My 23rd interviewee is 34-year-old Kirsty Darcy, a graphics designer from Leeds who has two sons aged 7 and 3.
children when you became a single parent, and how did this come about?
months old and 5 years. We were living
in Germany as my (then) husband / my children’s father is in the army and we
were posted overseas. He had been
unfaithful several times throughout our marriage and lied about hidden debts.
When my youngest was born in Germany he was just 9 weeks old when my husband
went to Afghanistan for 6 months. It was very tough! When he returned, I
discovered he had been unfaithful out there and it felt like the biggest
insult. I promised myself he was on his last chance. 6 months later it happened again and I left
him and returned to the UK with the children.
found hardest as a single parent?
At first it was hard because I had no
income and had previously given up my career to allow my husband to pursue his
career in the army, moving locations (and countries) every 2 years. The children and I lived in a 1 bed flat for
13 months when we returned to the UK.
The guilt was a big thing to deal with as I felt like I had taken the
children from a family unit and squeezed them into unsuitable living
arrangements. After 5 months I was lucky
enough to get a job back in my original profession. The hardest thing then was losing time with
my children. My mum looked after them
for me as I worked full time (I’m very lucky to have her support) but I felt
like she was raising them instead of me and I missed them.
to parenting alone, in your opinion?
choose how I parent and there is little conflict with choices that need to be
made for them anymore.
negative judgements/stereotypes for being a single parent? If so can you share
with us what happened and how it made you feel?
I haven’t had any direct
negative judgements but I certainly feel ashamed of it sometimes – probably
just me thinking people are making a judgement on me, rather than them actually
doing or saying anything. When we first
came back to the UK as a single parent family, my eldest got a place in a very
small primary school in a good location and I felt like the only single mum in
the village. It felt like they politely
smiled at me across the playground but didn’t know what to say to me. A few months down the line I became good
friends with a few of them and realised the discomfort had probably been my
imagining and shame.
relationship do you have with your ex, and how easy/difficult is it to maintain
for your children?
At first it was
very difficult because however hard things were, he just said it was my choice
and he didn’t help very much (he seemed to think any help he gave was for me,
rather than understanding his children were living the situation with me). Once
the divorce was completed, about a year later, things were much better as there
was no animosity. I have always
encouraged him to see the children as often as he can and include him in any
news from their lives and involve him in any decisions that need to be made.
|Kirsty and her boys|
Due to him being located with the army 6 hours
away, contact has not been as frequent as the children deserve. He sees them every 2 or 3 weeks for a day and
a half. He does call them or facetimes
with them every single day though. He is
coming out of the army later this year and I hope he will see them more
regularly then and be in a position where he can take part in things like
parents evening or watching sports day and school nativities etc.
children cope with contact?
My eldest is quite emotional about it and
wishes he could see his dad every week, which is heartbreaking and makes me
feel guilty. My youngest doesn’t
remember it being any different due to his age when we split but he frequently
says he misses his dad.
maintenance? If so, how did you come to an agreement on the amount?
used the online calculator from cmo and made a voluntary agreement.
how many hours do you work per week?
I am a PR Executive and work 8.30am –
5pm Monday to Friday. There are lots of
times when I need to travel for work and this takes me away for a few
days. It’s also a demanding job and I
often have to bring work home to do in the evenings.
children when you’re working? How do you feel about the current childcare
My mum. I feel
grateful for her support and thankful my children are in the care of someone
who loves them very much. However, I
envy the time my mum gets with them as she sees them more than I do.
children when you first went back to work? How easy was it to adjust back into
work? Two and Five. It was very
difficult emotionally – I cried a lot in the first few weeks! It was also tough juggling work and home –
figuring out how to fit in the food shopping, laundry etc. The result is: we eat too late (around 7pm)
and the precious weekend time I get with my children is largely spent in the
supermarket, washing, cleaning and ironing.
I feel like I am always rushing and chasing my tail. I am also always tired.
guilt by working? If so, why?
All the time.
A few months after starting work, I was hurriedly trying to feed the
kids and get them to bed (I didn’t get home until 6pm and then cooked a meal,
which sometimes took an hour to get my youngest to eat and therefore bathtime
and bedtime was later than I liked). I
gave them jaffa cakes for dessert (guilt moment number 1!) and then heard my 2
year old count 1-2-3 for the first time.
I called my mum to announce he could count and she told me he had been
doing that for weeks. I realised I was
missing milestones. On another more
recent occasion, we were in our local supermarket at the checkout when my youngest
started waving at a family I didn’t know and they were waving back. He went over and was speaking to all of
them. Afterwards he told me it was his
friend Joe from nursery. When I asked my
mum about his friend I had never heard of before, she was surprised I didn’t
recognise his parents because it turns out they are my neighbours! I feel very detached from life!
Child /Working Tax Credits, and the cost of childcare?
The cost of
childcare is crippling and if it wasn’t for my mum, I would struggle
enormously. Tax Credits helped me a lot
when I was first a single mother and wasn’t working but after working for 16
months now – and always keeping them informed of my salary without being asked –
they told me a few months before xmas that an error had been made in the
calculations and they immediately stopped my payments, which I had already budgeted
for. It put a lot of worry and pressure
on me. They have still to let me know
how much I need to repay (due to their
error) and I have no idea how I will afford it.
work/home/social life like? Have you managed to find a good balance? If so,
No! I don’t feel like I see my
children during the week as I come home, cook, wash up, bath them and put them
to bed. Monday to Friday is like
groundhog day. I work really hard and
I’m over-stretched at work but can’t afford a job change / reduced hours. Weekends with my children never seem fair /
fun-enough for them because I need to get chores done that I can’t do during
the week. In contrast, when their dad
has them for a weekend, he doesn’t need to make sure there is food to feed them
for the following week or that their school uniform is clean and ironed so his
time with them is quality time with fun activities and trips out. I feel like they have a better time with
him. My social life is not as good as I
wish it were as I’m so busy and tired during the week that time flies by
without contact with friends. Most of my
friends are married and / or don’t live near me so the social opportunities are
not as often.
If so, how long did it take before you were ready to date again?
dated since I became a single mum. I
started 10 months after separating. I am
single now and not looking to date. I
was with a partner for a year and my children loved him and his kids. When we split up, I was very upset and so
were my children. I feel responsible for
letting that happen to them.
for other single parents wanting to meet someone?
Bring them into your children’s lives
very gradually after a long time of dating (which I know is hard when you’re
the primary carer and may not get much child-free time!). If your children are old enough, talk to them
about meeting someone else and how they feel.
I have a few male friends that are single dads and we get together
sometimes with our kids. Recently I
realised my eldest thought they were all boyfriends!
tips be to a newbie single parent?
- You’ll probably never feel
like you’ve got it all right but remind yourself how strong you are and
that other people looking in think you are amazing and one day your
children will understand you worked hard for them
- Kids want time, not
things. Don’t beat yourself up at xmas if the tree isn’t as full as their
friends’ trees and give yourself time when you can (online food shopping
- Keep talking – to your
family, your friends, the kids’ dad and your children