Personal archive

Health, relationships and more besides. Read about my battles with PMDD, my mental health, surviving both childhood sexual abuse and a 12 years of emotional abuse as well personal projects and challenges, and anything vaguely Jem-related.

Orange & Lemonade Pt 2: 5 weeks

It’s now been about 5 weeks since I decided to stop drinking for good.

I am sleeping better. Aside from a couple of weeks of intense drinking-frenzy dreams where I got completely smashed off my face (in the dream, that is) I have slept solidly every night since I stopped drinking. My sleep cycles have gone back to normal and I don’t feel tired all the time.

The puffy dark circles under my eyes are mostly gone. Partly because I’m sleeping better, and partly because I’m not in a state of perma-dehydration.

My weight is slowly dropping. I was able to wear a pair of size 12 jeans again this week, which I’ve not been able to do in 12+ months, since I lost a huge chunk of weight initially. I’d convinced myself that my drinking was not to blame for weight gain because I moderated input and calculated calories but this was completely ignoring the science behind alcohol consumption (in simple terms, when you eat & drink, food is stored as fat so your liver can prioritise dealing with the poison you’re voluntarily taking into your system). Ignorance is not bliss, after all.

And most importantly: I’ve not had a single anxiety related episode despite going through the tail end of one cycle and another complete cycle. What this basically means is that I was worsening my own PMDD by constantly drinking (despite often doing it to self-medicate the symptoms themselves!)

It’s not a huge surprise, alcohol is a known depressant, but what is surprising is just how much difference it makes being completely sober. The scale of change in my symptoms is massive. I can’t attribute this entirely to drinking/not drinking — my circumstances are more stable, and I’ve implemented strategies to better cope with workloads and stress — but is a massive help.

I am still INCREDIBLE HULK ANGRY in lead up to menstruation, but angry on its own is a hell of a lot easier to deal with than angry AND anxious/paranoid.

In the space of 5 weeks I could have easily consumed 1-2 bottles of wine a week, and the equivalent of a bottle of vodka on a ‘going out weekend’ – of which there has been a couple. So in 5 weeks I’ve “missed out” on approximately 10 bottles of wine and 2 bottles of vodka.

Except I’m not missing it at all.

Your anxiety is not my anxiety

I started writing this post a couple of months ago, but decided not to finish it because it came off too ‘special snowflake’ or a dig on other types of anxiety (which it definitely isn’t) but my good friend Aisling posted recently about atypical depression and how it differs from typical depression, and I realised that it’s important we talk about how things affect us differently purely on the off chance that someone sees them and thinks “ah!”. Not everyone experiences mental health in the same way, so here it is, this is my anxiety…

Anxiety seems to be the topic of choice right now. I can’t go five minutes on any social media platform without seeing articles, blog posts and comic strips about it. It’s great! It’s raising awareness of a very real Thing that I was basically oblivious to until one day I suddenly realised that the Thing I felt had a name. Yay!

Except the problem is that all these blog posts and pseudo-articles and comic strips all seem to follow the same theme: “10 reasons your friend doesn’t want to come out to play”, “Here’s why your mate keeps cancelling all your plans”, “Your anxiety-ridden pal just wants to hide at home under the duvet”, “5 reasons you can’t make a phone call” … and so on.

And yes, each of these refer to different symptoms of anxiety but these pieces are generally specific to social anxiety, and that isn’t all there is to anxiety. It’s not my anxiety.

My anxiety doesn’t stop me from going out with friends. In fact, it pushes me to socialise as a much needed distraction but often then results in me over-analysing friend’s behaviour to look for clues as to whether or not they really like me. And, if we’re socialising outside of the house, it causes me to constantly assess my surroundings and the people nearby in case of Some Big Disaster.

My anxiety doesn’t stop me from making phone calls, it just causes me to spend hours afterwards wondering why I said That and not This and, especially in a professional context, causes me to question the entire conversation and whether or not they’ll want to work with me ever again. (Ironically, this has caused me to withdraw from clients causing the breakdown of a great working relationship anyway.)

My anxiety doesn’t cause me to avoid strangers and public interaction — I will play up to a crowd — but it does cause me to freeze or shut down when offered even the most basic of choices. I can’t go into a Subway and ask for a sub as I get ‘analysis paralysis’ and start to panic … over whether or not I want salad on a fucking sandwich?

