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Tara took part in a series of storytelling workshops with Little Village which were funded by the Big Lottery Fund and delivered by sounddelivery.
So my story continues taking on new chapters that are different from my original plan.
My original plan was never to be spoken down to because I am a single mother needing state assistance or to be looked at and judged because “you look fine”. It was never to feel lonely, isolated and all alone. And it certainly wasn’t to live with daily pain whilst being the main caregiver to my daughter.
12 years ago I was diagnosed with reactive arthritis which all led to Ankylosing Spondylitis by the time I was 25. I was working for my Local Authority and gradually the years after diagnosis I ended up taking more and more time off work which subsequently led to me having to terminate my contract. I had given them nearly 11 years of service. At the time I was heavily pregnant. My pregnancy was high risk due to my existing health problems and I spent a lot of my pregnancy attending extra hospital appointments, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. So I was about to embark on this amazing journey into motherhood with my baby but without maternity leave or pay to support me and feeling my career was effectively over.
“I felt part of something, I felt included but most of all it mattered what I had to say. It was important and I was being listened to.”
My story is not extraordinary or even out of the ordinary, just the story of a single mother living with a condition. But its a story I could share and talk about at Little Village. I was amongst others like me with similar stories. No judgments, no put downs, just understanding, a sympathetic ear and people who care. We built bonds, made friends and exchanged our experiences. I felt part of something, I felt included but most of all it mattered what I had to say. It was important and I was being listened to.
I have a three and a half year old daughter who fills me with joy even through the difficult days. She’s funny and intelligent and I guess in part that’s down to me. She’s like any other child that age, she’s in to running, climbing, soft play and the park. I try to do everything her little heart desires but I have limitations both physically and financially, but I do the best I can.
Someone once told me as a parent you don’t have to be the best, you just have to be the best that you can be. You just have to be good enough. Its something I struggle with everyday. I want my daughter to have everything. But there are so many days I have to say we can’t go out today mummy doesn’t feel well, or mummy doesn’t have the money. I don’t want the guilt to consume me but it’s easier said than done. I am a work in progress and taking each day as it comes. I try not to listen to the “you need to do this” or “do it like that” I try not to feel criticised or like I’m doing something wrong. I’m trying to find my own way that works for us.
‘I want to be able to show my daughter that she can achieve great things, be confident and bold’
When I hear my daughter laugh or see her smile, when she says “mummy I love you” I know actually I’m doing something right. She loves me regardless of my condition, regardless of how much money we do or do not have and in return I love her unconditionally because she is my gift, my blessing and we’re making new chapters, taking each day as it comes.
My condition is degenerative, so I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t know how my mobility could change down the line. I have to try and be positive I have goals and ambition and I want my daughter to have a good life. But I will try and not make these rigid plans for the future that could undoubtedly not be seen through as I have learnt that things change and plans don’t always work out.
I do want my daughter to be proud of me and I strive for good things. I want to be able to show my daughter that she can achieve great things, be confident and bold. She’s growing up as a statistic under the cloud of judgement and stereotype. But the cycle can be broken if we are heard and we are listened to.
So my original plans are in the past and that’s where they will stay so moving forward the story continues taking on new chapters different from the original plan. And so my story continues……..