Nicola is a mum who lives with daughter in Falkirk. In this blog she describes how OPFS has helped her flourish through the OPFS Falkirk Family house service.
I am 29 years old and became a single parent to one daughter in 2015 after a breakdown in my relationship with her dad. My daughter was 3 months old at the time. Before I became a parent, I worked for the local authority as a Social Care worker based in a care home for elderly people with mental health problems. I went back to work for a short time when my daughter was 9 months old but, due to an erratic shift pattern, I couldn’t continue with this.
People can be lonely even in a crowd
I think for me the most difficult thing was the feeling of losing my identity. Although becoming a parent is the best feeling in the world it can also become a very lonely place. People think you can’t feel alone when you are looking after someone 24/7, however, this is not always the case as people can be lonely even in a crowd. The feeling of loneliness can come from many different places, such as, feeling the financial burden, parenting alone and becoming distant from friends. I didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a single parent! Going from being in a position of having spare money at the end of each month and being able to socialise with friends at any time to sometimes scraping by week to week and friends having to try and fit around my daughter and I. Many people don’t understand your change in circumstances.
When I first used the service, it was for childcare for my daughter who was 2 years old at the time, I was welcomed and felt comfortable after only a short time and introduced to other services available to parents. There were so many, and my first thought was “well I definitely don’t need any of this input because I’m fine”.
I was never admitting to anyone that, although I loved my daughter more than anything, I didn’t like the situation I was in. There would be days where I felt like I was literally drowning for various reasons but the main reason was I didn’t know anyone who was in a similar situation and I genuinely felt like I was the only person on the planet to have a failed marriage and become a single parent.
I am a completely different person
OPFS always invited me to groups but I didn’t attend anything for a good few months. One morning I dropped my daughter at nursery and was again invited to attend the craft group running that morning. I would’ve done everything to just run out the door and avoid it, I’m sure I said I need to wash my hair! The Manager suggested I go in and meet some of the people who were there, so I did. I’ve been a regular attendee since that day. I never shared my story with anyone for a long time but hearing of other people’s struggles made me finally realise I wasn’t alone! The craft group was just the start and up to now at the centre we have a cooking group, gardening group and various other sessions that run offering help with parenting. Now almost 18 months down the line I am a completely different person. My confidence and self-belief have soared. I approached OPFS just before Christmas with an idea about running a ‘Job Club’. I was nervous about whether I would be capable of facilitating the club alongside another member of staff, but I love it. I feel great helping others who are in a similar situation. I feel passionate about helping other parents (and myself) find direction again.
Obstacles to finding work
It is so difficult to explain to people what the obstacles can be in finding work as a single parent with childcare being the biggest factor. The stigma attached to being a single parent out of work is really bad. In so many circumstances you literally cannot attend work. I wanted to change this. Although it won’t change overnight I’m confident we can make changes that support parents to get back to work and make it affordable and encourage companies to think more about the possibility of working within school hours thus cutting out the cost of childcare which so many families in general struggle to afford. I recently applied and got an offer to begin a college course due to start in August. I know that had I not been encouraged/supported by the staff in the OPFS Falkirk Family Centre I wouldn’t be in the place I am now. I will be forever grateful to each and every one of the staff and will never be able to thank them enough for literally pulling me from quite a dark place and setting me up to run into everything I can achieve.
It’s amazing watching my daughter grow, learn and love. It has led me on a journey to much greater things. I get to be with my girl through all our triumphs and challenges and know I’ve shaped and helped her every step of the way. It’s shown me how strong and resilient I really am.
Tough times always get better
If I could share anything with any other single parents, it would be this: the tough times always get better. Be brave, get into any groups available in your area because you are most definitely not done even if it really feels you are. OPFS will do their very best to support you! Don’t take on other people’s negative judgement. When you feel like your best might not be good enough, remember – to the world you are just one person but to your children you are the world.
I was so quiet and shy until I found ‘me’ again at OPFS. I attend all the groups, run the Job Club and have recently applied to become a Volunteer.