Zoë Chapman of Kiddiwhizz: My Single Parent Journey

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Did you see single mum Zoë Chapman on Dragon’s Den pitching her award-winning portable toilet business Kiddiwhizz? Zoë not only captured the Dragons’ attention, but the nation’s heart with her story of success in the face of adversity. Here, she shares her single parent journey story with us.

single mum Zoë Chapman, founder of Dragon's Den winning company Kiddiwhizz, with her son
Zoë Chapman & her son

Like most Mothers, the memory of finding out you are pregnant is one that never leaves you. It was not just the greatest ‘life changing’ moment of my life to date but more than that, it was life saving. It was at seven weeks pregnant when the reality of my chance at motherhood was tested and our combined future was challenged. As it stood, my circumstances were not as straightforward as it appeared on the outside.

Following a long-term abusive relationship, I had found solace in a short-term relationship with a man I had known for 10 years, however the night before my 6-week scan he dropped the bombshell that he didn’t want a child and was insisting I have an abortion.

To add to this instability, I had been left no option to leave my successful job in the Financial District of London when my mental health deteriorated past the point of which I could hide it to my employers. I was living in a council flat that I’d been given when I was homeless 10 years previously and was in financial debt and living on state benefits. 

To add to the emotional side of my situation, I was the main provider of care for my disabled father, who was left paralysed and brain damaged nine years previously, together with my fragile mother, both of whom relied solely on me for everything.

Given my unpredictable life, I detached myself regularly from friends and only reached out when I was well enough or would not feel like an emotional burden.

A Reason To Thrive

As you can see, bringing a child into the circumstances as I’ve described them may seem selfish and unwise. However, whether it was the excellent therapy I’d received in hospital, the overwhelming elation I felt from the minute I looked at a positive pregnancy test or the mixture of both, I didn’t see this as a negative. I saw this as a positive life-changing new start, full of hope, love and happiness. 

I had gone from not having a reason to live whilst drowning in past trauma and numerous suicide attempts due to the unbreakable life of mental health, to now seeing a glimmer of hope. I was lucky to have a roof over my head, food in my cupboards and the brains, experience and tenacity to turn my hand to any job, scenario or challenge I was faced with. If I was to commit myself to this turning point I would need to do absolutely everything in my power to protect my baby and ensure he/she was brought into a safe, happy and healthy world surrounded by unconditional love and support.

Becoming A Single Mum

The reality was that although I was the healthiest and happiest I’d been in my life to that point, nothing could prepare me for the rollercoaster of emotions that were to come.

I went into labour and had a relatively straightforward water birth as planned, however things took a turn for the worse when the placenta became stuck. To skip the scary birthing story, it was a moment I will never forget but the overwhelming fight to stay alive for my baby definitely played a part for the first time in those hours that followed.

On my discharge from hospital reality hit home pretty quickly, for starters I had left without knowing how to breastfeed properly so with no family members around me to help and only people contacting me to take a look at my baby, I was left wondering what to do next. Days later with no health visitor making contact, a screaming hungry baby and only the internet to turn to for help, I called the hospital in tears begging for assistance.

However, as the months went on both mine and son’s health issues became more overwhelming, without enough support or guidance not to mention the lack of sleep and nutrients I needed, I totally overlooked my own health needs. I was trying to come across as a super mum and like I had it under control for fear of judgement or confirmation that I couldn’t handle motherhood alone. When my son was 6-months old, after only two nights of sleep I finally had a breakdown. It was at that point when I told myself that I was a total failure and although I’d tried my best it just wasn’t good enough. In my mind, my son was the victim of a selfish decision and deserved more than I could give.

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The problem is that when you don’t have a partner or family to step in, you have no choice but to dig even deeper and pull yourself out of the hole, no one else is going to do it for you. I luckily had a friend stay with me for about a week after I reached out and said how scared I was but she had a life to lead and I had to regain control somehow. I think the first year of my son’s life was definitely the year that tested me the most, yet it was the following year that defined the resilience that I had built up by that point. My role as carer for my terminally ill father who was paralysed and unable to speak stepped up a gear. Aside from my son, he was my world. I had put him and his care above everything in my own life for 10 years but when he had yet another stroke on New Years day 2013 my world came crashing down from the fragile stilts that had been holding it up. 

In a critical state I had to be by his side each day to communicate with doctors and facilitate every tiny detail. My life went from feeding, nappies and medication for my toddler to replicating all of that for my Dad too. I was dealing with an inability to communicate with angry and frustrated pleas for help from both of them. 

For the next 14 months I was torn constantly between caring for them both, we practically lived in the hospital. At times I was going between floors to be with them on separate wards, it was a living nightmare. After my Dad passed away, I filled the gaping hole in my heart with anything to keep busy. My son and I began exploring and experiencing everything, we were always on a different adventure to find new places. The waves of grief that I was riding were compensated by the utter joy and pleasure I experienced just by looking at my son’s beautiful happy face. 

If my son was at nursery instead of chilling out I’d be at therapy or volunteering with my church or my local carer charity, anything not to be alone and have time to think. I had always set my parenting standards and expectations of myself so high that every ounce of my attention went on my son and ensuring that he was thriving and living the most fulfilled life he possibly could.

The Frolo Guide to Single Parent Benefits

A New Start

Each and every day I grow stronger and now I have a newfound respect for life. I’ve come from believing I was not worthy of being a mother to now seeing that I am a great Mum who has brought up an incredibly loving, kind and intelligent boy whose empathy for others has no limit. 

The time and dedication I put into harnessing his growing little mind each day has totally paid off. 

‘I wouldn’t change being a single mother for anything’ - Zoë Chapman

I had to undo the teachings of my own mum’s lack of support and luckily showing my son with love, affection and praise came naturally to me as a mother. We have built an unbreakable bond built on honesty, trust and respect for one another. I honestly wouldn’t change being a single mother for anything as I selfishly get my beautiful son all to myself all of the time without restrictions. I can’t say that I didn’t cry every Mothers’ Day when I didn’t get the lie-in, flowers or breakfast in bed or when I see dads playing football with their kids and so many more situations but I can say I’ve learnt to reframe and as cliché as it sounds it does get easier to cope.

There’s so many things I would have done differently with the impossible gift of hindsight, but a few of them I can start from now. Firstly, I’m not so hard on myself, I’ve lowered my expectations not only of myself but others too.

Secondly what has been invaluable to my progression over the last year is the community of other single mothers I have connected with on Instagram. Social media was something I turned my back on and demonised for its fake perceptions of reality. I was exposed to an unrealistic happy existence of the ideal ‘2.4 family’ that had a negative effect on me.

The Frolo Community

But it was through sharing my experiences, initially anonymously, that I’ve met hundreds of incredible single mums. These mums are now all part of the Frolo community that didn’t exist when I was at my loneliest so finding someone who ‘gets it’ is easier and can make all the difference.

I can’t wait for my children’s book ‘The seed that grew with love’ to be finally published as it outlines the true story I told my son when he asked “why don’t I have a Dad”. This will hopefully provide reassurance to little ones and open up the conversation that parents may struggle to start, while highlighting all the wonderful positives of being a Single Mum.

Zoë Chapman X Dragon’s Den

When I appeared on Dragons’ Den in 2023 I introduced myself as a proud single mum before anything else because I truly believe it is a sign of resilience in all situations including business and I will continue to champion the role we take on.

So here’s to the Frolo community, each and every one with a different journey and story to tell but all standing in solidarity for the incredible role we selflessly take on each day.

Visit kiddiwhizz.com to find out more about Zoë's amazing products.

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