Over the last twelve years I have learnt that no woman is an island and sometimes it is only the fool who pretends to be. As a single parent I have had to accept that sometimes I can’t do it all on my own and a little help from my friends is required. This help has generally involved childcare, but it has also involved other things occassionally, including financial or emotional help which I have had to swallow very hard to accept…anybody knows me in real life will be aware I am a proud and independent woman. In that respect I think I am like many other single parents, not wanting to be a burden on anybody but sometimes needing to be.
Today I had to ask from help from a friend with a car to ensure that Third Party got to school for a GCSE Maths exam which she has been rather nervous about, to say the least. It was a simple thing, just asking for a lift to make sure she actually got there. However, for me it was actually quite a big thing because it meant swallowing my pride and admitting that I had a need which I required help with. It meant admitting that at the moment parenting is a bit hard and I don’t live in an ideal family where I have another half living with me who can take over when I am struggling or who can share the load.
Additionally, for lone parents there is the fear which “the system” can instill. There is that question which lingers in the back of your mind about what will happen if you are percieved not to be coping, even if what you are going through turns out to be completely normal. There is, I believe, amongst lone parents a slightly cynical view of the system….a system which for various reasons has often seemed to fail single parents.
This cynicism about “the system” and its claims of wanting to help whilst sometimes making worse may be one of the reasons that the most recent figures, commented on by Gingerbread, show less people are using the CSA. Personally I am lucky I have never had to use the CSA. A long time ago when “the system” tried to make me I was able to successfully argue why I believed the voluntary agreement that myself and my ex had worked out was sensible and that any effort to change it through the involvement of a third party would be counter-productive.
One group I did recieve help and advice from, particularly in the earlier days, was CLASP which has since been incorportaed into the work of Care for the Family. The benefit of contacting them was that I was networked with other Christians going through the same thing. In the beginning I struggled with a sense of not being a good enough Christian and being different to the other people in church, even though becoming a single parent did not involve any choice on my part – my ex went off with somebody else. I became aware that I might be in a minority but I was by no means unique in my situation and that it did not make me any less of a Christian.
Other practical help, which I did not need to access, would have come from organisations like Gingerbread. This is the main NGO / charity supporting and campaigning on behalf of single parents. They have produced a short You Tube clip which explains their work and how they can help