Making Work Work for You
As single parents we already work hard: we bring up our children and run the home, but when the Government talks about single parents going to work they mean ‘paid work’ outside the home.
For single parents, going out to work means that you have two jobs; being the main carer for your family and also being the bread winner. To successfully combine these two roles you need to be very organised to deal with the extra demands placed upon you.
For you and your family to maintain a good quality of life while you are working, it is really important to not rush into anything, but to plan ahead and think carefully about how you can manage work and home.
Below are a number of things which you will need to consider:
Work life balance
It is crucial for single parents to create a balance between work and looking after their children. What you will need from your work life balance depends on how many children you have, their ages and the support you can have from family, ex partner or friends.
Some types of jobs, with supportive employers, will be able to offer you more flexibility than other jobs, so before returning to work it is important to be clear about how much time you can dedicate to work and how much time you need to be a parent. For further info read the article on Work Life Balance.
It is crucial to find out about childcare before accepting a job especially for parents with pre school children but also for those with older children. Depending on your hours of work you may need before or after school care for primary school children. Formal childcare tends to stop once children are at secondary school but you will still need to think about what they are doing if you are working after school hours, and what will happen in the school holidays. For further infomation and resources go to Work and Childcare.
A big motivation for going back to work is the money! But sometimes the expenses of communting, childcare, meals etc can leave you worse off. It is important to plan ahead and find out exactly how returning to paid work will affect your finances. This can be a bit daunting but you can get help from the job centre to do a ‘better off in work calculation’. You should do this before you take a job, not after. Many single parents can receive ‘in work’ benefits so going back to work does not always mean you will lose all your benefits, but they will change.
Are you ready?
If you have been out of paid work for some time you may feel nervous about returning to work and unsure about what you have to offer. This is natural and it is important to remember that everyone has skills and things that they are good at. Parents have transferable skills - skills you have used to look after your home and family. These skills can be used in the work place also. Going back into education or doing some volunteering will help you to build confidence and may also help you find a better paid job when you are ready to work. For more information look at our article on Getting into Voluntary Work.
Although returning to work can seem complicated, don’t be put off. There are a lot of good reasons to do paid work, not only being better off financially but also being a role model for your children, getting out and about and meeting people, developing a career and possibly doing something you enjoy and find rewarding!
The best way to approach work as a single parent is to plan ahead and be proactive; think about how working will fit in with your life and how you make going to work, work for you.