Single Mum

Local Mum and radio presenter blogs about her life as a single mum bringing up her five-year-old daughter - and dispells a few myths along the way.


Single Parent Insights
I've been steadily and thankfully getting older these days, more grey hairs here, a wrinkle there.  Well let's face it it's better than the alternative which is so much around us as we age. It got me thinking what have I learned in my 40 or so years on the planet? Well it's mainly this where parenthood is concerned.  This is not a definite list for others just for myself really (and maybe some other single parents can relate to some of this) but I hope everyone can find some common ground too:

1 Don't chase men, they make all the decisions practically as to whether they want you or not, the keen ones will let you know, the non-keen ones will let you know by their behaviour (ghosting, mind games etc) and some truly messed up ones will not want you but neither want to set you free.  These guys are narcissists, in short they don't want you but don't want anyone else to have you either as they like the attention and ego rub! Avoid like the plague! Or if you can't (other parent) be careful.

2 Your children are the love of your life regardless of who you are with.  NEVER make the mistake of choosing a bad partner over your own child.  This is something you hear about and the kids end up neglected and hurt.  It is a parent's job to protect their child, protect them by only letting good people into their lives.  Learn to know the difference, you have to be a role model as a parent whether you want to be or not if people are going to be around your children. Toxic people, however rich or attractive are no substitute for decent less flamboyant ones.  

That said, sometimes it is the other parent in which case you may have to bite your tongue for the sake of the bigger picture if feasible.  This is hard but not impossible, always remember your child is the reason you're in touch, protect these relationships with your child/children and their other parent as once they are gone they might not be possible to get back.

3 Being single is surprising relaxing and you can be selfish (pass that remote control, oh hang on no one can as I'm all on my own as my child has gone to bed! ;) You will live longer too apparently! Well if statistics are to be believed non-married women tend to live longer by 10 years whilst married men do! Go figure.  Of course this only applies to some women other married ones live just as long or is it all just lies, damned lies and statistics! Maybe the ladies are just better at persuading the married men to go to the doctors. Research still seems inconclusive. That said if you are overburdened by constantly doing tasks for others learn to say no, it is a wonderful word! It does not beat around the bush!

4 Being single can be lonely especially once kids are in bed as you usually can't get out and about of an evening easily but it's also way better than being with the wrong person, constantly rowing and feeling lonely with them which in my opinion is much worse.  And there's always Netflix (pass me that damn remote control already will you!?;)).  I rarely get lonely as there are always friends and I haven't lost ALL hope of finding someone yet, just most of it, lol ;)

5 Once you have children, careers, figures, money, time, sleep etc will become much sparser (or vaster!) and you will probably be way poorer but this is when you make up for it all with the great free stuff which is always one hundred times better anyway.  What free stuff I hear you ask? The hugs and kisses, the pillow fights, the walks in the park, the craftiness and board games, the snuggling up watching a film with popcorn at the weekend on the sofa (pass the....!).  

If you don't have a partner, I hope you have kids, if you don't hopefully friends and family, if none of the above get a cat! If you're not allowed a cat like the majority of the single parent renters (although they are trying to change that at last!) I hope you have a hobby.  In short I hope everyone has someone and if you don't volunteer if you can't meet people through a job or find an organisation to meet people especially the older members of society - isolation isn't good for your health, try something different today, be brave.

6 Every day is a school day and some days with kids or taking the only child-care friendly jobs available to mums practically i.e. a school jobs are literally a school day! With young kids you will spend an inordinate amount of time around schools.  I like my job at a school but don't really enjoy school pick-ups at my daughter’s despite often volunteering too.  There will be cliques and yawn, jaw-breakingly dull conversations about the weather with people you barely know.  Good luck! If you enjoy it lucky you but if you don't (like me despite having many friends elsewhere) make sure you have a good app to play with while you wait for your ray of sunshine.  Hopefully you will find the odd kindred spirit (I have a few nice ones) to organise last minute pick-ups and playdates with from school and get as much as you can out of school although I must confess I still find it daunting.

7 Holidays with kids are a mixed affair.  Sometimes with friends/family they can be awesome but sometimes alone they can be a bit arduous (Cornwall really is a long drive unless you take it in turns with a friend!) and it can rain.  The holiday might not be your idea of a holiday even! That said 90% of our holidays have been brilliant and I've learned how to navigate and anticipate them after nine years of practice, we've been abroad quite a bit too and even managed Disneyland. Preparation is key and learning when to come home if it's not working out, rainstorms ruined play on the last day of a camping holiday as did the infernal cold at a static caravan.

