Earlier this year it was declared that Britain had the 4th highest number of single parents in the EU. Also, it was estimated that around 1.9 million single-parent families live in the UK at any one point. It is hard to believe that the number is so small. With a population of 63 million you would think it would be higher. It would be interesting to know is how the data is collated. Is it based solely on state benefit claims or do working single parents get their heads counted too? Who knows? But in my youngest son’s class, he is certainly one of a minority to have parents that live together.
I was a single parent between the ages of twenty two and thirty two. I didn’t ask to be. I just made two or more bad choices regarding men when I was younger. Actually it was much more than two, I was just sensible enough not to have children with every man I came across. But the two children that I did have had absent fathers, so therefore I had sole charge. I became a governess and provider for my two little followers and I always wanted to do the very best I could. Unfortunately, doing the best for them came at a price for me. However, not one to complain, I will let you in on the secret of how it went.
I had already decided that I was going to work for these kids. It wasn’t an option for me to give up and sit back while others paid for my sins. Although I had no idea what working actually meant for a sole parent, in the fantasy, I was a strong independent women (cue Beyoncé song,) but in reality I was a withered, tired, hot mess. After my second son was born and the subsequent split with his father, I was working so hard that I barely knew what day it was. Also, it was pointless. The amount I paid in childcare ate up my wages every week. I would have been better off on state benefits. But I am a fighter and started to wise up to scams that I could use to get things cheaper or free.
Now you’re probably wondering about money maintenance or nice fatherly support. In the land of single parenthood getting money from the absent parent is like finding the Holy Grail. You can ask, beg, or just demand but more often than not it will fall on deaf ears. It’s very true to say that when these men walk away, they go as far as they can. You can bark like a dog and they still don’t hear you. At the time, due to my ‘independent woman’ mantra and the overuse of my Barclaycard, I didn’t want their money. They could keep it and they could keep their opinions on MY kids also. However, if I am honest, in secret, it would have been nice to get a little money from them. You know just something to help feed their kids, but alas it was not to be and it made me feel I was trying to milk a pig (there is an analogy in there).
So I got creative. A creative single Mummy. I had a full-time job in a bank and also a part-time job in a nightclub. Excellent for a steady wage and even better for weekend barmaid tips. I didn’t buy things like toilet roll or soap, I just took them from the bank offices I worked in. They were hardly going to miss a couple of loo rolls and the odd tablet of soap. When we ran out of food, which we often did, even with two jobs. I would phone up a pizza place and get one delivered. I would pay by cheque and then cancel it the next day (I know its criminal, but what can I say?) On the last day before pay day, when I had completely ran out of petrol, I would pump the car up and then go to the till, pop my card over and when it was declined, leave my address and driving license and go back the next day when I had been paid. It’s simple to do when you’re hard-faced, but even easier when you’re hard up. The kids always came first.
After a while I came to the realisation that my shenanigans of making ends meet could not continue. If not for the relief of society, then the relief of my mental health. Robbing one credit card to pay another only goes so far and inevitably the debt mounts up and you find yourself beyond a quandary. So I did what any other self-respecting creative single mum would; I sold my mortgaged house and moved into a rented one. The key to this move is the following: if you default on debts and are renting without owning your own property, guess what? They can’t re-possess your home. So I moved and then set up minimum payment plans with all the debt companies. Genius right? Not quite. My credit rating suffered more than the kids ever had, more than I ever had, EVER. I couldn’t even get a burger and chips on credit these days. But onwards and upwards and all that.
From there I played around with jobs, mixing and matching where I could. I have cleaned offices, worked in shops and I have been several versions of a barmaid. I have delivered leaflets, run a chat line, worked in call centres and I have managed call-centre teams. You name it, I have done it and it’s all in the name of single parenthood. I have also stayed in night after night and worried endlessly about how the boys are feeling. I have gone along to parents evening and left with a feeling of doom (son number one) and a feeling of elation (son number two.)
I have driven to the end of the earth picking them up and dropping them off. I have pleaded with my parents to help with childcare and been told NO every time. I have had to dump perfectly nice men because they weren’t step-father material (in my eyes where perfection is of the most importance). I have shared my bed with these rug-rats for ten years. I have spent days just washing and cleaning. And so far, since I was 19 years old, I have never had a day when my thoughts and dreams weren’t solely based on my ‘growing up fast’ little boys.
But then, by chance or magic, they impossible happened. I met a man worthy of my boys and my scamming, creative mind. We got, dare I say it, married. This man married me and the munchkins even after we stole change from his pockets on a regular basis. Suddenly three became four and in time four became five. The baby (who will always be the baby, even though he isn’t a baby anymore) had not one, but two parents and we were, I’ll say it again, married!
However, I found out two fundamental things that I didn’t know before. Firstly, my bed will always be full of kids. Even the oldest, who is twenty, would love to just wander into my room and have a nap on the bed for comfort. Secondly, just because you’re married, it does not mean un-told wealth will land on your doorstep. You still have to work on it and you’re always looking for the next big money making scheme.
On the plus side, I found out that it is wonderful for your child to have an ‘onsite’ father. They develop differently and they intertwine both of your personalities to become a wonderfully nurtured young soul. I also discovered that two parents are better than one. It’s very true and not just a stuffy old right wing belief. You share the burden, you share opinions and you share life.
After all that I often give myself a pat on the back. Yes, I was a single parent and yes I scammed my way around all of life’s little niggles, but I was damn well good at it and I got the job done in my very own, albeit diversified, crazy little way
For help with your little munchkins whilst you on your own, contact: