Dating single mother child support
"I was living at home and didn't get on with my stepmother," recalls Gwen, whose mother had died when she was aged 10.
"I mistook sexual love for what I was missing at home, and when I told my father I was expecting, my stepmother gave him an ultimatum and said it was her or me.
The turnover at Birdhurst Lodge was brisk, with each woman's stay limited to three months: six weeks before the birth and six weeks afterwards.
The timing was partly to give the mothers a chance to bond with their babies before deciding whether to have them adopted, but also a calculated move to let enough time elapse to make sure the babies were developmentally healthy, since adoptive couples did not want disabled children.
But what is it about lone motherhood that still provokes such rage and suspicion – and how have these women become demonised as the poster girls for a scroungers' society?Six weeks before her due date, she was sent on to the Edwardian Birdhurst Lodge, run by the evangelical Mission of Hope."In a way it was a relief, because there was a comfort in being with other girls in the same boat, and there was a lovely, sweet, kind woman called Nurse Beach," recalls Gwen.Even in the so-called family-friendly 1950s, the irony was that domestic life outside the walls of Birdhurst was often less traditional than we now realise. Unmarried Motherhood in 20th -Century England (Oxford University Press), shows that unmarried co-habitation, for example, was common as far back as the 1800s, when records first began.Indeed, the complex picture of society in Pat Thane and Tanya Evans' new history of single motherdom, Sinners? Thane, Research Professor in Contemporary History at King's College London, argues that there has never been such a thing as the ideal British family unit, but instead a whole raft of diverse arrangements to which the authorities turned a blind eye – until they had to pay for it.
But I was most interested in Birdhurst, where my mother gave birth to me.