8 Be prepared for married/co-habiting couples to be totally (but annoyingly), unintentionally smug.  The 'my husband was away for a week with work I know how it feels to be a single parent now' is one of the most annoying things you will ever hear! You may well have to stuff your hand into your mouth to stop yourself from screaming! "Well no you don't unless your husband doesn't pay any bills, is not coming home ever and has never changed even one nappy or made you one cup of coffee!" (or a variation on this theme).  You have put your child to bed alone for a few nights, woman up!  Of course you just smile sweetly and console yourself with the fact that 50% of these friends' relationships will end in divorce! Kidding!

9 Try and do something creative and just for you even if it's just writing your thoughts down as in this blog.  Try and do anything for yourself if you get the chance, a haircut (if you can afford one!) or a cup of coffee and a paper, night out *insert as appropriate.  

10 Try to count your blessings every single day, even when there's no money, your exhausted and hate the fact that the patriarchal society you live in still pays women less and expects them to do the majority of the child-care and housework whether they are single or not!  Women are cottoning on to this and after the great success of the Metoo campaign I believe this discrepancy will be next; it really is overdue.

11 Be a role model, you haven't got much choice in this as after all you are one! but when you are try not to spend all your time on a phone not present, (or tv, yes I know!) work when it's feasible (I didn't go back until my daughter went to school), dress up sometimes, spend time with friends with kids, show your little ones how to be kind but also how to be resilient, believe in love.  Expect hard work from them at times with homework and chores but don't expect them to be exhausted all the time with endless clubs and activities, who needs that? We all need downtime. Have fun, laugh, be happy.

12 Finally, smile, despite politics, wars, famines and environmental disasters it's still a beautiful world and so are you and your children.  You’re doing well.  Good luck.

Merry Christmas everyone and have an amazing New Year filled with love and laughter.  When I last wrote I had pulled myself clear from a very bad, toxic work-situation.  As said below I then worked at another nice firm only to leave to work in a much more suitable local school, perfect for school holidays etc.  I'm pleased to report since being in the school I have a different (better!) job and continue to really enjoy it, although it is stressful from time-to-time I know I made the right decision going there, lots of the people are lovely too which always helps.

I continue to live in our lovely (but expensive rent-wise) flat but trying to get on the council house list proved impossible because I now earn too much unfortunately like many I will keep spending lots of money on rent whilst finding it almost impossible to save up for a mortgage but ho hum that's the way of England right now, let's hope something changes and salaries do rise more in line with the cost of living.  At last and at least the public sector did get their 1% pay increase (peanuts really but it all helps!).  

My daughter who is now eight, (the most important and beautiful girl in the world to me) is doing brilliantly at school and I'm extremely proud of her, every single day and it is a joy to watch her grow up.  She's so funny and loving.  Her father too, surprised us with a visit earlier in the year and we continue to get on well with him and that, I am pleased to say, has all settled down a lot since the earlier argumentative days.  We both try to support the other as best we can even from afar.

I was interested to read that parents will be denied access if they bad-mouth the other parent.  I do have divided views on this as feel what if a parent is abusive, will this be properly investigated? However, I do agree for cases where there is a lot of hurt ego involved (husband left the wife for another woman and vice versa) it is still better to maintain contact and civility for the sake of the child.

I could have lost contact with my daughter's father long ago, it was a short relationship (which in many ways does make it easier to move on from) after all, but I am so glad I didn't.  It wasn't always easy and there were many, many email rows but the visits and Skypes proved we have, and have always had, the best interests of our daughter at heart.  We have never rowed in person and I believe we may (hopefully) never really row again.  So much of it was ego-driven and due to misunderstandings anyway, like so many rows are.

So I wanted to raise a toast to all the people of the world today, especially parents and especially single parents, I hope you have wonderful company and a cosy place to stay or go to on Christmas Day - we're going to my parents as we always do, it will be a big relaxed family affair as usual.  If you're with your child(ren) alone have a really special day filled with love and light.  I recently bought a child I didn't know a Christmas present, a great campaign organised by the Met Police for children who may wake up to nothing on Christmas Day.  The thought of this brings tears to my eyes.  Although a present of course will not bring a child the best Christmas present, that of a parent's presence.  It does help so if you haven't done it before please consider it.

