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Single parents- what's it like working full time?

(27 Posts)
Agwen Wed 18-Nov-20 19:13:23

I've been working 30 hours per week since my eldest was 2 (full time before that) but that was 13 years ago. I can't remember what its like working full time, but I also have a 12 yo and a 6 yo too now, exh and I split when youngest was 18 months so it would probably be different anyway because of my different circumstances.

The opportunity has come up at work to return to full time hours.

It wasn't worth it before because of commuting time = additional childcare and travel costs, but I have been given the green light to work from home for much of the time and as this is closer to the dc's schools I can actually consider it.

It would make a massive difference to my finances , but I can't remember what the good/bad bits are about full time hours.

Fully appreciate how lucky I am to have been able to work part time thus far, many of my other single parent friends have not had the choice.

What have your experiences been?

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Agwen Wed 18-Nov-20 20:46:30

Oh blimey it must be exhausting because nobody can reply grin

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DuchessMinnie Wed 18-Nov-20 21:29:31

I have always worked FT and got divorced when the DC were 4 and 7. I have ranged from WFH 100% of the time to doing a 2 hour commute each way every day. I'm now doing the long commute 3x days and WFH 2 days. It's always been doable if hard work.

I have always ordered stuff online for delivery, bought stuff for packed lunches in bulk, kept a good stock of uniform items etc so I don't have too much to do during the week. DC are now 11 and almost 14 and life is a lot easier. We've had the odd grumble over the years but they know that if I didn't work FT I wouldn't be able to pay for holidays and treats.

Gardenista Wed 18-Nov-20 22:15:20

Single mother from birth here. Commuting 3 days a week/WFH 2 days a week was doable when my daughter was in nursery (from 7.30 am to 6pm daily) but when she hit school it got so much harder, she was always in wrap around care and noticed other children weren’t! She was tired and I couldnt keep up with the homework- f I know it would get worse . I couldn’t manage it and dropped to 30 hours a week but it hurt my finances. Now I’m wfh indefinitely I could ask to go up to 37 hours but have chosen not to as somtimes I want to go for a walk or something for myself while my daughter is at school, . This is the only time I’m alone as her father isn’t involved. if I was full time I wouldn’t feel able to. I’m in a professional role as end up doing more than 30 hours as it is, but at least as I am not full time I can’t be held to the same case load as my full time colleagues (without family responsibilities)

Gardenista Wed 18-Nov-20 22:20:24

I think you need to weigh up what you need more - time or money. If your exh has them at all, are you in the type of job you could do some hours when your children are with him? If so that could work but I imagine at 6 and 12 the evenings would be a struggle otherwise unless you have wrap around care/ family help. Picking up my reception she daughter from school at 6pm wen many of her peer were struggling their bedtime routine, rushing to feed, bathe her, clean teeth, read stories and tuck her in so we could be up leaving the house at 7am to do it again the next day wasn’t fun. I didn’t have a choice then, now I do the extra money isn’t that tempting because I was exhausted and so was she

babbi Wed 18-Nov-20 22:22:23

I have done it for a while and it was fine .DD was 11 though so that made it easier
Now working from home and it’s great .
My job is flexible though , can log on and off when not in meetings .
I see you do 30 hours anyway ... have you double checked what the extra would be after tax ?
I always felt as I paid more tax it wasn’t worth doing the extra and the time was more precious to me ..
good luck with whatever you decide

user1471530109 Wed 18-Nov-20 22:25:22

It's a necessity tbh. I don't know any different. I'd like to think the dds will respect me for it but it doesn't stop me feeling guilty and bloody exhausted most of the time.
I (we actually) used to do a 2 hour commute each day (longer in traffic) for 18 months too. When I look back I don't know how we managed that. Youngest was only 2.5 at the time. Those poor kids.
But we have a nice life in a nice location because of it. House is tiny and a bit of a state. But I'm glad I work full time rather than struggle more than I do. But I am.lycky to work term time only and we all live the holidays and I hope they agree we are very close and have lots of fun when we can to make up for the busy week days.

TheOriginalFactoryMum Wed 18-Nov-20 22:33:02

I’ve worked full time since I’ve been a single mum (kids were 6 and 10 then, now 15 and 18) - a mix of at home and three long days, plus lots of travel (a night away at least twice a month when they were at their dad’s). More importantly is having an early finish at 5pm to make tea and eat it together, just be around in the house etc. Once they are teenagers they are doing their own thing anyway, so much easier. All the ‘extra’ money I’ve put into savings for them and my eldest in first year at uni now with a nest egg to see her through the lean times!

Ghouliet Wed 18-Nov-20 22:36:42

Full time as a lone parent is tiring but necessary. I’ve worked from home since March and it’s made a massive different. I LOVE being in the house when the kids go and come back from school. Before that at primary school they had to go to breakfast clubs and after school clubs and I was tied to inflexible hours to drop off/pick up.

