering and any money-saving intentions go out of the window in a flurry of festive spirit.

Last year British consumers put £11bn on plastic to pay for Christmas. Half of us fear that we’ll still be paying off this year’s Christmas when we put up the tree in 2018!

Up until a couple of years ago, that was my tale of festive financial woe as well. A stocking of presents for my daughter, gifts for all the family, Christmas parties, a trip to Santa, not to mention the turkey and all the trimmings. It all costs a bomb. A bomb I’d never budgeted for and would wack on my credit card. “It’s Christmas!” I’d think.

But when the festive spirit is nothing but a distant memory all that over-spending comes back to haunt us! In the form of crippling credit card payments and never being able to save because we have to pay our debts first.

However a couple of years ago I discovered the secret to a debt-free Christmas. It’s really quite simple, and as an intelligent, fairly financially astute person, it’s rather embarrassing I’d never done it before.

Put aside money for Christmas every month!

To be honest, when I was younger I was very much a ‘live for the moment’ type person. I rarely thought about what I was going to spend next week let alone in a year’s time, so the idea of saving for Christmas was laughable.

How times change. I’m not a fan of over-indulging kids at Christmas but as a single mum it’s down to me to buy my daughter’s gifts, get a tree, take her to see Santa and all the rest of it. My mum helps out and treats my daughter to festive outings and indulgences grandparents do best, but the rest of it’s up to me.

So, with money on the tight-side, I decided to set myself a budget and save for it throughout the year. It’s no coincidence that this new ultra-financially responsible version of me came into being when I started using YNAB.

YNAB is my budgeting tool of choice and one of its main tenets is to ’embrace your true expenses’. When most of us write down our monthly budget we list our mortgage or rent, utilities, phone and internet connection. But we don’t think about the larger, but less frequent, expenses like annual insurance payments, summer activities for the kids, birthdays and yes, Christmas!

Related:  The single mum’s guide to budgeting with YNAB

The fact the budgeting gurus at YNAB need to teach this fairly basic financial message means I can’t be the only one who’s spent most of their life spending all their income every month and then acting like it’s a big surprise when Christmas comes along!

‘Embrace your true expenses’ means including these potential debt-builders in your monthly budget so that you never have to dread the arrival of a big bill.

So put away the plastic, go debt-free this Christmas:
  • In January add up what you’ve spent this Christmas. The consider whether you’ll spend a similar amount next year.
  • If you need to cut back figure out how you can save money – see my tips below.
  • Take your final amount and divide it by 12.
  • The figure you’re left with is the amount you need to save every month. Put it into a separate savings account. Or use a tool like YNAB so you know exactly what you’ve allocated to your Yuletide budget.
  • For example, if you decide your budget for Christmas 2018 is £350 – my budget last year – then you need to start setting aside £29 a month from January. Not too painful right?

This year my budget is £500. Because I’ve been saving it every month when I started my Christmas shopping (still a huge amount to do!) it was there waiting to be spent. Yay! In fact, I’m not sure I’ll spend that much this year. I’ll be able to shift what’s left into the pot of money I’m saving for our summer holiday.

Related:  6 steps to financial freedom on a single income

Seriously, this is the secret to a debt-free Christmas. That and STICKING to your budget. If  your budget is tight or you’re paying off debt it can be difficult to put aside extra money. But do your best, even if you only save £10 a month, as it will stop you getting into more debt next year.

Money-saving tips for your debt-free Christmas budget!
  • Agree on a spending limit of £5 or £10 for presents with your family, even the kids. Here’s a list of cheap gift ideas.
  • Do you really need to buy EVERYONE a present? Make a No Unnecessary Presents Pact,  or do a Secret Santa.
  • Get your creative hat on and make homemade presents. One year I’d made body moisturising bars out of cocoa butter and shea butter.
  • Shop around on eBay. Your little darling wants a new bike? No need to get a brand new one, see what you can find on eBay or Gumtree.
  • Shop online. This year I set up and Amazon wish list for my daughter’s presents, so much easier to keep an eye on what you’re spending.
  • Finally, check out these 50 Christmas MoneySaving Tips from MoneySavingExpert.com.

Do you have any top tips for sticking to a debt-free Christmas budget? Share them in the comments?

Linked to Not Dressed As Lamb’s #SaturdayShareLinkUp

This post first appeared on Emma-Louise Smith.

