I often wonder how a human being can be so cruel to another, and hurt people with no remorse; let alone their own children. For the father of your children to up and leave with no warning, never to be seen or heard from again is the type of thing you see in films. You never think that it could happen to you.
Until it does.
I mean, who wants the shame and embarrassment of being a single mum? I never wanted to be that statistic. In some parts of the UK, up to 50% of some families don’t have a father-figure in their household. I never imagined I would be one of those women, but now, 20 years on, I know and am proof that women don’t need a husband or partner to help bring up their children!
Single parenting is something that society has deemed “abnormal”, but in fact, what it really means is behind the child of a single mum there is a strong, independent woman. And although it’s hard at times, I’ve learned that you CAN do this, and every second of it will be worth it. To prove to others, and most importantly, yourself – the real meaning of being a “single mum”.
How I Became a Single Mum
I had worked hard and had a great career, earned good money, and came from a good background. I did not fit the “typical” single mum profile, yet here I was, thrown, with absolutely no choice into a statistical nightmare.
One that takes years of dedication and much harder work than you could ever imagine. Going without, missing out, spending years sat in alone whilst you watched your friends living their lives, desperately just wanting the same life they all had: a loving partner, money for holidays, and the chance for you to give your children everything you did not have as a child.
Yet, I do not think I suffered at all deep down. As single mums go, I was quite a wealthy one! My family supported me financially until I could go back to work. I had my new friends from my antenatal class who went on the whole first-time baby journey with me; meaning we could lean on each other for support and advice. The only thing I ever felt cheated of was a daddy for my girls, and the fact that they grew up never having one.
Sometimes it feels like a blur and the years have just flown by, but one thing that never ever changed was my sheer determination to not be “a single mum”, I wanted to fill the role of both mum and dad. I think I did ok!
On 22nd May 2000, my twin daughters’ father walked out of our front door, and we have never seen, nor heard from him since. The one person my children should have been able to count on has actually been the least person of all. He left all sorts of debt behind, and I had bailiffs and people he owed money to, all knocking my door leaving me to explain that it was my house. (Thank goodness I didn’t put his name on the deeds or mortgage), and the debts he owed had nothing to do with me.
I saw none of this coming. His drinking had gotten worse and he was being sneaky with phone calls once or twice – but they were the only things that had changed in him from my perspective.
The realization came to me when I found lots of bills in his briefcase just before he disappeared that he had not paid. He had robbed me of the only money I had in my bank account and disappeared to Spain for a few weeks. Then, he came back to the UK and moved away, never to return. He was a coward and left it to me to sort out his debt by myself, as well as bringing up our identical twin daughters that were only two years old at the time.
Once I had gotten over the shock of it all and accepted what happened, I had to bring up my poor children on my own. With the help of family and friends, we notified the Child Support Agency of his every move in the hope to get some support from him. I thought he owed me that much, to contribute to their upbringing, put a roof over our heads and food on the table. It was a waste of time though, as they never moved quick enough and he always moved on from where he was living; using lots of different names and aliases to hide from his responsibility to us, and the money he owed others. It was so shameful and embarrassing.
I had waited until I was nearly 30 to have my children, and I sacrificed to move in his direction so it was easier for him work wise. I had had a great job and career in sales, and gave it all up to be with him. I thought you would know someone after three years of being with them. Apparently not!
I threw myself into bringing up my girls, helping at the local toddler group, and meeting some new friends. I also helped at their nursery and raised money with the other parents to buy new computers; putting my sales skills to use.
Once the girls were settled at school, I went back to college and trained to be a Teaching Assistant. I volunteered at the school they were at for 20 hours a week. I then returned to college to train as a Beauty Therapist, so I could work from home around the girls’ school day and always be there for them. I had no family around or near me to help with childcare, so often did my college study in the evenings.
Each birthday that passed for the girls and at Christmas time, I often wondered if he would send them something, but absolutely nothing ever came. Not so much as a card or £1 for their money boxes. He must have known the special dates were coming up, did he really not give them a thought on their birthday?! As the years went by, I gave up even thinking of him at all, let alone if he would send them anything.
As the girls grew up, I tailored my answers to their questions about him to their age. When they first asked about him at age 5, I said he did not love me but loved them still. As they grew older, they were not stupid, and made their own decisions about how badly he had treated us all. They had friends that had separated parents and they still saw their dads, and had two birthdays and Christmases, one with each parent. It always ripped my heart out if they asked about their dad and I ended up feeling bad because of his dreadful and disgraceful behaviour.
Whatever happens between adults is one thing, but children especially do not deserve to be ignored and left without a father or treated like they do not exist or matter.
At 22 years old they are the most incredible young ladies anyone could ask for, and I am immensely proud of them both. They both graduated from University last year, one is a Biochemist and the other a Paramedic. Not bad from a single parent family, I think!
You get out of life what you put in and the same goes for children too. If I could say anything to single parents out there it would be this:
I know it is not easy, there will be times you will question if you are doing a good enough job, if your children are getting what they need in life or if they would be doing better with another parent in their life. The truth is you will never know! And honestly? If your children have a loving family it doesn’t matter whether they are brought up with one or three parents, they will grow up to be the most loving, resilient people who make you prouder each day. And for that, it makes every struggle worth it, knowing it was down to YOUR hard work and YOUR parenting and no one can take that from you, even if you are “just” a single mum.