Hello and welcome to our brand new ongoing feature, The Mum Memoirs. For this series we’ll be interviewing mums from all different walks of life about the ups and downs of their experiences. There will be mums with multiples and mums without mums, single mums and step mums, IVF mums and adoptive mums. Mums who work part-time and mums who work part-time and mums who stay at home.
Did we say the word mum enough?
This week we’re talking to the wonderful Ali*, who is 35-years-old and has a two-year-old daughter. She left her partner recently after a five-year relationship. This is her story…
“I met P’s dad on Tinder. We decided to meet after messaging back and forth, as we realised we had a mutual friend. We really hit it off and I fell for him quickly and hard.”
“After two and a half years, I decided I was ready for a baby. I was definitely feeling the tick of the biological clock and I was confident that I was with my person and that it was the right decision. Trying for a baby was relatively straightforward, although it took us longer than I expected. All of my friends were getting pregnant on their first try and it took us nine months.”
“I hated being pregnant. I had really bad morning (or all day) sickness for the first four months. I’m a teacher, so I really have nowhere to hide at work. There were several occasions where I had to be sick in my classroom bin mid-way through teaching a lesson. I also experienced several bouts of unexplained bleeding which resulted in me visiting the early pregnancy clinic for scans.”
“My daughter arrived 10 days early. My waters broke in spectacular Hollywood-style in my en-suite bathroom. She was delivered via waterbirth by a midwife who was a parent of one of my students. You don’t sit at parents evening expecting that one day this woman will be fishing your poo out of a birthing pool with a little net. I was very lucky with my birthing experience. I didn’t need pain relief or interventions. I didn’t tear or need stitches. My daughter, P*, was born pre-covid, so I was able to have my mom and my partner with me.”
“I spent most of my maternity leave in lockdown. I was also on my own for much of it because P’s dad was a key worker. This was really tough and lonely at times because P* also developed a CMP allergy and had terrible eczema. I still get sad now when I think about all of the moments that my parents missed with their granddaughter.”
“Recently, my relationship with P’s dad has broken down. It was becoming abusive and I had to make the decision to leave. So now, I am embarking upon a journey of being a single mom.”
“I’m going to need to learn to juggle looking after her, working full-time in a really demanding job, paying full-time childcare costs and trying not to burn out. It’s been incredibly difficult, but it was so important to me that my child grew up with a mom who wasn’t prepared to take abuse and was strong enough to put her first and walk away.”
“In my first week as a single parent, I quickly realised that I was going to have to learn to juggle things differently. For example, I would need to shower at night because I couldn’t leave my daughter unsupervised to do it in the morning. That week, my daughter was very snotty, which was making her cough, which invariably makes her sick. I had put her to bed, completed the washing, tidied up, cooked and cleaned, got in the shower and then dried my hair. Just as I finished, I heard her start coughing. I went in to check on her, picked her up and she was sick all over my freshly washed hair. I remember crying because I was so exhausted and now had to shower again. However, it was also this moment that made me realise that I had made the right choice. I was knackered, overwhelmed and juggling a million things alone, but this was still preferable to the atmosphere that I had been living in with my partner. I wasn’t worrying about him kicking off at me because she was ill, I wasn’t walking on eggshells on top of everything else. So I guess that bit of sick in my hair wasn’t so bad after all…”
“The best part of being a single mom have been witnessing all of P’s* firsts – her first laugh, first words, the first time she smiled at me. It’s also so lovely having someone love you soooooo much – she’s so amazing. P’s* also made me better at my job. I work in pastoral care alongside my teaching job and she’s made me understand both the children and families that I work with on a whole new level.”
“The hardest part has been juggling childcare costs. I’m lucky that we found a childminder who doesn’t make me pay for school holidays and has a slightly lower daily rate, but it’s still a struggle. I recently calculated that sending her to a nursery would cost £600 a month more. I genuinely don’t understand how they expect people to afford it. The other hard part was making the decision to leave her father. It was extremely tough and I still question everyday whether I have let her down. However, I work with too many children who resent their parents for not putting them first and making those difficult decisions. I wasn’t going to do that to her. She’s amazing, strong-willed and independent. She needs to see me as a good example who is prepared to leave and prepared to say ‘I’m not putting up with this anymore’.”
“I want others to know that if someone is abusing you, that’s not your fault. Leaving is difficult but it is possible. It’s worth looking into childminders for childcare as they can be quite a bit more manageable financially. And finally, don’t be afraid to go back to work full-time if that’s what you want to do. My job is really important to me and I’ve worked hard for it. I don’t apologise for wanting to keep that as a part of who I am.”
If you are being abused and need someone to talk to, you can find a list of helpful hotlines in the UK here.