I am an unemployed single mother. I’m basically the Daily Mail’s favourite hobby.
Today I filled in my first ever rental application. I had to list what benefits I receive and how much. The lettings agent said that a lot of landlords refuse tenants on benefits.
When I was 19 I bought a house with a partner. I loved that house, but the problem was I loved the house more than I loved the man I bought it with. When I left I left the house and all the contents we had bought for it together. I only took what was mine that I had brought with me. I left because I didn’t love him, not because he had done anything wrong.To be honest he had done everything right and if I had loved him we’d have probably been very happy. But I didn’t. The only way I knew how to make it right with him was to not take away his home, to not ruin his life more than I felt I already was doing by leaving.
When I was 21 I moved into a flat with a boyfriend. He was abusive. He was controlling, he was manipulative, he was violent and he was cruel. I never knew what was going on, I wasn’t allowed to work, I wasn’t allowed to know anything about bills or what we had coming in or going out. I wasn’t allowed to leave the flat unsupervised very often, and if I did I was interrogated about everything I had said and done and who I had seen and spoken to. It was rented, but not by me.
My husband and I lived together in part of my mum’s home. They had one side, we had the other. It is big, it is beautiful. But it’s too big. And I cannot afford to pay what it is worth to my mum who, whilst she never expects anything from me, deserves it. An unemployed single mum does not need a four bedroom countryside house.
I am applying to rent. On my own. For the first time.
Being on benefits is not what I expected for my life. This is the first time I have claimed and I am completely confused by the whole thing, and a little scared. Going into council offices, asking for help, filling in forms, it’s all new to me. It’s not what I wanted.
I will be devastated if I don’t get this house, partly because it is absolutely perfect for us and we were both happy in there when we were looking around. But partly, if I’m honest, because I know why I would be turned down. I would be turned down because I’m on benefits. Because my husband set up a life with myself and my daughter, promised us a future which we wanted and talked about together, then disappeared. Cancelled everything without any notice. Changed everything.
I am accepting benefits and I am accepting them with gratitude. Because of this money I receive I can feed my daughter, I can house her, I can clothe her, and I can set us up a new life. Because of this money Miss Rose and I have a chance at a future which, whilst not what we anticipated, is full of happiness and opportunities. But it is also full of judgement. It is full of criticism. It is full of sweeping generalisations about women having babies and getting paid for it by the hard working tax payers.
I did not have Miss Rose so I could receive benefits. I did not have her so I could get a house. I had her because she is a desperately wanted and utterly adored person who has enriched my life immeasurably. The benefits I get mean I can start working towards giving her the life she deserves.
I am a single mum on benefits and I am going to be judged. I am going to be judged as lazy and feckless and all the other things people like to think. I may be judged so harshly that I’m not allowed to rent a home for my daughter that I love. But if I don’t get it I will continue to raise my daughter and look for a job that will allow me to build her a life that is designed for two.
I will earn us a way forward. I will work for our future together. My life as it is now is different, so different to what I expected, but it’s mine. And yes, I need help, and I need guidance and support, but I will get there. I will make us a life and a home. It will be hard, but don’t judge me for trying. Please don’t judge me for trying.