‘This is our family – just you and me’ – Noemie’s story

Posted 21 March 2024

The 1.8 million single-parent families in the UK come in all shapes and sizes. Noemie, Mum of 5-year-old Jack, describes how she chose to become a lone parent:

‘I was approaching my 40s.  I hadn’t met anyone I wanted to have a family with and I didn’t want to end up in my 60s wondering what could have happened. So I budgeted, I did my research and I worked out I had enough savings to try two rounds of insemination.  I got lucky –  it worked at the 2nd attempt, my pregnancy went well and I had Jack in March 2019!

I had a friend who was supposed to be with me during labour, but her twins were premature – they were due 2 weeks after my due date but were actually born 2 weeks earlier.  So we did see each other in hospital but I didn’t have anyone with me for the birth – which ended up as an emergency c-section.

At times I felt a bit isolated in the hospital because I was the only person who didn’t have a partner. But there was a midwife with me who got exactly the right balance between plain English and medical jargon, explaining who was who and what was happening. I think that was the best thing that could have happened. You don’t necessarily get the right support from a partner just because it’s your partner. Someone who was emotional and stressed and trying to hold it together for me emotionally, just wouldn’t have been what I needed in that moment.

My mum and step dad came to stay when we got home. We got a taxi home from the hospital – my mum wouldn’t let me take the bus which was probably a good idea!  It was strange bringing Jack home. I’m not sure we’d established that bond yet so I remember feeling a bit like we were strangers getting to know each other.

It was great to have some help in those early days, but I was glad when my mum and stepdad left because it was the right time to establish ourselves, to say this is our house, our family, just you and me.

I’d wanted to move on from the job I was doing, so I used my maternity leave to finish the accountancy qualifications I’d been doing. Luckily Jack was good at getting into a routine so studying was easier while he was a new born but as he got bigger it got a lot more challenging! I finished my last exam a few days before everything locked down for Covid.

We’d planned to spend Jack’s first birthday at a local city farm with my mum and stepdad. It turned out to be just the two of us in the living room, playing with an animal farm set, so it was still a farm theme but not quite the same!

The first few months of lockdown, we’d go for our daily walk on our own. It was spring, and we were finding all the different ways to go to the same place, so it was fun, but after a while, it felt like Groundhog Day! Fortunately, I was still working part-time from home,  and that was a lifesaver. I would have gone mad without work. I’ve always been really happy to be in the work environment – it’s important to me, to have that balance.

I think I got lucky, I took a couple of risks with my career and they paid off.  I’ve been in my current job, working from home in charity finance, for about 11 months now.  I’ve got a lot of flexibility. I can walk Jack to school and start work at around 9.15. I’ve had a few meetings where he’s been around, and I don’t have to apologise for that, everyone understands and they don’t judge me for it.

I feel quite privileged because I have a well-paid job and a mortgage, and I’m finally out of the Universal Credit trap where any extra money you earn means your Universal Credit decreases. So they take away the incentive to work and then you’re accused of living off benefits!

I’ve definitely noticed the cost-of-living crisis. I keep the house at 16 degrees, but my energy prices have nearly doubled, and I spend the same amount every week at Tescos but seem to get less and less food!  But I’m lucky – it’s so much harder for parents who are stuck in the Universal Credit system.

The single-parent community is a big pool of people. There are people who are co-parenting with an ex, who have a new partner, or who are doing it on their own. Some have grandparents close by, some don’t.

Fortunately, I’ve got friends nearby, and even though my family isn’t physically near, I’m still really close to my cousins and siblings. Our family WhatsApp group is a great support network, so I may be on my own but I’m one of the privileged ones.

It’s not always easy though. When there’s a health issue, sometimes it’s exhausting to not have a sounding board, a second opinion. You’re always responsible for making the call and you don’t know if you’re making the right one.

But there are some benefits – I feel like I save a lot of mental energy not arguing or trying to find a compromise with a partner – and I always get to choose where we spend Christmas and our holidays!’