Sarah Chalmers-Page answered on 3 Apr 2023:
I am not a single parent, but I am a mum and my husband works long hours, and I have had several friends who do work for the NHS as single parents, so I hope no one will mind me answering. And the first thing to say is that there are many amazing NHS workers, who are doing a fantastic job of both their paid work and raising fantastic children on their own.
Friends who work as hospital nurses have struggled because hospital nurses tend to work shift patterns, but nurseries do not open late enough or early enough to help with that. Some hospitals do have their own nurseries, and I think the NHS is getting better at acknowledging that people have children and adjusting working patterns, but unless people have other family support that can be hard. Even for administrators, if there is a culture of expecting people to attend a half past 5 meeting but nursery shuts at 6, half an hour away, that can be very hard to manage. Although I have a husband, he could not leave his work early either, and now I ask very blunt questions about expectations when I go to interviews, because different teams have different expectations.
One of the big challenges is that unless you have a term time only contract (which some places will offer) you have to work out what you are going to do in the long school holidays. That’s true for anyone who works and is in sole charge of their children, but it is tricky and can be expensive (my little boy is at judo camp today, and sports camp tomorrow – then he is watching TV all day wednesday whilst I work from home because I ran out of options!). Children can also get sick – if you have a major project but your child has chicken pox or a broken leg, the project has to be dropped. Or if you have a child who isn’t sleeping, you can be very tired yourself at work. Most NHS managers are very sympathetic about this but it is still stressful.
I think the other major thing is that particularly for single parents, you just have a lot to remember and a lot to do. That’s true of any job, and I think NHS flexible working policies are fairly good and most managers will be reasonably sympathetic.
Caroline Hatton answered on 3 Apr 2023:
My children are grown up now but I was a single parent of 3 when they were young, so shift work was very difficult as childcare facilities did not work the hours I needed. Working in a GP surgery helped as I didn’t have to work night duty. School holidays could be tough as my children didn’t want to go to kids club all the time (particularly in the long summer break) as they felt they were still at school but luckily I come from a very big family so had lots of support so they only had to spend a couple of weeks at kids club. The kids club staff were brilliant and did lots of fun things with them in the holidays but I always felt guilty it wasn’t me doing those things with them.
Angela Musson answered on 3 Jul 2023:
NHS team leaders and managers are very supportive of families and you can always speak with someone who will offer you support and encouragement. Flexible working is always considered to help you do your job well and look after your family
Samantha Garside answered on 4 Jul 2023:
I was a single parent, the advise I can give is never give up on your dreams and don’t be afraid to ask for help