Single Parent Spotlight: Vicky Charles
How old were your
children when you became a single parent, and how did this come about? My
daughter was 3 weeks old when her father left us, but I found out afterwards he
had started a relationship with someone else before that point. He’s an
unpleasant, abusive person whose main aim in life seems to be to produce as
many offspring as possible. I think he’s currently on about 10 or 11.
found hardest as a single parent? I think it’s got easier as she’s got
older. When she was tiny, I found it so hard that there was nobody to care
about whether she’d just smiled, the cute face she’d just pulled, that sort of
thing; friends and family will say “oh, cute” but nobody can be as interested as
her father should have been. This and the feeling of being lonely and stuck in
the house when she went to bed in the evenings was the main reason I started my
parenting alone, in your opinion? I can make decisions about my daughter’s
life without having to consult anyone. I breastfed until she was 17 months old,
we still co-sleep and we have a very close bond. We do as we please on a
day-to-day basis, without waiting for someone else to get up or put their shoes
negative judgements/stereotypes for being a single parent? If so can you share
with us what happened and how it made you feel? I live on a “rough” council
estate that houses a lot of single mothers on benefits, as well as drug
dealers, addicts and so on. I know that when people see us walking out of this
estate in the mornings, they judge us as “yet another single mother” – it
doesn’t help that I look quite young for my age (apparently)!
parent, I received an email from a stranger telling me I was damaging my
daughter by not allowing her father contact. This despite the fact her father
has made no effort at maintaining contact, is known to social services and is
generally very unpleasant. There are plenty of people out there who think
couples should stay together “for the kids” regardless of the individual
circumstances, but to me, the ideal family is one where the child is happy –
whether they have one parent or two.
daughter in the week, but on weekends I felt like my being alone with my
daughter made us stick out among all the couples and families walking around
town and was terribly self-conscious. Now though, I don’t care! I am always
complimented on how happy and “well behaved” my daughter is and I know I am
doing a better job on my own than I could ever have done with her father.
relationship do you have with your ex, and how easy/difficult is it to maintain
for your child/ren? I have NO relationship with my ex! I tried very hard in
the beginning to maintain contact with him, biting my tongue about what he had
done to us because I felt we needed to make an effort to be civil for my
daughter’s sake. Eventually my health visitor stepped in and made me realise I
was still allowing him to manipulate and control me, and that I needed to take
a step backwards to protect my child.
did/does the father have? To begin with, I was taking her to his work several
times a week to see him, but when I realised he was making no effort and doing
his best to undermine my (still very shaky) self confidence as a mother, I
stopped. I told him we could arrange regular contact if he would go to
counselling for his abusive behaviour. He refused and shouted at me in the
street that I was an unfit mother. He has not seen my daughter since, and at
this stage, it will be over my dead body that he ever does.
cope with contact? To be honest, if she were ever forced to see him I don’t
think she would cope very well. The children who live with him have a very
different life to her, and I don’t think she would enjoy that way of life.
If so, how did you come to an agreement on the amount? To begin with, he
said he would put money into my account each month, but it turned into a
regular excuse to harass me about how he’d paid and so should be able to see
her whenever he wanted. There were numerous texts about how much he was
supposed to pay, and to re-check my bank details for the umpteenth time.
Eventually I realised he was just using it as another way to keep tabs on me
and keep talking to me, so I went to the CSA. When they contacted him, he was
very angry and punished me by refusing to make any payments until the CSA had
sorted out their side of things – something that took a long time because he
did not co-operate with them! The amount he pays varies; last Summer it went
down to £4 per month, and until recently it was £20 per month. I’ve not had a
payment for a while though, and now the CSA rules have changed so I doubt I
will until I pay them to set it up again!
many hours do you work per week? I was working in a call centre for a
pension company, but it was so hard to juggle that with looking after my
daughter and trying to keep the house reasonably clean and tidy. I’m self
employed now and work from home, which means my hours can be more flexible.
It’s difficult to say how many hours I work because I tend to work around my
daughter and housework! At the moment, because I’m just starting out and trying
to establish myself, I think it’s probably close to 40+ hours a week.
child/ren when you’re working? How do you feel about the current childcare
arrangements? My daughter goes to an absolutely fantastic nursery down the
road, four days a week. I work while she’s at nursery, and then after she’s
gone to bed. To be honest, her nursery is so good, and she enjoys it so much
and gets so much out of it, that I will work as hard as I can to keep her in
child/ren when you first went back to work? How easy was it to adjust back into
work? I was very lucky, in that I took holiday before my maternity leave
began, and then my daughter was born early – so she was almost 13 months old by
the time I returned to work. By that point, I was ready to go back – but I
couldn’t have gone back before that!
by working? If so, why? I had terrible guilt when I first went back to
work, and when I increased her days from three to four a few months later. She
settled into nursery very quickly though and it was so obvious she was having a
great time there, that I knew she was looking forward to going.
Child /Working Tax Credits, and the cost of childcare? I think Working Tax
Credits are a great idea, but the fact they use your earnings from the last tax
year to calculate what you’re entitled to is ridiculous! I am happy to pay what
I do for my child to be in nursery, because I can see that the staff all work
very hard and are as interested in my child’s development as I am. I am happy
that the nursery I use, put their profits back into resources for the child so
it’s right that they should charge that amount. I think if we’re going to lower
childcare costs for parents, nurseries should be subsidised by governments so
that the nurseries and their staff receive the same income.
work/home/social life like? Have you managed to find a good balance? If so,
how? I basically have very little social life! Changing my work means that
I can now meet friends for coffee during the day when I have time, but I rarely
go out in the evenings. I am very reluctant to get into another relationship,
and I’ve learned from horrible experience that getting drunk is a bad idea if
you’re still going to be woken by a toddler at 6am!
so, how long did it take before you were ready to date again? I did have a
very brief relationship when my daughter was about 8 months old, but it didn’t
work out; I don’t think I was ready. I’ve been on a few dates since, but
nothing has gone anywhere. I do get lonely sometimes, but most of the time I
find that actually, there’s no space in our lives for a third person!
for other single parents wanting to meet someone? Just be patient, and
focus on what is important! Don’t rush into something just to avoid lonely
evenings on the sofa!
tips be to a newbie single parent?
knee-deep in dirty nappies and wanting to just lay on the floor and cry, but
that’s usually resolved by an early night. This too shall pass!
afraid to ask for help, and to accept it when it’s offered! My health visitor
referred me to Home Start, who sent a volunteer to come and visit for two hours
a week; I think she saved my sanity in that first year of my daughter’s life!
washing up, just leave it for tomorrow. The world will not end, and those who
would judge you for the state of your draining board are not the sort of people
you need in your life.