Last week something happened to me that forced me to remember the precarious reality of single parenthood. Since he returned to Nottingham Dee’s father has had regular weekly contact with her on the exact same days/nights. They love spending time together and have an incredibly strong relationship. They are like sidekicks with similar quirks and interests. Not to mention she is his double in looks! Dee utterly cherishes the time she spends with her padre and I have been able to create a life for myself based on when Dee is with me and when she is with papa. So, imagine my anguish when I sent a text to padre asking if he would mind me dropping Dee off to his an hour earlier than usual and he replied informing me that had “made plans” for the entire day.
I would’t usually care about his schedule-we have been separated for six years – but it has been established between us that I have recently taken a job which requires me to work a set amount of hours on that specific day. Who’s supposed to look after Dee? I was in big trouble. But I’m certainly not the only single parent to ever be in this situation.
One of the biggest challenges for single parents who are the main carers of their children is childcare. The availability of good childcare very much depends on the area you live in. Often childcare providers require year-round commitment however, currently, the provision of 15-30 hours free childcare for 2, 3 and 4 year olds is only available during term time. As far as I am aware, the only jobs that run during term-time are ones in the education sector. This means that during the holidays many parents are left stumped having to pay extortionate rates for holiday clubs, if there are any that are easily accessible in their area. The same single parents then need to be granted flexible working that allows for them to drop off and pick up their children -something that is unfeasible/complicated in many low-paid jobs. And all of this doesn’t even take weekends into account.
In fact, The YWT carried out a report that highlighted access to childcare as one of two main barriers economically inactive single mothers face. Not only does a lack of childcare make balancing work difficult for lone working parents, it’s a prohibitive force for many others too.
Has the thought of arranging/ affording childcare ever put you off seeking work?