Wonderful Women: Being a Single Mompreneur

This weeks Wonderful Women Wednesday is with Claire Middleton, a single mum of three who runs a popular salon based in Hythe which recently won two bronze awards at The Kent Health and Beauty Awards 2019

Claire was nominated for this feature because she makes being a business owner and a single mum of three look easy, no matter what challenges she faces Claire powers through them and is a true inspiration to others.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Claire I’m 42, single mum of 3. 2 of my children are autistic, 1 child has severe anxiety . I Have lived on the marsh all my life.

2. What challenges did you face when you became a single mum?

The challenges I faced were pretty much the same as any other day as I was always the supporting parent apart from the mental health effect that it had on my children as well as myself.

3. What did you do prior to running your own buisness?

Prior to running my business I had completed a course in beauty as I wanted to further my career also hair extensions. I love cooking so I completed my NVQ level 2 in catering too before taking the leap into opening my own shop.

4. What inspired you to run your own business?

I woke up one morning and thought to myself it’s what I want. I wanted to make my children proud of me and decided to take the leap to help with my anxiety and confidence.

5. How would you describe your journey to where you are now?

The journey had had it rocky roads not only in business but health issues too. When you’re self employed it gives you more incentive to get up and go to work rather than having a day off sick because if you don’t work there is no income.

6. What is the best part of your job?

Every part of my job is the best part. I deal with the best clients in a lovely environment and happy work staff means a happy salon

7. How do you balance being a mother and running your own buisness?

There are times it’s very hard balancing being a mum and working full time but you work around it and make it work to the best of your ability. I’m lucky my children are that much older and they are able to stay at home on their own.

8. Your salon recently won TWO bronze awards at the Kent health and beauty awards, could you tell us more about that experience?

I am very proud to be nominated for the awards and even achieving a bronze award in Kent is more than I would ever of dreamed of.

9. What advice would you give to new mums?

New mums be proud of yourself, make sure your child is your number one and never let anyone say you can’t do it . There is no such word as CANT

10. Is there anybody else you’d like to nominate for our wonderful women feature? Anyone who inspires you?

I think I will pass on that one I’m enough 😉

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Life of an Army Wife – Why We Need a Routine!

If you’ve followed my stories before on this blog, you will know that my husband is a serving member of the Grenadier Guards, and he has recently completed a tour of Afghanistan.

Don’t get too excited, by a ‘tour’, I mean, literally, he went to a 5* resort with a 24/7 restaurant, gym, cinema room… etc. etc. You name it, the American camp he was on had it! Gone are the days where our soldiers were on the front lines out there! It’s still dangerous, of course, however just for context, before he went away, his many, MANY briefings indicated that his biggest threat to life would be a road traffic accident.

Now, that probably sounds like I’m downplaying it a lot, but really, there wasn’t all that much to worry about with him overseas. There were some scary moments where a couple of bombs went off in the city, or his vehicle broke down in the middle of Kabul and they had to wait out in the open for it to be fixed, but on the whole, the 7 month tour was without its dramas. (For him anyway!)

The hardest parts of the tour were the time difference, the radio silence, and me effectively being a single mother, trying to fill up my empty time.

Jamie was 3 and a half hours ahead of us, which doesn’t seem like much of a difference, and at first it didn’t affect us very much at all. He began the tour in early April while I was still on my Easter break from uni, and even when I went back to uni, it was only then for exams. So I would do an exam, come home, maybe do a little part-time shift at next, then go back to being mum for the rest of the day. It was fairly flexible and because I was available pretty much all of the time, the time difference wasn’t all that noticeable…

However, come June, I started working full-time. Olivia had to be at the childminder’s house for 07:30 dead on, otherwise I would miss my train to work at 07:38. From June until August, my train journey to work was pretty much the only uninterrupted period of time that we would be able to talk. Luckily, things have changed a lot since he last went to Afghanistan and he was able to use wifi from his room on camp, so we could send messages or video call as long as he was in his room. But by the time I finished work and got home with Olivia, he would be getting ready for bed. Still, Olivia got to speak to him most nights, though not for very long before I had to crack on with dinner, bath and bed for her too.

And so part 1 of our little routine developed. The strict morning routine of me habitually running to the train station to catch my train within 8 minutes of dropping Olivia off, and the strict evening routine of Olivia’s phone call with daddy, dinner time, bath time, our talcum powder thing (where we pretend to go crazy with the powder and shout “don’t tell dad!” while doing so), and bed time, listening to Daddy reading We’re Going on a Bear Hunt on the CD player.

It got harder to manage that effectively if Olivia missed Daddy’s call because he was out on a patrol, or if he was away from camp for longer than a couple of days. You know what it’s like, toddlers asking for something, you saying no, then they want it more and become even more persistent in their annoying whining about it… it was like that, except she was asking for Daddy, not just another piece of chocolate or something equally unimportant. Those times were stressful for me too, not least because I would be worrying about where he was (as he couldn’t usually tell me if he was leaving camp) and when I would speak to him next, but also I’d have a pretty much inconsolable child and I didn’t know what on earth to do about it.

