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One Pair of Hands

🎶 'And it's back to work A.G.A.I.N…'

I started back at work from maternity leave this month. I now have many colleagues who I haven’t met before in person, and am unlikely to anytime soon. We share lunches across different cities and have work drinks (which I’m only slightly more likely to make virtually than in person with two tiny people who don’t seem to understand the delights of sleep).

January this year, when I was filling out forms about flexible working and asking to be based at home, feels like a different era. Within two months, that became standard for all my colleagues. Our office definitely won’t be open until autumn at the earliest, and probably much later. Some of my colleagues miss the shared experiences, others like me appreciate how much easier life is not to lose hours to commuting.  

There are so many hard things about lockdown and it feels as if the difficulties are tailored to be uniquely painful to each person's situation, whether that be a single parent, someone living alone or a key worker. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it is to grieve for loved ones without being able to hug. I hope that one tiny silver lining we can take is a positive change to our work lives. We can't repeat the past, not exactly. And this extended time outside of the office has shown that it doesn’t impact on quality of work. So I’m hopeful that, just as after the war women chose to continue working, those of us who have desk jobs and find it more practical logging on from home, won’t be expected to stop. This would open up so many more roles to single parents who have childcare to juggle.

I’ve had the help of a child minder over the past few weeks – there’s no way I could have worked safely otherwise with my son Xavi putting crayons, pebbles, everything chokeable straight in his mouth. And although my children will go back to nursery in the months ahead (I’m not quite sure when, and the decision feels like a huge responsibility) it has been wonderful having someone come to the house and help me. Both my children are delighted to have another adult around, and Astrid gives her a toy to take home and play with every night. I get to play with them during lunch and breaks, and I feel incredibly lucky: it took two weeks of having some help to realise quite how overtired I was from solo mum lockdown. I wrote about my experience and that of single parents who are NHS workers, for HuffPost. 

It's been hard for many single parents and pregnant women to seek help in lockdown and I'm glad to hear of many services moving online so people can seek the support and help they need. One of those is an online concierge service to support expecting and new parents from childcare experts myTamarin. The new service offers access to midwives, maternity nurses and will answer questions about sleep, colic, breastfeeding for a baby's first year. Wellbeing experts and authors Nadia and Katia Narain Philips provide content and advice to optimise health pre and post pregnancy using yoga, meditation and healthy recipes. 

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My son took his first step a week ago. I think he was as surprised as I was, and I suspect it might be a while before he repeats the trick. I was so delighted, not just because he wasn’t moving at all two months ago, but also because I was filming him standing to send to his cousins, so the moment was caught on camera.  

One of the things I notice about being a solo mum is that I don’t have a spare pair of hands to capture moments as frequently as other parents. This is especially true of family photos: there are none of the three of us from the past two months. Perhaps I should be taking selfies, but I'd presumed that trying to get the three of us in frame would be tricky (and quite honestly hasn’t crossed my mind over the past couple of months). When we’re allowed to see friends and family again from a distance, I’ll definitely be asking them to take pictures of us. All this leads me nicely into suggesting that if you too have no family snaps from this time then check out the tip below for how to take amazing photos with your children if you're a single parent.

Tip of the Month

THE PHOTO CONUNDRUM
Tip from photographer and solo mum Luci Schofield 


I love Luci's family portraits (she's now working from a distance if you'd like some new family photos) - they illustrate my piece for HuffPost that I've shared above. She's also teaching a beginners Zoom photography course so if you'd like to improve your picture-taking skills then I'd definitely recommend (she's currently running a competition for a free place on the course). I spoke to her about getting good photos because I, like so many single parents I know, am very conscious how few photos we have as a whole family together and she kindly wrote this little guide to taking indoor photos for One Pair Of Hands readers. 

Taking Family Photographs in your bedroom at home
One of my biggest frustrations as a solo mum/photographer has always been being unable to capture the moments when we’re most playful. So putting the timer on my phone has been brilliant. By blue-tacking it on its longest landscape side, being mindful of avoiding any buttons, to a hard-backed book (meaning I can move it around to the angle which looks best) and popping it on my bedroom windowsill, we have great flattering window light, and with a little practice it only takes a minute to set up - great for when we’re having fun! 


