Single mum of three, Sally, recently booked a holiday with the support of a Family Fund Grant. Here, she discusses the highlights and challenges of her time in Rye.
I’m Sally, and for almost three years, I’ve been a single parent of three young children who are now eleven, eight and five.
All of my children are on the autism spectrum, and they haven’t seen their father all year so they are my sole responsibility. My eleven-year-old was diagnosed with autism and ADHD five years ago – three weeks after giving birth to my youngest! My daughters are soon to receive a confirmed diagnosis.
Applying for the Family Fund Grant
As a result, my son has been in receipt of DLA and I‘m his carer. Since my husband left us, I have been raising my family on benefits, and this year, I found out about the Family Fund Grant for families who are on a low income with a disabled child . This grant can be used for numerous items, one being a family holiday, so I applied for a holiday grant and was successful!
I booked a week in a caravan in Rye, East Sussex, which was close to the beach and had evening entertainment. This was our first holiday as just the four of us and I’ll admit I found it quite daunting. I knew that it wouldn’t be much different to being at home, but at least I can see friends during the day or they can pop over in the evening – for this week, my ‘company’ was the kids.
Challenges and finances
My eight-year-old has quite bad anxiety, so the build up to the holiday was quite stressful for her as we were going somewhere new and she was anticipating being homesick. We spent our days exploring the area, going to the beach and celebrating my five-year-old’s birthday.
Although the accommodation was paid for, I live on quite a tight budget, so paying £10 for four soft drinks made me wince. I was conscious of the finances but also torn between wanting the kids to enjoy their holiday so compromise came into play – fortunately, the kids are quite used to hearing that I can’t afford it.
I was also dealing with meltdowns, fighting and anticipating what was going to happen if we did something. I felt lonely. It was hard to see traditional families spending time together and making memories, while I had mine all in different directions, having a meltdown because I put suncream on my daughter’s face – how dare I try to protect her! My 8 year old was growling because my son had buried her sandles in the sand, and god forbid, I bought the wrong ice-cream – well, all hell broke loose!
Making the most of things
During the evenings, we went to the evening entertainment at the bar, which the kids enjoyed. I, on the other hand, could see all the families and groups of friends socialising together while I sat there drinking the most vile wine I think I’ve ever had. I looked around the room each night and we were the only single parent family there. Everyone else was having fun with friends or family. I sat there, watching my kids, cheering them on. The only time I got to myself was back at the caravan. The kids would entertain themselves for a while and I’d sit on the steps with a drink.
I did have a word with myself though: ‘Come on, pull yourself together. So, are we never going to go on holiday? No, so suck it up buttercup! This is our family and I have to make the most of it.’ They are wonderful kids and the four of us are incredibly close and that’s what matters – not a stranger’s opinion.
It can’t have been that bad – I’m planning on using the Grant again next year for us to go to a Eurocamp in France!
Check out our guide to planning holidays as a single parent