19 December 2011

Ellen Arnison - Single Mums' Stories 4.

The Very Clever Ellen has been blogging In a Bundance since 2007 and has just published a book called Blogging for Happiness: A Guide to Improving Positive Mental Health (and Wealth) from Your Blog.   She is 44, lives in the seemingly extraordinarily picturesque Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire (judging by the photos she puts up) and has three boys, aged 12, 9 and 2 1/2.

Following years of tabloid journalism and a bit of PR, she now enjoys her work / life balance, staying at home most of the time writing for people who pay her and 'messing about on the internet.'  

Ellen became a Single Mum in 2002 because her relationship with her older boys’ dad broke down.  She recently wrote a very timely, fascinating post which ties in beautifully with this series: What Shape is Your Family?

Ellen Arnison (44)

While I now share Bundance towers with the splendid Panther of News, I did spend a couple of years on my own so I’ve earned my single mum stripes.

I was delighted when Older Single Mum asked me to join her parade of interesting and inspiring women. The variety of circumstances that led to their singledom is wide and consistently defies predictability.

Just now I'm writing this on a train and across the carriage is a woman with her three children. Her middle child is chatting to another passenger, the way little girls do, and has just said: "I was crying when my daddy went away."

I wonder what that mum’s story is – where did daddy go? For how long? And why?

I’ve no idea, but I'd bet she isn't a victim, feckless, slack about the morals or in any way bringing up kids deficient in anything. Why would she be?

However, I can't presume to know about her and her family just as much as I wouldn't expect people to know anything at all about me from what they see on the outside.

So as there are clearly no generalisations about single parents, maybe the most useful thing I can do is share a few of the things I learned from being one.

An early bedtime is essential. A day on your own with the kids can be a long grumpy old thing so the sooner they are all tucked up the better. Anytime after 5pm is fair game. Contrast a house with older kids and two parents and bedtime is an exceptionally moveable feast. it doesn't seem to make any significant difference to anything, so do what you need to do get through the days.

Sundays need a plan. Sundays along with bank holidays are sacred family times. Or at least that’s how it seems from the single parent sidelines. It's necessary to get up and get out into the world. But this isn't a condition of singles alone. The Panther works every other Sunday leaving me and the boys to our own devices. Same conditions apply. http://bundance.blogspot.com/2011/10/if-sundays-arent-best-am-i-bad-mother.html

Control freaks secretly love it. Oh yes we do. No one to question about decisions. We do things our way unhindered.

Babies in your bed is bliss. Without another adult occupant a double bed is a bit of a too-big cliche. Fill it with warm snuffly little people and snuggle up.

Social media can be a life saver. I suppose everyone is different, but the thing I missed the most while on my own was someone to talk to. However marvellous children are, up to a certain age their conversation is rubbish. I was lucky that my spinster years coincided with my sister’s quiet patch. We spoke many evenings. If you aren't as lucky as me, try social media. Tweet your chums, facebook, blog.

Make a mobility plan and practice. Out and about is one of the most difficult things on your own. Babies, toddlers, shopping, tickets, keys, phones and bags have magic powers and need to be strictly controlled. Think through where you are going and consider clothes with pockets, baby back packs, keys on strings, kids on leads and shoes you can sprint in.

Beware the sleazy husbands. There are some men who consider it a public service to relieve single women’s inevitable sexual frustration. Depressing as it is these men are opportunists whose function is to remind us that a husband isn't always a blessing.

Don't forget yourself in out all. It's easy to focus on your kids and even to let them and their stuff fill up your life. This isn't wrong at all, just don’t forget that they will grow up and, rightly, do their own thing and you’ll be back where you started.

Next - The incredeible Annie Spratt, from Mammasaurus blog.