Very often the concept of returning to work as a single parent can be a scary one, mainly because there are so many things to consider.
Who will help with childcare?
Is financial support available to help with the cost of childcare?
Will I be worse off financially relying on a wage rather than Universal credit?
Will an employer be flexible enough to allow me to start later so I can take the children to school?
These unanswered questions can often seem like a blockade preventing you from making clear decisions about your welfare into work journey. I’d like to remind you that its possible. It can be made easier with effective planning and a little help from friends and family from time to time.
So how did I make it work? I’ve set out a few steps below to make this a little easier for you.
1) Complete a daily childcare plan. Plan Monday through to Friday (or Sunday if you’re working weekends) and list what your childcare options are each day. Sometimes, having this visual and seeing it written down will help to make it seem more of a reality and will make you feel more at ease.
2) Utilise breakfast clubs and after school clubs- these can often be a much more cost-effective childcare option then a private day care.
3) Look into other after school clubs such as dancing classes, football clubs etc. These types of clubs do often have a cost involved but again may be more cost effective than a child minder
4) Speak to friends and family- sometimes offers of help and support come from the places you least expect it. This could be other parents at the school who are happy to help you out when needed, friends or other members of your family who are willing to pitch in and support your return to work.
5) If you are considering private day care or childminders, ask for recommendations and read the OFSTEAD reports. Having peace of mind that your child is in good hands will be essential for your well being and will help to keep you focused at work.
6) Take some free financial advice from the likes of Citizens advice or complete a “better off calculation”. This will ensure you are receiving all financial support possible and will help to give you an idea of what your finances will look like. I have enclosed a link to the calculator I prefer to use as it is easy to operate and gives clear figures - https://www.entitledto.co.uk/help/better-off-calculation
As a single parent there is often guilt attached when returning to work as you worry about not being able to do school drop offs or that you will miss the nativity. Its 2022 and I assure you there are lots and lots of employers out there happy to try and accommodate this. Quite often you manager understands the importance of this and will try and accommodate a shift slide, or offer holidays etc. Don’t be afraid to speak to them about it. I’ve asked at interview stage in the past, questions like, “what is the company policy for flexible working patterns to help parents?”
Don’t be afraid to ask, and remember, in an interview the employer is trying to see if you’re the right person for the job, but its also your chance to find out if they are the right employer for you!
Balancing a working life can be hard, especially with younger children at home. I have pulled together a few of my organisational hacks to help you make things easier.
1) Meal prep- I will often batch cook meals on Sundays and pop them in the freezer for those busy days.
2) If the children are old enough to do chores, then get them involved. Use a cork notice board and some money bags to hang up a list of chores with a financial reward attached (this could be as little as 50p) and let the children decide what chores they wish to chose. This will free up some time for you.
3) Plan in your “me time”. Plan some time for yourself into your diary. This could be something as simple as a bath with some candles or something a little bit more extravagant (purse permitting)
4) Accept help. If Auntie Mary is offering to take the kids to the park, take her up on the offer. There is no shame in needing a break to rest and recuperate.
It important to understand that you are you! As much as it feels amazing to be someone’s parent or spouse…. It is equally important to find time to be you and not feel guilt for needing to go to work.