'Banana sundaes for dinner' and other ways to slay as a single parent

Photo: Kate Berry and her two girls, Maya and Pepper
Photo: Kate Berry and her two girls, Maya and Pepper  

Kate Berry gets things done. She is an ideas woman and definite creative mastermind. 

Known for her beautiful photography, design, and love of cooking that inspired her Lunch Lady blog and magazine; Kate has just released a book, Family, Food and Feelings that encompasses all of her greatest loves.

She also happens to be a single mum to daughters, Maya aged 15 and Pepper aged 10.

'Family, Food & Feelings' by Kate Berry, Published by Plum
'Family, Food & Feelings' by Kate Berry, Published by Plum 

While she acknowledges it hasn't always been easy, Kate inspires many women with the creative ways she has embraced the challenges of single-parenting while remaining true to herself and her work.

"I remember struggling with becoming a new mum and feeling like I had lost my identity," Kate says. "I write at the front of my book as an ode to my mum that I finally get it: parenting is hard and my whole perspective on my childhood has changed since having my girls.

"As a child or teenager, you don't appreciate that your parents are trying to parent you while also navigating their own personal lives. 

"Having kids has made me look at other mums I see around and think, 'you are all amazing!'"

As Kate's two girls grow up, the biggest lesson she has learnt so far relates to connection.

"I began my parenting journey worrying about doing everything 'from scratch'. 

Advertisement

"I quickly realised however that my girls would much rather spend time with me, than if I spent hours stuck in the kitchen cooking them a well-balanced dinner. 

"Now it has become more about the three of us sitting down together and chatting about our day. 

"It doesn't matter if we are just eating a pizza, banana sundaes or my fried rice (recipe below), it is about maintaining a connection after spending the day apart." 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I like being a grown up and being able to eat ice cream whenever I want

A post shared by Kate Berry (@hellokateberry) on

It is not just the connection to each other that has proved important, but connection with their wider community.

"Having people around to help with the practical and emotional strain of raising kids is so important," she says. "I have had some wonderfully kind neighbours over the years who have taught me the value of friendship and support just by popping in occasionally or offering a friendly word of encouragement."

Currently living in Melbourne after a few years in the regional town of Daylesford, Kate and her girls are excited about putting down new roots.

"It has taken some time for us all to settle into city life, but as I watched them from afar chatting to friends from their new schools, I thought actually, I am doing okay."  

Kate's six savviest tips to slay as a single parent 

1. Break up the week with fun

The structure of a school and working week can feel a bit dull, so occasionally we like to take a break from the old routine. 

It doesn't have to be a huge thing either, just recently I decided to make fried banana sundaes with ice cream one Wednesday night. 
We didn't bother with dinner and just chatted and ate snacks in the kitchen together – yum!

2. Remember what is important to them

I am genuinely awful at craft and I hate the mess, so it doesn't happen often in our house. Sometimes I can get stuck saying 'no' because it is my default position, so it is really good to take them by surprise and occasionally say 'yes' – and for me that means occasional craft projects.

I have great memories of cobbling together book week costumes with them in the kitchen one night. I knew it was important that I took time away from my work to do it, and they were so proud and happy with the results.

3. Set a good example as co-parents

I am divorced from their father but he gets on really well with the girls and our relationship now is very cordial. 

I believe it's so important to set a good example, even with challenging relationships. I have to remember that everything they see me do in front of them is likely how they will react in the future.

Kate Berry

4. Let them see YOU

As a teenager my mum used to enjoy taking me to concerts, she was a big AC/DC fan. It opened my eyes to the wider world and allowed me to learn about my mum, not just as the woman who made my school lunch, but who loved to headbang along to Bon Scott! 

I have tried to do this with my girls by bringing them to non-kid focused things so they can see a bit of who I am and what I enjoy. 

I have a wonderful memory from the Golden Plains music festival when Maya was just 13 years old. We sat on a hill eating waffles, watching Public Enemy at midnight before snuggling in the back of our station wagon. 

I thought to myself that while she might not get it right now, I hope one day she looks back and realises how cool that was.

5. Make dinner time count

It doesn't matter what we eat, but it is important that we try and have a nightly sit down at the dinner table as a family. 

We lay the table and light a candle to make it seem special and we have a chat. My youngest Pepper likes to ask Maya and I what we could have done better that day and what our goal is for the next day! It's not serious but it does make us reflect on something specific.

6. Build connections with neighbours

When you are a single parent, building connections with real people is important and special. 

I remember the first time I moved to Melbourne and my heavily pregnant neighbour popped her head in the window to say hello. This was the start of a great friendship and her sunny face and disposition was also great for helping me keep perspective.

When I was worried about some minor aspect of being a mum, she would say, 'are they alive? Then you are doing a great job!'
 

Order Family, Food and Feelings by Kate Berry here

For more on Kate Berry follow her on Instagram - @hellokateberry

​KATE BERRY'S FRIED RICE RECIPE

Fried rice recipe. From Family, Food & Friends. Kate Berry

This recipe can be whatever you want it to be. Use the quantities as a guide and make your own version of fried rice from whatever's lying around in your fridge. It's such a great (and yummy) way to get rid of the little bits and pieces you've been saving but really have no use for.

Ingredients

80 ml (1⁄3 cup) vegetable oil 1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed 200 g bacon, rind removed, chopped
about 3 cups diced vegetables (I used carrot, kale, squash and zucchini)
740 g (4 cups) cooked white rice (it has to be a day old;
I usually cook extra rice when I make something the night before so I can make this the next day)
2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine (shaoxing)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or tamari)
1 teaspoon sesame oil 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
4 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
4 spring onions, green and white parts, finely sliced

Method
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok over high heat. Add the onion, garlic and bacon and cook for 1–2 minutes or until the bacon is light golden.
2. Add the veggies and cook for 2–3 minutes or until they start to soften slightly. 
3. Add the rice, cooking wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper and cook, tossing, for 1–2 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated.
4. Scrape the rice mixture to one side of the pan, then pour the remaining vegetable oil into the cleared space. 
5. Tip in the beaten egg and scramble it. Scatter over the spring onion, then quickly stir the egg through the rice and serve.

From Family, Food & Feelings by Kate Berry, Published by Plum, Price $39.99, Photography by Kate Berry and Peta Mazey.