Friday, 16 May 2014

Single Parent Spotlight: Ellen Slater

The aim of these interviews is to show how amazing us working single parents are. I’m sick of seeing the bad press single parents get, especially because some single parents have unfortunately taken the choice to live off benefits, or even worse, have children in order to get benefits, and we all seem to get tarred with the same negative brush!
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!
 
My third interviewee is the very lovely, intelligent and hard-working Ellen Slater*. She has three daughters, aged 15, 17 and 18.
(*this is not her real name, but she wanted to be kept anonymous).
 
Ellen
 
How old were your children when you became a single parent, and how did this come about? The girls were 11, 10 and 8 when father left after he had an affair.


What things have you found hardest as a single parent?
Hardest thing is the emotional impact of the family breakdown and the feelings of sadness for the children who felt torn between what dad said and what I said- they didn't know who to believe!

Being the only one available in emergencies such as being sick at school can be difficult too.
 
What are the benefits to parenting alone, in your opinion?
Not sure what the benefits of lone parenting are, as it's really hard work! Often when the absent parent decides to participate they are seen as fantastic in the child's eye, so having emotional support from your friends and family is vital to get through this.
 
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?
I've not experienced this, but sometimes people act like they feel sorry for me. The break up showed me who my true friends were, and I found the most difficult reaction was from my parents who seemed to put a little bit of the blame onto me, implying I should have had dinner on the table for him when he got home, even though I worked later than him!
 
What sort of relationship do you have with your ex, and how easy/difficult is it to maintain for your child?
Our relationship is fine now, but was difficult to start with, but we had to maintain it for the children. Unfortunately at the start, the children did witness some fights between us, but I tried my best to get him to stop saying nasty things in front of them.
 
How much contact does the father have?
For the first six months after the break up we tried it weekly, but he was inconsistent as he was more focussed on his new partner. Then there was a period of time when he didn't see them for about a year as the children had been rude to his partner.
Now the girls are older, they visit him when they want to, which is normally for a couple of hours during the school holidays. One of the girls chooses to rarely see him, as she is still hurt that he didn't visit her when she was critically ill in hospital.
 
How does your children cope with contact?
They found it difficult at the start, but they enjoyed it as he would take them to cinema. They would shun me a little when they returned home, but they did start to get used to it. He then stopped the contact which did have an impact on them in terms of how they attach to their peers in my opinion.
 
Does he pay maintenance? If so, how did you come to an agreement on the amount?
He paid for the first six months then stopped without telling me. I was advised to take him to court, but he stopped paying court bills and gave up work so nothing got done.
 
Who looked after the girls when you were working? How do you feel about the current childcare arrangements?
Had help from my family which was very useful and it gave my girls a great bond with their grandparents. I did miss some of their first things (e.g. steps) which was hard.
 
How old were the girls when you first went back to work? How easy was it to adjust back into work?
I worked full time until my youngest was one, then worked 15 hours a week until she went to school. This gradually increased back to full time and I've had no real breaks from working.
 
What's your view on Child /Working Tax Credits, and the cost of childcare?
I like the idea of them, but so confusing. Despite telling them whenever I've had income changes, they have still managed to overpay me and I will be paying it back until I retire!
 
What is your work/home/social life like? Have you managed to find a good balance? If so, how?
Work and social life ok- I've been lucky as I have a big family. When the girls were younger I didn't feel very sociable as I was always so tired.
 
Are you dating again? If so, how long did it take before you were ready to date again?
I began dating again after 6 months, but it was somebody I had been friends with since I was 17.

Any dating tips?
Through friends? Facebook? Social groups of interest?
 
What would your top 3 tips be to a newbie single parent?
Be yourself, be prepared for children not to be happy about sharing you with a new partner (wait six months before introducing them) and don't feel guilty for having some 'me-time'.  
 
If you want to be interviewed for Single Parent Spotlight, please contact me with your details.
 
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