Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Are you a married 'single' parent?

There is a quiet, growing trend taking place in urban societies up and down the country.  The recession has hit some families harder than others.  Those lucky enough to have kept their jobs are acutely aware of how different life could be on the other side of the employment fence.  Watching family, neighbours and friends lose their jobs and seeing how their lives have been impacted by the loss of income, you can't help but worry.

If you are a stay at home Mum (SAHM) or you work part-time while your other half clocks up some super-human work hours each week, you'll know first hand what it feels like to parent your children alone, as working-class families, we carry on because we're so aware of how important our jobs are and what it would mean if we didn't have that luxury to support our life as we know it.

Perhaps you may be in a situation where you're both working and you've managed to engineer your shift patterns so that one of you is almost always at home to care for the children while the other is at work - this is sensible for many reasons, you don't have to rely on others to care for your children and you can reduce your childcare costs meaning there's more left over to live on.  

Whatever the arrangements, it's clear that in today's society, many married couples are facing the challenge of being married, single parent's due to the commitments and pressures of work and maintaining a lifestyle that prevents  your children from suffering the consequences of our country's current economic misfortune.

My own experience has been one of a marriage that's like two ships passing in the night.  One arrives home, the other is out the door and off to work.  Our children are still too young to know any different so they are pretty reasonable about our coming's and going's in general but I know that as they get older, this sort of arrangement may become challenging.

I naively mentioned to a friend in passing the other day that our current work and childcare commitments are akin to being co-parenting divorcee's, my husband's shifts are set and I work around them on a self-employed basis as well as juggling a full-time University degree.  We're both out at work or studying upwards of 60 hours a week each, literally passing for a quick kiss hello and a miserable nod goodbye.  Probably not much danger of any more children coming along!

My friend was quick to point out that I was misguided in my statement, if that were the case and we were like two co-parenting divorcees, we'd both get a break every second weekend and even more during the school holiday's!  My shoulders drooped as I realised the reality of our situation. We are married, single parents.  Fun times, I wonder just how sustainable this arrangement is?  I feel an expiry date looming.

I try not to lose sight of the fact that what we're doing is for the best of all concerned, there is an end goal in mind.  While our children are relatively oblivious to the mono-parent approach we've adopted, we have no choice but to carry on until I finish Uni.  Then, my husband can work more reasonable shifts that don't include over-time every week to supplement the loss of a good portion of my income while I'm studying.  Two more years and we're out of the woods, yay.  Let's just hope that in the meantime, while our two ships are out passing each other in the night, neither of us sink into the deep blue.

If you're in the same boat or if you're a REAL single parent, I would love to see your comments below.  This is such an interesting topic and one that is unlike anything that society has had to face before.  What does it mean for the future?  Women are achieving more equality in the work place, life is getting more expensive, there is more pressure on both parent's to work as many hours as there are in the day and we've all read about the government's new angle on reforming the current benefit system.  

This is all so very interesting.  Where do you think we're heading?  What will a typical family unit look like 100, 200 years from now? 

As always...
Happy parenting!