Every parent knows that special look that their son or daughter can unleash on them, at a moment's notice, if they desperately want something. I've given in more times than I care to admit publicly. From a new toy to a sugary treat, it's so easy to just say yes - and so very hard to say no.
But no parent should have to see that look of desperation in their child's eyes when it comes to mealtime. Unfortunately, over 4.6 million of us are experiencing the pain of prolonged poverty.
I'm a proud, responsible mother that takes care of my daughters. And we've survived our fair share of rough patches - times when it seemed impossible to put food on the table.
I've learned that the tough times can be real blessings that bring families even closer together. And with the tips that I'll share in this article, no matter how dark it looks, you can pull through!
Let go of things that you can't control.
When my husband left me, I felt like I couldn't breathe. My finances were non-existent. I barely had enough money to cover next month's rent. And we needed to eat, put petrol in the car and keep the utilities connected.
For days, I was frozen in fear. I couldn't figure out how to get out of my mental cycle of worry and dread. Then my friend reminded me. If you focus on the things you can't control, you'll lose control of everything else.
I literally sat down at my kitchen table and wrote a list with a line down the middle. On the left side of the paper were the things I could control. On the right were things I couldn't control.
Everything on the left side gained my undivided focus. From that moment on, I improved my situation - one brutal step at a time.
Stop spending money, unless it's an item in your written budget.
This step was really hard. I had a habit of carelessly shopping, purchasing items on impulse throughout the day. After I lost my husband's income, it was time to change. That's when I started writing out a monthly budget - every month was different. And if changes needed to happen, I would sit down with my pencil and calculator to reassess my priorities.
I wasn't always successful. I remember a couple of years ago a new set of license plates were issued. The news talked about the frenzy to purchase plates with the number 16. More than a £1,000,000 was spent in the first 20 minutes after their issue. I am ashamed to admit that I was one of the frenzied buyers of the new custom plates.
I made the mistake of thinking that I was entitled to a little treat, because I was working so hard. But the £250 that left my account really came back to bite me at the end of the month. I let myself get caught-up in the frenzy.
It's virtually impossible to die from hard work.
This may come as a shock to you, but hard work isn't fatal. I picked up every odd job that I could. For childcare, I banded together with a few other mothers. We would take turns watching the kids while we were working. Shifts were always changing, which made our childcare commune a real godsend.
With my kids in good hands, I lost track of how many hours I worked in the week. All I knew was I would be damned if my children had to go to bed hungry, or worry about the roof over their heads.
At first I took on jobs just to survive. Then, as I started to build up my emergency fund, I started to become more and more strategic. The relationships I was making in the job market helped me to land better paying jobs.
Eventually, I was able to relax and only work 60 hours per week. I had scratched and clawed to get my income up. And that hard work paid off in the end. That extra income became the bridge for my family; leading us to financial freedom.
Even after we were back on our feet and living in a beautiful flat, I never stopped working. I learned the value of time. I worked hard so that I could afford to spend time with my daughters. They witnessed my sacrifices and we are closer today than ever before.
If you're experiencing the darkness of despair, hope might be as simple as a list of things you can control. Get moving and never give up. You'll look back on your challenges as unplanned opportunities to grow and prove to your family that you can overcome the tough times.
You can't put a price on pride and self-esteem. Both my daughters and I have a strong foundation for the future - built one hour of hard work at a time.