Solo parent-of-two Chelsie re-launched her career after her relationship breakdown put a hold on her career. Despite extreme changes in her personal and professional life, she’s now happier than ever. We sat down with Chelsie to talk about solo parenting and her tips for success.
Tell us about your career journey.
My career background is mostly in the travel industry where I held some incredible roles. After a whirlwind romance with my children’s father, I relocated to his hometown and quickly became pregnant. When my son was born, I began studying for a postgraduate degree in real estate property services to transition out of the travel industry.
Soon after, I found myself in a very difficult stage in life with two small children and a relationship under stress. It should have been an exciting time as I was finally preparing to launch my career in real estate, but the global financial crisis hit, and then my relationship ended, so I never got the chance to start.
I returned to my hometown worn out, without any money, and my self-esteem at an all-time low. I was 32 and had two kids to support on my own. Their dad married very quickly after we separated and had two more children. He was never good with money and had a whole new family to support, so it was really up to me from then on.
A couple of years later, I was given the opportunity to start a career in property management. I had a rocky start — awful actually, but many years on, I have established myself in the industry and have incredible clients, work colleagues, and friends. And the financial stability gets better every year.
What are some of the unique challenges faced by single parents?
I didn’t plan to be a single parent, but it happened. You enter survival mode and you do what you have to do to get by. You start by doing what’s necessary just to get through the day: making sure the kids are OK, getting them to school, and ensuring they are fed. Then, step by step, you grow on your own and take every opportunity that comes your way. I have an incredible group of parent friends in my neighborhood who I met through my kids’ sporting activities and school who ‘pick up’ where I struggle, remind me where my kids have to be, and sometimes even get them there! My kids actually have become a part of these families and it has enriched their lives. Such support is necessary for a single parent.
You returned to work five years ago when your daughter started school. How did you find this after time away?
In the first two years, going back to work took organization, determination, and perseverance. At some points, I was so stressed I would break out in a rash all over my body or almost pass out with anxiety. I really had to prove to myself and my employer that I was capable of the juggle. I really wanted to quit in the first 12 months as it was incredibly hard and I really didn’t think I was any good at my job or that I was being a good parent. My family encouraged me to keep going.
Re-entering the workforce was hard but so worthwhile. It took time to get back into the groove. Several years on I am grateful for the opportunity work gives me both for my independence and to experience such diverse interactions on a daily basis with people from all walks of life.
What tips do you have for other single working parents?
- Don’t try to be perfect.
- Take it step-by-step (baby steps and grow).
- Have good people around you — other parents that will step in and help.
- Don’t focus on what went wrong — just how you are going to make the future better for your children and yourself.
It’s a great feeling when it all comes together and it’s very satisfying when your kids appreciate how hard you work for them.
Do you work flexibly?
I work hard and enjoy some flexibility in my role. Sometimes I have to dash off to take my son to basketball training, be there for a school performance, or pick my daughter up from netball training, but I give it all back. When she was very young, my daughter would sometimes tag along to work with me. Most people were great about it and they could see I was a working parent trying to juggle everything.
Do you ever feel guilty? How do you manage it?
If I don’t work and build a career, I cannot give my children what they deserve. They understand and are accepting of this. My kids are doing well, happy in school, are sporting stars, and are surprisingly resilient, which should help them in the long run.
What has being a working parent taught you?
It’s incredible what you can achieve and do if you have to, how easily the children adapt, and how much fun a really busy life can be. It’s all about passion and a real love for my children — they’re the reason I get up every day and do what I do.
How does the juggle make you feel?
My kids say I talk to myself a lot. I am constantly running situations through my head and sometimes my head feels like it will explode. I am normally in bed by 9pm on weeknights, exhausted from running around from 7am to 7pm.
At the end of a busy week, how do you positively re-energize?
Every second weekend the kids go to their dad’s place. Sometimes I’m happy to do nothing but I love a long walk along the bay and reading the newspaper in my favorite café. I am dating again so that is fun!
I must say I feel my life is starting to come together and I have never been happier. I believe this is because I have been true to myself, and my kids encourage me every day to be a better version of myself.
My favorite time of the day is … from 6am to 7am as the house is quiet and I potter around.
I’m happiest when … my children and I are laughing with each other.