On Dating and Relationships

I just checked the timestamp on my last blog – FOUR MONTHS AGO. Woops. The lack of blogging isn’t out of laziness. I actually don’t know what to write anymore…. because I am no longer a “Single Mumpreneur”. I’m having an identity crisis and my blog is a victim. Do I stop blogging now I am in a relationship? Do I change the name of my blog? Is what I write still worthy of a blog? Does anyone still read my blogs? I think I need a sav blanc, stat.

In the past four months, boyfriend and I have been on our first overseas adventure together, moved out of the honeymoon phase and into the “we have a kid and two dogs and private health and a joint bank account and we’re getting fatter because we’re in love and keep eating fancy food” phase. We’re about to move house which is a bit exciting – is it just me or is moving house just one of the most magic experiences one can have – I seriously wished I could move house all the time. Voms.

But we’re excited. Despite the physical, emotional and financial stresses of moving, a fresh home and a fresh start is always a positive, and we can put the Christmas tree up straight away too.

But back to the blog.

I now find myself in some sort of weird grey area – I’m a single mum with a partner. I parent my child, and I’m coaching boyfriend to parent in the same vein that I do, and goddamn I’m in love with someone who likes to parent his own way. Why won’t he listen to me. Why can’t be parent like me. I guess I assumed I could train him to parent like me because he’s new to the parenting thing, and would see the sense in everything I do. Nope. Not this guy. Sometimes it goes well, him doing the improv step dad. And other times, I have to bite my tongue with the “See, I told you so, na na na na na”. Who’s the parent now.

But in all fairness, he does a cracker job. Our house is full of love. He’s crazy about Emmie. Even though he asked if we could separate and get back together when she turns four (terrible twos, my god she can be a turd). I’ve got him now haha.

I started this blog when I was six months pregnant. I blogged about being pregnant and single, giving birth without a partner (but two amazing friends were there to feed me gummy bears and watch me yell at the midwives), and living alone with my daughter from day one to 18 months. In that time, I’ve had messages and emails from single mums and dads from all over the world, sharing their unique story with me and thanking me for sharing mine, because now they feel less alone, and more empowered and that yes, they can do this. And that makes me so humble and so happy that I’ve helped someone feel better about themselves, feel more confident and less alone.

And so, I’m going to take this blog, and turn it into a book. A book for single mums, single dads, parents-to-be. In the chance that it might help just a few more people realise they’re incredible, indestructible and supported.

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Thoughts on single motherhood, hot obstetricians and constipated newborns

Emily turned two today. It’s a crazy thing to think about – that it was an entire two years ago to the day that I was in labour at the Mater, with my birthing partners, bouncing up and down on a gym ball and eating gummy bears between contractions, yelling at the midwife to “CRANK IT” (the gas and air clearly wasn’t on). Two years ago since I told the obstetrician he was hot while I pushed a baby out my vajayjay, because, you know, YOLO. Two years ago since spending that first overnight in the hospital, too afraid to go to sleep in case the baby I’d just met stopped breathing.

And I still go into her room sometimes to listen to her breathe.

We’ve filled the past two years with so much adventure, love and laughter. That was my coping mechanism. Living alone with a newborn baby, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing – it was lonely and scary. I remember crying while she lay on the change table, less than a week old, because I was too afraid to lift her head to take her singlet off in case I hurt her. There were some days I just kept the same singlet on her or waiting until a relative was over for courage.

I remember listening to her shiver in her bassinet because she was too cold. And crying because I felt like such a bad mum.

I remember her having reflux and being unable to sleep on her back or even in an elevated mattress – so I would sleep sitting up, holding her in my arms. She slept soundly through the night. I didn’t really sleep.

I remember being so stressed about expressing enough milk so she could spend time with her dad, that my milk began to dry up, stressing me more.

I remember taking her to the doctor because she hadn’t done a poo in 11 days (but when she did, holy shit).

I remember lying in bed on a Saturday morning, holding my six-day-old Emily in my arms, and crying because it was such a beautiful moment and I had nobody else to share it with. And out there were other mummies and daddies enjoying the same moment with each other.

