How to move on after abuse is a question on the minds of so many people. They might have experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse. They have scars which may or may not be visible. Moving forwards positively often takes huge courage and a willingness to seek support. Vicky shares her story.

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1. What is the striking story you have to share?

I have been a single mother since my daughter was 3 weeks old and her abusive father walked out on us. I was very lucky that my health visitor stepped in, and sent me to the Freedom Programme, which is group counselling for people who’ve been in abusive relationships. I was scared of my health visitor, convinced that if I didn’t do everything she told me, she would deem me an unfit mother and my baby would be taken away – so I went to the counselling, even though I felt like I was making a big fuss about nothing and just causing trouble.

It took me a while to realise that I had been in an abusive relationship, that I wasn’t just being deliberately difficult, that I wasn’t just difficult to live with and moody and selfish. It took me longer to recover from the realisation; for a long while afterwards I would have flashbacks and memories of things and a dawning realisation, “oh wait, that wasn’t my fault…” or “oh wait, that was probably a lie…”

Very early on, I had this feeling that “it’s fine for you to treat me like this, but you don’t get to do this to my daughter.” I was very protective over her and determined to keep her safe from the life I knew her father’s other children were living. I stopped all contact with him when my daughter was four months old, after he refused to have any counselling for his abusive behaviour. On the day I told him he could not see my daughter if he would not seek help, I didn’t realise he was recording our conversation – but I did wonder why he was speaking so strangely. He said, ” you and I both know that she is in no danger with me.” I said no, that’s not true. He went through his usual “box of tricks” that all abusers have, trying to find the one that would make me back down – I wasn’t a fit mother, I was mentally unstable, he would take me to court. When I said “ok great, take me to court – I’ll bring Social Services with me and see you there” he shut up. I walked away as he shouted at me down the street, “you’re not mentally or financialy capable of looking after my child!” For the first time I thought to myself, “yes, I am – because I know to keep her safe from you.” He has not set eyes on her since – and has barely attempted contact – usually an odd email here and there when he’s had a fight with his girlfriend, or turning up drunk at our door on his way home from somewhere. The last time we were in contact, my daughter was teething and I was studying for an Open University degree. He boasted to his friends, “she’s tired and stressed; she’s never had to deal with a teething baby before. She’ll give in soon and let me come in to babysit so she can study – and then I’m taking my child.” At that point, I stopped answering him or acknowledging his existence in any way. He and his other children still live around here, and he works two blocks from where we live – but the police are aware of our situation, and I refuse to be driven away from the city I grew up in, from all of my friends and family. I stand my ground because it’s the only choice I have.

People tell me I am “inspirational” as if I have done something outrageously brave or incredible by caring for my daughter alone – but for me, it was just what I had to do. I was alone with a tiny baby relying on me for everything – what else was I going to do, but keep her safe and protect her?

2. What were the joys that this experience brought your way?

Being a single mother means that I am not being second-guessed or belittled by my daughter’s father. I am immensely proud of my daughter and the amazing person she is growing to be. No matter how bad my day is, I get into bed at night next to my gorgeous daughter (yes, we still share a bed!) and everything is ok. Being a single mother is not a bed of roses, but it brings me immense joy and pride to know I’m capable of doing this alone

3. What challenges did this situation bring your way?

Every day is a challenge, to a certain extent. Teething wasn’t much fun, and night feeds were tiring – but I find that when I’m feeling stressed and “challenged” as if I just can’t cope any more, the best thing is to call it a day and accept that my work/blog/housework/whatever just won’t get done today. Once I remove the pressures of trying to get something done, and just accept the situation, it just gets easier.

4. How do you ensure you get time to yourself and what do you do with that time?

I am self employed and work from home – so “time to myself” is generally translated as “time working on the business or the blog” – luckily I enjoy both!

My daughter goes to nursery four days a week, which gives me time to do my work and get basic housework done. She also has a bed time that is kept to all of the time, unless she is ill or it’s a special occasion. Sticking to our routine means that things run more smoothly for both of us. At the moment she is in the process of dropping daytime naps. She naps at nursery, and then goes to bed at her usual time, but when she’s home with me she doesn’t nap and goes to bed earlier – which works out well for me, in terms of having time to myself!

