Chantelle Levoir is fed up of the negative image of single parents portrayed in the press and wants to do something about it.
Chantelle Levoir is fed up of the negative image of single parents portrayed in the press and wants to do something about it. An accountant by training and finance manager of Perspective Financial Management Ltd in Milton Keynes, she says most single parents are hard workers, contrary to the image given in the press. “They tend to confuse single parents with teenage mums living off benefits. That’s a very narrow-minded view,” she says, “and if affects the way the public view single parents.”
Chantelle had Jacob, now five, when she was 20 and has spent years building up her career. She initially did an accountancy course via Learn Direct then through the Association of Accounting Technicians and is continuing her professional development via the Chartered Institute of Management Accounts. Since she separated from her partner three and a half years ago, she has been working full time and Jacob is now in school. Her mum helps out with childcare and she has a childminder.
Chantelle, who was herself brought up by a single parent, says the experience has made her more determined to build a successful career so she can take care of her son. She went through a very traumatic breakdown of her relationship, but she says that leaving her partner was the best decision she ever made and her son is doing well at school and very contented. “I was not a single parent by choice,” she says, “and it really infuriates me when there are reports suggesting that children of single parents are doomed to have behavioural or other problems. I came from a broken family and I have done fine. It is terrible to force these opinions on other people.”
She thinks the Government has contributed to the negative feelings about single parents by always talking about them as people who need help with education or getting a job. “It is not single parents who leave school early, it is some teenagers,” she says, adding: “I do not need the Government to incentivise me to get a job. It all creates a feeling that single parents need help and money and that makes other people resent us.”
She wants to change people’s opinions about single parents and feels that, with regard to work, the issues single mums face are similar to all working mums, including poor employment practices which see women paid less for working flexibly or sidelined into jobs which they are overskilled for.
Her assistant, for instance, is 20 years older than her and in a relationship but shares a similar approach to work, she says. She works flexibly and works hard, says Chantelle. “I think, if anything, working single mums tend to work harder and to be less likely to phone in sick than other staff and they do not mess around on the job,” she says. “They don’t come in hung over as they know they need the job to provide for their family.”
Chantelle, who is a member of single parent charity Gingerbread
, has had her own share of setbacks. Before she split up from her partner, she worked part time and she faced rejections from some potential employers who questioned whether she could cope with working full time with a young child. “They tried to put me in a box,” she says.
She is very keen to promote positive images of single parents, saying that the first thing she gets asked when she says she is a single parent is whether she works full time. “When I say yes, people all say well done, but I don’t need a pat on the back,” she states. “I just want the opportunity to earn a living like anyone else. Women are stronger than people give us credit for.”