Navigating motherhood with a newborn was a challenging time for me. All the more so because I’m self-employed, and had two staff to manage via email at the time. I worried that my clients weren’t happy. What happened if they all decided to pack up and leave on the same day? What then? I didn’t have the energy to consider those things. I just had to be. To keep going. To know that simply by being and by keeping going, I was enough for my little baby. As one friend put it, “Rach, all she needs are your boobs and a place to sleep. That’s it. Don’t worry about anything else”. And it was so true.

I also remember our adventures. As I said before, taking Emily on adventures was my coping mechanism. I would plan incredible days for us. We’d do 6am hikes up Mount Coot-tha trails, finishing with a breastfeed at the top. We’d roadtrip to the beach, just for the day, because that’s where I am happiest – and if I’m happy, she’s happy. I’d find the steepest hill in the suburb and run up and down it with Emily in the pram – facing me – so she could watch me work hard. She’d lie in the corner of the gym while I worked out with my personal trainer. We had a Valentines sunset picnic by the river. We went to the pub. We stayed at the Hilton at Surfers Paradise – just for one night – and I ate room service in the dark in the middle of my king-size bed while she slept in a portacot in the middle of the room.

I was determined to continue to do the things I loved – Emily would just have to join me. And that is how our two years together have been. I wouldn’t have it any other way, because I have some incredible memories – and I hope that she does too.

Today I asked her if she knew what “Birthday” meant. She said, “Party! Cake!” It’s so much fun watching her little personality grow – especially now I have someone to share these memories with.

I had told myself that it was a chance I might not meet someone until Emily was 5, or 6, or even 10. I might wait ten years to find love. I had considered this and accepted it as a possibility. A likely one. And then, three months ago, the most incredible man walked into my life. And now my heart is full and my family is complete. To all my single mumma friends out there – dreams do come true.

So, Happy second birthday Emily. I hope you know just how much you are loved. You are my strength in physical form. You are a living, breathing, daily reminder to me of how strong I am, of how I kicked ass at raising a child all on my own – of creating and guiding the most beautiful little person. We’re a great team and I am so proud to be your mummy.

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I’m a crazy woman and i’m saying yes to everything

I’m actually crazy guys. Bat. Shit. Cray.

I’ve been dating a guy for five seconds and we’ve moved in together. Why? Because it felt right.

I’ve said yes to every speaking gig that has come my way in the last two months. Why? Because I loooove talking to people. On stage. It pumps me up. So let’s do more of that.

I’ve pitched for the biggest client that has come across my path…. and landed them. I didn’t even have to tender. It was a referral. And I am loving the work we are doing together.

I have absolutely no idea how to fit my work, my toddler, my man, my new house, finishing moving into my new house, two dogs, SELF LOVE, my family and friends into a week. But somehow I am.

I am pushing my comfort zones out and doing so much I didn’t think was humanly possible for a self-employed single mum of a toddler (I know, we’re going to have to address the “single mum” title at some point, but not now you guys).

If I could go back in time and talk to the Rachel who was six weeks pregnant and deciding what to do – to have a baby or to abort a surprise pregnancy, who was wondering how her business would ever grow if she went ahead and became a single mum… who wondered if she would ever meet the man of her dreams if she had a toddler on her hip… who wondered if she would ever be so busy but coping so well. I would say YES YOU SEXY GODDESS OF A WOMAN. You don’t even know it, but in a few years you will be kicking ass in your business, in your industry, helping more people than ever before. You will live in a beautiful house. You will have an AMAZING man who loves and adores you and your daughter. You will move from strength to strength, using adversity and whatever crap the universe throws your way as fuel. You have a cute AF kid who has the most inspirational role model she could ask for.

I’m also realising that the more I do and the more I take on and the more I say yes to – the more I need to say no to. So I’ve also started saying no to people. No to prospects who want a discount. No to people who want me to party a little harder or stay out a little later. No to business opportunities that don’t align with my personal beliefs and values. No to money making opportunities that energetically don’t sit well with me. No to anything that doesn’t bring a smile to my face.

And this is an awesome thing to have power over – the feeling of steering my life forward in whatever direction I choose.

My Children.

My Children.