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Do you have a self-employed single mum on your gift list this Christmas? Or perhaps you don’t know what to asked your loved ones for? Maybe you’d even like to treat yourself, I know I’m going to!

Either way, I’ve got THE gift guide for you!

Planners/stationery

Full Focus Planner

>> Full Focus Planner – my planner of choice created by productivity guru, Michael Hyatt. I was one of the first people to get my hands on this awesome planner. It’s is way more than a planner, it’s a whole system for setting goals and following through on achieving them, quarter by quarter.

>> Passion Planner – another great planner that will help you set goals and the plan to create the life you’ve always wanted.

Kemi Telford luxury notebook

>> Kemi Telford luxury notebooks – I love these recycled leather-bound notebooks with a range of sassy slogans on the cover. The ‘Stay In Your Lane’ notebook is on my Christmas list! Created by the very talented Yvonne Telford who I’m proud to say is local to me here in Surrey. If you don’t follow her on Instagram you should, her posts are inspiring and her stories put a smile every day.

Online courses

>> XOSarah’s courses – when it comes to Sarah Morgan I’m a total fan girl. She’s a great teacher and I’ve learned so much from her. Any of her courses are the perfect gift for the budding solopreneur!

Social media scheduling

>> Smarterqueue – seriously this is the social media scheduler that will FINALLY take the hard work out of keeping your social media channels populated with new, relevant and varied content. You can categorise content and create multiple evergreen queues. I started using it this year and I haven’t looked back. Subscription start from £13.99 a month (paid annually) and I’d certainly be very happy if someone gifted this to me! A year of social media taken care of! Cheers!

Other online business tools

>> Nosegraze WordPress themes – if you want to get your website looking fabulous I can recommend the Tweak Me theme by Nosegraze. I created this site with it! It’s a whole lot simpler to use than many themes out there and very flexible. Ashleigh, the brains behind Nosegraze, has a whole range of themes and plugins available. So go check them out.

>> Canva – I use this every week to create the images you see here on this blog and on my social media channels. Use the free version or treat yourself to the premium version so you can save your brand’s fonts and colours and resize images for every platform in just a couple of clicks!

>> Todoist – after trying out MANY different online project planning tools this year I finally found the one that works for me. Todoist is super simple with a minimalist design I love. I found other tools too onerous to keep up-to-date but Todoist makes life easier instead of more complicated! At only £27.99 a year it’s an both a practical and affordable gift!

Money

>> YNAB – not the sexist of gifts but one that will keep on giving! Read my review and you’ll understand why this budgeting tool is essential for any single mama trying to keep all the financial balls in the air!

Health & self-care

SAD light

>> SAD light – suffering from the winter blues? I suffer from season affective disorder and this light has made a world of difference for me this year. In the dark days of winter when you’re stuck indoors all day this light will help lift your mood.

>> Headspace – THE meditation app loved the world over that will help you get in the habit of meditating daily. Learn all the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and get some headspace.

> I Quit Sugar – I’m four weeks into this eight-week programme and loving having the meal planning and shopping list writing taken off my hands. Plus I’ve dropped at list a kilo simply by eating their nutrient dense, sugar-free meals. If you’re keen to quit sugar, this is the way to go.

[Edited to add: I Quit Sugar has now closed, but you can still find out more about the principals of quitting sugar via the various resources sign-posted on the site.]

Stocking fillers

>> The Kickass Single Mom by Emma Johnson – THE book every single mum needs to read. Seriously. An empowering, inspiring read for any mum who wants to live the fullest, most fabulous life she can. Read my review here.

Swan teasmade

>> Teasmade – OK bear with me on this one. A couple of years ago one of my best-friends gave me one of these and promised me I’d come to depend on it. And she wasn’t wrong! We called it my ‘husband replacement’. Although I’m not sure many husbands actually do make their other halves a nice cup of tea every morning! But now I have a teasmade so who needs a husband!?

>> Pact Coffee subscription – need I say more. The ideal gift for the coffee-loving single mum in your life!

>> Selfie stick – perfect if you don’t have an ‘Instagram husband’! Take pictures of yourself and your kids from the perfect angle – it almost looks like a pro has taken it for you!

>> iPhone tripod – great for Instagram stories and Facebook live. No more wobbly camera work making your audience get seasick!

What do you want Santa to bring your this Christmas? Any of these gift ideas going to make it to your shortlist?

This post first appeared on Emma-Louise Smith.

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