My anxiety doesn’t rule out crowded places, but it once crippled me on the tube because I saw someone who looked like a person from my past. My anxiety lets me wear outfits verging on obscene to command attention but doesn’t like me being the first person to walk through a door.

My anxiety isn’t every day, and it isn’t even every period, but it is real, doctor-diagnosed anxiety. And it is my anxiety.

Orange & Lemonade

Yesterday lunch time I went out with Gaz’s team from work for an unexpected light lunch. It’s the kind of situation where I’d usually indulge in a “cheeky” glass of wine or a cocktail (or two) because a) unexpected social interaction mid-PMDD-monster-times and b) who doesn’t love to break up the day with alcohol?

Except I ordered orange juice & lemonade. It was lovely: a little tart; cool and refreshing.

If you follow me on instagram, you’ll know that I decided to stop drinking last week. No more attempting moderation, no more weeknight wine, and definitely no more binging on 12 or more double shots of vodka on a Friday night. No booze, none, nada. It’s been a long time coming.

After a couple of years of trying to bring my intake under control and ultimately failing — because “I needed a drink”, “just one more”, “I’m under a lot of stress” — I realised that the only way for me to control it was to not drink at all. Not only that, but to never drink again.

Alcohol is quite literally a poison that I have voluntarily taken into my system time and time again, to the detriment of both my physical and mental health, and yet I hold on to it like a crutch… a lifeboat for the days I feel like I’m drowning. For what purpose or benefit? None that I can think of.

When trying to moderate, there’s always that choice: do I have one? Can I risk two? Is today a drinking day or not a drinking day? If I have one glass today does that mean one less at the weekend? What is a moderate amount of alcohol anyway? If it takes me a bottle of wine to get drunk where some people might need a glass, does that justify drinking a whole bottle? What about two?

And that generally leads to eating a little less at lunch to ‘save up’ calories for the drink later, skipping a meal altogether because you know it’s going to be a heavy night, and before you know where you are you’ve consumed more calories as liquid than food. Add that to waking in the morning having forgotten chunks of an evening, general brain fog that is a perma-hangover, disrupted sleep, weird twitches and persistent dehydration… it’s not exactly a boatload of fun I’m opting out of.

If I were the sort of person who could have a glass of wine and then stop, this wouldn’t even be an issue. But I’m not and never have been. I am not an “in moderation” person when it comes to anything in life. Give me all or nothing!

I still dominate the dance floor when I’m out (I can’t dance but that doesn’t stop me). The conversation, jokes and “banter” still flow easily. I still act like a prat, make loud/rude jokes and generally behave inappropriately: because I have never needed alcohol to do that.

The questions — because when you go from notorious pisshead to completely sober there will always be questions — are easily answered honestly: I am concerned with my drinking and have decided to stop. No, I am not pregnant. No, I don’t need you to stop drinking in front of me. Yes, I can be designated driver.

And so back to lunch… around the table, some order diet cokes, some order white wine, and now it’s my turn to choose. Except I don’t drink now, so there is no choice, no anxiety over what I should do. No rationalising what I should consume, when or how. No justifying excess consumption. I just don’t drink.

Orange & lemonade, please.

Oh, hello February

Alright me duckies, how are we all?

You may notice that things look a bit different. I’ve gone a bit old skool, drawing inspiration from some seriously old layouts of mine. Kudos if you have been around long enough to remember the originals. I’ve not finished faffing with it but it’ll do for now. Or until I get bored. Anyway…

Been so busy plodding along in Jem-World that I’ve not thought to blog. January went by in such a blur, mostly as I hid from reality trying to forget about the massive tax bill. Getting that paid was a weight off my shoulders and I’ve been bumbling along ever since.

Some ongoing small wins though:

Having realised early on in January that I’d put on 20lbs over the past 6 months or so I decided to cut the crap and sort myself out. I immediately cut out all drinking at home except for 1) a pre-arranged wine tasting and 2) sharing a bottle of bubbly on valentine’s day. On top of that I even managed a night out complete with crappy dancing completely sober. This nicely ticks the “drink less” goal for the year (for now). Funny how telling myself to drink less achieved sod all but the minute there’s a reason to give up and I don’t even notice not drinking.

