This is my story.
It was really hard for me to write this, but I feel it’s pretty important for you to relate to me, a woman in cyberspace on the other side of the country or world.
I started out with what Brene Brown calls a SFD (shitty first draft) which enabled me to just get everything on paper without any thought about grammar or punctuation. Then I cut out a LOT of stuff…here’s what was left.
Chaos & Alcoholism
I’m the eldest of 5 children and have 4 younger brothers. My childhood was very chaotic.
We never had any stability and struggled financially due to my Dad’s alcoholism. I remember once having to pack all my things up when I was about 8 years old, as we were being evicted by the council for not paying our rent arrears. Thankfully a kind elderly couple in our village offered to pay it for us on the day we were due to leave but I remember feeling vulnerable, scared and angry with my Dad. He had been so desperate for money he had been breaking into our electricity meter (remember those?!) and taking the money out to buy alcohol.
The lack of money meant we never had a car, rarely left the village we lived in, had a bare larder and frequently ran out electric – “Mum! The leccy’s gone again!” we’d shout as the house was plunged into darkness. It was actually quite exciting to sit around in the dark with only candlelight to rely on. I loved playing mum to my younger brothers and remember making mud pies in the garden, going to the stream to catch tadpoles, cycling round the village and building dens.
As a pre-teen I was exposed to drugs; I remember running down to the local dental surgery past midnight with my mum to phone the police secretly (she was the cleaner there and had a set of keys). My dad had invited random people back to our home from the pub after it had closed for the evening and it turned out they were all using drugs. I was often in situations where I felt vulnerable and scared.
Eventually we got some family support, as someone reported my parents to the NSPCC who then referred us to social services, so although the drinking didn’t stop, we had a social worker who came to our home to help our family.
My dad died aged 50 from alcohol related illnesses in 2000. I grieved for the father I had seen glimpses of; the man who loved growing vegetables, the man who liked to make people laugh (like really make them laugh, he was quite the comedian), the hard worker providing for his family. I was frustrated and angry he couldn’t overcome his addiction for us. He didn’t get to meet my children and I’ll always feel sad about that. As an adult, I can finally understand how his addiction took over his life.
Although I thought I was a savvy teen, the feelings of helplessness and insecurity stayed with me for many years.
Homeless! We Lived In A Tent
My mum finally left my dad when I was about 14 for another man (my step-dad who is still her partner), but the family ended up splitting as my 2 eldest brothers wanted to stay with my dad. I was relieved to be away from the chaos but I was stepping into more upheaval as we didn’t have anywhere to live and I missed my 2 middle brothers terribly. The council wouldn’t rehouse us as it was deemed we made ourselves intentionally homeless, so we ended up living in a tent for a few weeks and then a caravan for a few months. I was fortunate to have an outreach teacher come to the caravan to tutor me a few times.
We finally got housed in various B&B’s, which although weren’t great (we had to be out of the house after breakfast and then couldn’t return until 4pm) it was a roof over our heads and then after a few months were housed in a flat.
Late Teens to Twenties
I completed my schooling, scraping through with a few GCSE’s to my name and went straight out to work when I was 16. My first full-time job was working as a Grill Chef in a cafe in Exeter.
Over the next few years I had various jobs, ranging from retail to factory work. I also lived and worked in London for a short time until I met my lovely husband at age 21 and ended up moving back to Devon, UK. We were together for 7 years before getting married in 2001 in Mombasa, Kenya.
Infertility & Becoming A Parent
After we’d been together for a few years, my partner and I decided we wanted to start a family. I’d always wanted to have children in my twenties and with us both being from larger families, we were keen to have a large brood of 3 or 4 children. Unfortunately life doesn’t work out as you expect it! After a few years trying we discovered we couldn’t have children naturally. People would tell us to go on holiday, or stop trying because then it would happen. It didn’t and it wouldn’t. There was ZERO chance of conceiving naturally.
If you’ve ever experienced infertility along with IVF/ICSI/IUI etc. you will know how much it takes over your life. We spent over 25k on various treatments and procedures at different hospitals hoping that it would work.
We missed out on loads of things because we were either saving money or I was a hormonal wreck and couldn’t bear to be around pregnant women or friends with babies. It was awful and I hated feeling that way but I was never going to give up.
Finally, after over 7 failed cycles, I got pregnant and in 2005 I had my first child, a baby boy. The labour was 37 hours long and he ended up in special care. Somehow, he had contracted pneumonia in the womb and was seriously ill with breathing difficulties. I remember asking the doctor if he’d make it and she said “I don’t know”. After fantastic care and treatment he was eventually well enough to come home. More treatment followed 18 months later; sadly one of the pregnancies ended in miscarriage but we tried again and my daughter was delivered by C-section, pink and healthy, in 2007.
Being a mum was and still is amazing, although not a fairy tale by any means. It’s hard work being a full time carer for little people and parenting is definitely one of the biggest life challenges I’ve faced. I’m constantly adjusting my parenting style as they grow and Google really is my BFF when I literally don’t know what to do.
Wanting to expand our little family, we tried for a third baby but it wasn’t to be. Due to my age at the time (38/39), my hormone levels were much too low and our 3 cycles failed. Of course I was very upset, but feel incredibly grateful to have son and daughter.
We’d been together for a couple of years when my husband was diagnosed with the life limiting condition called Cystic Fibrosis (CF). There are thousands of genes that make up the disease, and he has a milder form of CF than many sufferers (hence the late diagnosis). He has a strict daily medical routine which has a huge impact on our everyday lives and there are often times when he has to go into hospital for medical treatment, or he is so ill I need to care for him. Along with CF he has other health problems, including a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia in 2010, which eventually meant he had to give up work.
Debt & Anxiety
After my husband’s health problems in 2012/2013, things really took a turn for the worse. We were really struggling because of the reduction in income. My businesses at the time weren’t bringing in enough money to cover our outgoings.
We were POOR. Living on overdrafts, credit cards and benefits, we racked up a lot of debt.
I couldn’t see the woods for the trees and when I worked on my business all I could think about was how to bring in money FAST, rather than the bigger picture (remember what I said on my about page about being a Desperate Dora? This is why). I was working in my business with no direction and no clarity. I was stressed to the hilt, so much so, that I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I constantly felt tired, couldn’t sleep properly, had palpitations, anxiety attacks and was a MESS.
By late 2013 I was ready to throw in the towel. I was running a business I liked, but felt isolated and I just wasn’t making enough money and it was a couple of years before things started to go well again…Read more about my business journey
As you can see, I’ve had a fair few ups and downs; I’ve shared a lot of my downs with you to show that I haven’t had it easy, but I also want to say that I’ve had looooads of amazing ups too! I simply couldn’t cram everything in..all the lovely holidays with my family, all the time at the beach, all the fun stuff I’ve done and all the friendships I’ve made.
The past couple of years…
Here I was in 2015 with one of the most successful jobs websites for mums, a great social media presence and a regular income but something was missing. I knew I wanted to achieve something that mattered; something I really love.
Going with my gut instinct I knew I had to be brave and go back to creating an online community to support mums like me when I first started out, who were lonely and struggling in their business. I knew that I could share what I’ve learnt and bring women together to create something truly amazing.
My Street Cred
Here are some of the websites I’ve been featured on and awards I’ve won.