Life Changing

Ok, so I just realised I haven’t blogged in TWO MONTHS. And it’s not because of a lack of content either – I have literally been so busy I haven’t had a spare moment to even think about blogging.

Shortly after my last blog, I received a phone call from a global software company, asking me if I’d join them on their national roadshow to speak to small business owners about the value social media can bring to their business. I actually said no. I said “I’m a single mum with a toddler, there’s no way I could spend three days away from her and find a babysitter with less than a week’s notice”. I hung up the phone and felt like I hadn’t tried hard enough to make this opportunity work. I rang Em’s dad and explained the situation. His response: “Yeah, sure, why not? That’s fine”.

So off I flew – first to Cairns, then to Townsville, then back to Brisbane and a cruisy drive up to Toowoomba for the last leg. Taking that opportunity to grow my business, to stand on stage and do what I love AND to be my own person away from Emily was an amazing thing to do, and just so healthy. I could feel myself physically regenerate as a single person (by this I mean as a person without another smaller person attached). I have spoken twice since and have another speaking gig lined up next week.

I launched an online course! My first online course is live and accepting enrollments. I’m not 100% happy with the content or the layout, but I know the value is there and the best part is that it’s live. I’m now working on my second online course – the goal is an online school for business owners to sign up to course that are relevant to them.

Em has started toilet training. I’m a big fan of nappies. I’m naively thinking one day she will just take her nappy off and sit on the toilet, do her business, wipe, flush and wash her hands all on her own. That could happen, right?

Aaaaand probably the most exciting of all….. I met someone. I have a hunky boyfriend! he brings me wine and makes me laugh. He adores little Em and she adores him. I’m in that horrible honeymoon stage where everything is sunshine and rainbows and lovey-wuvvy-dovey – I hate people like this and now i’ve become what I hate! We’ve been on a few weekends away to the coast, out to Tangalooma and we’re planning a longer holiday too – I haven’t been this happy in so long. It’s like I forgot what happiness actually felt like, and I was living in a pseudo happiness.

Anyway, To all my family, friends and supporters, I promise to restart my weekly blogging. There’s so much to write about! 🙂

My Little Mermaid

My Little Mermaid

An Open Letter To Emily

Dear Emily,

Today I hate you. Today I hate how sick you are. I hate how you cling to me and scream in agony. I hate how tired I am and how you’re the reason I’ve had 3 hours broken sleep in 24 hours. I hate that you have croup. I hate that you hid your croup from the paramedics and made me look like a twit. I hate that no matter what I do or try to make you feel better, you still cry. Like what I do isn’t good enough for you. Like I’m not listening to what you’re saying you want. Like I’m a bad mother.

I hate that I have to dress you in a cute outfit just to make you harder to hate. To make you easier to love in these energy-draining, end of my tether moments.

I hate that I love you so much, sometimes I forget to put myself first. I hate that you’re number one in our home. I’m envious even.

I hate that in these moments and on these days, when you are so unwell, and miserable, and clamouring for me to make it all better, that all I can do is hold you and radiate my love for you. I wish I could do more. And at the same time, I know that what I am doing is exactly what you need. My love can heal you if I keep on loving.

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Being A Mum Is Hard AF

Holy shitballs, Batman. I have just spent the last 90 minutes trying to get my howling toddler to stay in her fricken bed and go the fuck to sleep. It actually took me 90 minutes to figure out the solution was to put the portacot up (aka toddler prison) and throw gently lay her down in there so she couldn’t escape.

We’ve been up since 4:30. From 4:30-5:30 we watched Peppa Pig and I snoozed on the couch. From 5:30-7:30 Emily cried about not watching Peppa Pig. From 7:30-8am we walked to the cafe and back for Mum’s sanity in a cup. from 8am – 10am we did drawings with crayons Emily tried to fit 30 crayons in one of my hands and had a meltdown if i used the other hand or if i couldn’t hold them all.

How long will she sleep today? I don’t even think God knows. I’ve got a work to-do list as long as my arm, my house is a mess, there’s errands to run when she wakes up, and all I want to do is have about 6 hours of uninterrupted Netflix and Sleep.

