Posted 22 May 2020
Jasmin is a single parent and trustee at Gingerbread. She is passionate about improving the lives of single parents, young people and their families. She is a a former deputy headteacher and also advises on...
Posted 19 July 2019
In our latest blog, Chrissie writes about her journey as a single parent – from the significant moments of her first six months as a mum to how she was able to overcome major obstacles including redundancy.
From the moment I said those three words, “I am pregnant” to the father of my unborn child, our lives had changed forever.
From the moment I said those three words, I thought he would want to be a part of our lives.
From the moment I said those three words, I instantly knew deep inside that he would run for the hills without a second thought.
Then, my immediate thought was: ‘How am I going to do this?’
I previously worked full-time for a charity as an Advice Deputy Manager and decided to take nine months of maternity leave. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I realised I had to get my act together and start saving for my future child. I was about to become a mum and needed to prepare for the future. Plus, there were whispers flying around my workplace that the organisation was struggling financially.
So, I worked hard and saved up until the day came to go on maternity leave. I couldn’t wait: I was physically and mentally exhausted, and I wanted some peace at home before the baby arrived. Then, the inevitable happened…I’ll get back to that later.
The first six months of being a mum were exciting and challenging, especially being on my own. No matter how much you try to prepare yourself for motherhood, nothing ever really can prepare you. The night feeds, the exhaustion, and being a carer for my own mum wasn’t easy. I knew I had to cut way back and focus all my energy into raising my child, so my extended family members stepped in and helped which was a blessing.
Being a mum has taught me so much, especially about patience and having the ability to multitask – trust me, I never thought I could feed a newborn whilst food shopping at the same time – as well as the importance of letting go and not holding on to what could’ve been.
My life had done a complete 360, and I was too preoccupied and too exhausted to even think about the absent father. I wasn’t angry or bitter, just mainly disappointed with his decision. So I continued to keep my head up, keep smiling and just say “I’m fine,” whenever anyone asked how I was. But really, it’s a passive question isn’t it? They’re not really wanting to know how you are. It’s just something you say, right?
I was lucky to have my key family members and friends around me for support, and to help with cooking meals when all I could manage was tea and biscuits.
I’ve always reminded myself that things happen for a reason and we weren’t meant to be a happy, typical family of three. People did ask why I wasn’t chasing my ex-partner for maintenance – I decided not to because if he wasn’t willing to contribute towards the upbringing of our child willingly or be part of his life, then what was the point in dragging the whole mess through the courts? He did say once that he would never help financially, so I decided, ‘Okay, fine, I’m not going to pursue this any further. You live your life and I will live mine with my son.’
It was my decision at the time and I still stand by it. The last thing I wanted was to surround myself and my son with negativity, arguments and bitterness.
Back to the work saga. Six months into my maternity leave, I received a text message from work urging all staff to go into the office in the late afternoon for an urgent meeting.
30 November 2015: that date will forever be imprinted into my mind. It was such a poignant moment in my life at the time. All I could think of was, ‘What I have feared for months is happening.’
Then it happened, the inevitable: the organisation was closing and had gone into administration. Everyone was being made redundant. I knew the day would come and my heart just sank, and all I could think was, ‘What am I going to do?’
The worst part was there was no money to pay the staff their wages or even any redundancy payment, so we couldn’t even get paid for Christmas. I had a six month-old baby, had been made redundant, and had no income to buy food for us, pay the mortgage or the bills.
I took a deep breath, steadied myself and tried to think about what I was going to do.
I got this – I had to, I couldn’t sink. I knew I had to keep climbing. My baby boy needed me more now than ever, so, I sought advice from Gingerbread which really helped me, and applied for benefits. However, the process wasn’t imminent and I wasn’t to receive my first payment for at least five weeks.
Luckily, I had enough in my savings to cover my outgoings for the first couple of months. I knew I had to make some serious changes and really cut back. It was really hard and the scary realisation was that the benefits were nowhere near enough to cover the mortgage and bills. This prompted me to start looking for part-time work as soon as possible.
I sought further advice from the Gingerbread’s website about receiving childcare support if I was to return to work. That was a relief and it pushed me start looking. To be honest, without the childcare support, I wouldn’t have been able to return to work.
So, here I am four years later: a single mum to my beautiful son. There’s no messy divorce, separation or even co-parenting: it’s just me and my boy.
We’re still climbing, thriving and we’re still surviving. It’s us against the world – me and my little superhero.