“The most difficult times were when I had more money going out than coming in. I would have to budget and not allow biscuits and treats in the shopping basket. I would sometimes miss payments on school lunches and hope the other kids in their classes wouldn't notice that brown slip to remind their mum that she hadn't paid on time.” Alicia
One day the reality of being a single mum came crashing down on me like a ton of bricks. At the time I thought my little world was going to collapse. I received a message during my lunch hour from my landlord. He needed to move back into his house.
Upset and confusion raced through my mind. I could rent another house, but I had my routine in place and didn’t have the mental space for a change like this at that moment. This was also a point in my life when I didn’t have any spare cash. What if I couldn’t find anywhere else within my budget? The children were settled and loved the house and area we lived in. The mum guilt overload kicked in massively. Instead of owning up to the fact that I needed help, and being desperate to keep up the image of being a self-sufficient single mum, I went back into the staffroom as though everything was okay.
I would return home and sob uncontrollably into my pillow, thinking that I was the world’s worst mother. I eventually reached out to my close friend Michele who supported me with house viewings. This was even though I had let her down so many times and had cancelled plans with her since becoming a mum. We found a perfect house that I could afford, which was in fact closer to my children’s school.
While all this was going on in my crazy world, my children didn't know just how hard their mum was beating herself up about how rubbish she thought she was making their lives. I worked, but I still couldn't afford to buy them the expensive presents that other children their age had or take them on holidays. I was lucky that they didn't even notice what everyone else had and they were grateful for even the smallest of gifts.
No matter how hard I worked or budgeted, sometimes I would have no other option than to ask family for financial support. Those were the times I felt like a failure. But in the end, it brought us closer together as they wanted to, and could, help me. And they knew that I would have done the same for them.
For women who earn as much, or more than their partners, the financial strain of running a household falls on both the mother and the father. But women lose pay on maternity leave. For instance, from nine months in, the government doesn’t provide any statutory pay at all and most employers have long stopped their maternity pay schemes.
Back then I didn't realise the amount of other working mothers, single or with partners, who were experiencing the same struggles as I was. We all hide it well when we don't want others to see any problems with our lives. This is sad when it gets to the point of living a lie both in work and at home.
There is no need to do this. Work and home life can be made so much easier by reaching out, listening to and supporting each other where possible.
Here for you.