Welcome to Episode 38 of the Curiously You podcast! Now you know I LOVE any story of breaking the rules, breaking the mould, questioning the norm, and doing things your own way. Those are exactly the stories and advice that our guest Sadie Rose Casey brings to us this week all about being a young mother, single mother, and step mother.
This episode looks head on at many issues around the unspoken rules and judgements we make about how motherhood ought to appear. We look at Sadie’s experiences of being a young mother; the discrimination and challenges she faced. Following divorce, she moved through being a single parent and all that entails, raising a child alone, dating, introducing partners, and more.
Then into Sadie’s most recent phase and, as we discover, a topic that is not broadly covered across the internet: being step-mother, and integrating two separate families into one functioning unit. Again, what are the challenges, how can this be done with ease, and how can you make time for yourself now your household has multiplied.
These questions and more are covered in this episode, which you’ll love if you are:
– Considering becoming, or already are, a young mum, and want to know what to look out for on the road ahead.
– A single mother, and want to know how to raise your child(ren) without overwhelm, but also enjoy all of your own pleasures and pursuits as well, including dating.
– About to become, or already are a step-mother. How can you move through this whole new phase of life with ease for yourself, your children, and your new family.
Time-Stamped Show Notes
[6:30] Sadie became a mother when she was 22 when she just graduated from college. At that time, it was such an unusual concept to grasp in her community. It really set her apart; others saw her as strange.
Sadie’s community at that time were centred on academia and ambition, especially after graduating. When Sadie became a mum, she rejected that model. She got married and had a baby straight after college, and got divorced when her son was 1. She spent most of her 20’s as a single mother.
It was an interesting journey because none of her friends had kids and, in spite of that, she was able to create a really great life. Her experiences were very different to other mothers because they were so much older than her, and she often found she couldn’t relate. This led her to feel even more set apart.
[9:04] Sadie knew that people in her personal circle would have a hard time with her being a mother. She found that her grandmother was the most supportive, however everyone else was questioning what she was doing.
So many women nowadays are becoming mum’s later in life, and there is this culture of being ambitious, single and free.
[11:16] Sadie became a mother when she was so young, and so she didn’t really get the opportunity to plan her life. She knew she wanted to be a young mum and have a child by the time she was 25.
At the time she was working as a waitress and worked with a group of hip bar tenders. When she told her work colleagues she was pregnant she became ostracized from her work community. She lost her value to them because college life was about parties and freedom, which being a mother restricted.
[13:09] Becoming a mum made Sadie grow up very fast. At aged 22 she was immensely tuned into her intuition, which has helped her live her life in a much better way.
She has always been ambitious and creative in general, which she could maintain with ease as a mum. She couldn’t go off and work 60-hour weeks, but equally, she didn’t want to. This helped her gracefully balance living a slow life, with creating accomplishments.
Being unmarried, she had to take care of herself and her baby and she had a blast. She lived with female roommates, began to work in lots of creative projects, which turned into her own business. It was free and fun. It was outside of the model of marriage, and she flourish because of it.
[15:30] Society conditions the equation “babies plus marriage” in our heads, even though the two don’t necessarily go together all the time. Nurturing her baby was so low impact – he took up such little space financially, physically and mentally, as he had a much smaller footprint. This gave her so much more freedom.
When she got divorced, her son was 1. That first year was hard; she had a baby, was super young, and knew she didn’t want to live on her own. Over time, she searched for room-mates and it was hard because no one wanted to live with a baby.
She finally found a woman who was 38, and was ready to have a baby’s energy in her life. She had an amazing flat, and Sadie moved in with her. This lady was a chef and taught Sadie about cooking, and would help with the baby when Sadie needed to run errands. They became a family, and a tribe. Their flatmate was really nurturing to her, and this was the first step Sadie took toward building a very unique and powerful support system for herself.