I suppose that actually fed into the second, and biggest, part of our routine. We started filling our time up full of things to do. I found evenings so difficult, as it had been the first time in 5 years that I didn’t have any studying to do. Netflix played a large part in the evening “me time”, as did blogging until the pressures at work got slightly higher and I had the facility to work from home (big mistake – now I feel like I never log off). Filling up our weekends was slightly more difficult. Before Jamie came home for R&R (Rest & Recuperation) in August, I was still not driving and had to rely on trains or buses to get anywhere.

The first thing I focused on was throwing Olivia’s birthday party in May. People thought I was crazy doing it all at our house – I did the food, hired a bouncy castle, invited about 20 kids, and yes, it was hectic, but the cake, the picky bits and the other things I had to plan and organise made it a big distraction for me!

I tried to always do something at the weekend with her – we went to SeaLife in London, we met up with other Mums whose husbands were deployed and did a morning at Coral Reef in Bracknell, we went on a trip with the Welsh Guards Welfare to Legoland. I think I (very rarely) got the train to Kent to see my mother-in-law, and my dad even came down from Hull to visit me one weekend when the Grenadier Guards had a big fun day on up at camp.

It was difficult not having family nearby, literally managing Olivia on my own, and Olivia only managed to see her sister twice in that time, adding to the feeling of the time just dragging by! I can’t imagine how much she must have missed both her and her dad, and she was still really too young to understand where they’d gone. She knew daddy was at work (on holiday) and Kiera was at her mummy’s, but she went from seeing them both all the time to not at all.

That’s why it was so important to get into a busy routine. The more things we did, the easier it became to just crack on with life and the time passed far more quickly.

After August, it was so much easier to get into an even better routine because I FINALLY started driving! I was able to find little clubs and activities to take Olivia to, like I had wanted to for ages, and it doubled up as something else to keep us busy and keep our minds off the fact that Daddy should have been home for good in August, as his tour was extended until No

vember just a month before his R&R and I received that news on my birthday (how kind of them!)

Our weekend itinerary is;

Saturday:

9am – Dancing
10am – Gravity Force Trampolining
11:20am – French
Afternoon – Housework (aka nap time)

Sunday:

10am – Gravity Force Trampolining (sometimes)
2pm – Swimming

In the middle of those activities we found time to make and send parcels to daddy which Olivia enjoyed doing, and it doubled up as messy play for her as she painted and decorated the shoeboxes and made pictures for him that we sent out to him on blueys or in his parcels.

As you can tell, we liked to be kept busy, and it made the time fly! Although it was still rough not having Jamie around and my evenings were pretty uneventful and long, spending that quality time with Olivia and keeping us both busy really helped to distract us from missing him.

Are you a military spouse? How do you distract yourself when your other half is deployed overseas? Let us know in the comments!

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Dear Fellow Mama… We all NEED to let our hair down!

One thing I always feel really strongly about is when mums get criticised for going on a night out. Obviously, I’m not saying every week, but once in a while, I think it’s really important that mothers are given the opportunity to go out and let their hair down.

I recently got criticised for going out once/twice a month with friends, and my argument to this is I work full time (plus overtime), as well as having ‘mum duties’. I honestly believe Mums need a night out once every now and then for their wellness – they need that time to switch off and just have a night off.

I really feel for celebrities, stuck in the lime light, who get harshly judged for going on a night out when they do, because as if being a mum isn’t hard enough? God forbid they go out and let their hair down.

I definitely feel that over the years society has almost gone back in time when it comes to motherhood. There is this barbaric idea that we’re stay at home housewives… As if it’s 1950 again, as hard as it is to believe, guess what? Mums are perfectly capable of holding down a career, a home, a social life and raising children.

It’s no secret that I love a night out. I love my job, my friends and most importantly my son. Under no circumstances do I ever sacrifice time with Oliver for that, I work my social life around him. Of course, I link my social life with Oliver wherever I can. I have friends with children and friends without. It was only recently that I went to a garden party arranged through work and my friend Lucy and her fiancé Liam came… They were AMAZING with Oliver! Oliver loved wearing them out and I loved watching them entertain Oliver (side note: cannot wait for them to have a baby because after watching them with Oliver, it’s obvious they’re naturals). Plus there’s my friend Charlotte who recently came to the funfair with me and Oliver, and Oliver loves her to bits, not to mention my mummy friends such as the mummykind girls and Jacey who was even coming on days out with me and Oliver while heavily pregnant! Of course not forgetting Sarah, Oliver’s godmother, fellow mummykind girl and practically my life coach, who is getting mentioned here at her own request 😉

I love having two different groups of friends and being able to have the best of both worlds.

