I’ve been poorly recently; I had that horrible flu virus. While I was laid up in bed, and having had my fiftieth birthday in January, I had plenty of time to take stock of my life …
One of the things which has come out of being ill is to stop beating myself up, if I miss a gym session, if I randomly take a day off work, or if I choose to work on a Saturday instead of a Tuesday! Over the years I’ve often beaten myself up and felt guilty, feeling that it was a total waste of my time and emotions.
“But if I opt to have a duvet day, does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?”
A bit of background about me if you don’t know me well. I was fifty in January. I have three children, Sarah 22, Ryan 20 and Liam 16, who still live with me. My daughter has left a few times, been to university, and to Australia, but has been back for the last year.
I’m divorced and been a single parent for the last thirteen years. My children were quite little when their Dad and I divorced, I had no idea at that time how tough life would be as a single parent!
Do I regret it? Nope. Life’s not about regrets, it’s about choices, and that’s the choice I made at that time. Some of my friends are celebrating their silver wedding anniversaries now and I would have been married 24 years.
“I don’t regret my choices, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and my children wouldn’t be who they are either!”
I grew up in London as an only child. My mum had manic depression (or bi-polar as it’s referred to now) and she spent a lot of my childhood in and out of mental health hospitals. My dad was there, he was a quiet man with a job for life at BT and the GPO before that.
Life was hard as a child as I didn’t really understand mums illness, I couldn’t understand why she’d go away and I hated my trips to the hospital. Psychiatric units, as they were then, were scary places, especially for a child.
However, I was lucky I had two amazing grandmothers. They were my rocks. They both lived to ripe old ages 87 and 93, they were with me until 2000 and 2001.
Sadly my parents didn’t live as long, I lost dad in August 2012 at the age of 75 after a short illness and five weeks in the hospital. He never came home. My mum died of a broken heart six weeks later, and she was 77. She’d been living in a home by this point and had done for the previous 9 years, she couldn’t cope with everyday life. Dad used to go and visit her every day.
So back to my reflection. Being fifty, single, a single parent, running two business and managing fourteen franchisees can be tough, but I love it and I love my life. I have lots of amazing friends and fantastic children. Ok, sometimes they drive me mad, but I’m extremely proud of them.
We haven’t always had an easy life though. When I got divorced we moved into a much smaller house than we’d been used to. We moved from the suburbs of London to Milton Keynes and the children went to new schools as I set up a magazine business.
It was a small A5 type magazine which is delivered free through residential doors as the advertising was the revenue. This started as 2,000 copies in black and white print being delivered across Milton Keynes. It was pre-recession in 2006 and the next two to three years were amazing. We ended up producing 14,000 full colour copies and delivering them across the city. I had offices in Bletchley Park and great people working alongside me.
In 2009 the recession took its toll on the business, lots of my advertisers stopped their advertising and others went under. Times were tough for everyone. It was a very challenging time, and I learnt a lot, the hard way! I had to make people redundant and move the office home just to keep my head above water and it didn’t end there.
“It was a huge learning curve financially, mentally and physically!”
Around this time I met a man I’d known in my past who came from Plymouth. We met years before when he moved to London for work. In 2009 we bumped into each other on a beach in Cornwall while on holiday. I was divorced, he was separated, and a relationship started. A year later I had sold my struggling magazine business and moved to Cornwall.
Just before I left Milton Keynes a friend and an advertiser of mine came to me with an idea. The idea was Extra Help, my franchise business. We developed this together for four years. Things were still tough from the recession and building a franchise business is definitely not a get rich quick scheme, it cost a lot of time, money and effort!
Yes, we made mistakes along the way, and I bought my friend out of the business in 2015. We were at an all-time low, but I had some great franchisees working alongside me and I knew I had to grow the business to move forward.
“It’s not been easy and it still isn’t!”
I’ve had to make some really unpopular decisions at times, but I love Extra Help. We took on seven franchisees last year and another two so far this year. I also bought another business in 2015, the Approved Franchise Association. This is a support business for franchisors.
Franchising hasn’t always had the best reputation, and the idea behind the AFA is to give a tick in the box of approval to the good guys, the ethical franchisors out there, and for partner members who work within the franchise arena.
Oh yes, life has had its ups and downs. Losing my parents in 2012, and being an only child at that time is probably the most painful. I am the head of our family now. The relationship I moved to Plymouth for only lasted a couple of years, but I have chosen to stay. We’ve been here seven years in September.
As I said, I don’t do regrets, as we can’t change the past. I look at my life now and yes, it has been tough, especially the last thirteen years bringing up and supporting the children on my own, but it’s been totally worth it.
“I look back and give myself
a pat on the back!”
My daughter said to me recently that if we’d have stayed in London or Milton Keynes, their lives would have been very different. The South West has been good for us, and now the future is bright again.
Until next time …
PS: Why not visit www.extra-help.co.uk and find out more?