How’s your job search coming along? If you are the typical job seeking individual, you are probably finding it somewhat more difficult and prolonged than perhaps it was in the past. More competition, fewer openings, higher employer expectations, and to all of that, what if you find yourself looking for a job while caring for your child or children as a single parent?
When you don’t have a partner to share the responsibility of being there to care for your children, or the help from a reliable family member or child care provider, it can be a significant barrier. Now some readers who don’t have first-hand interaction with single-parent job searchers, there may be less understanding and less empathy than for others seeking employment. This might be due to a variety of assumptions; maybe blaming the parent for having the kids in the first place without having a job first, blaming them for leaving a partner and therefore choosing to be a single parent among them. These two attitudes prevail more often than I’d like to think in a just and compassionate society.
Consider though that sometimes one partner decides to stay home and raise children while the other partner works and supports the family. Now if that working individual should leave the relationship, the partner who is raising those children suddenly becomes a single parent in need of income from a job; perhaps through no fault or poor planning of their own. Does that situation change your view or opinion on a single-parent job searcher?
Without reliable and affordable child care, a single-parent looking for employment is often restricted in their ability to even look for a job, let alone attend an interview or accept a position. And if the children should be enrolled in primary school rather than be of pre-school age, things get marginally better but not completely. However, when the job search is being undertaken, perhaps the person is restricted to looking for a job that runs from 9:00a.m. to 2:30p.m. How many jobs do you know of that only occur during those hours and that give a single-parent enough to live off of?
Another point of view, equally valid in some folks opinion, is that as a tax payer, why should they have to then turn around and support someone in that situation, as sad as it may be; after all, the tax payer isn’t responsible for being in that situation so why should they be expected to have some of their hard-earned pay contribute to the livelihood of that single parent? I suppose the standard answer is that in a compassionate and responsible society, we all contribute a portion of our earnings through taxes to a variety of issues that don’t affect us personally but improve our overall quality of life. So too you might not have any children, but some tax money goes to schools. You may not be a Senior, but some of your tax money goes to pensions; not drive a car but contribute to roads and infrastructure too.
In some areas, there is money in fact set aside by Municipalities for child care in order to let the single parent engage in a supported job search – with the number of days covered varying from area to area. And when a person gets a job, there may even be assistance to subsidize the amount required by a child care provider if the earnings alone are not high enough to permit someone to cover their rent/food/living expenses. It’s important too that we all remember that the single-parents who then starts working do something equally important, and that is they contribute to the overall tax base. So if you’re one of those people who is really concerned about your taxes…think on that.
The single-parent job searcher also has challenges to upgrade their education, attend training workshops and of course when at these events they are concerned about the care their child or children receive elsewhere. And employers? Employers are concerned about the amount of time a single-parent might require away from employment in the event of illness or any other issue with the child because there is no other partner to share those responsibilities. This is why single parents get frequent advice not to share their single-parent status in an interview.
Interestingly enough, many single-parents are so proud of their ability to both raise their children and at the same time be productive members of society, that they can make a large error in starting off an interview by sharing this information when asked, “Tell me about yourself”. An answer that starts, “Well I’m a single parent of three young boys…” What this does more often than not is set off alarms with the interviewer, and it can hamper the interviewers ability to see past this and hear the rest of the answer. Why give the interviewer a reason to reject you in your first few words? You’re proud and maybe rightfully so, but you’re looking at the interview from your side of the table. Look at it from the other side.
And if you are the interviewer reading this piece agreeing as you read along, please hold off any judgement of the person’s ability to be dependable if you learn of the applicants status as a single-parent, until you at least explore what child care arrangements they may have in place which may negate your concerns.