Anyway I’m straying from the topic, where was I? Yes, mums NEED time off. When I was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis one thing my doctor said to me was, when do you get time to yourself? I sat and paused. “Well… When I’m asleep I guess,” and he stressed to me the importance of having time to myself.

Whenever I go out it’s with one of two groups of friends, and each have a different agendas!

Work friends/friends without children

Pros:

  1. Baby free
  2. Always about
  3. Know how to have a good time
Cons
  1. Sometimes cannot understand why I’m not always about
  2. Have a way better alcohol tolerance/stamina than me, leaving me to play catch up
  3. there is usually a drama on a night out
Mum friends
Pros:
  1. Rarely go out so appreciate a night out more
  2. Have the same alcohol tolerance so I’m not feeling like playing catch up
  3. Completely understand if I can’t come out
Cons:
  1. Rarely able to arrange a night we’re all free
  2. When we are all free we’re all too shattered
  3. Mum life – need I say anymore???
So to any mum reading this, sit and ask yourself when was the last time you let your hair down and just had a night off from it all? If it was longer than 3 months then you’re 100% due a good night out with your mates.

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Do I follow my head or my heart?

Recently I made the decision to leave my partner of 5 years and move back in with my parents. It’s a decision I never thought I would have to make and this made it even harder. My head was saying leave but my heart wanted me to stay so I was very conflicted about what to do. So what do we do when our head and our heart have different opinions? How do we finally reach that all important decision?

1. Ask for advice from friends and family
This was the biggest help for me as my friends are usually the ones to remain unbiased and give me tough love when I need it. They were able to organise my thoughts without hesitation and made things really clear.

2. Don’t rush it.
The last thing you want to do is to get caught up in the moment, make a rash decision and then end up regretting it. Take as much time as you need to decide what is best for you.

3. Think about the outcomes.
Weighing up the outcomes of your decisions can be very helpful in stressful situations. It makes you think about which outcome is best for you and how you can reach the ideal outcome.

4. Remove yourself from the situation.
If you are constantly surrounded by whatever is causing you stress, remove yourself. Take a few days to take care of yourself and try to take your mind off of it. Whether that be a day out with your friends or having a self care day, just make sure you are focusing on yourself and not the stressful situation back home.

However you deal with things, you should always make the decision that is right for you. Just because you love someone, it does not mean you should stick with the stress or upset that comes with that love. You are worth so much more.

What do you do to help make big decisions? We would love to hear from you!

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Why I’m happy being a single mum

So, recently I have had friends all asking the same question… “Isn’t it time you settled down?” And let’s not forget dear old Aunt Barbara at the family meals asking why I’m still single. The reason to it all is because, in a warped kinda way, I’m happy being single.

The truth is I don’t have the time for a relationship. I work full time and around caring for Oliver I am left with perhaps 5% free time – split that free time between friends and time to myself (that is 0%), and I am not prepared to sacrifice any of that on a relationship.  “You deserve to be happy,” a dear friend said to me recently, and they are right. I DO deserve to be happy, but I replied to her by saying “but what makes you think I’m not happy? I love the independence I have being a single mum and the freedom it gives me.

Freedom? Something I never thought that I would say in the same sentence as being a single mum, but the truth of the matter is it has given me insane amounts of freedom. When Oliver is at his Dad’s and I am not working I am able to do what I want, when I want, without having to justify who I am talking to and where I am going. Although, this doesn’t mean going out every Friday night, because sometimes it’s just nice to use that freedom to sit at home and relax.

When I first became a single mum I hated it, I didn’t know how I would cope mentally and physically, and now, nearly half a year later, I am loving it. I feel so independent and accomplished – I wouldn’t change it for the world. I look to when there were times that I was crying to my friends saying I didn’t feel I was strong enough, and had people at the time tell me I wasn’t strong enough, but I have not only proved them wrong, I have proved myself wrong.

I see some of my friends that are single mums putting so much pressure on themselves to be in a relationship, and admittedly that was me at one point. The real happiness of being single is when you find that moment of peace and solidarity, when you achieve something you never thought possible through no strength other than your own…. and that my dears is when you find the true beauty of being single.

One of my favourite film quotes sums it all up perfectly for me..

The thing about being single is, you should cherish it. Because, in a week, or a lifetime, of being alone, you may only get one moment. One moment, when you’re not tied up in a relationship with anyone. A parent, a pet, a sibling, a friend. One moment, when you stand on your own. Really, truly single. And then…. it’s gone.