5. Have you ever redisovered or reinvented yourself? How?

When I met my daughter’s father, I was recovering from a massive nervous breakdown. When I became pregnant I had to come off my medication, and took the decision that I would never go back to it. Once she was born, I think something just clicked inside of my head and I was so incredibly lucky. I am painfully aware that there is no backup – if I fail, my daughter has nobody else. So I do not fail. Becoming a mother has reinvented me; I have a confidence I never had before because I know I’m doing a damn good job, and that I have no choice but to do so. I’m self employed now, something I never thought I could do before – and I am prepared to argue my point if I believe I’m right. A large part of this was setting up the blog.

6. Describe at least one physical feature you have that you consider to be beautiful

This is such a difficult question! I’ve never considered myself to be beautiful but actually, when my Timehop throws up selfies of myself and my daughter, I think my smile can be quite beautiful, given the right light – and the right gorgeous baby to smile at!

7. What makes you stand out?

I’d like to think I stand out because of my strength. I don’t feel particularly strong from day to day, but I know if someone else told me this story as their own, I would think them quite strong.

8. Is it important to you to support other mums?

Absolutely. I feel like new mums are bullied into all sorts of everything: you must do this, go there, your baby must wear this, sleep this way. A lot of the time we’re told this by self proclaimed “experts” who half the time don’t even have experience with their own children! I think we should all support mums to trust their own instincts with regard to their children and what is best for them. The best thing any of us can learn to say is “thanks for your input, but I’m going to do it my way.”

9. Which mum inspires you?

All mums do – we all have our own battles, our own struggles. When my daughter was first born I thought all mums with a husband at home had it easy but a close friend with a husband also suffered terribly with postnatal depression – something I was lucky enough to avoid. Another struggled with a partner who was physically present but didn’t help with nappy changing or night feeds – and I know from experience it’s easier to just know there’s no help and get on with it yourself, than to have someone there who’s not helping. Babies get colic and reflux and constipation and they teethe and they cry for no discernible reason; we worry they’re too hot or too cold or not feeding enough or their head doesn’t look quite right or they’re sleeping too much or we’ve put the wrong colour babygro on. All mums have that; all mums are inspiring in their ability to care for a small, screaming creature that can’t tell us what to do to make it better.

10. What would you like the next government to do to improve the lives of mums?

I am lucky in that being a single parent, I had a genuine choice as to whether I returned to work at the end of my maternity leave, or claimed Income Support and stayed home with my daughter until she started school. Other mums do not have that choice; some stay home and care for the children out of choice; others do it because they can’t afford to pay for childcare but would rather be at work. Some go to work because they’re desperate to have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around nappies or CBeebies; others do it because they can’t afford the rent if they don’t. All mums should have a genuine choice and government funding should be used to level the playing field in terms of Tax Credits, subsidised nursery placements and general assistance.

What I love about Vicky’s story is that she recognises her own qualities. Her story if presented in her own words and if you would like to know more about Vicky, please visit her blog.

Vicky shows us how to move on after abuse but every individual will do it in their way and if you have a story to share, please leave a comment.

Winnettes

Chronic fatigue is a condition that is so debilitating particularly when you are juggling all the various tasks of motherhood. Lisa shares her story with us and we wish her well as she moves towards a positive future.

What is the striking story you have to share?

I’m not sure if it’s striking, but two years ago when my second child was nine months I was diagnosed with PND. However after feeling extremely tired both physically and emotionally and nothing seeming to help I was eventually referred and diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue. At the time my children were two and one year old, my dad had recently been diagnosed with cancer and life was pretty hard going.

What were the joys that this experience brought your way?

 

Whilst I wouldn’t say there have been joys from the experience, it has shown me how important my family are and how amazing my husband is. It has also taught me strength to not let what others think about me upset me as much as it used to.

What challenges did this situation bring your way?

 

Trying to get through each day was a challenge at the time, and still can be. I need to constantly rest, try not to overdo things and take time to relax each day – try telling two young children that! Simple things like cooking their tea can tire me out completely and if I overdo it I am wiped out for days afterwards. I’ve had to rely on family a lot for support and increase the children’s hours at nursery so I could have days to rest.

It has been very tough and the guilt that I am missing my children growing up and not being there for them is immense, regularly bringing me to tears. People struggle to understand and I have felt judged on many an occasion.

