I get so many emails from mothers, and people in general, asking me how I do everything — because it sure looks like I’m juggling an awful lot!

It’s true, I am juggling a lot. And I won’t lie — being a single parent and working has been damn hard.

Even though James is a little older now, it’s still very tough but it’s still a hell of a lot more manageable than it used to be.

Also, anything worthwhile in life doesn’t come easy. I have learned to manage myself and my time better and I do what’s important to me. thankfully, I’ve finally found a balance and, most importantly, I’m chasing my dreams.

It’s important to dream no matter what anyone tells you. Five years ago, I was pregnant and absolutely terrified. I was about to become a single parent and I was back living with my mum — leaving the big bright lights of New York City behind.

I thought I had nothing when James was born. I was broke, worried and pretty terrified about the future. Having had an incredibly successful career as a model abroad I came back down to earth with a bang. Five years on, I’ve learned so much about life but, more importantly, I’ve discovered so much about myself.

I have learned how resilient we are as human beings and that we always have choices, no matter how dark and difficult situations may seem.

There were days I thought I would never get a break but my years in New York taught me to never give up, while that voice in my head that kept saying, ‘hard work pays off’ was right.

Waiting for any kind of a break was torture but I woke up every day, put a smile on my face and pushed myself harder than ever before.

Sometimes I want to run before I can walk but I have realise now that I have been moving at a pace that is giving me the ability to grow into the person I have become today.

I have learned to see the miracles in every day life. I have finally grown to like myself — hell, even love myself after 37 years. Giving myself permission to do this has made a remarkable difference in my recovery from depression and anxiety.

I have made changes to my life, very slowly, and they have become well-ingrained habits. I sleep more, eat well, exercise, meditate, write a gratitude diary and I’m kind to myself.

After choosing to take an arduous, yet worthwhile, path, I no longer fall into the old habits that are very destructive to both myself, my family, my health and my wellbeing. Instead I’m trying to really feel my feelings and it’s hard but, let me tell you, making that choice has been so worthwhile.


You see, we are all born with the complete set of our own jigsaw puzzle, but it’s how we put our jigsaw together that makes the difference.

Some people start with the border and fill it in by joining the pieces, bit by bit, towards the centre. Others start with the corners and fit each piece onto it until it’s complete. That’s the magic of life; we are all different and we will all deal with life, and all it throws at us, in our own way.

Sometimes pieces go missing, but we find them under chairs and couches eventually.

I was also unaware of the really important pieces I had within me but never used. For years I searched for happiness to fill the gaping hole I felt. I always thought that the next job, party, boyfriend or holiday would do the trick.

Now I know I have to look within as everything I need is already there. I filled that empty space, through the years, with parties and alcohol. I was in pain and they were my pain relief.

I now have a beautiful son who I thank every day for saving my life. I’m dreaming bigger and living a better life than ever before.

I never thought I would be able to tell my story, I never thought I could go back and study again, I never thought I would be good enough to rear James on my own and I never thought I could achieve happiness.

Every day I’m achieving these things and more — and you can, too. Sometimes we think it’s selfish to think of ourselves but I think it’s selfless and important to give ourselves the permission to like and even love ourselves.

Experiment and find your formula, eat well and exercise. Try mindfulness or meditation and take time for yourself. Life can be hard work but work hard on the positive things that will make you healthy and happy, and not on the negative lifestyle habits that make life harder. It’s up to you.

Which life will you choose?

Ali xxx

Myself and James


Q: Has James asked about his dad?  My child’s father doesn’t see her, I don’t know how I’ll explain this when she asks

It’s probably the most heartbreaking and difficult question that I’ve had to deal with. I remember when James was a tiny baby, looking into his blue eyes and thinking to myself, ‘I hope this situation works itself out as I really don’t know what to say to this little angel.’

Then I figured I had a couple of years, at least, before the question would come up and — surely — by that stage I’d have it all figured out.

James makes every day worthwhile and never fails to make me laugh. He gives the best hugs and has changed my life in positive ways that I never thought possible. I often feel sad that his dad has missed watching this amazing little person sit, crawl, walk and talk.

I’m lucky to have great friends and  family — and indeed a counsellor — who have all talked me through the bad days when I feel guilty and sad that his dad isn’t around.

One thing I’m very sure of is that I’m happier than I’ve ever been and I have a very happy little boy who smiles from morning until night.

However, children go to pre-school and then they go to school and it’s around this time that those tough questions start to be asked.

James is nearly four years old and the only child in his pre-school that doesn’t have a dad at home however, we have spoken about how much his dad loves him but that he lives far away for work. James did ask me why he didn’t want to meet him but I reassured him that of course he does and hopefully will one day soon.

I felt that was appropriate for now and my sister Laura also spoke to him at length about all the
amazing people in his life that love him and how lucky he is to have such a big family. He seemed delighted and for days kept talking about — and listing off — all the people that love him. He kept telling me the list was so long and that he kept forgetting people.

But recently, we went to Wexford for two days and had an incredible time building sandcastles at the beach. After we returned, his teacher Rosie — who is his idol — asked to speak to me because James had told his class that he had been away with his dad.

My heart sank. I know he only said it because everyone else in the class was saying that, but it doesn’t make it any easier. My advice is to be as age-appropriate and honest as you can. If you’re finding it hard to communicate, ask for help. But remember: love, stability and security are what a child needs and if you’re providing those, then you’re doing a great job.

One thing I would love to see is all parents talking to their kids about the different types of families that exist nowadays. I didn’t give single parents a second thought before I had James. I know that some parents don’t feel it’s their responsibility because they’re happily married, with perfectly adjusted children (yes, this was actually said to me) but times are changing. Whether you agree with how people live or not, teaching kids to be accepting and non-judgmental can only be a good thing for them and our communities.