Today we’re interviewing Chris, a single working father who explains what it’s like to run your home, look after your child and work, all single-handedly with very little help from family nearby. Is it really possible to go back to work with a small child and can you carve out a future for you and your little ones on your own? How does this modern day Super-Dad do it? Read on to find out…
There are around 2 million single parents in the UK and 68% work. For those who don’t and even those who aren’t parents, I think the first question has to be: How do you manage two jobs at once? Looking after your child and working?
I wish it was just 2 jobs. We live in a difficult time work-wise, so like many people I have to have multiple jobs, even more so due to the fact I can’t take a full-time job without making a choice not to be there for my son. I know plenty of people choose to work anyway, but it was obvious to me that the right thing to do for my son was to be around as most kids would have at least one of their parents around.
You’re a single parent, are you co-parenting or are you the sole parent?
I 100% sole parent. Unfortunately for a couple of reasons, my child’s mother isn’t able to look after him even for an hour or two. He still has contact with her but at the moment it’s all down to me.
When you first became a Father was there a big change in your working life?
Massive! I was on tour with one of the biggest rock bands of the last 30 years. I’d spent a large part of my life working my way up to work as crew with band’s and artists, this progression came to a stop overnight, though I’ve managed to find a band who need me about the same amount of time as I’m available! I’ve had to replace this career with some teaching and staying as local as possible.
How do young children affect your work?
If it fits between 9:30 and 3, then it’s great, outside of that, it’s awkward and I have to carefully weigh up the benefits of the income and the cost of being away from my son. (And sometimes the cost of childcare if friends aren’t able to help out).
Have you had to make sacrifices? (sleep etc!)
Sleep is just one of many things that change. A cinema trip, with childcare, a ticket, and a snack could soon add up to £35-40, which is far too much to spend on treats! The same for eating out. Other sacrifices off the top of my head would be, ski trips and travel in general. The logistics would make it impossible for now. Complete freedom of where to live (consistency is so important when it comes to schools and friends), and as you mentioned lie-ins. Even on the rare occasion, my boy is staying with his grandparents, there are either important things to do or a body clock that won’t give you any rest!
Do you have help from family and what advice would you give to someone who doesn’t have a partner and doesn’t have family help but would like to be in employment?
My parents and my son’s other grandparents live a fair distance away, so them helping out is either a big favour or a few hours drive to get free childcare from them! They have their own lives and you’re always a little conscious of how much of their time you’re taking. I tend to make use of it just to fulfill unmissable work opportunities. My advice would be to keep at it, and you’ll find something that fits, and to keep looking and changing until you do. It’s important to be happy in what you do, to be earning what you deserve, and not to compromise what you feel is the right way to balance life and work. Look out for others in a similar position to you, they could use help too, and whether you’re helping them or they’re helping you, everyone wins; the kids get time together to deepen their friendships!
Does having a child get in the way of your ambition?
Everything changes when you have a child, so what you ‘dreamed of’ becomes more about outcomes (if it wasn’t already). I think the pressure actually comes off a bit, and if you still have an unfulfilled ambition, it becomes a focus like it wasn’t before when you have limited time and resource to put into it. So perhaps it’s even better!
Does it get easier as children get older, for parents, specifically single parents, to ease back into working life?
The older kids get, the more demanding they are on your time (with clubs, after school and weekend socialising), and the ticking clock of them approaching the age they’ll lose interest in you! I don’t think their age has much effect on how ‘easy’ it is to work, just time passing in general and finding a rhythm between work and home life.
What are the main obstacles to being a single parent for you?
I think the more difficult part of being a single parent is having to make decisions for your kids (and that affect them) without someone to get a 2nd opinion on things. There’s no-one to argue with about a decision of course, but some affirmation or joint brainstorming feels like a valuable missing component.
For those out there who perhaps want to get back to work but feel they can’t, what advice would you give?
Think hard about what you want to be doing. I’m a musician (a singer and guitarist), and although pushing through years of no pay and trying to get a record deal really isn’t even a dream I can have, (responsibly speaking), playing guitar and singing is. I perform locally and I teach. I also have things going on I never imagined I would before, things I’m good at, and can earn well doing. Opening doors to other options is better than doing nothing at all.
What jobs do you think are ideal for those to fit around the routine of being a parent?
If you can work in a school, then it’s probably the perfect fit. Small businesses are also great at understanding single parent situations. Just being upfront and clear about what you need could be a perfect fit for an employer. Working for yourself is also a great option, obviously, it can take time to build up, but it can be the most ideal situation.
Being a single parent, is it even more important to be organised?
Of course! I’m naturally not organised, I confess. I prioritize the things that are most important: clean uniform, homework completed, on time for school and so on. I do very little ironing, and the garden could use some attention but making sure the time you have in the diary is filled with work is more important if you only have the drive/organisation skills to do some of the tasks that should be completed!
Financial worry can cause more stress than anything else and is said to cause most arguments in relationships, do you worry about financial stresses as there is only one parent (yourself) in your household?
I suppose I do to a degree, but I’ve made sure we have a very minimal expenditure, rather than costs that would be hard to meet. I’d like a lifestyle that cost more, but only if we could afford it. We don’t go without, I just became very good at thrifty-living.
Do you have any advice Specifically for single parents generally?
Try not to live the life of someone who’s not a parent or is raising their child with someone else. Accept your situation and be realistic… some changes in priorities may be necessary.
What would you say are the upsides to single parenting? (eg closer relationship)
Definitely a close relationship with your child/children. And as I said before, not arguing with someone over decisions. You have the final say on everything!
What do you see for you and your child’s future together?
It’s hard to say! I hope I meet someone, fall in love, and can share what remains of raising my son. I hope we become more financially stable either way and can enjoy luxuries that we might have had with two incomes. My son is seven now, and I think we’ll start to do more together, travel a little, share experiences, etc.
Would you like to add anything further?
Don’t underestimate the time it takes to look after a house with children in. For a while, nothing will get done unless you do it, but remember, there’s no time too early to teach your child to help with chores, even if you start with them putting away their own toys! You’ll be setting them up well to look after their own house someday too, a skill that a lot of people leave their parents home without!