As a social worker, I speak with females experiencing different kinds of abuse all the time, but I never saw the signs in my own life… until an experience at work made me realise that was me too.
I was married when I was 20 years old, was pregnant at 22, and was with that person for 15 years.
During that time, I completed a bachelor’s degree and started working in the area of community, family and youth services. Around eight years ago, I was walking down the hall at work and saw posters about financial abuse. This term was still pretty new back then, so I looked at the posters and wondered, “Is this me?”.
I had understanding about emotional and physical abuse, but this was new to me. Reading the quotes from women who had experienced financial abuse, I saw myself; and reading the quotes about their partners, I saw mine.
All through my twenties, I just wanted to please my husband. I thought if he was happy, we would be happy. I wanted my marriage to work for a myriad of reasons, so it was easy to slip into denial.
I look back now and think that sounds ridiculous, although I believe that gender-based attitudes still need to change.
My husband was from a patriarchal culture that supported that way of thinking too. He’s from a country notorious for sex trafficking and poor treatment of women, alongside having experienced trauma associated with coming from a developing country. Of course, I wasn’t aware of all of this when we first married.
I ended up compromising on things I would never compromise on now.
So after 15 years of marriage, I left him and found myself in a position where I had to rebuild myself. Not to rebuild myself as the person I was before the relationship, because I was so young then. It was more healing from the various forms of abuse that I endured in that relationship and to start my journey of self-discovery, free from the social stereotypes and expectations that kept me bound historically.
Towards the demise of that relationship, I did a lot of reading about the impact of separation on children and was really committed to making sure that the trauma experienced by my children was as limited as possible.
I think one of the stereotypes around single mother families is that their children are destined to suffer and will have poor educational outcomes. That is certainly not the case with my family!
All my children are actually high achievers. My oldest daughter is studying biomed at a prestigious university. She’s also on the Advisory Committee for our local council, and is a mentor to a year six student as part of her university’s mentorship program. My other daughter, who is 14, is in the Accelerated Learning Program at school, and my primary aged child is ‘kicking goals’ metaphorically and literally.
One thing I think really needs overhauling is the child support system. The way it is now, it congratulates a father just for paying child support, and it seems they work under archaic patriarchal systems to calculate payments, alongside limitations on making the father accountable. My children receive around $5.00 per day, which sounds unbelievable.
People frequently talk about all the challenges and negative things about being a single mum, but for me at least, there are so many positives!
I am the children’s primary carer and I find it empowering – I have had a couple of short-term relationships, but honestly, I prefer being single. It is difficult working and caring for your children, but I feel in doing this, I am a great role model for my children and am giving them the best chance at life.
A few years after becoming a single mother, I achieved my goals of owning an investment property and a four-wheel-drive. I’ve introduced my children to camping and outdoor adventures and we go away on holidays at least twice a year.
We’ve moved close to the sea, and I am on my way to reaching my goal of paying off my home by age 43. These are the things I was not free to achieve whilst I was married, due to my ex-husband’s objections.
Two of my children and I contend with a myriad of health issues, which has been challenging. However, being a single parent family has not impeded our level of growth, autonomy, happiness and achievements.
You can never predict the future, but it’s important for women to know they don’t have to depend on a man or anyone really. You are wonderful and enough, just simply being you.
- Name has been changed.