Some tweaks to my mail form site saw my rankings pick up early in January and pushing new content in that direction has seen an increase in premium sales over the past few weeks. I also released a new version of the premium form with some extra protection (CSRF specifically) and switched out the XHTML to HTML5. It’s not paying my mortgage yet, but if I can maintain this I might actually be able to stop working weekends again!

My budgeting is staying mostly on track, having a) cut down on the booze and b) cut down on eating out, takeaways etc of late. Desperately trying to maintain this as we head rapidly towards March.

In less ‘winning’ and more ‘failing’ news:

I’ve completely failed to do any training for my upcoming May marathon, which is going to leave me in a sticky situation if I don’t get my arse into gear. I’ve entered a few races between now and then to FORCE me to run (including a half marathon in just a few weeks!) but if I don’t step up my game, that marathon is going to be a long and painful walk.

My car has got another bloody coolant leak and its MOT has expired, so not only am I not able to get to the cat rescue but I can’t run errands or basically anything that isn’t within a couple of miles of home. This is leaving me feeling VERY penned in right now.

My upstairs plumbing (not a euphemism) has sprung a leak and needs fixing.

Usual life shit really – still, it could be worse. And so I continue to plod along.

First the plans, now the goals

Off the back of my post about plans for 2017, and following a conversation with my darling husband last night during which I got defensive more than once (even though he spoke the truth) I woke up with fire in my belly.

Taking advantage before noisy children and the realities of my todo list extinguish the flames I’ve set myself some goals for the year (and cracked a few things off that blasted list) to work on alongside the Big Plans:

Challenge more stereotypes, more often
I work hard to address stereotypes at home – personally, and with my children – but can and should do more publicly and for others.

Work harder in the time I do have so that I can better use the time I don’t
I have a limited work day. I often get round this by working through the evening and making up time over the weekends. Sometimes this is a necessary evil but a lot of time this could be fixed by planning ahead, working harder/better during the day and waffling less on twitter.

Write more – blog posts, letters, thank you notes
It’s been ages since I’ve written decent long form posts and pieces, and years since I wrote a proper letter. I need to do both more often: so as not to lose the ‘skill’, because it reminds me of my Grandpa, because it’s the only way to improve, to record more of myself for when I inevitably forget.

Writing more thank you notes is self-explanatory. Gratitude is never wasted.

Drink less
For my liver and my bank balance. Cutting it out completely doesn’t work; it only takes one social occasion to reset me back where I started. I’m taking a different approach: don’t buy alcohol to drink at home. Once my Christmas treats are gone, any drinking needs to be done socially because there’s an occasion to do so.

Stop accepting mediocrity as OK
Mediocrity in my work, in my approach to fitness, in friendships, in my interaction with others in general: it’s not good enough. If I’m not giving it 100% I might as well not bother. To give 100%, though, I need to cut out the deadwood that’s distracting me from the things that deserve that 100%.

I started this last year by culling ‘friends’ on Facebook that don’t directly contribute to my wellbeing or happiness, as well as unfollowing people elsewhere who upset/annoy me or make me question or doubt myself. As we go forwards into 2017 I need to take this to the next level: cutting out people who aren’t beneficial to my mental health, dropping clients who cause me more stress than pleasure, turning down work that isn’t a good fit for my schedule.

I don’t know how long this will last. I don’t know how much I will achieve. But… if I seize every moment when I feel like a badass warrior woman, I’m hoping it’ll carry me through the days I want to hide under my duvet. I got this.

Goodbye, Vaarwel, etc

…to 2016, that is.

I figured as I only blogged once in December 2015, and that was to moan about catastrophe upon catastrophe, that I should try and out-do myself this December while I still have time and blog twice! Go me. Getting it in at the last minute (ooer) has long been my style, of course.

I vaguely remember telling myself at the beginning of the year that I wouldn’t set any goals or resolutions because I needed a year to take things at my own pace after a chaotic 2015. I’d like to tell you that worked out great but in reality it means I have no yard stick for measuring my successes and failures (and I certainly didn’t manage to take things at my own pace).

