Single Parent Spotlight: Rachel Selby
I want to highlight how hard, but also how rewarding being a working single parent is, and to hear how other people in my position handle the tougher times, in the hopes I learn how to be the best parent I can be!
My thirteenth interviewee is 52-year-old blogger Midlife Single Mum (aka Rachel Selby), a teacher from Israel who has a six-year-old daughter.
|Rachel & DD|
children when you became a single parent, and how did this come about?
woman. I was fine being single and there were/are romances and relationships in
my life but not being a mother was something I couldn’t accept.
found hardest as a single parent?
no backup. At home it means never being able to pop out to meet a friend or go
to meetings/events in the evenings without paying for a babysitter (and
sometimes it’s hard to find one who is willing to come for an hour while you go
to a school meeting). My family live in the UK so we have no grandparents,
aunts and uncles or cousins here. Friends are wonderful but you can’t ask your
friends to have your poorly child for the day because you have to go to work in
the way that you can drop her off at Grandma’s.
other big thing is that there isn’t another adult to take her out while I do
the essential chores. If I need to clean the house (and believe me I don’t do
it often) then DD doesn’t get to go out – even to the park, until I’m done.
second income and my earning ability is limited to the hours DD is in school.
Even if I used all those hours diligently for work they do not add up to the
hours a non-default parent can put in at the office.
divorcees who share custody, I never get a night or weekend off. And if I don’t
take DD somewhere she won’t go.
to parenting alone, in your opinion?
consult with anyone on decisions. There is no discussion about how I bring her
up or spend our money. That’s all I can think of and it doesn’t sound very
convincing unless you have a difficult partner.
negative judgements/stereotypes for being a single parent? If so can you share
with us what happened and how it made you feel?
IVF for single women is big in Israel as the health funds pay for most of it
(up to two children). The Government recognises the need for a woman to be a
mother if she wants to. Surprisingly, some of the biggest support I’ve had is
from religiously orthodox women who understand that for many of us it’s all
about the children.
relationship do you have with your ex, and how easy/difficult is it to maintain
for your child/ren?
DD’s father. I did have a relationship when she was younger that ended. He
never lived with us but she knew him and was very fond of him. When she asked
about him one day – after quite a while as she didn’t see him often, I said
he’d moved to Australia. DD: We can still facebook him (she meant Skype). Me:
No we can’t, he didn’t take his computer with him. (It’s so simple when they’re
5 years old).
how many hours do you work per week?
EFL. I work in a local college part-time. I also give private lessons at home
in the two hours between school ending and DD’s afternoon program ending. And I
work on EFL publishing projects – writing and editing, when they are available.
I also do some domestic organizing on the side (I’ll de-clutter, tidy, and
organize your house). And finally, I rent out our spare bedroom short term to
[female] tourists on a sort of B&B basis – it’s usually friends of friends
or students, not complete strangers.
child/ren when you’re working? How do you feel about the current childcare
amazing. DD has been in full day childcare (7.30am – 4pm) since she was 21
months old (two years private and two years State funded). Now she is in school
which finishes at 2.20 but I pay for the afternoon programme which finishes at
4.30 and also provides her with a hot lunch at 12.45pm.
child when you first went back to work? How easy was it to adjust back into
when DD was 21 months which was the beginning of the academic year. I should
maybe have gone back a year earlier but at 9 months I wasn’t ready to hand her
over to childcare. By 21 months we were both more than ready to widen our
horizons (I was going nuts basically).
few hours I had available to work and how exhausted I was even with DD at
nursery all day. I thought I’d go back to earning like I did pre-motherhood but
this is impossible. I had to find more flexible work as I wanted to be around
to attend nursery events, take DD to the park, and be able to keep her at home
if she felt under the weather. And what about all those school holidays?
guilt by working? If so, why?
about working as I’ve cobbled together a package of work that fits in with
being a mother to a small child. I considered going for an office job in one
place with all the convenience and stability that includes, but I rejected the
idea. I couldn’t take the stress of being required to be in two places at once
if DD needed me and I needed to be at work. I would suffer from guilt every
time I had to take DD to the doctor or keep her at home and have to call the
office and tell them. There have been winters where I’ve been sick for a week
followed by DD being sick for a week – how do you take two weeks off work
without being fired?
