Bringing her up alone

Posted 2 October 2017

One woman’s story of bringing up her daughter alone

“So what does your husband do?” When another mum asked me that out of the blue one day, it threw me and upset me. Now when I meet new people, I explain early on in the conversation that I am bringing up my daughter alone. Just to get it out the way.

She’s 11 now, if someone had told the 18-year-old me that I would have a baby at 42 and raise her on my own, I would not have believed them. But that is my situation.

My daughter’s father left me when I was pregnant. The trauma of those early days was difficult to deal with but in a way I went through the worst times before my daughter arrived. Her father does not see her, there has never been any contact.

We live on benefits, I started receiving carer’s allowance recently, as I look after my mother. Before I got carer’s allowance I was becoming concerned about being moved from income support to jobseeker’s allowance, meaning I would be required to look for employment. I did not know how I could manage caring for my daughter and my mum and working too.

Paid work

I did paid work before my mother became ill. However I don’t like the way that putting my daughter into childcare is promoted by the government as being the best and only solution for single parents.

Childcare is not always the best quality, it can be hard to find, especially if you live in the country like us in the Cotswolds, and in any case, I want to spend time with my daughter.

She needs me, she likes me to collect her from school. I want us to be together without always being in a rush.

I have always felt it’s an immense privilege to have a child and be bringing her up on my own.

We have a good life together

My daughter is musical, she sings in a choir and plays the violin.

We spend two nights a week with my parents, so I can care for my mum. My daughter enjoys playing cards and dominoes and doing crosswords with her grandfather. She is very active too, she swims and we go out walking.

Lack of money

The most difficult thing for me is lack of money. After being a home-owner for many years I am now renting and that is insecure. I manage my budget OK and have the essentials covered but it would be nice to go out for a meal or perhaps to the theatre occasionally. That’s not possible.

Luckily my friends are supportive and very generous – one pays for my daughter’s school shoes.

My daughter isn’t particularly materialistic, although there has been a bit more peer pressure lately, over mobiles.

I have total responsibility for my daughter, I make all the decisions about her future. But then I also get all the benefits of being a parent.

Decisions like choosing a school can be difficult, when there’s no-one to talk it over with.

And there is still stigma in our society. Being single and on benefits seems to fill some people with horror.

When I was looking for somewhere to live, one estate agent said they could not consider me in case my benefit claim was fraudulent. That was without knowing anything about me, apart from the fact that I am claiming benefits.

Single mum

I’m different to what people might expect a single mum to be. Their image of a single mum is generally of a younger person.

The media are very good at portraying single parents as living on council estates in inner cities. But there are lots of mums out there who don’t fit that mould like me, and many people really admire you because you’re bringing up a child by yourself.

When my daughter was four, I was with her at a playgroup. The children were talking about daddies and I heard my daughter pipe up in a very matter of fact way, “Oh, we don’t have one of those in our house,” and I thought to myself that we were doing OK.