Single parent stories

My name is Sarah, and I’m a single mum from Sussex.

My family consists of my son who is 12 and my daughter who is 10, and our two rescue cats.

I’ve been a single parent since Christmas 2014. At the time It was a HUGE shock to me and the kids and he moved just out a few weeks later.

My work life balance is that I work full time for a charity and my role is based at home (even pre-pandemic). This is the only way I can juggle working full time with children and I need to work full time because bills!

I used to have to do a lot of travelling for work and used breakfast and after school clubs on the days I wasn’t around to do the school runs, but this is on hold for now. I am hoping when I go back to this the children will be old enough to do their own school runs and this will save me the cost of childcare.

My employer is very supportive with flexible working and were extremely understanding during the months of homeschooling. I was also able to work condensed hours during the summer holidays to spend a day a week with the kids.

My secret to getting everyone ready in the morning is having a routine. I also have a son that’s never really slept and is up at 6am every day. It used to be 5am so perversely this feels like a lay in. I could tell you what’s happening at 07:20am and 08:20am on any given day because we do the same thing every morning.

My children go to different schools, (one is at secondary school one is at primary school), so I can get my son out the door before ‘encouraging’ his sister downstairs. I also iron all the uniforms on Sunday nights so nothing has to be done the night before or in the morning. Bags are packed and anything I need to remember, like Christmas Jumper day, or Evacuee Day, are all on the family calendar so don’t get missed.

I’m currently walking my daughter to school which feels like a commute so when I come back home I’m ready to work. I’ve also had a 40 minute walk before sitting at a laptop all day.

My support network is basically other Mums. Mums from the school have been my lifeline but I try to set things up so that I don’t have to rely on anyone else for anything. Mums also get it.

The bit I find hardest is asking for help. I am awful at this and only do it if the kids and I really can’t sort it out between ourselves.

My me-time consists of sitting down finally at 9pm and mindlessly phone scrolling – honest answer! I also do yoga which may sound like a cliché but is so good for me. I do this via Zoom now which means I don’t have to leave the kids at home alone to go. I even do one class which involves laying in bed in my pyjamas. That’s my kind of exercise!

If I could change one thing to make life easier it would be more time. Starting at 7am and not sitting down till 9pm is exhausting, 5 days a week with no break and no one to even make a cup of tea.

One thing I love about being a single parent is that we are a team. We know each other like no one else does and we all look out for each other. There is nothing that we can’t discuss and they know me better than anyone else in this world.

Dinner times at our house are done together. We sit down together for dinner at the dining table everyday. We all eat the same thing together and talk about our days, although the less said about my cooking the better.

Our bedtime routine is much easier now they’re older. They go up at 7:30pm, shower, pyjamas on, put any washing away and then read before lights out. Lights are meant to go out at 8:30pm but it’s more like 9:00pm. They don’t need me to do much for them at bedtime so I use this time to tidy up the house, put the dishwasher on, load the washing machine, run the hoover round. This means that I can finally sit down when they’re asleep.

My best single parenting hack is to be organised. I have a calendar in the kitchen and everyone has a column. Everything goes on it, all the appointments, all the Inset days, all the school events, all the childcare so everyone knows where everyone is and what’s happening.

I also organise my finances, (by day I give people who are in debt money advice). When my ex left, my income didn’t cover the mortgage, let alone food, so I got organised looking at what I had coming in and going out. Now I have the freedom to decide how my money is spent and the children make the decisions with me. I even have a Christmas spreadsheet.

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