How do you ensure you get time to yourself and what do you do with that time?

Because life can be tough and whilst I am resting my husband is looking after the children and rarely gets a break himself, as a couple we now have an agreement that every three to four months we have a short break away to ourselves. It gives us chance to take some time out away from home and recuperate, meaning we are more able to handle life at home once we return.

Have you ever rediscovered or reinvented yourself? How?

 

I think by going through this I have had to rediscover myself. There is so much I can’t do now – even going for a walk with the children on a weekend, which we used to do regularly, I can’t do now. It makes me strive to get well and do those things once more, but also appreciate what I can do and what I have. I already have goals in my mind that I want to accomplish once I’m better and able to, and I am determined to get there.

Describe at least one physical feature you have that you consider to be beautiful

 

My eyes – I inherited my big, brown eyes from my granddad and I have always been proud of them. I also love that both the children have inherited them, and they get so many comments on how beautiful they are.

What makes you stand out?

I don’t think I do stand out. I’ve fought for years trying to do so, but over time, and probably with age, I’ve begun to accept who I am and appreciate how much I have. I don’t need to stand out to be liked or loved, plenty of people think I’m pretty great already.

Is it important to you to support other mums?

Yes definitely. There is so much competition between mums and I just don’t get it. I do what I do with my children in my way, and I’m doing the best job I can. Just like any mum out there is. I really don’t understand or feel the need to judge any other mum who is just doing the same thing. At the end of the day if children are healthy and happy, that’s all that matters.

Which mum inspires you?

My mum is incredible. Whilst not only supporting my dad through his cancer, she has supported me through my own illness whilst living over an hour away from me. She stays at my house regularly, helps with the children and my housework and lets me rest, and then returns home to do it all over again. I couldn’t have gotten through the last eighteen months without her.

Huge thanks to Lisa for sharing her story. You can find out much more about this wonderful woman by visiting the Hollybobbs blog.

Sarah is a mum who thinks she does not stand out and I beg to differ. If you agree, I hope you will leave a comment so she can read them and realise that she is more inspirational than she might believe.

perfectmum

What is the striking story you have to share?

I was 17 when I had my first child. I battled slight depression but it was manageable. However when I was 22 I had my second child a complicated pregnancy and birth. It involved my son being born by emergency c-section. I had blood transfusions waiting and can’t remember much about being in theatre itself.

I became very protective of my son after that. I wouldn’t let anyone near him or accept any help. The health visitor started picking up on this and asked to me fill out a questionnaire. The same day I was sent to the hospital for an assessment as my mood was so low. They recommended I went into a mother and baby unit. I thought of my daughter at home and refused. I agreed I would see a health professional every day and take anti depressants.

What were the joys that this experience brought your way?

My son spent the first three years of his life in and out of hospital but seeing him smile or taking his first steps made everything seem ok. Watching my daughter grow up and start school showed me I was on the right track and doing the right things. At times I felt like I was the worst mother in the world and they would be better off without me. but They would give me a hug and my heart would melt and I knew I could never leave them.

What challenges did the situation bring?

The situation brought a lot of challenges. I lost a lot of friends as I didn’t want to go out and socialise with them. I didn’t speak to anyone else apart from the kids and my whole world revolved around them.

How do you find time for yourself?

Now I realise that time alone is equally important not only for me but for the kids too. I take time out when they are in bed either in my bed or in a long hot soak in a bath with a good book.

Have you ever rediscovered or reinvented yourself?

I eventually managed to get back into work and it helped me realise that I was an individual and not just mum. I could be both mum and Sarah.

What part of your body do you find beautiful?

I like my eyes. Your eyes can tell a person a thousand things without you needing to talk

What makes you stand out?

I don’t think I stand out .

Is it important for mums to support each other?

I think mums need to support each other. Something simple like a chat over a coffee can do wonders for that mum’s day and you might not even realise it.

Tell us about a mum who inspires you

My own mum inspires me. She went through a lot and showed me no matter what you can still come out the other side.

How would you like the next Government to help mums?

I would love to see the next government making it easier for mums to work with better childcare as it’s an issue I have. I struggle to work the hours I need with no childcare help.

Huge thanks to Sarah for showing courage and sharing her story. Please lend her your support.