Still, I don’t need a yard stick to acknowledge that I FUCKING GOT MARRIED. YEAH BOY. We didn’t quite run off to do it, but we did do it mostly in secret. And then had a massive party of course.

I also did some other slightly less life-changing things like volunteering, going to the gym, coming to terms with my PMDD diagnosis and trying different things to get it under control, got sterilised, voted Remain (and despaired at those who didn’t), spent too much money, lost and gained far too many animals, and did a 300ft bungee jump. Phew.

I also, for some absurd reason, applied to take part in a marathon, which brings me nicely on to Things I Plan on Doing in 2017:

  • Not dying, which is important given the trend 2016 set
  • Running a marathon, mofos
  • Learning Dutch, because when half your family speaks both Dutch and English there’s no excuse for not trying
  • Getting strict with my routine so that I can try and bring some control to my projects and their social media profiles (yeah yeah, been saying this for years) in an attempt to actually make some money with them alongside my Real Work
  • Decide what the fuck I’m doing with my career / “Real Work”
  • Did I mention running a friggin’ marathon?!!

Will I manage any of those things? Who knows. But no doubt I’ll eventually blog about them, so here’s to you lot reading my blog through 2017 folks. Happy new year, and all that!

AMA: What gets you out of a funk?

I was going to answer my AMA questions in the order they were asked, but having not long come out of a pretty rough few days or so I figured now would be the perfect time to answer Kelly’s question:

What gets you out of a funk?

The reality with PMDD, which is the root cause of my ‘funk’ symptoms, is that there’s not really any way to stop it. Which means that if I’m having a bad cycle, the only thing I can do is wait it out. With that said, there are several ways I can distract myself from it, which often reduces the severity of the symptoms at least temporarily:

Socialising

Being around people makes a big difference to my ‘funk’ symptoms. I think this is partly because I like to socialise, and enjoy being around other people’s energy, and partly because if I’m in the company of someone who seems to be actively enjoying my conversation and my presence, it tempers the anxiety. I find it easier to convince myself that I’m not a worthless piece of crap because surely nobody would want to be around a worthless piece of crap?

Of course there are times when my mood is so deeply low that getting off my arse and actually going to see someone, or making the effort to socialise is a moutain to conquer in itself. It can be hard to take that step when you’re already ‘in the depths’, so to speak.

Alcohol

Ahh, alcohol. My friend and my nemesis.

One or two glasses of wine can mean the worst of the anxiety completely disappears even if I don’t feel particularly tipsy. However, it will come as no surprise that using a known depressant to ease depressive feelings is a Bad Idea. One or two glasses of wine can become one or two bottles without a second thought and before I know it I’m sobbing over the nearest person who’ll listen and feeling like a massive twat.

I know I have a weakness when it comes to alcohol and so I try and avoid ‘using’ it as anything but a ‘social lubricant’. (Try and achieve are two different things, mind you.)

Running

There’s nothing like a really long run to help you mash out and mull over a shit ton of unwanted thoughts and feelings, and process everything so as to come to a reasonable and rational conclusion.

Unfortunately, I haven’t done anywhere near as much of this as I should have lately and it shows: both in my mental health and my waistline!

Counselling

If the shit really hits the fan, I go and see my counsellor. Talking therapy is the dog’s bollocks and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who is struggling. Find someone you can trust, and get it all out.

Although nowadays my counselling sessions are few and far between, I find it reassuring just knowing that I have that fallback if I need it.

Sex

There is no doubt about it, sex is my #1 ‘fixer’ when it comes to my low moods but it’s a complicated and dangerous path to tread… using intimacy and closeness to boost me up when I’m feeling so fragile can end in tears, and has on several occasions. It might take one ‘wrong move’ or one misinterpreted signal and I can be crushed in an instant.

Even when it goes right (wink wink nudge nudge) it’s not a perfect answer: it can exacerbate the problems I have with my libido during certain parts of my cycle which puts in a vicious circle of needing it more.

Of course the worst part about it is that it feels incredibly selfish to expect Gaz to ‘help’ in this way. It can’t be easy finding someone who is literally rapid-cycling through a million unwanted emotions even remotely sexually attractive, let alone to know exactly the right thing to say and do lest you destroy what little self-esteem they have at that precise moment.