Child /Working Tax Credits, and the cost of childcare?
is not expensive from the age of 3 although there are costs.
½ (2 years) DD was in a private nursery costing about 400 GB pounds a months.
My parents helped pay for this – remember that our salaries are much smaller
than UK salaries. I could have moved her into a State nursery for the second year
but chose not to as DD was happy where she was, we loved the nursery and the
staff, and I felt that the continuity was important at 2 ½ .
was in State kindergarten (ours was connected to her primary school where she
started first grade this year). These are the cheapest years – about 20 GB
pounds a month for 7.30 – 2pm and I paid another about 40 pounds a month for
the afternoon hours until 4pm.
pounds a month for DD to be in school from 8am till 4.30pm (including school
dues for extras and the optional afternoon programme with a hot lunch).
for working parents is the school holidays. There are day camps organised but
they are expensive. Parents usually split holiday child care between them, the
grandparents and day camps. As I’m a teacher I’ve intentionally avoided this
dilemma but other single parents suck it up (what choice do they have)
regarding it as an investment in their careers until the kids become teenagers
and can stay home alone.
work/home/social life like? Have you managed to find a good balance? If so,
from home. One of my college courses is an online course. I give private
English lessons at home in the afternoons. At 4.30 I collect DD from school and
she has to come shopping with me if we need to shop or do other errands. Otoh,
I do have the option of fitting in some of these errands during the day. I’m
with her until 8pm when she goes to sleep. Supposedly I get on the computer and
do a couple of hours work or I cook when DD is asleep but often I just red or
watch something and chat on facebook.
almost exclusively on facebook. I can’t afford babysitters atm. However, there
is a lot of family socializing on Shabbat (Saturdays) and we often eat with
friends on Friday night and/or Saturday lunch. But even this has shifted from
me eating with my old friends to a new social circle of families with children
where I am usually at least 10 years older than any other parent and often a
peer of any grandparents present. It doesn’t make a difference, I get on with
anyone and I don’t feel old.
If so, how long did it take before you were ready to date again?
the money for babysitters? My divorced friends date on their nights off but I
don’t have this. My most recent relationship was with a fellow academic so we
could meet during the day once or twice a week. I would be open to meeting
someone new but I won’t go through all that online dating – I’ve done it before
and it’s depressing quite frankly. If I meet someone (and I’m certain I will as
love tends to come around every few years) it will be through friends or going
about my real life offline.
tips be to a newbie single parent?
a daily, weekly, monthly schedule and routines. Even if you don’t stick to them
(and it’s important to be flexible) at least you have a slot for everything to
get done so you don’t feel like you are just drowning in too much to do.
friendships with other single parents in order to help each other out when
necessary and also to get together on occasions when everyone else seems to be
going to family. This summer my little group of four mothers and four children
went camping together. On Independence Day we usually picnic together. Our
children know each other well enough that they can sleep over if necessary.
after yourself and respect yourself. It’s so easy to let yourself go, eat junk
and leftovers, not bother to get your hair cut, wear old clothes rather than
spend the money to look nice. If you let yourself go you will feel depressed
and end up isolating yourself even more and it will lead to a vicious cycle of
depression, isolation, comfort eating, etc… Respecting yourself includes
keeping your house clean and tidy. It’s easier to let housework go when there
is no other adult sharing your space who will notice the mess and dirt and be
irritated by it in the way that kids are not. Every self-help theory starts
with getting yourself and your environment into shape. You’ll feel so much
better about yourself that everything else will follow.
If you want to be interviewed for the next Single Parent Spotlight, contact me on the tab at the top of the page!