My friend is also a lone parent and stick with her parent time hours. Having the flexibility she had made the primary school years easier for drop off /pick ups. Less to spend on wrap around childcare and more opportunity to attend school events.

The other thing to consider is how will it affect your child tax credits? They may well reduce if you’re earning more.

Ugzbugz Wed 18-Nov-20 22:37:37

Bloody exhausting but the money pays for holidays plus more and weekends are so appreciated and always make the most of it, whether out all weekend or having a film night etc, I am currently WFH which has made things like keeping on top of housework easier but I could be way more organised.

Of course I've felt guilty about school drop offs and play dates etc but i had no choice either really as was trying to buy a property and its paid off x

Tinyhumansurvivalist Wed 18-Nov-20 22:38:05

Full time single mum and work 40+ hours a week. Dd is 7.

I am lucky as I have my parents near to help with childcare but it is hard work. Evenings are filled with chores, dd isn't allowed to.sleep the night at her dad's so I never get "me" time.

I am permanently exhausted.

But I wouldn't change it

Ghouliet Wed 18-Nov-20 22:38:06

*my friend had part time hours.
My dyslexia is showing blush

shehadsomuchpotential Wed 18-Nov-20 22:44:18

Could you do 4.5? Up until recently i worked 4.5 days having gone up from 4. The 0.5 was always from home and those few hours flexibility were really valuable for chores and errands and admin and a gym session. And one day straight home from school. But it was worth it as even the extra half day made me hundreds a month better off. I was a single parent and would get calls and messages on my day off and i decided if they wanted me to answer them then i owed it to my family to not give my time away for free!

I am now full time again due to job move and it works if organised but 4.5 would have been better.

Agwen Wed 18-Nov-20 23:22:51

Lockdown has given me time with my dc straight after school and before school which I didn't have before. A much more relaxed morning without the need for breakfast club, and the commute to and from work 25 miles away meant that a 6 hour working day was actually taking 8.5. Once I'd collected the younger one from afterschool club and we'd got home it was quite a struggle to fit everything in. So reading/spellings weren't always up to date and my house was in a right old state.

FT hours where I can work from home for the bulk of the time (maybe office 5 or 6 days a month) would add nearly 20% onto my take home, it was much less than that before because of additional travel costs/childcare- but wfh, clever scheduling of hours and avoiding the travelling time means I am closer to school and can get away with not needing as much as when I was in the office every day,

20% extra. Its a big difference!

Re: tax credits, I'm not entitled to very much currently (say £70 every 4 weeks, can't remember exactly the last time I checked but it was about that) and I am too scared to claim as I have heard so many nightmare stories about people being overpaid and then struggling to pay it back at the rate set.

I didn't think I could even afford the inflationary pay rise we are due to get soon because I worried that it would mean I lost my child benefit. MN helped me work out that this wasn't necessarily the case. I love mumsnet!

I know

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MollyBloomYes Wed 18-Nov-20 23:40:38

I work 37 hours so not quite full time but pretty close. I chose (well was given the option) to have those hours as four long days and one day off which works very well for me, especially now both of mine are in school. Definitely works even better now I'm working half from home and half in the office-even though I'm still very much working at home just being able to quickly pop a washing load on in between phone calls or whatever has made a huge difference. When I was entirely office based then it was sometimes a bit manic but my children are still quite little (4 and 6) fairly lively and one has a disability so there is a bit of a pile on there. Every year gets a bit easier! The benefit of long hours means that they have their hot meal at lunch and their 'tea' at their after school childcare (very lovely grandparents but I'd put them in a childminder or after school club if need be with no qualms, they cope with this in the holidays) so I actually don't have to do any cooking during my working week. That is probably the biggest thing that makes a difference but I really hate cooking! I've just applied for a degree apprenticeship that will mean I need to start working five days a week and the idea doesn't fill me with dread at all (although I may think wistfully of my occasional luxury nap after the school run but all good things come to an end and at some point my kids will be teenagers and I imagine I'll be able to nap all I want at the weekend!)

The house is never spotless (but it's not in squalor either), mornings are manic but I remember school events, homework gets done, kids are happy and I love my job and importantly am in a position to start climbing the ladder so I'm not as dependent on child maintenance in years to come. I'm very aware that once they turn 18 that money will go and I want to be able to do without it before that day comes.

I'd say go for it. If it's truly horrendous well nothing has to be forever, just make sure you have a notice period to work a change of hours-if you're a good employee then there's a case to be made that it's better you go back to your original hours than lose you completely. Or alternatively talk to your boss about whether you can do a trial run of a few months if they're the understanding sort?

