I have to admit, that since becoming a mother my opinion of single mums has massively changed. Before motherhood, most of my knowledge of single mothers and the challenges that single mothers face had mainly come from the media, which to be honest, still largely gives them a pretty bad rep, leading many people to believe that they are a certain “stereotype”. I don’t really want to write about that stereotype here as that is not what this article is about – in fact, it is quite the opposite.
Being a mother is hard enough, and that’s already within the support of a nuclear or sometimes even extended family. It is exactly that sentiment which has led me to develop great respect for single mums – and single parents – who must go it largely alone. I think many of us really do wonder what it is really like to be a single mum, and so this piece is an “in conversation” with an old friend of mine from back in college days, who for obvious reasons (in her words “she gets enough flack as it is”) has chosen to remain anonymous..
1. Could you share a little background information about yourself and your little family?
I am a thirty five year old, single mother of one terribly cute tiny tyrant three year old boy! Our family consists of me, him and our cat. I work full time in recruitment, and run my own network marketing business around that.
2. At what point did you become a single parent? Please share a little about the situation if possible…
When I was in my twenties, there a was woman at work who had found herself single and pregnant in her thirties. I looked at her situation and thought that would be my worst nightmare. I always believed I would get married and then have children, well that was the plan! At 32 I found myself pregnant and single. Single because I had finished the relatively short relationship as it obviously wasn’t going anywhere. Then to my horror I discovered I was pregnant. I believe in pro choice but a termination what not something I wanted to go through. So I made the choice to do it all on my own. His father was a let down throughout the whole pregnancy and vanished altogether when he was around a year old.
3. What are the hardest things/moments about being a single parent?
There are so many challenges I face on a day to day basis, the things every family has to I guess. Making sure there is food on the table, bills are paid, but with the added pressure of one income. I constantly worry about becoming unemployed and not being able to provide for my son. As well as the day to day things, people judge you constantly. When I was pregnant a male friend said to me, “because you’re pregnant I’ll be paying for you out of my taxes now”. I simply replied I have a job and stepped away from the debate.
I also faced judgemental comments from people saying I was selfish for having a baby outside of wedlock or a relationship. I also worry about whether I am enough for him, as his father isn’t in his life. Granddad is a great role model and I have found myself doing boy things, like digging for worms and kicking a football around. He went through a stage of calling our Henry Hoover Dad, and then a slightly more embarrassing stage of calling every male he met in the supermarket ‘Daddy?’.
He is obviously aware other children have Daddies and he doesn’t. Fathers day is hard when Dads are invited to nursery, but Granddad will often step in on these occasions so he doesn’t feel left out. I find not having a break pretty stressful, some of my friends are single parents but the father is involved and so they get the odd bit of respite some weekends. So “me time” is off the menu for me. The last night out I had was January 2014 and I would murder for a decent lie in!
4. What do you think are the main issues single mothers face today?
Childcare is a major issue. There is a reason why the stereotype of a single mother sitting at home on benefits exists. Childcare is a major drain on a single income, I get a little bit of help with tax credits but nothing substantial. I earn over the average annual income but that limits the help I get.
However, on my single income I still have to fork out £600 of the £750 a month nursery fees and finance all the bills etc that two income families have to do as well. Doing the sums I would be better off financially not working and staying at home.
In the short term that sounds attractive, but in the long term getting back into work when he goes to school in a job at the same level I have now, would be virtually impossible after five or so years off. I want to show my son the correct example that benefits are not a right or a lifestyle but are there for emergencies only.
5. All mothers say it’s so hard to do everything as a mother – that must be even more so for a single mother. How do you keep it all together on a day to day basis?
I don’t! haha! I think that’s an individual thing. For me I have always been a single parent, so I just coped and got through it. Talking to friends a lot of women feel alone after having a baby, complaining that their other halves don’t help them, don’t do the night feeds etc. So in some ways I was grateful I didn’t have the stress of someone else not pulling their weight. I need warning if someone is coming to visit, don’t just pop in at the weekend, as I will still be in my pjs, no makeup and hair like Jedward.
6. If you could wave a magic wand, what would you wish for?
The mortgage paid off! (and maybe a cleaner).
7. What one piece of advice would you give newly single parents/mothers?
Do your research properly, find out what benefits and help you are entitled to as nobody will come to you and tell you.
8. What are the positives/what have you learnt on this journey so far?
How generous some people are. I was going through a real low patch last year. I was so upset with Christmas coming up as we didn’t have a spare penny at the time. So many people, some friends I hadn’t seen since school or people I had only met through my online social media helped us out so much with clothes, presents and even cash to keep the heating on. I found it hard, as felt too proud to except it at first. It was a really touching time.
Although it does feel like our perception of single mothers is slowly changing, if someone needs to remain anonymous because they “get enough flack as it is”, then clearly more needs to happen on that front. I hope this piece has helped non single parents as well as non parents understand a little bit more about what it’s like to be a single parent, and in particular on this occasion, a single mum.
If you would like to support this single mum in her efforts in trying to do the right thing, she is currently trying to raise funds to pay for a solicitor to represent her in an ongoing case, of which details can not currently be revealed for legal reasons. You can find out more and support here.