It took a while initially for me to enjoy being single, it took A LOT of pep talks from Sarah and some of my other friends, not to mention countless late night chats with the mummykind girls. Now I love it. I love being a strong, independent woman. Knowing that whatever I own, I got myself, everything I have achieved, I got there myself. I have nobody snoring in my ear and stealing my duvet, I am under no obligation to watch things I don’t want to (unless it’s Moana or Frozen through Oliver). It is such an empowering feeling to know that I proved all those people wrong, every single one who said I wouldn’t cope and who didn’t want me to. And in the words of Destiny’s Child… ’cause I depend on me if I want it.

I sit late at night and often wonder when I will settle down again, and the reality is that I don’t know when that will be. I am not prepared to settle for the first man that comes into my life. I deserve to be happy, (not to mention that the successful candidate will need to pass Sarah and her husband’s vetting process first)… So maybe months from now, maybe a year from now… I don’t think anyone knows the answer to it. However for now, and for the foreseeable future, my Oliver, friends, family, work and health are my priority…Not chasing after a man.

If you liked this you’ll love:

Becoming a single mum, the baby steps I’m taking

Single parents, I respect you 

Why can’t we all just play nicely together?

Dear Mr…

So this post is inspiried by Caroline Flack’s article in this month’s ‘Cosmopolitan’… I felt I could relate so much to what she had posted, and although this post isn’t exactly parenting related I think it is something we can all relate to. I think if I could write to any of my past partners then this is what I would say:
Dear Mr First Crush,
I was merely 13 and you were a few years older, we had mutual friends so found ourselves spending time together at break and lunch though, of course, you were completely out of my league. I couldn’t help but notice how polite you were to everyone, how funny you were and how cute you were, gradually I noticed myself changing, trying to adapt and morph myself into the type of girl you would like and then the reality hit me that I was becoming someone I could never be, plus you got with one of my best friends and that was the end of that I guess.
Dear Mr First Love,
Well, I’m not sure where to begin on this, but I’ll keep it short. We were young and merely 16, at 19 we fell pregnant and had our baby boy…we had ups and downs and eventually got engaged, I made some of my best memories with you and though things ended rather sourly I will still always care, not in a romantic way as that chapter is over but ultimately you are my son’s father, so naturally I will always care about your wellbeing. Of course, it does upset me how things ended, our relationship died out and you felt that neglected by me that you sought comfort from other women while we were together and still to this day I blame myself for that.
Dear Mr Rebound,
Ah now this I feel truly awful about as you still have no idea thats all it was but the thing is I was fresh out of my previous relationship and just wanted some comfort after what happened and you were there, I do feel bad looking back at what happened but I just couldn’t bring myself to commit after what happened.
Dear Mr Too Good to Be True,
Oh this is my favourite, you seemed perfect. Tall, dark and handsome, and slightly older. You owned your own company and lived a completely different lifestyle to the one I had. I felt like Cinderella for a while as you took me to nice places for meals and nights away, but gradually the cracks started to show. You see, I always told you that I was a mum and that my boy came first yet I still saw you saying things like “can’t you palm him off to someone else”, which is wrong on so so many levels, and it was at that point I think I realised that it wasn’t going to work. One day you dropped the bombshell that you still had feelings for your ex, and I think you expected me to shrug it off but that was it for me, it was time to walk away.

Dear Mr Wrong,

Well, your name says it all. Wrong…so so wrong. You weren’t even the type of guy I normally go for, but I think I was attracted by your confidence, you were pretty good looking and would say all the things I wanted to hear, and right when you had my attention and had me right where you wanted me you would drop me at the click of your fingers, as if I was some toy you could pick up when you were bored, and eventually I realised that I am worth so much more than to be another girl for your collection.

Dear Mr Right Now,
Well, after all the above I think it’s safe to say I’m fragile, I’ll be the first to admit in light of everything that happened I’ve developed the biggest commitment issues and I feel truly sorry for you, you’ll learn over time I push people away, my temper is foul but I can be caring when I’m not a moody hormonal strop bag.  I have an incredible ability to self sabotage and ruin anything good I have going for me, if after discovering all of this you’re still prepared to try with me then the next step is a bit harder, in light of my history my best friend and her husband have developed a vetting process which you will be obliged to pass. Last but most important, I am a mother first and foremost, my son comes first and if you can’t accept that then please see yourself out of my life.

Dear Mr Bottom-Squish

Oh my darling Oliver, you’ll never understand the amount I love you, how many nights I sit and watch you sleep and wonder how I got so lucky, despite all the Mr’s you will always be the most important and will always come first. I will always protect you as long as I am breathing. I can’t wait to see you grow into the amazing young man I know you will become and every day you amaze me with your character, you truly are the best thing in my life, my darling boy, and I promise you we will have so much laughter, and so many memories… At times we may argue and there will be times in your life when you dislike me, but just know that I love you eternally and that I will always support you everything you do. Granted, some days you make me want to rip my hair out, but I am sure that when you’re older you will think the same about me. Thank you for being my son and being the most perfect thing in my life.