I remember being asked how I would work if my daughter was ill in an interview once. 🤔
When she was a baby I used to get the bus with her in a pram 20 minutes in the opposite direction so I could fit the buggy on a busy bus going the right direction just to get to college. I used to bundle books in the bag and read them to her on my lap on the way (I kind of miss those days). It was so easy to make her smile and laugh back then, no matter how I was feeling her laugh would always cheer me up.
During that time I was being harassed and it made me anxious a lot of the time. I had a constant fear something bad was going to happen. I never left Matilda in a room on her own. She slept in my bed with me because her room was near the door and I’d imagine scenarios of not being able to get to her, or waking up and she’d be gone. It escalated quite rapidly after around 11 months. I was leaving for college ready to bump the pram down the stairs and the police were coming up the hallway. I immediately felt sick.
They advised me that my perpetrator had called the police on themselves (yes, you read that correctly) and that he had advised he would come to my house and kill me. I was advised not to be in that day and they left. Later that night I made a formal complaint to the police and he received a mere warning- for almost a year of harassment (which had been reported to the police multiple occasions) and death threats.
At that point I was feeling quite low and my confidence had been knocked for six! All I could think about was going to college and making sure I didn’t waste my life. I needed to make a better life. I didn’t want to have to deal with this level of stress all the time.
I felt desperate, worthless, like nobody would want me. I felt like people looked at me and thought “what a mess”. There was always an inescapable drama being brought to my door, or I was pre-occupied trying to anticipate his next move. It was horrible. I really got into the habit of isolating myself at times, I definitely still do that now sometimes too. But I was absolutely determined to turn things around for us. I felt responsible for the way things had turned out and responsible for turning things around.
That year as a woman who had lived in London for 5 years, I did a full time course along side school leavers and had to put my hand up to go to the toilet. 😂 Quite the slice of humble pie after modelling for Clean and Clear, Revlon, Bodyshop, MTV and Robbie Williams let me tell you!
It made me feel like crap but I knew I had to do it. Once I finished the full time course I went on to do part time higher education study and full time work and look after Matilda.
I also used to babysit for friends and my auntie and I took on a Saturday job at a second hand baby shop. I used to get £30 cash in hand and we would get fish and chips 😋 It also meant I could get first dibs on all the designer baby gear that was coming in! Looking back and I’ve no idea at all how I did it all. I hardly slept some nights and was physically suffering. I was a size 6 and I ended up in hospital with a kidney infection, contracted shingles and had a terrible stomach bug which lasted 2 months.
But I’ve always had a mum and dad who supported me with childcare, and although she’s no longer here, my Nan was a huge feminist and she used to talk things through with me a lot. Although she had her own battles as an alcoholic, I got so much value from our conversations and still miss our friendship and laughs to this day. Her pep talks were the absolute best.
Mum and Nan instilled in me that the only thing to do was work through it. Get an education. Get to work. Become financially independent and get stronger. And that’s what I did. Matilda has always gone to nursery or school unless she was really really ill because I HAD to work. And she has always understood that. I would go to work with migraines, stomach bugs, anything 😂 because I had to. Over the years I had been sent home a few times because I looked like death.
I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without having my daughter. It is funny how your perspective completely changes once you have kids.
Having a daughter gave me unconditional love, self worth and a sense of purpose which is definitely something I lacked beforehand. She has always been my main driver for progression and to be a better person. To have healthier relationships and influences in our lives. I often felt like work was the only way to be empowered to make decisions based on what I wanted for us, instead of out of desperation. I still do. Financial freedom and prospects gives you the power to take control of your own life 🙌🏻
I think people underestimate what it is to be responsible for a whole rent, all bills, childcare and a child. They think it’s too much for one person- they’d make an unreliable employee. They underestimate how much you desperately want to set a good example for your children and achieve stability. Then doing it alone you have to set enough example for two!
In reality single parents make an employee hungry for progression and success because they have to!!! They’ve no other option than to succeed.
So instead of asking a single parent how they will work when their child is ill, be understanding and create opportunities for them to work through their struggles. Be a good employer to someone who needs you as much as you need them and they might turn out to be the best employee you've ever had. Because it's not just their career that depends on it, it's their livelihood and the future prospects of their children.
Charlotte Carter is a professional Content Creator and Owner of CarterBags.com. Charlotte is passionate about women's rights, female empowerment and women in business.