Having sadly lost various friends and old acquaintances (nearly all only in their 40s and 50s) these last few years, some to cancer, some to organ failure, alcoholism and even suicide, I realise life is extremely precious, let's not waste it.  Who knows what this year will bring but I always try to remember the bigger picture and that being a parent is extremely lucky and whatever our family unit looks like we must enjoy it to the max.

The Day I walked out of a Nightmare

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
Steve Jobs

"I think we should go for the kill!"

As I closed the email I had the feeling of 100 stomping black cats in my stomach. I took the picture of my 5 year old daughter off the monitor, reached down for my bag, glared at my actively ignoring me boss and left for good.

It was one of the best things I've ever done but at that precise moment I didn't know that and wanted to throw up and then throw some punches around but preferably not in that order! Instead I secretly got in my car, brought a bottle of red, some Polish menthol cigarettes (although I only smoked about 5 cigarettes a year and rarely drank alone!) and wallowed on my balcony for the rest of the sunny day.  I was feeling shocked, hurt, totally used and just a little bit rock n roll for leaving one of the most joyless office jobs I'd ever had the misfortune to work at for five months.  

There were a few choice emails from me too after I left, I can't begin to tell you how unprofessional they'd been! They knew I had access to that email account as part of my job and to this day I do not know if it was accidental stupidity or a more calculated act to get rid of me instantly.  I also think they had a budget meeting coming up and some people had to be thrown under a bus now their busiest period was over.  Having the CEO talk about possibly sacking me in violent terms more akin to putting an injured, hunted animal out of its misery, two weeks before my probationary period had even ended meant I really did feel truly shafted.  I'm usually kissed before I'm screwed, but not this time! Plus I had done so much work while my manager did as little as possible (something confirmed by two others employees I've bumped into since)!

The letter on my desk firstly alerted me to the immediate threat rudely asking me to attend a meeting in only a few hours time where I could have a colleague or trade union representative present! The weird white/blonde haired woman with the Hannibal Lector brace staring morosely at me continuously like something of the bovine persuasion in a field, increased my sense of doom.  It wasn't a question of being paranoid but not paranoid enough!

As a single parent, constantly struggling for financial and psychological security and a respectable foot-hole in society that still feels uneasy about single parents, this was the last thing I had expected to encounter.  But then something rather unexpected happened as a result of my bad treatment at that overworked humourless place - I made contact with my daughter's father again after a hiatus who was, (surprisingly) sympathetic and helped us out financially again and started to make more effort with our daughter and offered me more proofing book work for his book which is now published.  I applied for jobs and got interviews, I contacted an inspiring career coach who expressed interest in employing me to edit her book.  

I won a photography award that same day presented to me for a competition I had forgotten I'd entered, presented to me by a comedian I'd interviewed previously for my local radio show.  I won some money too! 

I suddenly had time to finish my TEFL teaching qualification which I received an A1 for.  I didn't have to worry as much about the summer holidays that year as I soon got another job in a school as a Cover Supervisor.  I suddenly wanted to be creative again, help other single parents by organising discounted holidays for them, a project I am passionate about.

The job had been relentlessly stressful, thankless and strangely despite my many qualifications I was treated like the office "dogs-body" most of the time, even being responsible for changing toilet paper!  I felt exhausted and strung out from weeks of sleepless nights then night terrors due to the stress of the job, the critical and uncaring eye of the worst manager I'd ever had and a pervasive and inherent company unhappiness that meant all people ever did was eat! Continuous cake-binges the like I had never witnessed before.  I put on a stone there!

Admitting to a doctor I sometimes felt stressed and overwhelmed and even bursting into tears at one point (something I NEVER do if I can help it!) meant an enormous weight was lifted from me.  I only did the job because it was local with fairly child-friendly hours but everyone seemed to be suffering from stress and a lack of appreciation, talk was rare, laughter even rarer.  Many deafening silences punctuated only by the phone.

I could suddenly see the wood for the trees again and realised that actually when we try to avoid stress by doing something we think will be easy we actually create more stress by not utilising our talents, the things we are really good at.  All this happened last year.  Since then I have had three other jobs but none I hasten to add ended badly like that one did.  I was a Cover Supervisor in a very rowdy comprehensive school, loved the staff and some of the kids but too far, not enough hours and way too stressful although I learned a lot from the experience.  

