Whilst all family types have challenges when it comes to issues of childcare, they are more acute when it comes to one-parent families. I am a qualified teacher but I do not have a permanent or a temporary job. I rely on day to day subbing. I do not know if I am working from one day to the next.
My father was a huge support to me in that he would help care for my daughter, bringing her to school when I got called at 7.45 am in the morning for work at short notice. He died suddenly and on top of the huge loss his death posed to my daughter and me, there was also a huge impact in terms of my capacity to be available for casual substitute teaching work. Like other newly qualified teachers, I have found it challenging to obtain employment. I have had three interviews so far in the past number of months out of ninety applications and all have been unsuccessful. All I want is a job and to be able to support myself and my daughter but this dream is proving rather elusive.
I love my daughter. We have a fantastic relationship and we are very in tune with one another. However, other people’s negative attitudes towards our situation undermine my self-confidence and make me feel vulnerable. I have seen my daughter being excluded from play dates because she is not part of a stereotypical two parent family. I also feel that at school her family situation is not acknowledged or discussed, thus creating a sense of exclusion for her and myself. I do not feel comfortable when I drop her to school. I constantly feel judged in her school environment. She is now at an age that I do not have to walk into the school to drop her off and collect her. My objective this year is not to go into her school at all except for the parent teacher meeting as I dislike how I feel when I enter the four walls of the school. When teachers talk about inclusion in the classroom, they are typically talking about children with additional learning needs and those of different ethnic backgrounds. For me, inclusion is broader in that it is also about recognising that children come from different family types. Twenty per cent of children belong to one parent families and in a lot of classrooms in Ireland, the only family type that is mentioned is the one based on two parents, this is not a reality for a lot of children such as my daughter.