Single Parent Spotlight: Rachel Selby

23rd November 2014
The aim of these interviews is to show how AMAZING us working single parents are. 

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! 

I’m sick of seeing the bad press single parents get in the media, because some single parents have taken the choice to live off benefits, or even worse, have children in order to get benefits. We all seem to get tarred with the same negative brush!


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 selby single parent spotlight
Rachel & DD


How old were your
children when you became a single parent, and how did this come about?


I did IVF as a single
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.

What things have you
found hardest as a single parent?


1.      
Having
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.
2.      
The
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.
3.      
No
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.
4.      
Unlike
divorcees who share custody, I never get a night or weekend off. And if I don’t
take DD somewhere she won’t go.

What are the benefits
to parenting alone, in your opinion?


You don’t have to
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.

Have you faced any
negative judgements/stereotypes for being a single parent? If so can you share
with us what happened and how it made you feel?


Strangely I haven’t.
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.

What sort of
relationship do you have with your ex, and how easy/difficult is it to maintain
for your child/ren?


There is no ex who is
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).
What’s your job, and
how many hours do you work per week?


I am a teacher of
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.

Who looks after your
child/ren when you’re working? How do you feel about the current childcare
arrangements?


Childcare here is
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.

How old was your
child 
when you first went back to work? How easy was it to adjust back into
work?


I went back to work
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).
I was shocked by how
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?

Have you ever felt
guilt by working? If so, why?
I’ve not felt guilty
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?

What’s your view on
Child /Working Tax Credits, and the cost of childcare?


Childcare in Israel
is not expensive from the age of 3 although there are costs.
From 21 months till 3
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 .
From 3 ½ to 5 ½ she
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.
Now I pay about 130 GB
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).
The biggest expense
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.

What is your
work/home/social life like? Have you managed to find a good balance? If so,
how?


A lot of my work is
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.
Social life happens
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.  

Are you dating again?
If so, how long did it take before you were ready to date again?


No. Who has time or
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.
What would your top 3
tips be to a newbie single parent?


1.      
Have
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.
2.      
Forge
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.

3.      
Look
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!

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11 Comments

  • Midlife Singlemum

    23rd November 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks for this Claire – she sounds more together here than I feel, lol.

  • prwilson

    26th November 2014 at 3:26 am

    Insightful.

    1. Midlife Singlemum

      29th December 2014 at 4:58 pm

      Thank you.

  • Kat Sighs

    26th November 2014 at 7:16 am

    This is a great idea to support single mums. I shall read the posts for helpful tips as I have just become a single Mum too

    1. Midlife Singlemum

      29th December 2014 at 4:53 pm

      Good luck Kat, it's not easy but it's doable and it has some unique rewards too. xx

  • Maya Russell

    26th November 2014 at 10:22 am

    Very interesting perspective. I wonder what effect it will have on her daughter later on in life, having brought her up willingly 'fatherless',

    1. Midlife Singlemum

      29th December 2014 at 4:56 pm

      I'm not the first person to do this in out society. One of my best friends has a 20yo daughter who grew up in very similar circumstances and she's fine with it. I hope my DD turns out the same. We also have friends who's children are a few yeas older than DD. No one has gone off the rails yet. Comnon wisdom is that children will accept things the way you present them.

  • Emily Twin Mummy and Daddy

    30th November 2014 at 8:59 pm

    I think as long you're teaching children right from wrong and supporting them in every area that they need supporting in, then a mum and dad isn't necessary. One parent can do the job of two sometimes better than two can do the job of two! #BinkyLinky

    1. Midlife Singlemum

      29th December 2014 at 4:57 pm

      I totally agree. 🙂

  • Bek

    11th December 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I absolutely understand what you have said about wanting to be a mother. It is interesting to read about choosing to have a baby this way. Your daughter looks happy and well loved.x #singleparentlinky

    1. Midlife Singlemum

      29th December 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks Bek. xx

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