 
Good light The best light is when you’re close to the window, and the sun’s ideally on the opposite side of your home (so think about the time of day when you’ll be photographing).
 
Setting up your shot Clear background clutter, and try to point your phone/camera at about a 45-degree angle from the foot of the bed to the far corner.
 
Clean your camera’s lens Give it a little rub with a lens cloth or soft cotton t-shirt. You’ll be surprised what a difference this can make.
 
Black & white or colour? Black & white is especially lovely in this scenario. Colour can depend on the quality of your phone/camera.
 
Focussing on your subjects Most phones now automatically focus on people’s faces. But you can also press on the screen to change the focus.  

Using the timer On my iPhone, this is indicated by a little circle with a line coming out of it on the screen when the camera’s open. Select the number of seconds you wish to count down from, then press the 'take photo’ button. The count down will then appear. My 3-year old son loved counting down with me and being silly ready for our shot.  
 
Flattering poses. By being seated on the bed, it keeps you around the same head height. Try to set yourself at an angle to the camera rather than completely face on, and keep good posture. Cuddling your child/children on your lap or lying on your bed with them on your shoulders can both be very flattering, and make for very relaxed and happy photos too.
 
Above all, be playful. Capture the things you love doing together. Tea parties, reading, playing with their favourite teddy. A good tickle always makes for a great shot too.
 
And remember, your photos don’t have to be technically perfect, they just need to help you remember the things you love about your family now.


Family photos of Luci and her son Samuel 

Do you have a parenting tip you’d like to share? Get in touch

A Good Read

Scout's Bedtime by Sheiu Adiyatiparambil-John and Judy Skidmore, Parakeet Books 

I love this story about Scout getting ready for bed. The standard bedtime routine, which we've all done so many times, is transformed by Scout's imagination to include surfing, a fancy tea party and a sprint around a race track. My daughter Astrid is three and her imagination is growing by the day: Scout reminded me of her and the simplicity of the book is great because it leads to good conversations about imagination. I love listening in to my daughter's conversations with her toys (she tucks her bath toys under a flannel when she's finished playing with them so they can sleep) but until we'd read this book together she hadn't realised there was a word for creating worlds. Scout's dad is pretty cool too. The book is part of a current campaign by Save the Children to support vulnerable families. 

Order your copy here

Is there a book you’d like to see featured? I’ll be sharing new releases and old classics, and books for adults as well as children. Get in touch.

Single Parent Giveaway

I've been chatting to my friends over at Bolt Beauty, who make incredible skincare products. They want to offer a reader their complete range as a surviving lockdown gift. They have four products, all in seaweed capsules which can be thrown on compost or dissolve in water after using. For anyone who struggles with a beauty routine around parenting, these feel like a treat for your face. The giveaway includes Mad About Moisture with hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin, Filthy Clean everyday cleanser, Vitamin A Game Retinol for brighter, smoother skin and Glow Don't Shine with pumpkin seed to reduce the appearance of pores (worth £170 in total).

To enter, please share this newsletter on your social media (and tag me so I know) to help spread the word about my newsletter to the two million single parents across the UK and follow Bolt Beauty on Facebook or Instagram. Closing date is Friday 5th June, you can enter more than once by sharing on your different social channels and I'll pick the winner at random, UK only.  
 

 

Do you want to share an offer or giveaway for single parents? Drop me a line.

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Thanks for reading. I’m Genevieve Roberts, a journalist and author of Going Solo: My choice to become a single mother using a donor. I’m a single mum of two amazing children and we live on the Sussex coast. 

Illustrations by my amazing cousin Emily, who works as a freelance illustrator and artist. You can learn more about her work at www.emilycatherineillustration@gmail.com 

If you’d like to get in touch with tips, books, giveaways or general thoughts on this newsletter (it’s new, so I’d love to hear any suggestions) then please do drop me a line.

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