iMPULSE reporter, Suzanne Bargon gives insight to life as a single mother and aspiring journalist. She tells us her struggles, juggles and her talent for multitasking.
I want to be a journalist, writing features, columns or underground news but if that doesn’t pan out, I’ll be auditioning to become the main attraction at the circus donning my juggling batons and taking to the tightrope complete with a painted face and a squeaky red rubber nose. I might be studying for a journalism degree, but I have already mastered the art of juggling.
Shortly after my son entered the world I had an icky break up with his father, who later left the country with a new partner to live happily ever after. Single mother? Check. Going it alone hasn’t been easy. That horrible sensation in the pit of your stomach, something like the nauseous sensation you get the night before an exam – a feeling I have become accustomed to over the last three years. It was there in the pit of my belly in the days before my boy started primary school. Together we were facing the end of an era.
The feeling of being torn intensified as my son’s first days at school coincided with a major essay and broadcast package for university. I was asked to come and meet his new teacher – a pivotal moment in any parent’s life – only to realise I had managed to schedule a crucial interview that could make or break my broadcast television package the very same day. Without question, I arrived at the school to meet the lovely Mrs McGhee. As it turned out, my television package wasn’t too bad either. Juggling? Check.
Of the 7.3 million families with parents of working age in Britain, 1.9 million – almost a quarter are lone parents. Nearly half of all lone parents are out of work, according to the department for work and pensions in the UK, with only 56.5% employed.
I wrestle with work to-do lists and home to-do lists versus coursework to-do lists, not to mention my social life to-do list. There are so many items on each that occsionally my mind refuses to engage and goes blank.
One Monday my boy wakes me up at 6am having just fought with the big blue monster in his cupboard, and refusing Sugar Puffs for breakfast. Once I am awake it is all systems go, a protracted hunt for school clothes, threatening to make us late for the child-minder. Thankfully I have someone to step into my motherly shoes when I’m away. With her help I am able to survive my frantic lifestyle and marginally avoid a meltdown. When I finally arrive in the office, I notice a consent form in my bag for a school trip. Final deadline? Yesterday. Organisational skills? Patchy. I have the usual phone calls and bundle of paperwork to contend with while dreaming up some exotic healthy meal to cook for my boy. If it was up to my son, pizza would be on the menu. Every night.
The next Monday is his sixth birthday. In between sorting paperwork and answering the odd phone call, I am on the net hunting for a Power Ranger birthday cake. If I don’t find one, my almost six year old will be disappointed in me. I fail to find
one. Naughty corner? Check. Sitting at my desk I stare out
the window, mulling over where the party for ten children should take place. Invites yet to be purchased and presents yet to
be wrapped, then there are the compulsory party bags. Families in the UK now spend £400 million a year on party bags for their children’s birthdays according to Highbeam, an independent research company. Thanks to rivalry between pushy parents, some party bags come with a £20 price tag as DVDs, CDs and the latest toys vye for space.
Not at this party. These bags will be filled with the traditional piece of cake, whistle (as payback for those kids whose screaming I’ll have endured for two hours) and a balloon.
The phone rings, dragging me away from party pressures and back to the adult world of work. All the while thoughts of a 3000-word essay due by the end of the week skulk at the back of my mind. The red mist rises as I contemplate the night’s schedule of university work. Essays and extra research material is on the agenda after dinner and the chosen bedtime story. At 8.30pm, with my boy fast asleep in bed, I start that 3000-word essay. After five years’ experience, I think I have the balance just right.
I relish my chaotic schedule and have had the perfect opportunity to prove that single mothers can have-it-all and do-it-all single handedly. For what it’s worth, I feel a small sense of achievement. Fulfilling my aim to become Edinburgh’s answer to Carrie Bradshaw? Double check.
Words and photography by Suzanne Bargon