Working and making a career: How flexible can you be? - Single parents

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Working and making a career: How flexible can you be?


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Working single parents often live in fear of not matching their bosses expectations. Or they feel like they're judged more readily than childless colleagues.

"I fear exclusion from the market, that someone could easily replace me when I cannot  - do the job from one day to the next, take extra work, or deliver on time or before." says Polish mom Agata."I know that because I raise my child alone, I'm risky for the employer."

Cultures differ wildly on how to cope with these challenges. Typically in Italy, single mothers mainly depend on their enlarged family to help them get through the day. 

Claudia's father takes care of her daughter during the day, picks her up and takes her to swimming and dance classes. "I'm always in a hurry of course .... But overall, I'm doing fine as long as I have my father helping me." 

The same goes for Yiutsi in the Dominican Republic who moved in with her parents when she was pregnant – and the father refused to take responsibility.

“I’m working fulltime as the state doesn’t support us here. It’s tough being a single mother but the odds don’t matter when this beautiful creature tells you ‘I love you

Single mothers - moving back in with your parents?

For Annabel in Edinburgh,  this solution seems simply unbearable. She believes the onus shouldn't be on single mothers to make their childcare work, but on the employer, to make an effort to support their employees by providing realistic and affordable child care options.

"Flexible working doesn’t always mean part-time or working from home; flexible working could simply be working for an employer with a family friendly culture, who understands the issues faced by parents and carers and is prepared to support and assist its employees to have a work/life balance."

Despite these bright perspectives or maybe because of them, in Warsaw, Agata chooses to have a rather realistic approach to whether she will advance in her career or not.

"I don't think about performance, only the accounts. I work because I need money. I regret all the smiles my daughter gives to her toys rather than to me."

But Annabel remains convinced: Soon employers will be forced to rethink how they treat single parents.

"Neglecting the needs of single parents is something business will be less and less able to afford.

"As we in Europe live in ageing societies where the number of skilled and educated workers is shrinking dramatically, they will depend more on realistic and practical ways to enable single parents to work, simply because they desperately need them


Shila Meyer Behjat
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