By Guest blogger Brooke
For most of my life I have been a stickler for rules. Rules were followed and breaking the rules or taking big risks was something I avoided wherever possible.
I worked hard, achieved well academically and went off to University at Nottingham.
Another three years of hard work and I find myself in Beijing in the summer of 2007 on a scholarship programme to study Mandarin.
I was twenty three, and after the summer, was set for the pressure and showdown of being a fourth year student. So you can imagine my disbelief at a sudden realisation that I may be pregnant!
Off I cycled to the supermarket, through the city smog on a warm and humid day on my bicycle.
And the test? Positive.
For another three weeks I had to sit it out in China. When I boarded my plane home, I knew that my life would never be the same again.
When I arrived back in England life was difficult. I wasn’t entirely convinced with any great conviction that I was doing the right thing. The father, who I had had an on/off relationship with for four years previously (and it was more on than off), did not want a baby.
The baby would be due right in the middle of my dissertation, I had no money, nowhere to live, no idea how I would manage or how things would pan out. The next eight months I threw myself into work – teaching full time, studying, and doing as much part time work as I could to try and have some kind of money for when the baby arrived. I knew that if I didn’t get on with it, the last three years of my life would have been a waste.
Ava Grace was born on 15th April 2008.
It’s funny how you can pin point a moment in your life of such dramatic change, and difficult to explain the sense of responsibility and love you have for someone in a short space in time.
For two weeks (which seems ridiculous now) I did nothing but sleep, feed, and organise a little bundle. I look back on a time of sleep depravation and endless visitors.
Then as life started to calm down a little, I went back to writing my dissertation in-between feeding and sleeps. By the end of May, the work was handed in and I could focus on looking after Ava.
Life became a cycle of breastfeeding and toddler groups, which stopped me from being a hermit and allowed a transition into a more ‘normal’ world of people with children who can understand your concerns.
In July, I graduated from university with a 2.1 in Primary Education – with no extra time and no special considerations.
Ava grew and changed every day and it was often difficult juggling things on my own, but you don’t have time to dwell on things with endless cycles of washing, cleaning, cooking and nappy changing!
At ten months, I embarked on sleep training. Two nights of crying and stopping night feeding allowed me to regain a full night’s sleep and feel much more energetic.
Weaning was a constant battle with the health visitor because until around 12 months Ava was more interested in milk and as she was very active she didn’t gain much weight. It’s funny, because even though she now eats me out of house and home, she is still very small.
Ava’s father had a sporadic relationship with her initially. I found it difficult to tolerate having him around because he seemed interested in things being amicable between us but would not begin to tolerate or accept Ava. Eventually, this started to change.
At eighteen months Ava started having contact with his parents on a weekly basis. Now, we are at a point of him having more consistent contacts because it is unfair on Ava to understand or accept him to be floating in and out when it is convenient for him.
Although it isn’t always easy and there are occasional disagreements, I believe that it is important for Ava to maintain a positive relationship with her father as much as this is possible. And if Ava grows up and decides she doesn’t want contacts, then that is her choice. At least I can hold up my hand and say that I tried my best, but it didn’t work out.
At around this time, I made a conscience decision not to go back into work at the moment. With the world in recession, jobs were an hours commute, full time, and in areas I didn’t really want to be working.
We manage on a tight budget, but I don’t want to look back and wish that I had spent more time with Ava in her early years. In another year from now Ava will be in nursery and this should allow things to be a bit easier.
In March of 2010 I took Ava on a three and a half week tour of the USA. Travelling with a toddler on your own is hard work, but it was enlightening to show Ava so many different things and spend some quality time together every from the every day rush of life.
Recently Ava has had her second birthday. In three days she was out of nappies and completely dry. Alongside our other regular baby groups she also attends the local playgroup on a Friday which gives her the opportunity to paint, create, sing, read, and mix with other children in a more formal setting – and more importantly allows me to have a morning off!
Ava is happy, bright, articulate and well mannered.
Being a single parent is difficult, you don’t get days off, you don’t have much money and your constantly battling stereotypes that your children will be low achievers with a range of social and emotional problems.
I can honestly say that Ava is my best achievement to date (and am somewhat smug to know she is more able and more well-mannered than other children of pushy parents).
Every day is a new challenge and I am beginning to accept that parenting is a big risk. I wouldn’t ever change the way things have turned out, even if it wasn’t in the grand plan.
It is nice to re-evaluate life and take time with Ava to stop and view the world, watching the geese fly south or standing in the rain. You can’t dwell on what you don’t have, so make the best of every moment before it’s too late.
Here at childcare is fun we realise that being a single parent can be lonely sometimes – and such hard work.
The stigma that faced single parents years ago, still lingers and yet lone parent employment has climbed steadily in recent years. However, single parents are still portrayed as ‘scroungers’.
Recent evidence has confirmed that most children growing up in single parent families turn out fine but single parents are often depicted as ‘bad mothers’, responsible for ‘broken families’.
Single parents want these attitudes to be challenged.
Gingerbread, a single parenting organisation, has asked 50 influential politicians and media editors to sign a pledge to tackle prejudice against single parents.
Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron have already signed up, now you can too!
follow the link and sign up!
If you’re a single parent looking for support or simply ideas on what to do with your child, these fab sites are perfect!
Single parenting support online can be found at:
Single parents on netmums: