A few years ago someone asked me what I do to feed my soul, and apparently meditation and yoga was not the right answer. Things that made my soul sing, now I am not religious and the question was not very clear to me. I was being asked what are the things I love which make me my happiest. I was completely stumped and realised I was not “feeding my soul’ It took a few years and a brain injury, which meant I could not look at a computer screen to make me start doing things that make my soul sing. I love sewing, cooking, and gardening.

These simple pleasures can bring such joy and as parents, I wonder how much time we take to do the things we love. I read a great article by Slummy Single Mummy where she was questioned on her purpose, she asked if Brunch could be your purpose, and then she says ‘apparently not’. This made me talk out loud to my screen, as I believe it does count, maybe not as a purpose-  but it feeds your soul. Anything you truly love feeds your soul and that can only be a good thing.  I reached out to the blog founder Jo and asked her more about the things she loves. 

Hi Jo. Welcome to No Mum Is An Island. I am a great believer that no mum or dad should have to do everything themselves, we can’t possibly know it all, and we need all the support we can get, there is a wealth of information out there to help us upgrade our parenting experience, to make our lives easier and this website is a hub for just that! We love you have upgraded your life by sharing your mothering journey on your Slummy Single Mummy blog and finding all things you love around mothering. 

Your love of good food is infectious, eating out, or made at home. I am inspired by how your love of food makes cooking look so simple. What is your favourite easy to make dish and can you share the recipe? 

What a lovely start, thank you! I really do love food and although I love cooking if I’m in the right mood, I don’t like it to be overcomplicated as I think this can be off-putting and spoil our enjoyment of food. I really hate it when you find a recipe that looks lovely, but it has a list of about 38 obscure ingredients – whenever I create recipes I try to make the ingredient list as simple as possible and offer substitutions or options too. 

My kids would probably say that my two best used recipes are ‘crap from the freezer’ and ‘fridge pasta’, and I’m pretty sure you can guess what goes into each of those! I do have a version of cottage pie that both my children enjoy and that I make if we visit my eldest (who’s now 24) as she can’t eat gluten or dairy. The base is essentially chicken and vegetables – fry a chopped onion, add whatever bits you have in the fridge – some chopped carrots maybe, celery, frozen peas or sweetcorn – and cook it off for a few minutes until the veg softens. 

Add some frozen, sliced chicken breast and cook for a few more minutes. (I love frozen cooked chicken as you can chuck it in to things like this straight from the freezer. It’s brilliant for stuff like chow mien too.) Then add a spoonful of cornflour and gradually add in maybe half a pint of stock? Simmer for a bit until you have a nice thick sauce. Meanwhile, cook and mash a load of potatoes. Use lots of butter and salt and a splash of milk in the mashing – dairy free options if that’s your thing. Put the chicken mixture into a dish, top with the mash, and stick it in the oven for about twenty minutes. This recipe is a great way to use up offs and ends of vegetables and would work well with leftover chicken and veg from a roast too.

Your children are older now, with your youngest being 17, has how has that changed your relationship eating out? 

It means I don’t have to worry about how much noise they are going to make or whether or not I’ve remembered to bring sticker books! I’d like to say it’s much simpler now they will eat anything, but they are both quite fussy. Bee, my eldest, doesn’t eat gluten or dairy, not by choice, but there are a lot of other things she doesn’t like the texture of too. 

Belle has some sensory processing difficulties and food can be a big issue for her, so she’s quite particular too about what she does and doesn’t eat. That said, there are a few places where I know they will both find something they like and we enjoy those a lot! They’d both eat at Yo Sushi every day if they could.

The other thing you do that you love, which shines from your blog, is writing. Can you tell us about your blog Slummy Single Mummy? 

I started Slummy Single Mummy quite a long time ago now, back in 2009. I’d been working a random assortment of jobs since Belle was born and that summer had finally got hacked off with working long hours for other people for not much money and had decided, after a couple of glasses of cheap wine and rather too much binge watching of old episodes of Sex And The City, that I was going to quit my job and become a freelance journalist. 

I imagined myself living this glamorous single life in my beautiful apartment, hanging out at pavement cafes, writing my sex column and going on incredible and weird dates. Of course the reality wasn’t really like that – I didn’t have any savings, or any journalistic experience or qualifications, and I was a single mum of two living in a very small town, so I had to learn QUICK! I set my blog up as a way to market myself really, as something to send to editors when I was pitching features ideas to show them that I could actually string a sentence together. I never expecting it to become a THING on its own.

There is a section on the blog called untold stories that lets other mothers write their stories anonymously, how does it feel when you get those into your inbox? Are you able to publish all of them? 

It’s a massive privilege when people choose to share their private stories with me and I love it when a new story drops into my inbox. I know that it’s often incredibly hard to tell someone about the difficult bits of your life and to think that strangers trust me with their lives like that is a huge honour. I do try to publish them all – not always immediately, and I do have a few waiting in the wings – but I think there is value in everyone’s experiences and even if it’s not something that resonates with me I know it may well do with my readers. If anyone has any stories they would like to share anonymously I would love to read them.

Beyond the blog you have also written a book called Playgroups and Prosecco, tell us about the book, how that came about, and how you felt about the writing process.

That was a bit of a surprise to be honest, and I always feel a bit guilty that I don’t have a long, sad story about how I spent years writing my novel only to have it rejected again and again… I was actually approached by an editor from Penguin, completely out of the blue, saying she loved my blog and had I ever considered writing fiction. I said no, but that I’d have a go, and that was that really. I had to write a sample for her to take to an acquisition meeting and the next thing I knew I had an offer! I only had about two months to write the first draft, and then another month to whip it into shape, but that suited me fine as I don’t really get to work until I’m right up against a deadline.

 I’d say I had mixed feelings about the process. I definitely enjoyed it when I really felt like I was flowing with the writing, but other bits of it, like trying to give the story structure over 90,000 words, were very much outside of my comfort zone – I’m much more used to writing in 800 word chunks for my blog! I also found the idea of writing fiction quite hard to get my head around – my blog is so much focused on being honest and authentic that writing fiction felt like lying. I was worried that people would know that I was making it up – so silly I know, because that’s what fiction IS, but it did feel odd.

One bit I’ve really loved about it is reading reviews and getting messages from readers. I’ve been very fortunate in having overwhelming positive feedback and I love to think that I’ve been able to make people laugh, and even cry, and that they’ve got pleasure from my writing. I especially love it when people tell me they’ve not read a book all the way through for years but that my book has got them excited again about reading. That’s an amazing feeling.

What would you suggest to parents who feel they can not make time for the things they love? Be it writing a book or going out for brunch! 

This is such a hard one! As much as I want to say something about making time for yourself, I know that sometimes that’s just not possible, especially if you’re parenting on your own or juggling lots of conflicting commitments. What I CAN say though is that it does get better. It might take a while, but as your children get older they will want to spend less and less time with you! 

They will also stay in bed a lot more, and you’ll barely be able to imagine a time when they were the ones trying to get YOU out of bed. So yes, do prioritise yourself where you can, even if it’s just half an hour in the bath with a favourite book, but also don’t worry if for now that feels impossible. Hang in there. Things will change. Nothing stays the same.

You can follow Jo at www.slummysinglemummy.com on Instagram, twitter, and facebook and get the book from HERE

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