?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Our column opens up the life of a single mum – juggling life, love, work and of course kids on her own.
Sal Higgins is an author and journalist and mum to five kids, ranging in age from 19 to two, and is now raising them on her own. Her estranged husband has the usual alternate weekend arrangement, which means most of it’s down to her. She lives just outside London with her kids and their dog, Jamjar.

Here, she tells of her new life, the ups ands downs, the laughs and tears and the search for a new love – which, of course, will be her children’s new dad.

Despite juggling Christmas and New Year without too much hassle from my estranged husband, I have decided there are things we need to discuss. And it’s clear that many attempts by me to tackle him on the subject of money, he provides just £160, as well as £300 for the mortgage…for your five kids… is not working. He just shouts at me things like ‘stop hasselling me’ and ‘piss off’ and ‘this is nothing to do with me’. What? Your children’s well-being is nothing to do with him?

Why do some men think that just because they are not living with their children, that they don’t have to provide for them?

My recently widowed elderly father is cashing in the bonds he has had for years to take up the slack. It shouldn’t be like this. My father, a kind and gentle man, who worked so very hard his whole life and supported his family of four girls and of course my mother, who didn’t have to work, is now having to support us until I can get on my feet.

But that’s not right. What right does my husband have to stop paying to put food on the table? And help with the cost of swimming lessons, football strips and boots, in fact anything. The children tell me if they ask for something, he says – ‘well maybe as part of your birthday..’ that’s in three months’ time. So they know to come to me.

So I’m hoping to tackle these problems at mediation (as service to allow two parents to discuss issues with other people helping to facilitate the proceedings). I don’t know what to expect, so when I get there, I am ushered into a room. There are two women there, and two seats opposite them for us. Five minutes later, my husband comes in. He sits down and moves his chair further away from me.

chessI burst into tears. The man I walked down an aisle to, the man I once loved to the very core of me, the man I trusted, is acting like a disgruntled teenager. It feels very raw.

It’s very clear he has a strategy of ‘being the victim’ in this – and he marches through our discussions with cold-hearted abandon like he’s playing a clever game of chess. ‘Nobody’s thinking of me,’ he says. ‘I need to pick up my life,’ he says. ‘I can’t handle the pressure from you…’ All about you, then. What about the little children you abandoned?

Needless to say, we get nowhere. He just doesn’t seem to understand that he has to step up and help. I offer him unlimited access to the kids, he says no. I offer him extra time to help with homework, he says no. I ask him to provide more money, he says no. The women mediators just make notes and seem quite powerless to do anything.

It’s awful. I eventually get the nod to leave and walk to the car in tears. I think my husband is more callous than I had thought was possible. He seemed to enjoy my distress…

Mediation only works if two people want it to. And clearly he just wants to find a way of making himself feel better about the situation he brought to us…

I’m back to square one.