Then I worked as a marketing manager at a fashion house, a job I really enjoyed, using my writing, PR and photography skills again.  Alas I had to leave when I was offered a job in another school as 20 days annual leave a year is no comparison to the many weeks holiday at a school for me and my daughter's happiness.

So now I work in a local school which in many ways is perfect.  The people are lovely, the day is massively varied and flies by, the pupils are mostly fantastic.  It is a far cry from that miserable office and the boss who spent her entire time scowling and criticising her colleagues and the CEO who randomly shouted at people when he was in a bad mood!  

There will always be a sacrifice working when you are a mother I think, especially to young children and especially so if you are a single parent. I am lucky though and have family and friends who could have helped in the holidays but I would rather be the person to be there for my daughter in those times and so for that reason the school is ideal.  I would highly recommend any support staff or teaching roles in a school setting as a parent, plus it will give you good (and bad) insights into your child's future education. 

Would I recommend walking out of a job? Well I'm not usually a quitter but in my mind the two managers were bad people and I jumped before I may have been pushed and I do not want to work for people I do not respect or trust.  I also didn't want to be humiliated either so for me leaving was the best way out of it and nice colleagues I have bumped into since have all confirmed how awful it is to work there too.  I really wasn't the only one.  

Ultimately there are good and bad employees.  Like partners, shop around for the best job, don't just settle.  I was just unlucky with them but have mostly had great luck in other jobs since I left university in my early 20s.  I learned not to take it personally. My current job sees me as a "superwoman" but despite organising three huge events at that previous job with very little help I was never praised only criticised.

Dreading work is never a good feeling however much money you earn and although my life went into free-fall for a month or so after I walked out especially financially (despite their guilty pay-out the following month).  However, ultimately the whole sorry experience made me stronger and worked out for the best.  In a job you need to feel appreciated plus your work/life balance has to be a priority especially as a mother.

Sometimes the worst things that can happen to us can become the very best things, wake-up calls that happen for a reason.  Have the courage to be you and you'll hopefully succeed in what you are trying to achieve but trying to avoid pain by taking the first thing offered sometimes causes more pain. I escaped and am so glad I did.  

Joining the worker ants!

Like many mothers I decided to go back to work when my daughter went to primary school.  I felt very strongly that I didn't want to work all hours before she went into full-time education.  That window of time with a growing pre-school young child comes but once a lifetime.  As a single parent in my 40s I knew having another child was unlikely at best.  My daughter's father (albeit a compulsive liar!) was good enough to financially help out on top of the benefits I had no choice but to take for a few years.  

Incidentally its virtually impossible to live off benefits with any kind of carefree life.  Many single parents I know have sacrificed holidays, haircuts, clothes, nights out and even food on occasion etc just to live within the tiny confines of benefits and those saying they are much better off really need to try it before they can justify those sweeping generalisations, especially too when they consider that person will never get on the housing ladder (if they are not on it already) and are often mostly alone bringing up one or more children with one salary, if they do work.  

Anyone who sees it as an easy way out is somewhat misguided, most of the time there is no choice and to add to that many who actually do work need to have some benefits still because the renters market is sky high in this country and salaries are by and large still fairly low in many industries.  Sure there is just enough on benefits but often too little to survive without constant financial strain.

It is hard but not impossible to work when children are young as many know who have had little choice but to go back to work and I take my hat off to those who have.  I was lucky in that I kept very busy, not just with being a mum, in my years off but I also had the time to do a lot of voluntary work.  I honed my photography and proof-reading skills for friends and family (including a political science PhD for my daughter's father).  I discovered the joy of writing and presenting a regular radio chat show for a local community radio station where I have interviewed everyone from comedian Omid Djalili to MP Tom Brake, author Rowan Coleman to actor Steve McFadden (see previous blog).  I continued my love affair with the Italian language and completed a TEFL.  I undertook a Wordpress course and produced four websites including my own photography one and, beautiful designs by local artists I know.

