I am a proud, blessed single mother to my lovely 12 year old son. I am also a keyworker, and have worked for the NHS since the start of the pandemic. On top of that, I also volunteer in my community, and as a trustee for Gingerbread, a charity that provides advice and support to single parents across the UK.
What else to say about me? Well, I am a survivor of domestic violence. It was my son who gave me the strength to flee. When my son was just one year old, I took him in my arms, and my educational qualification certificates in the other, and ran. Since then, it has been a struggle, sometimes everyday, but my son keeps me going and his laughter and his smile mean that I never giver up.
Why has it been such a struggle? The challenges I have faced include the everyday struggle with my finances, which comes as a result of being on a low-income and relying on benefits. I have also spent time feeling isolated - emotionally in pieces - in ways that have negatively affected my physical and mental health.
When my son was little and I had just fled violence, I was unable to work. I had no family or friends close by in the beginning and there was no way I could have afforded child care. By the time I had started to heal from the violence, I had a gap of almost 10 years on my CV, and that made it hard for me to get back to work. Thankfully, my voluntary work helped me to transfer the skills and experience I have from working as a Senior Lecturer in a medical university in Pakistan to the UK context.
Over time, I got my confidence back, but even with that it is still hard sometimes to make decisions on your own as a single parent. The journey of a single parent is a journey of courage, pain and joy, all rolled together. When I see my son thriving, I feel proud of myself that I am looking after him, and am also a working, active member of the community.
Sometimes I feel empowered as a single parent, gaining strength, and knowing I am in control. I feel lucky to be able to share and make memories of tears and laughter with my son.
When I spend time with my son, it always makes me feel better. His hugs take away the stress of day to day living. When we go out for a walk together, pray together, cook together, watch a movie together or play lego together, we both feel better. The most important thing for me is to see my son happy. When my son says he loves me, my whole universe lights up.
At the same time though, my mental health is certainly affected by being a single parent. And this has been made worse by the cost of living crisis. I am just unable to afford what I need, even with working full-time. During the summer holidays, I feel sorry that I am not able to give my son the things I want. I can’t take him to summer activities, and I have to work full-time. That means I can’t be with him as much as I would like.
The government needs to do more to support single parents. We need tailored support, as everyone’s situation is unique. It feels like the system is on one side and we are on the other, just waiting for things to change. If the government chose to, it could help support single parents like me. I need or I must say we all need the government to help, change the system according to our need and take our advice on board. We are this country, and we need the government to work with us to improve things.
I want to thrive, and be happy, so I can make sure my son also thrives. We need support from the government so that we can protect our mental health. At the moment, it feels like we are in different boats, on the same ocean. That can and must change, and it needs the government to act to make that change happen.