MollyBloomYes Wed 18-Nov-20 23:48:49

Just seen you haven't actually claimed tax credits. It would be well worth seeing if you're entitled to universal credit as a lot of new tax credit claims aren't happening now anyway, they're just going straight to UC. I was worried about going onto UC from tax credits when I finally got my own place (moved out of parents when I finally got awarded a council place and had to make a new claim to include housing benefit). I'd heard and seen all the horror stories and cases but I found it the opposite-it does seem to favour those who are already earning which is maddening and horribly unfair but is at least something you should know.
The best calculator by fair is Universal Credit Essentials-they have a website and a Facebook page who are full of very knowledgeable people (a lot of the admin actually work for the DWP and genuinely want to help). Far more accurate than turn2us and entitledto. You may be surprised at what you might be able to claim, and it's far easier to work out each month than the minefield of tax credits

BritInAus Thu 19-Nov-20 02:31:01

I work 4 days and have been offered to increase to 5. I will move to 4.5 as that will still enable me to do 3 school pick ups and drop offs. I wouldn't have increased without being able to work from home for 3 days a week - that's made a massive difference, both in terms of time not commuting/doing make up, ironing, packing a lunch etc but also I feel much calmer in a tidy house, as I'm able to keep on top of cleaning and laundry during the week.

My exP doesn't have our child at all and I have no family anywhere near, so it's just me. I do enjoy the silence once my chatty child is asleep, but it's do-able.

For me, 4.5 is a great balance.

Apple31419 Thu 19-Nov-20 06:58:35

I've been a single mum since my DD was 18m. Right from the start I worked full time, but I was in a precarious position financially. For me, being secure in that respect was a lot more important than other things (having a spacious house, holidays, that sort of thing) and now, while I mourning the lost time with my daughter, 10 years on, I do not regret it at all as I'm very glad I'm comfortable now.
The full time aspect does not just mean more money now, it means more money in the future. Depending on the profession youll have more time to organise work tasks (even if there are more) and be available for all those meetings. You'll be the person who people know they can email and won't be off. It all makes a huge difference
We don't know if, in the future things like university will cost more, given that they have made a lot of recent changes. Lots of food for thought.

ItsAlwaysSunnyOnMN Thu 19-Nov-20 07:10:55

I’ve always been a single mum

Lots of juggling. Have a few friends that are single mums we helped each other out in the school holidays

Ds had to be in school from 8-6 which is a very long day for the last two years of junior school most of the time he was fine with this but at times he just wanted to be at home

Now he is in high school it is so so much easier no panic driving across worrying I wouldn’t get to his school on time, can leave him to pop to the shops, he comes homes and makes himself some toast

I wish I could have worked part time when he was in junior school it would have made life a lot easier and he wouldn’t have had to spend so much time at school

Agwen Thu 19-Nov-20 11:39:25

Some food for thought here, thank you. I think I'm worried about workload, at the moment if I need to do a few more hours I've got the option to send the littlest to after school club (only one in primary) but i wont have that buffer when full time- and time is so precious as it is.

37 hours would be full time for my employer, so an additional 7 hours- I probably average 35 as it is but get paid for 30 so although the money to reflect that would be nice I'm nervous about the extra expectation too.

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Boeufsurletoit Thu 19-Nov-20 11:49:53

Children 5 and 7 here and I've done it for 2 years, with a commute and now from home temporarily. I find it hard tbh. I pay a lot for wrap around care and they have to be in that even when I work from home. The older one is okay with it but the younger one really struggles. It's hard to find time for homework and reading as they're tired when they get back and I often still have work to do after they go to bed as well as all the household chores. I think it depends on the expectations of your job and needs of your children, but I'd really like to do fewer hours.

Agwen Thu 19-Nov-20 12:43:48

@boeufsurletoit this is what is playing out in my mind- we are just about getting by without the extra money but I need to wrap my head round whether the additional strain and impact of less time is worth the extra money. I could stay as is and have no savings, living paycheck to paycheck, not much by way of luxury, no way to save up for it either BUT relatively chilled.

Or I could up the ante in terms of stress and lack of time for homework supervision etc but replace the ramshackle and leaking lean to that is making the dining room damp and that I laughingly call the conservatory, have a bit tucked away in savings for emergencies, enable us to have holidays (prob caravan but still!) and be able today yes sometimes to the fun stuff instead of no. Although they have stopped asking now because they know that will be the answer, and this makes me terribly sad.

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Agwen Thu 19-Nov-20 12:44:48

*to say, obvs.

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Christmasbiscuit Thu 19-Nov-20 12:50:44

I really struggled because we had no breakfast club/after school care and the one childminder in the area was full. I ended up quitting and in the process of retraining. I do miss the money though. It's a hard decision.

alwayslearning789 Thu 19-Nov-20 13:14:02

I'm with @Apple31419 and what she has described is certainly food for thought.

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