I also, most importantly, spent wonderful days with my daughter and friends with children, it was a magical time.  She was happy and not shunted from one childminder to the next.  As the only parent I felt it was totally necessary for her to know I was around even though her father wasn't.  However, despite my many honed skills I knew I was fast approaching a position where I really had to work or face feeling like a drain on society, a social pariah, a person fit for Job Centre condescension, which is rife the moment your child turns 5!  Before then the government realises you may actually be worse off working before your child starts school with the exorbitant cost of childcare in this country, the most expensive in Europe.  So once she started I went all out for about three months to find a suitable job.  

I did also feel it was time I gave society something back financially in addition to my time, a society that had been so good to me, especially compared to other countries without a welfare state.  I felt I owed the government something despite years of paying taxes previously having worked consistently since graduating university.  My daughter's father too had been urging (read bullying!) me for a while to start paid work but I knew it would be hard alone, something he never considered.  After a while it feels like you, as a mother only have the luxury of not working without judgement if you are married or co-habiting, not if you are effectively doing the job of both parents!

Working Tax Credit

The good news is single parents are entitled to 70% off child care costs.  Soon after looking I was offered the perfect job as a college photography teacher but after what felt like realms of paperwork I was finally given a contract with too few hours (by 1) to make it work and no way of changing it.  Not a problem for co-habiting or married parents with two salaries but anything less than 16 hours on a lone parent's income means you still have to sign on and only get £20 of the salary if you are to stay within the system!  Which you'd be mad to leave unless you earned a lot!  Plus it would have meant I would have to rely on my parents to babysit indefinitely two nights a week with the unsociable hours for years.  That seemed unfair and silly when I could use free school hours instead, so reluctantly I had to turn it down.  The hours also dipped enormously in the holidays so really it was not worth it sadly, although I would have loved it. 

I had various other interviews, two I especially wanted but which I was second choice for, one a TV public relations job for a few famous TV chefs (again not enough hours sadly) and a PA job for two days for a CEO executive coach which I really wanted but felt they wanted someone very flexible to turn up at a moment's notice, something virtually impossible when you have to juggle sometimes inflexible childcare arrangements. 

However, when I was offered a job in events (my background is in PR, journalism and events) I was delighted.  Being an all or nothing person (not always by choice!) it is only 8 hours shy of a full-time job.  A seriously scary prospect when it comes to school holidays. 

So really I felt I had to work through conscience, social pressure, more money and a desire to be back in the real world of adults.  Luckily I don't start work until after I drop my girl at school and juggle after school clubs and/or parents picking her up for an hour or so after 4pm.  Family and friends have offered to help out in the holidays too when I run out of coinciding holiday leave and I'll try some holiday clubs too (if not too exhausting for her).  Its a juggling act and I sometimes think I'd love a day off in the week as it can feel relentless with work and childcare but that said sometimes I turn up at after school club with the somewhat grumpy refrain of "oh I thought you'd come later I want to play for longer!" which is always music to my ears! So I have a bit of me time with a book etc before pick-ups now, which is bliss.

So if you’re a single parent claiming benefits and about to go back to work you need to be aware of how the council rather scandalously stops ALL your benefits while they work it out to stop overpaying you!  There is an online calculator you can use but it is complicated and you may not know if you are that much better off until the Council works it out which takes an unbelievable 6 weeks for them to do.  You will need to send them your first pay slip and ask your new employer to fill in a Certificate of Earnings form.  You will also need to ring HM Revenue and Customs.  (Years ago I temped in the council's Housing Benefits department and believe you me, they are busy so take my hat off to them too despite their unfairly stopping payment.)  

I know three other single mothers who have all been stung by beginning work once the children are at school whereby they have had to have excruciatingly embarrassing conversations with their landlords along the lines of  "I can't pay my rent this month, although I am actually working, the council has stopped paying in case they over pay me!"  They wonder why people keep to the relatively safety option of not working?

Even the Job Centre massively sympathises with this state of affairs despite some of their more jobsworth activities, such as a weird insistence that I proved I was still looking for work right up until the day before the job started!  I applied for a few totally unsuitable jobs as train drivers just to keep them happy!

So anyway I'm in a situation now where I don't see my daughter as much and initially she played up but that seems to be calming down now; and I may only be a tiny bit better off:- BUT I can walk a little taller, feel a little prouder, I can fall back on previously used skills and feel like I'm making a contribution again.  Also my daughter can now say I'm like her other friend's mums who are working too and that feels right.  