[20:28] When Sadie became a mother, she was young and naïve. The benefits of that were that she had neither expectations nor mental limits of what she could or couldn’t do. She was so flexible in her beliefs of what she thought was possible. She knew she needed to live with a woman and believed that the right thing would come along, and it did.
[22:20] Sadie shares some advice for young women contemplating motherhood at a young age. She believes that everyone will shape their own experiences and learn in their own way. As a young women looking to become a mother, you have to really believe you can do it on your own because when you’re younger, the risk is so much higher.
Listen to your intuition and be prepared to support yourself, even if you are in a relationship. No matter what circumstance you have in life, we truly can only rely on ourselves ultimately and when you become a mum, your child is also relying on you. In many circumstances no one is going to “save the day” for you.
[23:54] She always dated a lot when her son was 5-9 years old, and she moved to California to be with her boyfriend of four years. It was a great chapter for Sadie and her son to have a man around. It was great to have that male energy in the house, and for her to be involved in a lot of fun “boy stuff.” This helped Sadie feel supported in being a good parent. Her boyfriend at the time taught her son manners and would stick up for Sadie when her son was misbehaving.
[20:54] When Sadie turned 30, she realised that she was ultimately unhappy in this relationship. Her identity was wrapped up in being a single mum and, in her core, she still felt that way. She continued to operate in life from the point of view of the two of them – mum and son.
Now, being 35, she has some hindsight about how she could have done some things differently. You can keep dating separately, but only a certain point; you have to accept that at some point the relationships will merge.
No matter where we are, we kind of gravitate towards a family set up. And so, Sadie encourages single parents to be really thoughtful about not buying into that fantasy too much. Be really clear about what you want: say it to yourself, so you can say it to another person.
Even as a single mum, there is an invisible expectation that you will form a family with someone else at some point. Always practice getting clear on what you want. Then you will know if you truly want that new family, or want to remain single. Don’t rush into anything, you need to be sure you are ready to co-habit with your partner – that’s where it can get really hard and emotional. It will be a steep growth path for you.
[32:40] After the break up, Sadie moved into a great cottage behind the home of her son’s teacher, which was great because the teacher would drive him to school!
It was tucked away in the hills of a tiny little town. She spent 3 years there and worked in her own clothing store, which was really fun. It was a time of solitude as Sadie didn’t do many social things but instead focused on empowering endeavours such as workshops and events from her stores. It was a pathway to getting herself back after feeling depleted from her previous relationship.
[34:42] Sadie’s son was growing up. It reached a point where she felt he was too big for the space they lived in. She also became aware of the fact that she didn’t want to raise a teenage son on her own. She ended up meeting her current boyfriend through a mutual friend, and he also has children.
They spent two years dating and hanging out, and it all seemed pretty simple. Their kids are two years apart, and all boys. It wasn’t until they moved in together that she really felt challenged to harmonise two separate homes. There are deeply ingrained ways of living and traditions that each unit is used to. When you move in together, everyone has to blend into that.
[38:26] In this new chapter, Sadie has realised that all of her solitude – which was a huge part of her life – has completely disappeared. She has had to completely rethink the entire system at home, and how she could do it in a way that works for everyone. It’s still a work in progress.
She encourages her household to create “pockets”, so you can hang out in smaller groups. Over time, you have to build a relationship with each other. Tending to those smaller pockets helps make the overall unit stronger.
[43:13] Sadie talks about the “first family” – where everyone is blood related and you have a chance to bond with a child at infancy. The baseline comfort you have with your first family cannot be replaced, but you need to find that space with your new family. It’s harder, and it takes time, however having a really solid structure so that the kids can strive is important.
Sadie Rose Casey is a writer, maker, doer, and creative professional living in the foothills of Northern California. She works with a growing network of women to produce truth and beauty through creative conception and collaboration.
Connect with Sadie Rose Casey:
Books Sadie recommends:
Skirts At War: Beyond Divorced Mom/Stepmom Conflict by Jennifer Marine & Jenna Korf
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