Saturday, 28 March 2015

Single Parent Spotlight: Jo Blythe

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 seventeenth interviewee is 37-year-old Jo Blythe, an accountancy recruitment consultant from Exeter who has one son aged 2.

How old were your children when you became a single parent, and how did this come about? 
My son was 6 weeks old when my husband walked away from our marriage. I later found out he had met someone else whilst I was pregnant.

What things have you found hardest as a single parent?
- Initially it was grieving for the future I thought my son and I would have as part of a family unit, it took time to realise we were a family unit – just not the one I had imagined!
- My son has always been a poor sleeper waking frequently during the night (he still wakes once or twice per night), not having someone else to share the night time feeds/wakings and the permanent tiredness that follows.
- Not having someone there to share each little development step, first step, first word, etc.
- Making ends meet! Financially I’m struggling and I have never been in this position before.

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

My son and I have a wonderful bond! I get twice as many kisses and cuddles.
When I’m not at work we do what we want when we want!
I moved to the countryside (near my parents) following the breakdown in my marriage and so we spend far more time outside in the fresh air and at the beach than we ever would have previously, and my son loves it. 

We also spend a lot more time with my parents – we lived with them for the first 18 months and still see them for 3 days each week – my son adores them and has such a strong bond with them.

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 have had many pitying looks over the last 2 years, but I handle them far better now! I have come up against the stereotype that I must be claiming benefits as a single parent. People are often surprised that I have saved up and bought a house and that I work full time and do not receive benefits.

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

My relationship with my ex is civil these days, all communication was done via email for at least 18 months and this has developed into being able to have short conversations now. We keep communication to only the welfare of our son and that’s it. I have and always will put my son first and maintained my dignity.

How much contact does the father have?
My son’s father spends one day a week with him as he works part time and one Saturday a month, this will develop to overnight stays on the Saturday in the next few months. I have never prevented contact and feel it is important for my son to have a relationship with his father and it is my responsibility to facilitate that until he reaches an age at which he can make his own decisions.

How does your child cope with contact?
My son’s Dad has always been consistent with contact which I think helps and as my son doesn’t remember a time we were together, to him it is normal to live with Mummy and see Daddy each week. It’s not all been smooth sailing though, we’ve separation anxiety issues and my son has acted up when he gets back some weeks, he is usually more unsettled during the night after a contact day. However as he has got older and he understands more this is decreasing.

Does he pay maintenance? If so, how did you come to an agreement on the amount?

His Dad pays maintenance, he is a self-employed accountant so I am reliant on him being honest about his earnings (ha ha). He pleaded poverty at mediation and then turned up in a new car 2 months later! I have contacted CMS however they have said that they are unable to help as he is a self-employed accountant and in a nutshell I should be glad he pays anything. He pays the equivalent to the statutory 15% of earnings under the old child maintenance rules and this is based on his earnings at the time of our divorce.

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

I’m an accountancy recruitment consultant and I work 37 hours per week (plus extra when needed), although I have some flexibility on working hours to fit in with childcare arrangements on different days and an understanding employer!

Jo and her little man

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

My son goes to nursery 2 days per week, one day with his Dad and 2 days with my parents. It works well for us at the moment, I do feel guilty that I am so reliant on my parents for child care (even though they love spending time with their grandson!) I couldn’t afford to send my son to nursery more than 2 days.

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

5.5months old. It was tough as I had relocated whilst on mat leave so until I changed jobs I had 4 hours of commuting, a pressured job and broken sleep!

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

I work to provide for my son, ideally I would love to work 4 days a week but I can’t afford this so just have to make the most of our weekends.

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

I earn a reasonable income so do not qualify for child/working tax credits. I feel let down, and penalised for being a single parent. If my income was treated as a house hold income split between 2 parents, I would receive credits.  

Nursery costs are high - £52 per day. I claim child care vouchers however this is capped and is per parent. Both parents in a couple can claim child care vouchers on their individual incomes, so I’m penalised for being a single parent! 

I think it is hugely unfair that child maintenance does not reflect the high costs of child care and the father can walk away from this financial responsibility. I am responsible for my son’s care 4 days of the working week, without my parents help with child care I wouldn’t have been able to return to work.

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

I sometimes feel stretched a little thin balancing work and home life. I like to make the most of my time with my son at the weekends so we are as always out and about visiting friends and walking in the countryside and on the beach. I don’t have an adult social life to speak of! I don’t have the time or the finances for one, Facebook is a lifeline for me.

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

I have recently been on a couple of dates, and have only felt ready really to start dating in the last few months.

What tips do you have for other single parents wanting to meet someone?

None, let me know when you find out!

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

Give yourself time to grieve over your relationship.
Take one day at a time, remember to be kind to yourself.

Always put what’s in the best interests of your child first and be the better person/parent as you are your child’s role model. 

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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