Sure it would be wonderful to work in a school setting so I don't have the huge guilt and cost of holiday clubs or relying on often aged or busy relatives or friends to mind my daughter.  However, as many know, school admin jobs are like gold dust and more often than not very badly paid.  However, this is something I know most working mums face and they manage, although that's where having a partner must help enormously.  I am lucky to have fantastic parents though.  A single parent I know is also an orphan, the ex does help a bit but really I find her awesome how she copes so well.

We all find our way as human beings and parents to do the very best we can, both mothers in the nuclear family and single parents.  And guess what? The job has two other single parents doing the best they can too.  Both an inspiration.

The beauty of volunteering

Back in March 2013 I saw two friends on Facebook were volunteering for an exciting, new local radio station.  I wanted in.  I had wanted to give something back to my local community for a while and with a background in journalism, combined with my tendency to talk the hind legs off a donkey combined with an avid love of music, it was the perfect fit.  So I rang up and after meeting one of the lovely two people who run the station, a hugely energetic and cheerful lady, I found myself with a weekly one hour internet radio show.  I was slightly terrified but exhilarated at the same time.

I nervously went into the studio and recorded my first show in March 2013 and have since interviewed over 40 guests including this wonderful site's founder, campaigner and local hero Kathy McGuinness and No More Page 3 campaigner, author and actress Lucy-Ann Holmes who was a complete delight.  As her campaign now has over 170,000 signatures it looks very likely she will end this outdated, inappropriate and sexist tradition of topless girls shown in a family newspaper some time soon.  

My first ever guest was the multi-talented Charlotte Desorgher, belly-dance teacher, blogger, film-inspiration, business woman and all-round positive lady.  She’s in talks with Hollywood about how she brought belly-dancing to the masses after incongruous beginnings in the “true-blue” village of Marcam in Kent.  A kind of Calendar Girls with midriffs. 

Being a mum I was particularly excited to interview one of the biggest stars of kid's TV Sid Sloanes after his The Sid Show, during his last week on CBeebies.  A very inspiring and vibrant man (who incidentally is also a single parent).  All parents with a TV will know him well! As well as the twinkly and intelligent David Wood, a former actor and playwright of over 60 kid’s plays and stage adaptations.  You may have seen his Tiger Who Came to Tea or Spot's Birthday Party?   I also interviewed David Allen, actor and producer of kid’s horror fest "Blood, Guts and Gore" with his tales of Victorian murders.  

Having undertaken numerous theatre and music reviews I was also wowed by Keith Adam’s Joseph (& the Technicolor Dreamcoat) and EastEnders Steve McFadden (AKA Phil Mitchell) and various other cast members during their run playing Caption Hook in the Fairfield Hall's Christmas panto, Peter Pan.

Having a huge interest in my local area it was fascinating to talk to Tom Brake, Carshalton and Wallington, Lib Dem MP who backs many noteworthy campaigns including Child's Eye Line UK to remove inappropriate images from child's eye level in shops and online.  We discussed many issues affecting the local community including opposition to the closure of the A&E and maternity departments of St Helier’s Hospital, the proposed Wallington McDonalds, the Beddington Lane incinerator and the No More Page 3 campaign to name a few.  I also interviewed Merton Council Leader, Stephen Alambritis about the plans to rejuvenate Mitcham and the One Mitcham Project. 

I have interviewed many actors including EastEnders Dean Gaffney and Waterloo Road's Karen David, who has launched a music career in tandem with her film roles.  Acrobats and dancers, the Chinese State Circus and the Russian Cossacks.  I helped promote football Street League and youth V Inspired charities and learned (and was moved by) the long and hard road to adoption from Shegun Oluysanya.  I also recently interviewed campaigner Maggie Hughes about her son's tragic fight for justice after being left brain damaged by thugs in Crete.  There have also been photographers, psychics, self-help gurus, film makers, music moguls, estate agents, Olympics games-makers and male charity strippers!

I've had the pleasure to meet and listen to great musicians along the way such as guitarist Gary Pickard and favourite tribute band, Hats off to Zeppelin, with their hugely entertaining bassist Kevin Oliver Jones.  And I couldn't do a show in Croydon without interviewing Croydon's very own original punk, Captain Sensible of The Damned who went walkabouts before our interview for 10 minutes causing me a few palpitations!  

