Guest blog: Challenge Poverty Week
I became a single parent after the birth of my second child. My relationship with my partner fell apart very slowly over time. We tried to make it work, but ended up going our separate ways. Adjusting to bringing up two children on my own was really hard. Being a parent is an incredibly tough gig – and suddenly, instead of two of us parenting, I was doing everything on my own. Sometimes it feels like I have made a superhuman achievement just to make sure we are all washed, dressed, fed and out of the house on time every day. There are other challenges too; there is less time to spend with them when I am working, and it is sometimes hard on the girls, and difficult to pay equal attention to them.
I have also felt isolated and lonely at times, because between work and parenting, I have very little time to see friends, or find time to look after myself. The difficulties we face are absolutely worth it though. My daughters light up my world and I would do anything for them. I think our relationships are even stronger and more loving because we are on our own. I honestly prefer things this way. Being on my own has given me more independence, more confidence and a really strong relationship with my daughters.
Families headed by a single parent come in all shapes and sizes; single mothers, single fathers, young parents, older parents, and grandparents stepping in to raise their grandchildren.
What we have in common is the responsibility of managing caring for children, keeping up with bills, looking after the house and getting out to work.
This week is Challenge Poverty Week – and it is important to think about the issues that affect single parent families in our city. One of the biggest challenges I faced was financial. It is harder to make ends meet with one income, and while I really wanted to work, I found it incredibly difficult to get a job that could fit around my responsibilities at home.
I know I’m not the only one. In fact, just under half of all single parents in Glasgow aren’t in work – and 43% of children in one-parent families are living below the poverty line. When you think about the barriers facing us – childcare, lack of time, and the fact that women (who make up the vast majority of single parents in Glasgow) still earn less than men – you can understand why.
I had a bit of a gap on my CV because I gave up work when I first became pregnant. I worked in a nightclub and the night shifts and being on my feet all night was too much. My partner became the main breadwinner, and I stayed at home with the children. I struggled to get interviews because I didn’t have as much recent work experience as other people.
Childcare was another huge issue – the costs can be really high, and potentially more than I was earning. I was lucky because my Nan was able to help me, but I know lots of other women who are really struggling to get work or access training and further education because they can’t afford to pay someone to look after their children.
There are a lot of us single parents about. In fact, 40% of all families in Glasgow are headed by a single parent. You might think this would mean that people might get used to the idea of people bringing up children on their own. But single parents still report feeling judged and stigmatised – research by One Parent Families Scotland found 83% felt they were stereotyped as “bad mothers” and “scroungers”. Attitudes like this don’t help people who are already facing challenges – and are completely out of step with the reality of our lives. If you’re perceived negatively by other people, it can make the other pressures you might be under feel ten times worse.
That’s why One Parent Families Scotland are running a campaign to challenge some of the negative attitudes single parents like me encounter.
The #ProudSingleParents campaign has been set up to give single parents the praise they deserve for the great job they do.
I know I work incredibly hard around-the-clock to make a better life for my family and to give them the love, opportunities and experiences they deserve, and I do it by myself. I think I, and the thousands of other parents in my position, deserve a pat on the back for that.
- OPFS research suggests parents still feel stigmatised and stereotyped today, portrayed alternately as ‘scroungers’ or ‘bad mothers’ responsible for ‘broken families’. 83% say the media portray them in a negative light.
- Single Parent Families make up 40% of all households in Glasgow – the highest percentage of any local authority in Scotland. Many are Wheatley Group tenants.
- 92% of single parents are women
- The median age of a single parent is 38
- Welfare changes mean that in 2017, single parents will be required to look for paid work when their child is three years old.