I’m working on my expectations and ‘demands’ in this area.

So there we go: my funk-fighting techniques. If you want to ask me a question, pop it in the comments over here.

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Glamour, Glabrousness and Glad Rags

Glamour
I recently did a nudey/boudoir photoshoot for Gaz’s upcoming birthday. It was supposed to be a surprise, but there was little point in attempting to keep it a secret after he saw me in full make-up – he guessed straight up what I’d been up to. I can’t tell if I’m predictable or he’s a genius.

Either way, I was blown over when I got the pictures back this week. There are a couple I particularly like, but they’re all pretty good. Here’s my favourite (now featured in every social media profile I own):

jem-shoot

What particularly shocked me though, was that having been told that they’d “not done much” to the photos, I spent a couple of hours poring over them second-guessing which bits of me had been photoshopped, smoothed out and tidied up.

As someone who considers herself to not have any major body issues, it sure made me realise I have them in spades just like every bugger else. And all this because I thought I looked “too good”. Jesus wept…

Glabrousness

Glabrousness (from the Latin glaber meaning “bald”, “hairless”, “shaved”, “smooth”)

From glam to glabrous (OK, I only picked that word because it was alliterative): I completed my Brave the Shave challenge for Macmillan on August 31st. Supported by friends and family, they removed what little hair I had on my head, rendering me bald.

brave-shaver

With the online donations and collections on the night, I’ve raised about £350. I’d love to hit my target of £500 and it’s not too late to donate, so if you feel so inclined you can pop a few quid over via my Brave the Shave page.

Glad Rags
On Saturday night I did something I’ve never done before: I voluntarily applied make-up to myself and went out. AND I wore high heels.

Just so we’re clear here, the aforementioned made-up look for my boudoir shoot was only the second time in my life I’d worn make-up, and was entirely not my doing. (The first time was when I went on the tellybox and they PLASTERED me in the bloody stuff.)

The plan was a cocktail night with the gorgeous, glamorous Lilian and her equally gorgeous other half Gary (oh, and my other half). Not wanting to be out-glammed I threw on some heels that I’d bought from LASULA for SIX QUID (yes, SIX), a sexy AF peephole playsuit and a touch of badly-applied lippy.

I probably looked like an outtake from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I felt like Bambi on ice…

bambi2

but the buzz from doing something new and different was awesome. Even the waiter accidentally dumping two cocktails all over me couldn’t dampen (puns!) my party spirit.

Admittedly drinking half a bottle of wine and my share of 21 cocktails wasn’t a brilliant idea but that just gave me an excuse to eat a huge fried breakfast the following morning. Rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

And you never know, I could be a make-up blogger before you know it.

lolol

Cold Turkey

I had a massive panic attack on Saturday night.

Partly fueled by a few too many vodkas, and partly by confronting a ‘demon’ that I’ve never been able to tackle before, culminating in an explosion of anger and frustration and ending up with me unable to breathe and choking on tears.

It’s not the first time it’s happened and they seem to be increasing in frequency since I started taking my meds. What with that, an increase in suicidal thoughts (don’t worry, I wouldn’t) and a few other things, I feel like I’ve swapped one set of symptoms for another. Not only that, but I can feel some of the old problems creeping back in and the thought of having to up my dosage or change meds fills me with dread. I don’t want to spend my life jumping from one pill to another.

So, the panic attack gave me the perspective I needed to make some decisions, and while I feel I’m currently bouncing from one epiphany to another any focus in the short term is a good thing. Ultimately I’ve decided to stop drinking (again) and to stop taking the fluoxetine. Cold turkey.

I’d rather deal with the ups and downs of the PMDD right now than the uncertainty and negativity. I will increase my running again as that helps my mental health, and basically hold on tight for the foreseeable future.

I reserve the right to change my mind when I turn into Ragezilla though.

Ohai August

You’d think having not blogged for over a month I’d have a huge array of exciting developments to fill you in on.

