Creating a work-life balance as a single parent
Single parents – be they separated, divorced, or were never together with the other parent of their child – are moving into work faster than any other group, according to a 2014 report by Working Families.
However, when you’re a single parent, the problem of combining work with family life can be daunting, and can even deter you from re-entering the workforce.
One thing which may relieve any worries you have is knowing your legal rights:
- As of 30 June 2014, the UK government gave all British employees the legal right to request flexible working.
- If you have worked for an employer more than 26 weeks, you can apply to work on a flexible arrangement. This can mean either sharing your job with another employee, working from home, working part time, staggering your hours, compressing your hours, annualising your hours or phasing your retirement.
- You can simply apply for flexible working hours by writing a letter to your employer. They must respond with a set time period. Learn more about how to apply for flexible working on the UK government website.
Apart from the legal aspect of getting a work-life balance, there are small changes you can make to your work and home routines to help you provide for your family and spend quality time with them.
- Try to prioritise. Decide what is truly important. If you think a certain email or telephone message can wait until tomorrow, then try to ignore it and give priority to spending time with your family.
- Turn off the work phone and work email out of office hours. You may feel guilty for not answering messages out of work hours, but remember that this is your family time. You shouldn’t feel bad for leaving your work responsibilities at the office.
- Leave on time at least once a week. If you’re a single parent, this may already be a top priority depending on your childcare arrangements. But if you’re prone to putting in the extra hours, try to stop on time at least once a week.
- Talk. After a long day at work, you may feel too tired and frustrated to really listen to your child, but it is this communication that helps your child grow and bond with you. Take the time to listen, respond and understand what they’re going through.
- Agree on a more effective childcare arrangement: If working and caring for your child are becoming too difficult to manage, you can try re-negotiating your childcare arrangements with your ex-partner. For example, you may decide to change the days the child stays with the non-resident parent.
- Ask for help from family: Remember that you’re not completely alone. If you have family members you can turn to for help, why not ask if they can support you by caring for your child a couple of hours each week so you can work?