Being a single parent not only comes with the pressure of having to do everything alone, but also judgement from society; whether that be friends, family or employers.
However, a stunning new exhibition is celebrating the beauty of single parenting as well as the stories behind each family.
Photographer Polly Braden embarked on the project after becoming a single parent herself and began looking at prejudices and policies that impact the parent who remains with the kids.
With help from charities, law firms, community hubs, and women’s organisations, she began finding single parents to share their tales and be the subjects of her pictures.
Polly said: “I learned about their sense of adventure, optimism, creativity, ambition and resilience, transcending the often difficult situations they face.
“These photographs have been made in collaboration: some have even been taken by the parent themselves, after setting up the camera and lights.”
One of the women featuring in Polly’s collection is Fran, mum to Penny, 13, and Dominic, 11, who left her partner in a bold move when he went to work.
Fran said: “We took no clothes, nothing. We just walked. I went into a photo booth and took a photo of the three of us. I call it my liberation photo. I never looked back.”
There is also Jana, who fled an arranged marriage with Izaan, five, and two-year-old Yanna, and left with nothing but her daughter’s car seat, milk bottle and some of their clothes.
Jana said: “Two years ago, if someone had told me I’d be living in London by myself, taking care of my children by myself and had a place at one of the best universities in the world, I would have never believed it. My old self would have never recognised who I am today.”
Meanwhile, Gemma – mum to Freya, eight, Jack, six, and Elsie, two – met her partner at university, before they went on to graduate together, live together and find jobs together. Life seemed made.
Yet when he left her with the three children, Gemma panicked as to how she would survive.
She explained: “I was always in awe of single mothers. I couldn’t imagine having to do it all by myself. Now I’ve come to realise that actually I was doing it all myself anyway.”
While 90% of single parent homes are headed-up by women, of course there are single dads too.
A new book by portrait photographer Harry Borden shines a light on this, similarly to Polly, celebrating single-parent families but with fathers at the helm instead.
In his book, Harry shares snapshots of single-parent dads alongside their stories of love and loss.
Harry said: “The image of the single dad is often distorted by out-of-date notions of masculinity – the strong and resilient father, the working father, the emotionally distant dad.
“I want this book to reflect on fatherhood and the role men play in their children’s lives, to contribute to the ongoing debate about what it is to be a man and to honour these men engaged in the singular and vital task of bringing up their children.”
Whether you are a parent or not, we guarantee both Polly and Harry’s work will leave you uplifted.
To grab a copy of the book, click here: Single Dad.
To check out Polly’s exhibit in June, click here: Holding the Baby.