Looking after a child as a single parent is a difficult task, but it’s made much harder when you’re struggling with poor mental health, financial issues and strained relationships with family and friends. Here, parent Noor* explains how Family Action showed her that she wasn’t alone and helped her build confidence and independence to move forwards in her life.
My marriage breakdown and relying on family
After my husband and I divorced I felt totally isolated. Even though my marriage had lasted a long time and had broken up because he was seeing someone else, people didn’t want to have relationships, friendships or even social contact with me.
I think it’s because in my culture people who get divorced and live alone are seen as a bad influence.
My daughter and I lived with family who took us in, but I’d travelled into the country on a marriage visa and I wasn’t getting any financial help from government due to my immigration status, and I was in a lot of debt.
It was really difficult as my daughter is an only child and doesn’t have siblings, so she’d be bored, hungry and stuck at home as a young teenager.
During the summer holidays she would want to go out for a milkshake or a pizza, but it was just too expensive, and I remember crying during one May bank holiday because I couldn’t give her what she needed.
Meeting Aisha, my Family Action Health and Wellbeing Worker
I lived that way – totally dependant on family – for a long time and although I would get help from social workers it would come and go, and it felt like no one cared.
When I met my worker at Family Action’s Health and Wellbeing project I felt like I had every kind of problem.
I’d worked with social workers and counsellors before and didn’t feel like they understood or helped me, but my Family Action worker understood the cultural problems and social difficulties I was going through; she just got it.
It must have been really difficult for her as I was depressed and the first time we met I shouted at her in frustration. I was really down; crying and shouting.
“Many times during those sessions I tried to leave and if she’d given up at that point I’m not sure where I’d be today.”
Many times during those sessions I tried to leave and if she’d given up at that point I’m not sure where I’d be today.
I didn’t understand what was happening to me as I didn’t have any understanding of what depression really was.
In the past I’d found that social workers who didn’t understand me left me alone when I needed them. That’s why I appreciate my Family Action Health and Wellbeing Worker, because she never left me.
Feeling more confident and moving forwards with my life
She helped me find groups I could go to so I could make friends and encouraged me to continue studies in childcare as I’d really like to work with children and young people.
I miss Pakistan where I’m from, and I particularly miss the culture and the food, but back home a woman is never independent.
Thanks to my Health and Wellbeing worker the home office approved my benefits, and I was able to get a private rented property for my daughter and me.
“Thanks to my Health and Wellbeing worker the home office approved my benefits, and I was able to get a private rented property for my daughter and me.”
Family Action also put me in touch with food banks, funds and vouchers to help us put food on the table, and helped me budget and manage my finances.
It’s much better than it was before.
This summer will still be a struggle as food is so expensive and I get no support from my child’s father so, after paying my bills, there’s nothing left.
I have job offers and the qualifications to do them but I’m still waiting on the paperwork to allow me to work full time.
But, you know, before people would point their fingers at me and put me down and I would cry and lock myself away, but now I ignore them.
I’m confident and I can face them and get through it.
Summer is a time when many people find their finances, time and mental health under additional strain – something we address through our Make Happy Memories summer campaign. If, however, any of the issues raised in this story are things affecting you in your life you may wish to contact our free and confidential support service FamilyLine.
*Name changed at the request of the interviewee