Unfortunately, however, my life is just chores, bum-wiping and work, and I’m too lazy to make anything exciting up so you’re not disappointed by my very existance. But in a nutshell (for those interested in the monotony and the mundane) I have:

  • Agreed to do the Macmillan ‘Brave the Shave’ to help raise money so that they can support those suffering from cancer. A charity close to my own heart after they supported my maternal grandmother in her final weeks. I’m not sure what bravery is involved in voluntarily removing one’s hair, but if I can make a few quid doing something fairly simple, it’s all good.
  • Wasted a LOT of hours (when I should have been cleaning, parenting and/or sleeping) playing Stardew Valley. It’s the only game to have held my attention for longer than an hour in well over a decade. Love it, and love that it’s 100% by a lone indie dev. You can see what my farm looks like if that’s your bag.
  • Drunk too much, eaten too much, and exercised too little. And have put on about 10lbs for the privilege. Currently holding myself accountable by posting daily(ish) sweaty selfies to instagram. Feel free to nag me if I skip a day.

In addition to that, my essure has been signed off (the mysterious pain and bleeding stopped) and Oliver has finally finished nursery and is due to start school in September. Scary to think of my baby boy being old enough for school, but it couldn’t come soon enough. Paying out hundreds of pounds a month for childcare is gut-wrenching and not in any way helpful for overpaying the mortgage.

I reinstalled my laptop recently in a desperate last-ditch attempt to speed it up before I give up and replace it (which I can ill afford to do). After clearing out a few years of accumulated shite, converting to free open source software to cover stuff I no longer have the license to (Photoshop), and using Chrome as my primary browser (from Firefox)… well, it seems to have done the trick. Touch wood.

I decided a while back to redevelop this blog and my professional site into one big site, but after getting to 99% completion I decided against it at the last minute. Pondering how commercial and personal identity fit together isn’t a new thing — I’ve waffled on about it on here for years — but merging still makes me feel censored when it comes to discussing things of a more personal nature, so it’s not yet a path I’m willing to go down. This does mean my pro site will get a mini makeover (as soon as I have time to do it) though, woo!

I guess that’s all folks. See you again next month.

Work at Home Jobs for Single Parents, and Making It Work

In May 2014 I ended a twelve year relationship that I’d been in since I left school, and suddenly had to face the prospect of caring for two children and working full time outside of the home, doing all the household chores, shopping for groceries, etc etc. All the usual “mum” stuff but all on my own. It was scary, and hard, and eventually something had to give. I had to return to working for myself from home to give me the flexibility I needed as a single parent to juggle all of my responsibilities as well as allowing me to reduce my reliance on childcare and wraparound school care in order to reduce my monthly outgoings.

I am lucky in that I have a skill that is easily transferable to home working. In fact, I can work from virtually anywhere: well, anywhere with power, wifi and a supply of coffee. But if you’ve been out in the workplace in a non skilled profession or have been a stay at home parent for years, you may not have access to such a marketable skill. So where do you begin if you have limited experience or no prior work at home experience?

5 Low-Skill Flexible Work at Home Jobs for Single Parents

  • Customer support assistants – working for a third party via a virtual call center or online management, respond to customer support requests via email, phone, helpdesk software etc
  • Sales reps – working for a third party selling physical or digital products (sometimes relies on cold calling and sales bonuses, only recommend if you have proben sales experience)
  • Website/App testing – get paid to test websites and phone apps with existing tech equipment most people have at home
  • Data entry – ideal for those who are fast and accurate at typing
  • Audio transcription – listen to audio files and type what you hear (fast/accurate typing also required)

Alternatively, if you’re actually the next Stephen King, have a creative streak, or have managed staff and offices, you might be suited to more skilled roles:

8 Skilled Flexible Work at Home Jobs for Single Parents

  • Crafting/creating – create products at home and sell on marketplace websites like etsy, Supermum’s Craft Fair, etc
  • Copywriting – write copy (text) for others (avoid ‘content mills’ who pay poorly for badly written, churned out text)
  • Editor/Proofreader – proofread other people’s copy quickly, spotting mistakes that others might miss
  • Tutoring – turn your experience into online lessons, webinars, or 1-to-1 tutoring for other people’s benefit
  • Social Media Management – use knowledge of social media to represent the identities of 3rd party companies
  • Virtual Assistants – use office/PA skills to manage and assist other people
  • Translation – if you’re skilled with multiplate languages, translate documents
  • Personal Training – offer diet and fitness tips online through webinars, limited access paid facebook groups, private blogs

Of course, finding a job that you can do from home is just step one. Breaking into a new industry, or starting again from scratch, can be intimidating. It’s even harder if you have to do this while keeping odd hours around school days, children’s nap times and the like.