On top of that? I feel like a shit mum – I can’t figure out what’s wrong, I feel like I might be sending her mixed messages or maybe i’ve started talking in a different language and she no longer understands me. What if it’s not her – what if it’s me? What if I’m the looney-tune dictator? All I can think about is how the first 5-7 years of a child’s life are the years they form their subconscious view of the world, from which they base all their future beliefs and values – what if I’m already screwing up her chances of being an emotionally balanced, super human?

Ahhhhh the pressure of getting it all right.

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It Starts With Words.

When I was 18, my high school athletics coach told me he was in love with me. He was 76.

This one event has changed the way I relate to every man that I have met since.

It has also been something I haven’t told many people about. Because who would believe an 18 year old girl over a highly respected, former Olympian with a cult following in the Australian Athletics scene.

To say it caught me off guard is an understatement. I started running when I was five year old; I can still remember my first race. Running was my thing. My freedom. The closest I could get to the feeling of flying. After being coached by this man for six years in my passion, I looked to him as a mentor, an example of the ultimate success in the sport. And just three months after my 18th birthday, he told me he was in love with me. He said I could live with him. He would mentor me and coach me to be the greatest athlete I could be. And then he tried to kiss me.

My 18 year old brain didn’t know how to respond. I had never been taught how to prepare for something like this. I was frozen. I could run away and tell someone… but who would believe me over him? My whole world had come shattering down. I did the only thing I could think of – gracefully decline the offer and say that he was a friend and mentor to me, nothing more. He was disappointed.

Two hours later, I sat in the library at QUT, trying to prep for the exam I had later that afternoon. I couldn’t focus. I told one of my friends what had happened and he said I HAD to go and tell someone. What if this guy had done this (or more) to other girls or even students at the school?

I went back to the school. I walked into the gym. And I saw one of the teachers, who also happened to be a family friend. He saw my face, and said, “What happened?” I was shaking. And all I said was “He made a move on me”. And he knew exactly who I was talking about without me even having to name him.

This amazing, incredible teacher believed me straight away. Without a doubt. The Head of Sport believed me. The Principal believed me. The coach didn’t deny the accusations (which completely surprised me). He lost his job, and every other school was told not to hire him.

But there were people who didn’t believe it. Students. Former students. Parents. People who thought they knew him so well, that it could never be true. Friends distanced themselves from me. I stopped running. I stopped trusting men.

When I ran, I’d have panic attacks. I’d wonder if all those times my coach watched me run around the track – if he was watching my form, timing me and being a coach. Or if he was checking me out. I’d feel dizzy and have to stop. Years later, I found out that this is actually a form of sexual assault. If it had happened 3 months earlier, it would have been pedophilia.

I ended my two-year relationship. I now didn’t trust my boyfriend either.

I started partying. I put on a little weight. Alcohol helped with that. Not enough to feel fat. But enough to avoid people staring at my body. I didn’t want men looking at me.

I couldn’t date. Casual flings were all I could manage. If it was casual, I knew exactly what they wanted. I wouldn’t get hurt. But inside it was damaging my soul and my self-worth.

I finished my degree and got a job. I was miserable. Getting out of bed to get to work on time took all my energy. I began to see a counsellor but felt she wasn’t really helping. I stopped seeing her. I didn’t talk to anyone about what happened.

Four years went by. I started dating someone who believed in me. I never told him what had happened. He believed in me so much he told me I could start my own business. So I did. And from that moment onwards, I began to take myself seriously. My self-belief began to grow back. I relied on myself, and now others relied on me. I had purpose and direction.

Two and a half years later, I found out I was pregnant to an ex-boyfriend. This wasn’t part of the plan. I’d become extremely career-focussed and loved my business. My ex wanted me to have an abortion. He didn’t want this baby.

I had eight weeks to decide what to do. I decided to have the baby.

Why?

Because regardless of my choice, this would be the biggest decision of my life. Either choice would be lifechanging. If this decision represented all my life decisions, then I wanted it to be the right one. I’m a person who steps up to the plate. Steps out of her comfort zone. I’m an endurance runner – I know all about pain, comfort zones etc. How you do anything is how you do everything. Did I want to be the Rachel that takes the easy road when the biggest challenge of my life presents itself? Or am I the Rachel who says “Yep, I can do this, because I believe in myself… this decision will make me a stronger person beyond what I think is possible”.