I also interviewed the lovely and enthusiastic retired headmaster now turned viticulturist John Dicken, who’s vineyard stands on the world’s oldest public railway site, five miles outside Croydon.  I have also enjoyed wine tasting and salsa dancing and had offers of bread making, beer tasting and yoga classes.  Meeting the head of Croydon's Buddhist Centre was fascinating and strangely calming too!  I also met a lady who runs singles nights (I really must go!) as well as passionate fashion designers and various authors including local man and rhino campaigner Andrew Lindsay.

I interviewed comedy genius and Guinness Book of Records Winner, Tim Vine (a bit of a coup) and the famous Steve Harley who's Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) is one of the top 10 records of all times and has been covered over 100 times.  He is notoriously reticent about publicity but we bonded over our combined love of Cambodia where he does a lot of charity work. 

I've interviewed Sam Attwater, another EastEnders star and Brad Majors in my favourite all-time musical, The Rocky Horror Show.  My next show will feature classical pianist Yllka Istrefi and I will play some of my all time favourite classical composers on it.

I have brought many issues to the attention of my listeners, most recently aiming to raise awareness of the horrific practice of FGM or Female Genital Mutilation which affects 150 million women worldwide.  I would very much like to interview someone on this topic, possibly from Daughters of Eve.  I've also been in contact with single parent charity Gingerbread to interview someone from there, preferably the President herself, Harry Potter creator, JK Rowling.  To follow me on twitter my address is @jocroydontalk and to hear previous shows click on the previous shows link here. 

October 2013

A free spirit no more

I gave up my job after I had my daughter. It was the most logical thing to do and although I loved my job - 5 years in a little London PR firm with European travel, where I was the press department! - I do not regret it. The commute would have been over 3 hours a day.

It was not how I had planned things to be when I first found out I was pregnant, but nor did I think my daughter’s future father would have a total breakdown and disappear first to Italy and then to the Middle East! I was left with very little choice but to come back and live near my family.

I usually lived in South London, Clapham, Earlsfield, Wilesden and Brockley, a stint in Oxted in Kent even, I had been around. I even had a hippy society-break in the Isle of Man where I worked as a film extra, journalist, photographer, estate agent, bar-maid and gardener for two years. I also travelled the world for a year or so and have been to over 30 countries in my time.

To explain my decisions at this time I need to go back to when I was pregnant, entering the second trimester and currently living in Stoke Newington, North London. I had to move when my work moved from lovely trendy Farringdon to, well let’s just say, less lovely trendy Tottenham Hale! Home of the very first riot that sparked the 2011 Riots. Nearly fainting daily on the packed tube due to the smell of men’s aftershave meant I knew I’d have to move nearer work where I would bus it in style.

I was living with a magician and an actress for the majority of my pregnancy, as you do! I had left a lovely but most definitely alcoholic, smoking, pill-popping manic depressive, teacher flat mate! Not the best choice for a pregnant girl’s flatmate but I missed him, his singing, cooking and rapier sharp wit and I don’t think he ever really forgave me for moving out.

There was a lot of drama in the new house with one thing or another, but in a good way, mostly theatrical, silly drama and I have mostly very happy memories of my pregnancy, getting now defunct bendy buses to do philosophy in Islington and Italian in the West End after work where I could pretend I was co-habiting with my partner and excitedly expecting our first child and not totally abandoned without a clue what to do next. Up merda creek without an existential paddle!

Drinking, smoking, gigs, dancing, cycling and cinemas being my main hobbies before were pretty much out, even in cinemas I found it hard to sit comfortably for that long. So I found myself enjoying using my brain for a change after work (when it wasn’t being a baby-brain that is!). I especially enjoyed my Italian course until I left all my books on said aforementioned bendy bus with said baby-brain very much in attendance.

That said it was a good time, people were lovely to me. Always a keen photographer I took pictures of a work-colleague and she bought me a bundle of maternity clothes from ebay which I lived in when not wearing linen trousers. I enjoyed all the healthy food my body was craving, I went to political meetings in Stokey and anti-natal yoga, I especially favoured freshly squeezed orange juice and a croissant on the way to work and the delights of health store Fresh & Wild. It cost a packet but who cared I wanted the baby to eat well.

I watched a lot of DVDs, enjoyed free dental care for the first time ever. Liked how lustrous my hair and skin looked and loved the nightly tummy kicking, but I would be lying if there weren’t many arguments with my daughter’s father usually by email and I was actually given NHS counselling because they were so worried about the affects of the stress hormone cortisol on my unborn baby.

