Sunday, 23 November 2014

Single Parent Spotlight: Rachel Selby

The aim of these interviews is to show how AMAZING us working single parents are. 
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! 

I’m sick of seeing the bad press single parents get in the media, because some single parents have taken the choice to live off benefits, or even worse, have children in order to get benefits. We all seem to get tarred with the same negative brush!

My thirteenth interviewee is 52-year-old blogger Midlife Single Mum (aka Rachel Selby), a teacher from Israel who has a six-year-old daughter.

rachel selby single parent spotlight
Rachel & DD

How old were your children when you became a single parent, and how did this come about?

I did IVF as a single woman. I was fine being single and there were/are romances and relationships in my life but not being a mother was something I couldn’t accept.

What things have you found hardest as a single parent?

1.       Having no backup. At home it means never being able to pop out to meet a friend or go to meetings/events in the evenings without paying for a babysitter (and sometimes it’s hard to find one who is willing to come for an hour while you go to a school meeting). My family live in the UK so we have no grandparents, aunts and uncles or cousins here. Friends are wonderful but you can’t ask your friends to have your poorly child for the day because you have to go to work in the way that you can drop her off at Grandma’s.

2.       The other big thing is that there isn’t another adult to take her out while I do the essential chores. If I need to clean the house (and believe me I don’t do it often) then DD doesn’t get to go out – even to the park, until I’m done.

3.       No second income and my earning ability is limited to the hours DD is in school. Even if I used all those hours diligently for work they do not add up to the hours a non-default parent can put in at the office.

4.       Unlike divorcees who share custody, I never get a night or weekend off. And if I don’t take DD somewhere she won’t go.

What are the benefits to parenting alone, in your opinion?

You don’t have to consult with anyone on decisions. There is no discussion about how I bring her up or spend our money. That’s all I can think of and it doesn’t sound very convincing unless you have a difficult partner.

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?

Strangely I haven’t. IVF for single women is big in Israel as the health funds pay for most of it (up to two children). The Government recognises the need for a woman to be a mother if she wants to. Surprisingly, some of the biggest support I’ve had is from religiously orthodox women who understand that for many of us it’s all about the children.

What sort of relationship do you have with your ex, and how easy/difficult is it to maintain for your child/ren?

There is no ex who is DD’s father. I did have a relationship when she was younger that ended. He never lived with us but she knew him and was very fond of him. When she asked about him one day – after quite a while as she didn’t see him often, I said he’d moved to Australia. DD: We can still facebook him (she meant Skype). Me: No we can’t, he didn’t take his computer with him. (It’s so simple when they’re 5 years old).

What’s your job, and how many hours do you work per week?

I am a teacher of EFL. I work in a local college part-time. I also give private lessons at home in the two hours between school ending and DD’s afternoon program ending. And I work on EFL publishing projects – writing and editing, when they are available. I also do some domestic organizing on the side (I’ll de-clutter, tidy, and organize your house). And finally, I rent out our spare bedroom short term to [female] tourists on a sort of B&B basis – it’s usually friends of friends or students, not complete strangers.

Who looks after your child/ren when you’re working? How do you feel about the current childcare arrangements?

Childcare here is amazing. DD has been in full day childcare (7.30am – 4pm) since she was 21 months old (two years private and two years State funded). Now she is in school which finishes at 2.20 but I pay for the afternoon programme which finishes at 4.30 and also provides her with a hot lunch at 12.45pm.

How old was your child when you first went back to work? How easy was it to adjust back into work?

I went back to work when DD was 21 months which was the beginning of the academic year. I should maybe have gone back a year earlier but at 9 months I wasn’t ready to hand her over to childcare. By 21 months we were both more than ready to widen our horizons (I was going nuts basically).
I was shocked by how few hours I had available to work and how exhausted I was even with DD at nursery all day. I thought I’d go back to earning like I did pre-motherhood but this is impossible. I had to find more flexible work as I wanted to be around to attend nursery events, take DD to the park, and be able to keep her at home if she felt under the weather. And what about all those school holidays?

Have you ever felt guilt by working? If so, why?

I’ve not felt guilty about working as I’ve cobbled together a package of work that fits in with being a mother to a small child. I considered going for an office job in one place with all the convenience and stability that includes, but I rejected the idea. I couldn’t take the stress of being required to be in two places at once if DD needed me and I needed to be at work. I would suffer from guilt every time I had to take DD to the doctor or keep her at home and have to call the office and tell them. There have been winters where I’ve been sick for a week followed by DD being sick for a week – how do you take two weeks off work without being fired?

What’s your view on Child /Working Tax Credits, and the cost of childcare?

Childcare in Israel is not expensive from the age of 3 although there are costs.

