Single mum Hayley shares her story of moving on after domestic abuse
My single parent journey began when Buzz was about 3 months old. I’d realised I was in an abusive relationship, and without my partner knowing I contacted a domestic abuse helpline and moved back in with my dad.
It was a challenging time– thank goodness my dad was there. It felt like every week I had the police round, and in between times I had to care for Buzz. I took out a non-molestation order which then got changed to a restraining order, but it was breached so many times. Lockdown in some ways gave us some breathing space, but it also gave him more temptation because he knew exactly where I was.
My domestic abuse support worker and my friend Jacqueline were amazing. It was a lifesaver being able to speak to someone who knew how the system worked. They were telling me to leave, to go and stay in a refuge, but I didn’t want to give up my life and my family.
Dealing with the police and family courts is really challenging. People just see a small section of your picture, not the whole story. And you have to explain your case to one person, then the next. But we went through the family courts, and then eventually he started seeing Buzz at a contact centre. We’ve increased that gradually – now Buzz spends every other Friday with his dad, he picks him up from nursery and has him overnight. It’s working ok at the moment – but sometimes, you just have to accept that you’re never going to be able to co-parent properly with this person the way you’d like to.
I tried to go back to work last year. It was lovely to get back to work but quite nerve wracking too, I felt like I’d been out of it for so long. Unfortunately, it was a real struggle with childcare arrangements with his father. And if he let me down, I had to let work down. I realised that the only person I could rely on was myself.
I realised I had to put work on hold, and just accept that this is where I’m at now. It won’t be forever. I’m looking forward to getting back to work when Buzz starts school. I’ve worked in schools or in care work my whole life, but having Buzz has made me love being around children – their fun and innocence. So I’ve applied for a job at his nursery.
It’s really hard being on Universal Credit. I’ve worked my whole life, I never wanted to be on benefits.
But when you come out of a relationship, you’re stuck. I had no idea about the benefits system. Jacqueline told me about Gingerbread, and I looked on the website. I didn’t phone the advice line – it was hard to reach out after having been through domestic abuse. So it helped that I could find all the information on the website. And after a while I started talking to a couple of other single parents on the chat forum, and when I felt comfortable I was able to share my experiences too.
Gingerbread helped me to feel that I wasn’t on my own
There’s still so much stigma around being a single parent but Gingerbread gave me the support I needed. My relationship had broken down, and I was feeling low – to find a place with so much information and support, it was like the light at the end of the tunnel for me. It kickstarted my recovery.
It took about two years on the council waiting list, but now Buzz and I are in our own two-bedroom flat. We love doing everything together, we’re always cycling together. I bought him a seat for the front of my bike when he was a baby, and as soon as he could hold his head up he’s cycled everywhere with me.
He’s looking forward to starting school in September, and I’m looking forward to getting back into some sort of work. I’m hoping I get the interview at his nursery, it would be nice to work somewhere familiar, as well has having hours that fit around him and some work-life balance.
Looking back at photos from a few years ago, I can see how miserable and depressed I was. Back then, I couldn’t see it, I just kept trudging on thinking when is it going to get better? But now I feel like I’m coming out the other side.