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Single parent families have been growing in number in the UK for decades, passing two million according to the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (2014). Of these, sixty-five per cent are in work.
Working Single Parents
With this in mind, we decided to chat with Mike and Gemma from our studio who have plenty of experience of single parenting between them to build up a picture of what it is like, and how they deal with the challenge of combining a busy home life with a busy work life.
“The key is to find a balance,” Mike says, “making time for your family as and when they need it. There are times when your children need extra time and attention and you have to schedule more time at home to suit their needs.”
“With the support of a spouse you can co-operate and take on more work. As a single parent, I’ve had to turn away a lot of work because I couldn’t make it fit with my children’s needs. When my son moved back in with me, I couldn’t work away for a few years and that did have an impact on the studio.”
There are also smaller things that present challenges on a day-to-day basis. “You never know when you might get a short notice task for your children,” Mike says, “like dealing with a letter from school that they’ve forgotten to hand to you at first, or putting together an outfit for a fancy dress day. There’s always something! Sometimes, though, you have to take a step back, realise that you can’t do everything and say ‘no’. Single parenting doesn’t always go to plan.”
Gemma takes a very pragmatic view of her life as a single parent mum. “There are a lot of things that you have to do differently, but in the moment you just get on with it,” she says. “I’ve been a single parent for a few years now and it just feels normal to me.”
“I often think of my children as a break from work, and my work as a break from my children. Being able to chat with colleagues gives a bit of variety to my day and makes it a bit more manageable.”
Mike and Gemma agree that home commitments can make a helpful break from work, and vice versa. The support in the workplace is always helpful. “I’m fortunate to have a job in which my hours can be flexible,” Gemma says, while Mike appreciates having staff to take on jobs around the studio as required, allowing him to spend more time at home.
Along with the challenges of balancing work and home, though, come some definite benefits. Mike has often taken his children with him on holidays, combining photoshoots with precious family time, and he credits his son Joe’s familiarity with the studio with his fledgling career as a filmmaker. “There’s always light at the end of the tunnel,” he says. “As your children grow up the extra effort becomes worthwhile.”