I would burst into tears every time I heard the heart beat. It was all just so overwhelming. My daughter’s father wouldn’t come to the scans with me, even if he was in the country, so two old friends did. One an ex-boyfriend of 9 years and the other a female friend, each holding one of my hands. It did make us chuckle as some hospital eye-brows were raised as to our weird set-up! Seeing that little moving alien-creature on the grainy screen is a ride like nothing else as many of you will know. “This is the strangest life I’ve ever known”, I thought of Jim Morrison.

I did feel cherished though, my nearby lesbian friends looked after me as did other wonderful friends all over the capital. I had lonely moments sitting fully pregnant on Sunday’s in Lydia’s café eating for England but I always had people to call. However, I hadn’t told my parents until I was 4 months pregnant. I was totally scared to, my situation was far from ideal. “Mum and Dad I’m pregnant by a guy who’s scarpered to the Middle East!” Its not quite storks gently dropping babies in Moses baskets covered in bows on doorsteps!

When I told them they couldn’t have been more delighted and it started a wonderful journey with both my parents which I would never have encountered in quite the same way if I had been with someone I think.

Anyway, my daughter’s father came back to visit and stirred up all sorts of emotions and confused me no end on every level but did give me some money which was obviously a huge relief. He gave me £5,000 in cash from a brown envelope, we both laughed that we had never seen that much cash in our lives. Although we weren’t young in any real sense due to our ages, the situation rendered us both kids. Caught out and not really knowing what to do for the best, virtual strangers who would be bound by fate from now on in.

I’d love to hear your story on my Facebook page Love Child

April 2013

Setting the record straight

What do Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, Steve Jobs and Jack Nicholson have in common? And while we’re on the subject we better not forget the similarities between Jodie Foster and Halle Berry?

Well they were all brought up without their biological father. Some of them never even met him or like Obama only for a couple of days. These famous presidents, actors and entrepreneur’s drive and ambition was not deterred by this omission in care but may have even been partly driven by it.

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am a single mum. There is a lot more to me than that but that is often how society sees me, first and foremost. I belong to that imaginary demographic, who are all lumped into together for being a drain on the state, tragic characters who have selfishly brought children into the world with less than perfect credentials. Rarely are we seen as the 2.4 children, husband, 2 cars and 2 holidays a year brigade once we’re single.

The government (especially this one) will make out we are responsible for so many ills in society that when we are not taking everyone’s taxes we are rearing the next generation of criminals due to a lack of that great British bastion “family values”.

Well I think I’d really like to set the record straight, not least because every single parent’s story is different but because we are not allowed to be proud of ourselves despite the fact some of the richest and most successful people have been, at times, single parents too, hello Joanna Lumley and J K Rowling.

Statistics show that 45% of British marriages are likely to end in divorce before a couple's 50th anniversary, with half of these splits occurring before 10 years of marriage. I’m sure a lot of those couples have had children. This figure, doesn’t even take into account all the co-habiting couples who split up leaving single parents too.

What single parents’ suffer from most, I think, aside from trouble juggling work and finances, difficult exes, huge sleep deprivation and feeling trapped in their own home of an evening – is a society looking down its nose at them especially as, in many cases, welfare is necessary for survival.

Let’s face it, one salary, usually part-time due to child-care constraints is never going to be as good as two, usually with one or both full-time. One parents' logistical shenanigans with always having to have support in place for picking children up, especially before full-time school begins, if they are running late, is always going to feel more vulnerable than two parents, possibly with one respectfully at home, able to do their share.

I guess this is where parents, friends and/or child-minders come in or of course reliable exes as there are some of those too I'm pleased to say. Otherwise being a single mum can feel like parenting without a safety net. This is where your network comes in so handy, something all savvy mums realise early on is the key for survival. Something this wonderful site is all about.

I have set up Love Child, a dedicated page for single mums on Facebook, who, like me may have mostly happily married mum friends and sometimes feel slightly marginalised by society.  Its a place for all us singleton mums to drop in and chat to each other, have a virtual cup of tea and help with dilemmas, passing on advice and maybe even arranging a coffee or pub meet-up.

Even if you're not a single mum the chances are you know someone who is, being a parent is one of the toughest jobs on earth, so being a single mum is especially tough and don’t even get me started on how hard it is to date single dads! Like my page and share your story. Next time, how I became a radio presenter.

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