From 21 months till 3 ½ (2 years) DD was in a private nursery costing about 400 GB pounds a months. My parents helped pay for this – remember that our salaries are much smaller than UK salaries. I could have moved her into a State nursery for the second year but chose not to as DD was happy where she was, we loved the nursery and the staff, and I felt that the continuity was important at 2 ½ .
From 3 ½ to 5 ½ she was in State kindergarten (ours was connected to her primary school where she started first grade this year). These are the cheapest years – about 20 GB pounds a month for 7.30 – 2pm and I paid another about 40 pounds a month for the afternoon hours until 4pm.

Now I pay about 130 GB pounds a month for DD to be in school from 8am till 4.30pm (including school dues for extras and the optional afternoon programme with a hot lunch).
The biggest expense for working parents is the school holidays. There are day camps organised but they are expensive. Parents usually split holiday child care between them, the grandparents and day camps. As I’m a teacher I’ve intentionally avoided this dilemma but other single parents suck it up (what choice do they have) regarding it as an investment in their careers until the kids become teenagers and can stay home alone.

What is your work/home/social life like? Have you managed to find a good balance? If so, how?

A lot of my work is from home. One of my college courses is an online course. I give private English lessons at home in the afternoons. At 4.30 I collect DD from school and she has to come shopping with me if we need to shop or do other errands. Otoh, I do have the option of fitting in some of these errands during the day. I’m with her until 8pm when she goes to sleep. Supposedly I get on the computer and do a couple of hours work or I cook when DD is asleep but often I just red or watch something and chat on facebook.

Social life happens almost exclusively on facebook. I can’t afford babysitters atm. However, there is a lot of family socializing on Shabbat (Saturdays) and we often eat with friends on Friday night and/or Saturday lunch. But even this has shifted from me eating with my old friends to a new social circle of families with children where I am usually at least 10 years older than any other parent and often a peer of any grandparents present. It doesn’t make a difference, I get on with anyone and I don’t feel old.  

Are you dating again? If so, how long did it take before you were ready to date again?

No. Who has time or the money for babysitters? My divorced friends date on their nights off but I don’t have this. My most recent relationship was with a fellow academic so we could meet during the day once or twice a week. I would be open to meeting someone new but I won’t go through all that online dating – I’ve done it before and it’s depressing quite frankly. If I meet someone (and I’m certain I will as love tends to come around every few years) it will be through friends or going about my real life offline.

What would your top 3 tips be to a newbie single parent?

1.       Have a daily, weekly, monthly schedule and routines. Even if you don’t stick to them (and it’s important to be flexible) at least you have a slot for everything to get done so you don’t feel like you are just drowning in too much to do.

2.       Forge friendships with other single parents in order to help each other out when necessary and also to get together on occasions when everyone else seems to be going to family. This summer my little group of four mothers and four children went camping together. On Independence Day we usually picnic together. Our children know each other well enough that they can sleep over if necessary.

3.       Look after yourself and respect yourself. It’s so easy to let yourself go, eat junk and leftovers, not bother to get your hair cut, wear old clothes rather than spend the money to look nice. If you let yourself go you will feel depressed and end up isolating yourself even more and it will lead to a vicious cycle of depression, isolation, comfort eating, etc… Respecting yourself includes keeping your house clean and tidy. It’s easier to let housework go when there is no other adult sharing your space who will notice the mess and dirt and be irritated by it in the way that kids are not. Every self-help theory starts with getting yourself and your environment into shape. You’ll feel so much better about yourself that everything else will follow.

If you want to be interviewed for the next Single Parent Spotlight, contact me on the tab at the top of the page!

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  1. Thanks for this Claire - she sounds more together here than I feel, lol.

  2. This is a great idea to support single mums. I shall read the posts for helpful tips as I have just become a single Mum too

    1. Good luck Kat, it's not easy but it's doable and it has some unique rewards too. xx

  3. Very interesting perspective. I wonder what effect it will have on her daughter later on in life, having brought her up willingly 'fatherless',

    1. I'm not the first person to do this in out society. One of my best friends has a 20yo daughter who grew up in very similar circumstances and she's fine with it. I hope my DD turns out the same. We also have friends who's children are a few yeas older than DD. No one has gone off the rails yet. Comnon wisdom is that children will accept things the way you present them.

  4. I think as long you're teaching children right from wrong and supporting them in every area that they need supporting in, then a mum and dad isn't necessary. One parent can do the job of two sometimes better than two can do the job of two! #BinkyLinky

  5. I absolutely understand what you have said about wanting to be a mother. It is interesting to read about choosing to have a baby this way. Your daughter looks happy and well loved.x #singleparentlinky


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