teens

'My daughter is about to turn 18. Instead of joy and excitement, I'm filled with dread.'

This month, my eldest child, my beautiful daughter, turns 18.

Instead of being filled with joy and excitement, I'm filled with dread.

That’s because I'm a single mother and despite working full time I am still struggling financially.

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The government has already sent me a letter to remind me that if I want child support payments to continue, I need to send in a form before she turns 18.

Without their approval, my Family Tax A & B benefits will stop, and her father won't have to pay child support until the end of her school year. 

Then, after November, there will be no further child support payments for her, nor government assistance for me.

So a month before Christmas the father of my daughter will cease to pay child support and the government will cease to help me in any way. 

Merry Christmas to me.

The only thing that will not change is that my 18-year-old daughter will still be living with me. She will more than likely be applying to university next year and organising what she will be doing for schoolies week. 

I will still need to house, feed, and clothe her; pay for her psych appointments and medication every month. 

She will be my responsibility alone because I am her mother and the government says her father no longer has any responsibility for her care after she turns 18. 

There must be so many single mothers out there in the same position as me.

I would love to hear their stories. I would love to hear how other mothers like me transitioned when their child turned 18.

Listen: What It's Really Like Being A Young, Single Mum. Post continues after audio...

This is how I plan to cope. 

I will be selling our home, paying out the mortgage (which I initially received in the property settlement) and buying an apartment. Just as I was getting ahead I have gone back 20 paces, I feel like the government is happy to be done with us.

However, I am one of the lucky ones who has an asset. In my experience at work and with friends, hardly any women get to keep the family home. 

Single mums bear the brunt of the responsibility for child rearing. We turn our lives inside out and upside down so that we can work part time and be there to drop off or pick up our children when they are young and then we work full time like hamsters to try to get ahead when our children are teens. 

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The ex-husbands and partners get off easily. They continue upward in their career trajectory and have all that spare time on their hands.

Single mums try to fill the financial and emotional gaps that have been left. We try to make sure our kids don’t miss out on birthday parties and after-school activities. We do what we can but with little money. Sometimes it’s just not possible.

One of my single mum friends told me she walks her kids to school because she doesn't have enough money for petrol. She sometimes skips dinner because there isn’t enough food. Her ex husband has never paid her child support for one of their three children and only pays the bare minimum for the other two. He has never paid the school fees even though he has the capacity to do so.

We, more often than not, have minimal superannuation to retire on because we were at home with children and/or we worked part time.

I have worked hard to start a new career that I love. The experience I have had as a single mother is not unique but I wanted to speak up and talk about this new aspect of being a single mum on the eve of my daughter turning 18.

I don’t know any single mums who aren’t working really hard to keep all the balls in the air. All the single mums I know are bloody amazing and inspiring.

I just wish the government would stop demonising us and that they would make the dads continue to have responsibility for their children once they turn 18.

Jane Farquhar is a recently qualified family law solicitor and a single mum of two teenagers, who is passionate about helping women be their best selves. Before having kids, she was a fashion designer. 

Image: Getty.


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