'I'm marginally worse off since I went back to work'
The lone parent
Dubliner Katrine Higgins, 46, lives in Cork and has three daughters, Roisin (16), Aisling (15) and Ciara (14). She is a secondary school teacher in Mallow and solely raises her daughters.
"I became a lone parent after my marriage ended when my eldest daughter was four and a half and the youngest was a baby. I think there can be a negative perception out there about lone parents, but in my experience, very few of us end up in that position by choice. At the time, I was self-employed and ran a catering business, and while I muddled through juggling childcare and a mortgage, it was too difficult to sustain in the end. I am now teaching, and have a contract for a year at present teaching cookery and doing resource and learning support at a secondary school, which I love. The teaching hours have worked out very nicely with raising my daughters.
I was in receipt of the lone parents' allowance at one point, but have come off it now, thankfully, as it was never my desire to be on it.
I was grateful that it was there, though, because in-work poverty is a huge problem for lone parents. The system that's in place at the moment helps, but it doesn't address the issues that prevent people from getting back into the workplace.
This can be very difficult on a practical front for lone parents. I am marginally worse off financially since I went back to work, but that's okay as I'm looking at the long-term picture.
As a lone parent, you are everything to your children and are on call 24/7. There is a huge pressure there financially with mortgage or rent, running a car and putting food on the table, on top of having to stay emotionally and physically strong. wwwwwI have some fantastic friends and they have been wonderful in terms of support, and I'm lucky because I live in a great community. With three teenage girls, I have a very busy, lively household, which is lots of fun.
Each stage brings new challenges for all parents, and now I'm entering the world of dating, parties and all that kind of thing. It's a minefield, especially with the eldest child, as you are encountering each new situation for the first time. You have to work out where to pitch things to be reasonable. It can be hard when you're on your own, as I'm the 'queen of mean' all of the time. Sometimes you'd love to have a second person there so it's not always you who's saying no!
My luxury is giving my kids opportunities. They all play music, two play football, one does gymnastics, and one is an avid horserider. I'm their facilitator basically - their taxi, bank machine and washer-woman -but I'm very happy to do it.
The lovely part is being at the centre of their world, and knowing that I am raising three independent-minded girls."