Michelle Collins opens up on life with a single mum and saying her dad was dead

EastEnders star Michelle Collins has opened up about how she told pals her dad was dead – rather than admit having a single mum.

The actress told the powerful story of her 1960s childhood at a celebration of single parents in Parliament today.

Michelle, 58, now a single mum to her own daughter Maia, said there is still a “stigma” and she felt other mums treated her with “contempt”.

But she praised single parents as “a vital part of the social fabric” adding: “Thankfully we’ve come a long way since I was growing up”.

Michelle, a writer and producer who founded the Women in Media group, played Cindy Beale in EastEnders from 1988 to 1998 and Stella Price in Coronation Street from 2011 to 2014.

She told MPs and campaigners at the Day of the Single Parent event: “I alongside my sister Victoria was brought up by my mother single-handedly.

"This was in Islington in north London in the early Sixties, when being a single parent was not hugely common and life was pretty tough for my mother.

"She struggled bringing up two kids and doing various very low-paid jobs to make ends meet.

"I remember saying to my classmates that my father was dead rather than admit that I didn’t have one, and tell the truth that actually I just lived with my mum.

"Fortunately my mother managed to go back into education when I was around 13 or 14 and got a degree, enabling her to get a much better paid job and security.

"I am immensely proud of that."

Michelle split from Maia's dad Fabrizio Tassalini in 1998 and they remained on friendly terms before his death in 2014.

She said: "There is definitely still a stigma attached to being a single parent and I think one can often feel isolated and misjudged.

"I know sometimes when my daughter was at school I often felt some of the other parents treated me with contempt.

"‘Oh there’s that career woman who’s never here, always working' – when I actually was the sole breadwinner and I did my best, constantly apologising for feeling like a guilty single parent."

Campaigners celebrated single parents at Speaker's House in Westminster for the event arranged by Labour MP Rupa Huq.

Comedian Shappi Khorsandi urged MPs to reverse the closure of Sure Start centres – hundreds of which shut under the Tories.

Describing her own experience of Sure Start, she said: "We would create a nest of feathers for each other so when that mother couldn’t cope, she had… other mothers who could carry her load.”

“A little girl came in with slap marks on her cheek because her mother couldn’t cope. Because we saw those slap marks on her cheek we knew, and we were on it, and she got support and she got help.

“She was not this evil mother – she was a mother who couldn’t cope. And if she hadn’t had Sure Start to go to we wouldn’t have known the peril she was in.”

She also revealed how her daughter called Jeremy Corbyn “daddy” – because she thought that’s what all men were called.

"There was no father in her life, and because she heard men be called daddy, she thought 'daddy' meant 'man'," she said.

"It was so awkward when I was invited to give a speech at a rally in Parliament Square against austerity and Jeremy Corbyn was also there.

"And my toddler child pointed at him and said ‘Daddy!’."

BBC presenter Adrian Chiles, who split from wife Jane Garvey in 2008, told campaigners: "I do remember when Jane and I were together and our younger child had some whooping cough, a dislocated hip and whatnot and would just scream all night.

“I remember saying to Jane – I said, ‘how does some single parent, single mother, in some tower block on their own cope with this kind of thing without absolutely losing the plot?

“To this day I still ask myself that question and I haven’t got an answer. I just don’t know how you do it.”

He added: “It’s all around us, it’s extremely common and there’s a million daily miracles happening all around us.”

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