Getting started working at home as a single parent

So, first things first… you need to figure out if you’re going to work for yourself as a self employed sole trader, or find a company that allows remote home working in the position/career area you’re interested in. If you are going to work for yourself, be sure to read our guide on how to register as self employed. It’s easier than it sounds, can be done online, and is absolutely crucial to ensure your work and income is legal. The last thing any single parent needs is a visit from the tax man! Alternatively, if you plan on remote working for a third party, check out our guide on the ins and outs of remote working.

Once you’ve decided on how you’re going to work, you need to find someone to work for. Workingmums.co.uk has a directory of home working jobs, and The Guardian has a small list too. Be wary of jobs that sound too good to be true: for example, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to turn over thousands of pounds a month in a sales position unless you’re putting in 16 hour days, which is nigh on impossible when caring for children.

If you plan on working for yourself, you need to figure out how you’re going to market your services. We recommend that you start with a business plan with clearly identified goals and a brief run down on how you plan on achieving them. Once the business plan is ready to go, our tips on using twitter for business are a good start for publicity.

When you know how you are going to work, who for, and what your plan of attack for your business is, you can start thinking about how you’re going to fit this into your day. As a seasoned work at home parent my key times for productivity are:

Pre-6am: if I can manage to make it across the landing and down the stairs without waking my early-rising 7 year old, the early hours of the morning are perfect for tackling small jobs that need your utmost concentration. Don’t even think about opening your email or social media though: nobody expects (or deserves) a response at 5am, and this is key quiet time for maximum efficiency.

Daytime naps: unfortunately both of mine are too old to be convinced to nap now, but when I was working at home with a young baby, naptime was a great time to get boring (quiet) tasks finished up… and sometimes I’d manage a hot coffee too. If your baby is one of those awkward fussy ones (is there any other type?) use a sling to keep baby close allowing you to get things done with the comfort of your warmth and smell right there.

Post-bedtime: if you’re not absolutely knackered (and you probably will be for the next few years) and your children have a good bedtime routine which guarantees some alone time past a certain hour, you can plot in a couple of hours work post-bedtime to check off the low-concentration jobs, last emails, social media scheduling: the bits that don’t need 100% attention, because nobody has that to give after a full day of juggling children, chores and work.

Fitting it all in as a single parent

There are two key points to fitting everything in as a single parent. The first is to have something you can “sacrifice” if something else eats too much of your time: in my house, children and work are my priority (in that order) and so the first thing I sacrificed if something went wrong was chores/housework. Yes, sometimes my house looks like I’ve been invaded by an army, but no, I don’t care.

The second key point to fitting everything in is to try and stick to a rough schedule. I know schedules and routines are boring, but if you know what you need to do at 10am on a Monday morning because it’s the same thing you do as every other Monday morning at 10am, that’s one less thing you need to actually mentally process.

With that said, it’s really hugely important to remember that it is just impossible to “have it all”, and attempting to have the perfect everything 100% of the time is going to leave you burned out, stressed and disappointed. I’ve written before on the having it all myth (few mild swear words!)

Networking when you have children

After your home working plan is in place and you know when you need to be doing what, the next step is to ensure that you’re constantly seeking out new contacts. This is just as important for home workers in remote working situations as it is the self employed with their own business (because you don’t want to miss out on a potentially better role just because you’re stuck at home with the kids now!)

There’s a huge network of mum-and-children networking meetings across the UK through services such as Bizmums who offer child friendly networking, so you can go out and meet new people without needing a babysitter or childcare fallback, which can be difficult to source as a single parent.

What now?

With your home work setup running, you and the kids in a loose routine to keep you all sane and (hopefully) the work rolling in, what now?

  • Regularly review your progress, compare it to your business plan and goals
  • Never stop seeking opportunities to grow
  • Share your experiences with others: supporting other work at home parents, especially single parents, is incredibly rewarding

Good luck.