And it has.

I am such a strong person. And this makes me proud. I know my daughter will look to me as a role model… as an example of how to behave and react in certain situations. I am her compass.

In the past 18 months, I have experienced domestic violence. Just writing that gives me goosebumps. I have no bruises to show. I have been bullied. I have been verbally abused. I have been told I am worthless. I have been put down for mourning my late grandfather. I have been told I have post-natal depression and I’m clearly not coping. I have been told I have irrational behaviour and need to get help, and that I shouldn’t be at my daughter’s birthday party in case I act crazy. I have been told I don’t make sound decisions and should have someone else make my decisions for me. I have had my financial decisions questioned. I have been isolated from people I once thought were friends (although, perhaps never really were). I began to question my mental health, because I was being told to by someone who was never, ever wrong. Someone who is a pillar of the community. Respected. Popular. Older. See the pattern?

And I didn’t do anything about it when these events occurred… because who would believe me over this person.

It’s the same scenario again.

Maybe i’m imagining these things and maybe I do need my head checked. Maybe it won’t happen again. Maybe i’m just hormonal and overly-sensitive right now.

Nope.

What do I want my daughter to do in these situations? I need to take the actions I would want her to take if she were (heaven forbid) one day in my shoes.

Earlier this year, I applied for a Domestic Violence Order against this person. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It was appealed. This led to three months of legal to and fro. I lost “friends” – people who didn’t even care to ask me why I’d done it, didn’t care to find out what exactly I was saying this person had done. People who unfriended me on Facebook on the spot. It was easier for them not to ask. Because for them to ask, meant they had to question the values of a friend. And therefore question their own values. Much easier for them to stick head in the sand (which says a lot about their own values and self-worth). This was a very painful, cleansing experience for me in terms of who my friends really are.

I never thought I’d write about this in a blog. But I’m doing some emotional decluttering. I’ve carried this around for too long. Today is the last day of 2015, and the last day that Rosie Batty is Australian of The Year. She’s done so much this year to raise awareness for DV.

I’m sharing this for two reasons:

One. I know without any doubt that some of you reading this will have had similar experiences or have been made to feel the same way. I hope that by sharing my story, something I’ve kept to myself for ten years, you feel less alone. It’s not just you. And it’s not your fault. You do deserve better. You are worth more.

Two. If you’ve been vocal on social media about domestic violence, sharing posts/news from Rosie Batty or other DV groups – perhaps sharing your opinion on high-profile cases like Allison Baden-Clay – stop for a moment, and ask yourself if you would show the same amount of support for her if you knew her. If you were friends with her. What if you were friends with both Allison and Gerard? It’s not so easy to be vocal when you are emotionally involved.

Domestic Violence doesn’t start with a punch. It starts with words. With controlling behaviour.

Listen to your friends when they speak up. Speaking up is the hardest part. And don’t judge – nobody has experienced what they have except them. If they’re willing to share, listen. Offer support in whatever form you can. This is where your worth as a true friend is truly shown.

Make 2016 the year you look out for and listen to your friends. Because more stories like this are going to be told.

Comfort Zones: Emily’s First Night Away From Me

Trying to stay positive is a real challenge today.

I haven’t seen Emily since 5:30pm yesterday arvo, and when I left her dads house, she was crying (because she was hungry, not because I was leaving… but still it doesn’t help).

I just had a conversation with good friend single mum Ash, and I said, “I feel like my home isn’t even a home. Without Em, it’s just a shell”. Gah. And then I started crying.

And then my single mama friend Sienna rings me in that exact moment, listens to me crying down the phone and tells me it’s going to be ok, and that Emily is fine, and that I just need to be kinder to myself – today was always going to be a hard day. Focus on all the great things happening to me at the moment.

So I am.

My business had its most profitable month EVER in November.
We had a record week last week and doubled our turnover.
I’m launching a new product on January 1st which will change the way I do business FOREVER.
I’m launching a second business on January 1st which I am super excited about.
I am fit, healthy and I’m making gourmet angus rump honey soy kebabs from our local butcher for our dinner.
We have a beautiful Christmas Tree.
Last night, I had dinner with my family who were incredibly supportive.
I caught up with three friends who looked after me to stop me from going home to an empty house.