A mum leaves a child at home as she takes up a posting in the Falkland Islands whilst serving with the Royal Air Force. This interview is with my oldest childhood friend so I am delighted to feature her story (or one of them) on my blog.

falklands

What is your striking story?

While in the Royal Air Force I was sent on detachment to the Falkland Islands. This meant being away from my husband and 3 year old daughter for 4 months. I didn’t think I would be able to cope with not seeing them for so long and wondered how would they mange without me. Would Yasmin understand that I was not gone for good but would be coming back. It was such a wrench leaving them at the airport with tears streaming down my face.

What were the good things about this situation?

This would give my husband chance to be close to Yasmin and spend more time with her than he would normally. Even though he too was in the RAF and working full time he was able to juggle things so that he was able to be there for her and enjoy father/daughter day trips. My parents also helped where they could and Yasmin got to be with them more often.

What were the challenges that faced you?

I missed them both so much and speaking to them on the phone was very upsetting and also difficult because of the 5 hour time difference. Yasmin would always ask when I was coming home and I would just say “soon” because I couldn’t say October (it was June when I left) as she wouldn’t really have understood. She actually had her 3rd birthday while I was away and not being there for that was heart breaking for me. My husband sent a video of her opening her cards and presents. I just cried as I watched it.

How do you ensure you get time to yourself these days?

I actually have a lot of time to myself as Yasmin is now at university but I spend that time worrying about her.Is she eating properly? Does she like being there? Does she have good friends? The usual mum things!

Have you ever rediscovered or reinvented yourself?

I think joining the Royal Air Force changed me. It made me more confident and I think I realised I was tougher than I thought I was. I didn’t get homesickness like a lot of the girls. I did miss my family but I knew they were behind my decision to join and were just a phone call away when I needed to talk. I coped with the strict basic training better than anyone thought I would even though I was one of the smallest girls in the group and not a very sporty person either.

What part/s of your body do you consider to be beautiful?

My mouth and lips. My smile.

What makes you stand out?

People say I am a very cheerful person and always have a smile on my face. I hope that makes me stand out from the crowd.

Is it important to you to support other mums?

I haven’t really thought about that to be honest but I think we do a very valuable job and don’t get the recognition we should in society.

Which mum inspires you?

I would have to say my own mum who raised us 4 fabulous daughters (okay so my dad is fab too!) Look how well we all turned out with a working class, Yorkshire upbringing. We did not have a lot of money but lots of love and laughs.

How could the Government make mums lives better?

Lower child care costs. Flexibility in maternity leave and returning to work.

Hayley has now retired from the Royal Air Force and lives in Spain with her husband Mo enjoying the sunshine and cycling.

cycling

On a cycling trip

I have 10 tips to help you to Spring into action.

I have enjoyed reading about so many mums having great times with their families at home and away. It cheers the soul and is one of the real advantages of social media. Feeling connected to so much happiness is wonderful.

lamb jumping

Spring into action!

So it is Friday and the day to launch this week’s Striking Mums blog hop. Let’s support each other as mums as we inject new hope and va-va voom into our lives.

Mums are individuals so you will be making your own plans but I hope some of these ideas might inspire you/

1. Learn – what have you always wanted to study? From Ancient History to Zoology and everything in between. Look into learning today.

2. See the medics – are you health checks up to date? It is time for that smear test or mammogram?

3. Give – it is so easy not to give when bombarded with requests to do so. However, why not challenge yourself to respond positively the next time someone asks you to sponsor them for a good cause.

5. Eat – look at your nutrition and see if you need to make some changes. Put some colour on your plate and ring the changes.

6. Volunteer – what could you contribute to the world for free. Anyone who gets involved in volunteering tends to find the personal benefits to them are huge too. Do something good today.

7. Get out – have you got a stuck in a rut with the places you go? Challenge yourself to plan an adventure on your doorstep, in the UK or overseas.

8. Style it up – do you need a new haircut? What would you like to wear really? Why do you run away from that?

9. Seek advice and support – if you have an issue whatever it is, there is some organisation or individual who can help to make life brighter. Be brave enough to contact them.

10. Create a mood board of how you want life to look by the Summer. Use Pinterest or magazines for inspiration and have fun. You will be amazed what happens when you get those creative juices going and visualize a great future.

How will you Spring into action?

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Kate on thin Ice Striking Mums