Saturday, 27 June 2015

Single parenting when things go wrong

I don't like to admit it, but life is hard at the moment.

In general, you know that I'm an advocate of single parenting. I don't mean just for the sake of it - I'm definitely not saying "HEY! LEAVE YOUR PARTNERS! IT'S ACE OVER HERE IN THE SINGLEPARENTDOM DEEP END!"  Just that, it's possible to be happy, and a good parent, and bring your children up well, if you're on your own.

But. When things go awry - when something unexpected happens - then life suddenly goes tits up and can become extremely stressful.

You may remember that Tween had his accident six weeks ago.  My ex and I thought that, as the docs had said he could return to school after two weeks, then that would be that. All better. Job done.

In fact, we have learnt that you can't predict how head injuries will heal. Unfortunately, as we were crowbarred out of hospital with such speed, we didn't get any follow-up information on what to expect. Actually, that's a lie - I was handed a faded, photocopied leaflet advising me to go to hospital in my child's head exploded (or something), but it was about as useful as a holey bucket.

So when, a couple of weeks later, I couldn't wake Tween up for school, I was worried. It happened again two days later. And then the following week, he woke up not being able to feel his arms.

I phoned the Ward number I had been given, but it was constantly engaged. So I made an emergency appointment with the GP, who then referred us back to hospital. Multiple hours and tests later, we were released, none the wiser.

Well, actually, a bit 'the wiser', because now I know that there are no answers, and that I need to give Tween time to sleep. To recover at his own pace. Something that I had not been allowing him - not due to the pressure of school, who have been wonderful - but because I have to work.

The pressure of having to work is all-consuming. Initially, they were great, giving me a week's compassionate leave and telling me that 'family comes first'. But as the weeks have unravelled, and I have been forced to change my days at short notice due to Tween's erratic sleeping, their patience is thinning. And my stress level is mounting.

Last week I had an epiphany. The summer holidays are coming, and there is no way that I will be able to (and should) send Tween to his usual holiday club while I'm at work. So I decided to ask for four weeks off.

No, was the answer. It's too long. We want you to come in for 'Keeping In Touch' days, to work from home. You'll need to do at least two days' work each week. And you'll have to plan for the time off you have, in detail. 'But how?' I asked, 'I'm already pushed to bursting.' 'Make time,' was the response.

Listen, I don't like to moan. But employers need to realise something. In situations like these - personal emergencies - if you don't support your employees, then they are going to pop. I can see myself being signed off from work by the docs through stress. They have said that I can apply for unpaid time off, which is my best option it seems, but I am still being put under pressure to work extra time to plan for the leave, which will involve additional time away from my children and more stress (and no extra money, of course).

I would love my employer to take a more holistic, long term approach. I want them to say, "Take as long as you need. We'll shuffle some of next year's holiday over for you. We'll organise extra resource for you to take the pressure off. We'll tell some people what you're going through. We'll help you get through this."

But they aren't saying that. And as a single parent, I don't have the support of another adult who can share my load. My ex has provided some help, but asking him feels like I am asking for a favour, and it should never be like that. Ever.

And so, I battle on with my employer and, in the process, try not to go stark raving bonkers.


  1. I'm surprised he's not stepping up on his own. That's too bad Lottie. Good luck - I faced similar issues with my vacation time this year when my ex decided to pick his vacation in June - when we'd already had the conversation and I'd picked in March.

  2. Would your ex kick up a fuss or make this feel like you asking a favour? This all sounds so stressful. I hope you work it out - employers should definitely be a lot more understanding and flexible - it's not like the government isn't dying for mums to get in the workforce and stay there (30 hours free childcare - no other reason for that bit of generosity is there??). Xx


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