If your Stef Simpson there is only two ways to categorise things in your life, things you can’t be doing with and the things you can. Catching up over a picnic on a warm summers evening stretched out on Clapham Common, I discovered how her no nonsense attitude has brought her through some testing times. “You know I haven’t done this in years”, relaxing over a beer in the park simply doesn’t fit into the schedule for this mother of two. Working in London for the day, I catch up with her at a rare chaos free moment. I challenge anyone to have a conversion with Stef for more than five minutes without her mentioning her boys, her life is very different from the single twenty something. The boys are paramount, end of discussion.
To understand her determine nature you need to go back to the start with Stef, having been a wilful child she was always going to do something different from her peers. This thing was having a child, a self-labelled cocky teenager, she found herself with baby Charley whilst her friends were sitting their A-Levels. “Sometimes people say to me you’re not old enough to have a 10 year old son and I say I’m not I was only 17 when I had him!”. Finding herself in council accommodation for young single mums was a bit of a shock “I was a snob, I’m not going to lie. It was yucky”, but the support network of other young women there helped her through a turning point in her life which could have been the end of the ambitious young woman she was. Still having a close friend from that time she looks back with pride at powering through and making a life for her and her son from next to nothing. “I got off my butt and worked, I worked every day to make sure he has a good life.” Charley’s dad was around but the relationship didn’t last, even though the couple remain close in all things relating to their son. “The most frustrating thing is when people assume that me and Charley’s Dad don’t get along just because we’re not together”.
In more recent years Stef has found love with Tom, a friend that she had known since she was 12. After being set up by a friend the pair realised how much they have in common, even though from the outside they seem very different. “He is definitely my opposite, he’s quite shy. I talk enough for the both of us”. They’ve been together now for 5 and a half years and being married for over 2 of them. “Our marriage hasn’t really changed anything, it just makes it harder for him to leave me!”, she jokes. They have another son Rhys, who is four years old, completing their little family. They are currently renting a Victorian cottage in the sort after area of Camberley, Surrey . “We don’t have the ambition to own, it’s just not plausible with the amount of money you need for a deposit”. Stef says money is the only thing they argue about but when they look at their lives and see all the things they have with the house, cars and quality of life with the two boys it isn’t something they dwell on for long.
In the last year Charley has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. His behavioural problems at school were getting increasingly worse, he was suspended twice in two weeks, and teachers sent Charley home because they couldn’t control him. He took his frustration out by hitting himself, his unusual behaviour meant that other children bullied him. Isolated because he couldn’t understand people and they couldn’t understand him. The diagnosis came after Stef moved him to a new school in a bid to understand why he was acting out so much, as he was otherwise a good kid. “Within three weeks they rang me to say they wanted to put forward some tests for Charley.” Now they know they can understand why he does what he does and learn the best ways of helping him. But with a disorder like this comes talents “Charley has a photographic memory; he will read a book once and tell you everything about it and he is extremely talented at Art. He is phenomenal”. And there is the other character traits of this type of autism, “The rules!”, she laughs “it’s like the Charley police in my house”. Stef is not the sort of women to mince her words and if anything talking about the troubles Charley has had only emphasis her matter of a fact nature. She is mamma bear and will fiercely protect her cubs if anyone tries to harm them. “We deliberately thought they need to go to separate schools, Charley is such a dominant force it leaves Rhys very shy”. The boys are clearly the most important thing in hers and Tom’s lives.
If the story so far has got you thinking that Stef might be a stay at home mum, then think again. After Rhys was born she struggled to find a job so went to college to do a National Diploma in Business administration. “It shows that I didn’t just sit on my backside, it shows that I actually did something about it.” Forging a career is very important to Stef, she wants to demonstrate to her children the importance of hard work. Having taken a local job previously to fit in with family life that simply didn’t work for her, “I hated it, it’s more stressful than being in a highly pressured job, having a job you don’t like”. Having the support network of partner Tom and close relationships with her mother and sister, means she can work with as little disruption to the family as possible.
Stef now works as for a top real estate company as Assistant Facilities Manager embedded on a telecommunications contract, which has 15 locations and 1,800 members of staff. This is a big job considering they have offices in Basingstoke, Glasgow, Dublin to name a few. She travels to London at least once a week and visits the other 14 sites once month, keeping her very busy and means some nights are spent away from the family. “I know there is people out there that disagree with me and think I shouldn’t be working but its important, I need to show my children the value of working”. This job is far away from Stef’s childhood ambitions of being a lawyer or RAF pilot, she says that her childhood self would probably think her job boring but for adult her “My life is too busy to be boring”. She is certainly a driven individual preferring to work on a consultancy basis where the cost management is constantly being reviewed, her motto is “there is always room for improvement”.
Stef has always been someone who you couldn’t miss walking into the room, she has an energy about her that is rare. She is the sort of person that you know, whatever life throws at her, will always land on her feet, with or without your help. Entering adulthood with a baby in toe has meant that she had some catching up to do in the career stakes whilst being absolutely determined that she was going to be a good mum, who brings up polite children. I think what’s great about Stef is that neither of these things define her, she will never be dragged down by a situation and shrugs off her accomplishments as easily as she sets her mind to them. At 27 she is wise beyond her years, even if she doesn’t feel like it “I don’t even feel like that an adult, my ten year old is nearly as tall as me. That freaks me out a bit”.