Really, Emily and I are very, very lucky women, surrounded by so much love, and a very bright future.

Practicing Self Love

Last week, a girlfriend of mine asked me to give myself one compliment – to say out loud one thing that I was proud of.

I sat there in silence for over thirty seconds. I couldn’t think of anything that I felt genuinely proud of – proud enough to verbalise as a compliment to myself. She watched me as I sat there and waited patiently and without judgement. But I felt increasingly more and more uncomfortable with my own silence.

Why couldn’t I think of a compliment for myself? It surely isn’t that hard! What’s something I’ve done lately that I’m proud of????

And when I spoke, I said, “Well, I’m cooking a roast tonight”.

And then I paused. As soon as I had said it, I felt an emptiness. An overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction moved up my throat. And I said to her, “I am so not happy with that answer. I just don’t know what else to say”.

And the emotion I felt in that moment was sadness. Sadness because I realised I probably hadn’t complimented myself in a long time. And I deserve better than that from myself.

And I explained this to my friend.

And she said to me, “There are so many things you’re doing that are simply amazing. You’re a mum to a thriving, energetic toddler. On Top of that, you’re a single mum. And on top of that, you’re the owner of a growing business. And on top of that, you’re an employer. On top of that, you have clients you work with every day. You run your own household and put healthy nutritious meals on the table. You’re fit and active and invest time in your fitness. You value family and your friendships. You do the best you possibly can in everything you do”.

And at this point, I don’t remember what my response to her was. But I do remember how I felt.

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I felt upset that it took someone else to remind me of how amazing I can be. Happiness is an inside job – how could I be happy I couldn’t even compliment myself. And I felt a wave of relief that there were people in my life who could see all the things I do. I don’t depend on external validation, but living with a toddler who can’t communicate in English, sometimes it feels like everything I do goes unnoticed. It’s actually a very easy thing, I’ve realised, to go an entire week without complimenting myself or saying to myself, “Good job today! You smashed it!”

It’s been a timely reminder of how important it is to practice self-love on a daily basis. I’m going to inject my life with self-love rituals. I’m going to start walking again every morning and say out loud all the things I am grateful for (something I stopped doing a few months ago). I’m going to have bubble baths with candles and without my toddler. I moved my couch around and the feng shui in my home changed instantly. I’m going to stop comparing myself to other people.

It’s about love

Earlier this year I blogged about how it’s ok to not be ok sometimes.

We’re so attuned to seeing inspirational people in the media, people always doing well, friends with knockout incredible instagram photos every. single. time…… that we begin to think maybe we’re the only ones out there who don’t have our shit together.

And it’s just not true.

Every one feels happiness.
Every one feels sad, alone, down.

We wouldn’t be able to appreciate these emotions if we couldn’t distinguish between the two – to know we are happy, we must know the contrast of sadness.

A few years ago, whenever R U OK day rolled round, I wanted to say “no, i’m not, i’m a mess” so badly. But I felt I’d be admitting to myself and others that I’ve failed somewhere, that I’m not who people think I am, that I’m a happiness fraud. That people would see me differently – that they would think “gee, she’s struggling”. And that’s not how I want people to see me.

So I stayed quiet. And kept my sadness and my stress inside.

Having a baby seemed to change all of that. I discovered that simply by picking up the phone and calling someone – anyone – they would do what they could to drop everything and be there. Sometimes just the conversation was enough, enough to know someone cared, and someone was willing to listen because they loved me. Sometimes they’d turn up on my doorstep.

I want my little girl to grow up watching her mum ask people for help.
I want her to see that it’s healthy and normal to ask others for support and to say that things are shit right now.
I want her to surround herself with people full of love, people who will be there for her when times are tough.

And now I’m tearing up just typing this! Eeergh.

R U OK day for me isn’t just about letting people know I’m here for them. And it’s not about speaking up that I’m not ok. I think we need a change in societal perspective that everyone isn’t ok sometimes – whether it’s for a few hours, a week, months or years. This is normal. And if we can talk about it and be open about it, we will share more love and support.

And that’s what today is about. Love.

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