For too long Single Mums have been made to feel as though they should hang their heads in shame, like they are a burden to society, like other people are paying for their children and they have been tarred with the same brush, assumed to be lazy and a single-mum on purpose as a way to be carried. The truth is that most single mums are hard-working honest women, who have been left without a partner to support them in any way shape of form, sometimes through separation and sometimes tragically through loss of life. Some members of society imply that they would rather the child be taken away from the mother, than let that mother use the pot that she will spend most of her working life paying into. People are very unforgiving of single parent families and it is time for that stigma to end. The mums that are members of the SMBN are workers. They are often forced into self-employment because there are still too few companies embracing flexible working and professional pay.
My working life began aged 15 and for 20 years I was working full-time, following due process with renting, home-ownership, marriage & then starting a family, and I did not know much about benefits at all, only that as an estate agent most of our landlords would not accept people in receipt of them (benefits).
When I then became a single-mum, forced back into rental property, I had to ask for help for the first time in my life, it was the most difficult and degrading time, and instead of feeling comfortable with nurturing the new life that I had bought into the world I was made to feel like a burden on the state. It took me a few years to get my head around the reality of contributions and benefits and a few more to be able to talk about it out loud.
According to the TPA (Tax Payers Alliance) the average person in the UK will pay £319,732 in direct and indirect tax in their lifetime if they are in the bottom 20% (£13,841 salary) and £826,030 if they are in the top 20% (£41,027 salary).
The first 20 years of my work-life I was in the bottom 20%, and the next 30 years of my life I will be in top 20%, and so I am satisfied that my lifetime tax will fall somewhere over the £500k mark. So I am okay with a 5-10 year period of using that pot I pay so heavily into. I am very healthy and do not, as a rule, use the NHS, certainly not by irresponsible choices (dangerous sport or unhealthy diet) – but I know that should I become ill or be in an accident the NHS is there. (and I have never judged anybody who needs it whether avoidable or not).
A very good friend of mine was a single mum aged 17, she was made to feel like the * on your shoe, she was living in relative poverty and she was lonely, and sad, and it was hard for her, people treated her like a burden, and assumed by her age that becoming a single mum was her free life ticket. People can be so cruel. She went back to college when her son was in school, she graduated, she became a professional woman, she is now very well off and she pays more tax than most people I know, her life is a million miles from what is was then, the help she needed was a pinch in the sand, as is yours, it’s temporary to allow you to do the most important job of all.
A guy once asked me, when I was pregnant, hormonal, freshly separated and emotional why he should pay for my kid. I was horrified, in my 20 years of contributions to that point I had never said to anybody – why should I pay for your NHS treatment or your child’s education – to gain some perspective – said person had 3 children, and he had been in prison.
Each child in public education costs on average £6K per annum, each (dangerous) prisoner costs up to £80k per annum, each birth (including pre-natal and post-natal care) costs somewhere between £4K and £8K each. So whilst I was working full time and fully supportive of paying into ‘a societal pot’ his family alone clocked up around £280K in school and births, let alone his prison bill.
I missed an entire generation of birth and education on the tax bill because I did not start a family until I was 35. Even when I needed support, I was in and out of part-time and full-time jobs that stopped the benefits (contribution based) and forced me to remain in relative poverty whilst missing my child.
Whilst some people are getting angry at single mums, they are very judgemental about the circumstances and the overall work-life contribution that that mum makes in her lifetime. This is pure ignorance and I am no longer angry with these people nor do I bite, I trust that living with their own ignorance is punishment enough.
The tax pays £4million each year on subsidising food and drink in parliament and £2million in NHS birth blunders. The UK government paid £45 million to family planning in Tanzania and have pledged £200 million to family planning in Africa and Asia.
The point is not to make the woman who is doing an amazing job of bringing a happy healthy child into the world feel like a piece of * for needing support for a few years in between her lifetime of contributions. And that is not the minority of single-mums, it is the majority. I signed up for a law degree as soon as I knew I would be a single mum and have not stopped fighting to be a higher rate tax payer since the day I fell pregnant.
So SMiB (Single Mums in Business) – hold your head’s high. You may still need a little support at this moment in time but no doubt you will succeed to be financially independent once again – you are a mum in business because being a single mum is not a lifestyle choice, it is not something you went out to become so that you could be ‘carried by the state’, it is you fighting to keep your work ethic and sustain your own future, whilst doing the most important job any person can do in a lifetime, nurture a new life, with love, cuddles, and pride. You don’t need to feel pressured to hand over the upbringing of your child to another person, just because people do not understand what it is like to be in your situation, and why you are there. It breaks my heart that only a few generations ago our grandmothers were forced to give up children where the father abandoned ship, what good did this do to the child? A lifetime of heartbreak that some would inflict on us now. I am so grateful that we have a pot in this country to help each other, whether that need be becoming a single parent or breaking a leg on a skiing holiday. What better way to use that pot than to help each other to nurture happy healthy children that are tomorrow’s future for everybody.
That is one of the reasons I set-up the SMBN, to help you hold your head high, understand your lifetime contributions financially, and more importantly your contribution to grounded, loved and nurtured children, and to help you build your business so that you can break free of the degrading need to ask for help. I know that as a single-mum you are forced into relative poverty, whether an employee or self-employed and that a PR network is crucial to your success, and emotional wellbeing.
Of course, many single mums will be very financially well off and will have not needed any support at all. You can still benefit from comradeship and support of other single mums who do not have that person to share their challenges and triumphs with. Society need to realise that being a single mum does not mean you are a lazy burden. Society needs to see the single mums that are strong women with strong work ethics and brilliant skill sets that are underutilised because of the historic 9-5 mindset. They just want to bring up their own children, as do most mums, and many dads. Until flexible working and pay in line with inflation catches up, the SMBN will support you to succeed at self-employment.
Go girls – you got this!
Some extra reading for you: