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The break-down of any relationship is always difficult, but when it involves children it is particularly tough. Sadly I came to realise just how difficult it is to cope as a single parent presented with juggling two young children and making ends meet when my marriage came to an end. It was silly things that bothered me like taking the girls out for the day and coming back to a dark and empty house. Silly as it sounds at times I almost missed the arguments for the pure fact that I was more accustomed to that than roaming around an empty house filled with memories. Although my marriage had been in trouble for a while, once my husband moved out I did feel overwhelmed and lonely. The thought of my children coming from a ‘broken home’ made me cry and haunted me. I felt this overwhelming sense of guilt and was plagued by the concept that I was damaging my babies by asking their father to leave the marital home.20150520_180441

I never really thought of myself as being an old fashioned sort of girl, but I realised that I do hold a lot of old fashioned values. All those years studying sociology were apparently lost on me as I now know that I really have been influenced by the media’s image of a perfect family and I was in search of finding and maintaining the ‘cereal box family’. My perspective has now changed and whilst I will readily admit that it has taken months and a lot of inward reflection, thankfully I now feel stronger and more capable than ever. I now realise that children should never be the glue that holds two parents together and so they should never be the reason for staying in an unhappy and toxic relationship. I stopped giving myself a hard time for the fact that my happily ever after didn’t work out and decided to concentrate on giving my children a fairy-tale childhood instead.

IMG_0022The worst thing I did for my own emotional well-being was trying to maintain a stiff upper lip and paint a smile on for the sake of the children; whilst attempting to be some sort of Mary Poppins crossed with wonder woman that could keep everything in order and do everything. I ended up achieving very little, feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and a failure. An unhappy Mummy makes for unhappy babies and whilst I was feeling guilty for wanting to escape a bad situation and for not being able to keep a spotless home, home educate my girls, hold down a career, meet deadlines and be a super mum I was sinking into despair which is not a positive environment for creative parenting, so I decided to ditch the negativity and pump up the positivity. I decided that if there are dishes in the sink and the house is a mess it is not the end of the world during these times and that with the best will in the world it is not possible to do everything so it’s all about prioritising. When there is no one there to give you a hug or pop the kettle on, it’s easy to forget that you have to be your own best friend and start to take time out for you.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I swiftly realised that when major lifestyle changes occur it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate life’s priorities. It’s also a brilliant time to start looking at all the things that you want to achieve and change and I made a big mood board, detailing all the things I want to do, change and achieve by this time last year. This exercise really made me focus on the future and recognise what was wrong with the past in a constructive way.

The best decision I ever made for the children and I was to be kind to myself. This is something I have struggled with throughout my life, as I get so caught up with life and commitments that I often forget to look after my own needs and this is not good for anyone’s emotional or physical well-being. When I first split up from my ex I really wanted to just pop round to an old friend, have a chat and a heart to heart, but I found that many of those who were once considered close friends gave me the cold shoulder. The words, ‘we don’t want to get involved’ and ‘we don’t want to take sides’ began to ring in my ears and yet whilst I was turned away for playdates and a cuppa, because of the ethos of not taking sides, my ex was   being taken in for heart to hearts and drinks in the pub. Because from an outside perspective I seemed to be getting on with my life as I needed to keep the writing going and put on a brave face for my cooking demonstrations (let’s face it no one wants to see me crying in my preserves) and my ex was moaning on about how he needed to start again and somehow rebuild his life   he won the sympathy vote and I was out in the cold. Well to use a cliché it certainly sorted out the wheat from the chaff and thankfully I had some truly wonderful friends who understood that I was going through a difficult time.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMy girls have now adapted to the fact that their father is no longer living under the same roof and whilst I hope that he will remain a good part of their life, I know that there will be many obstacles to face. Whilst he continues to play the blame game I have decided to focus on what was good in my old relationship and to focus upon the positives for the sake of the girls. My girls are now happy and their drawings now have smiley faces yet again. They are not hearing their Mummy and Daddy fighting all the time and their home environment is no longer one of stress and animosity. Now that Mummy is back in control of her feelings and has taken charge of prioritising tasks that all important home-work balance is starting to emerge.

It has been a while since my ex moved out and to be honest it has taken until now for me to start getting myself and the girls in a new routine. I am now in a new relationship and whilst my ex was asking for ‘permission’ to go on dates before I decided to get a boyfriend, me having a new relationship is apparently unacceptable and I am now some sort of ‘slut’. It’s nice to know that gender inequality is still alive and well. It still amazing how many people have told me that I’ve made myself look bad by being the first one to start a ‘proper’ relationship, I guess we really do still live in a man’s world if this is the case, although I think I may just have been surrounded by ex-supporters masquerading as friends.

Certainly being in a new relationship has presented its own set of issues and has brought with it, its own turmoil, but it has been good to have some support around and it has meant that there is somewhere there to remind me that I am doing a good job of raising my children. Of course there are many critics of my decision to ‘get involved’ with someone new, but I have a large sign up on my wall that reads, ‘before you judge me, make sure you’re perfect’. My girls have been my priority throughout all of this and they really like my new partner and of course he likes them, otherwise this would have been a non-starter.

I strongly believe that in the break-up of any relationship there iKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAs rarely a completely innocent party, because we are all just fallible human beings and in the course of any relationship we all do and say things that are hurtful. Sometimes relationships just stop working because as humans we constantly grow and change, but whatever happens between couples can only really be understood by that couple and when the ratio of unhappiness is higher than that of happiness it is in my opinion time to make changes and sometimes to call it a day.

Whilst my ex is no longer my partner he will always remain a parent and I hope that in time we will build a friendship based on the things we have in common i.e. our beautiful daughters. In the meantime I shall nourish and cherish my children and come to terms with the issues that surround a new relationship and children from a previous relationship as well as attempt to get that work-life balance. Well, life would be dull without challenges. So it’s on with my cooking demonstrations, writing and home educating and hopefully you’ll see me back on BBC later this year.

 

 

 

 

About Seren Charrington-Hollins

ABOUT SEREN-CHARRINGTON-HOLLINS Describing my work through just one job title is difficult; because my professional life sees me wear a few hats: Food Historian, period cook, broadcaster, writer and consultant. I have a great passion for social and food history and in addition to researching food history and trends I have also acted as a consultant on domestic life and changes throughout history for a number of International Companies. In addition to being regularly aired on radio stations; I have made a number of television appearances on everything from Sky News through to ITV’s Country House Sunday, Holiday of a Lifetime with Len Goodman , BBC4’s Castle’s Under Siege, BBC South Ration Book Britain; Pubs that Built Britain with Hairy Bikers and BBC 2’s Inside the Factory. Amongst other publications my work has been featured in Period Living Magazine, Telegraph, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Great British Food Magazine and I write regularly for a variety of print and online publications. I am very fortunate to be able to undertake work that is also my passion and never tire of researching; recreating historical recipes and researching changing domestic patterns. Feel free to visit my blog, www.serenitykitchen.com