Standing up for yourself

Shelley Spence never expected to be a single parent, but she says that it has brought home to her how important being financially independent is since you never know what will happen in your life.

It’s a message that her dad emphasised while she was growing up. “My dad has always been adamant that my sister and I should benefit from a good education. His own mother was widowed in the 60s with three children under 12,” says Shelley. “She had to move off a big farm and into social housing. My dad did not want that for his children. He always emphasised that we should not find ourselves in that position, that we should be educated and independent and that you never know what will happen in your life.”

She adds: “I did not expect my life to end up this way, but fortunately I have a good education.”

Shelley is just one of a number of working mums WM magazine is featuring this week as it looks at the positive benefits for women with children of staying in the workplace.

Shelley came to the UK from New Zealand 10 years ago with her then husband for work reasons and to travel. Her ex-husband has family in the UK.

Soon after she got pregnant – her son is now eight. She didn’t have a permanent position so she had to go on Maternity Allowance and then went back to work. She says that had she not had her work she would not have been able to survive on her own for the past year. Her husband left her last April and she did not receive any child maintenance payments until this May, she says.

She was working full time as a human resources manager until the end of October when she lost her job. She had been working on a temporary contract for a large company in London on a maternity cover contract which was supposed to last until next July. However, the company underwent a restructure. Ironically Shelley specialises in change management.

Shelley from Bromley is keeping busy finishing a Chartered Institute of Professional Development qualification. She says that over the last year she has had to reach out for help at times and “not be proud”.

She has been applying for lots of positions and is continuing to pay for a childminder for her son so she can go to interviews and because she doesn’t want to lose her childminder in case she does get a job imminently. She has had five interviews in four weeks and feels she has a strong portfolio, having worked in human resources for around 15 years. “I am pleased I have carried on with my work and studies. On a professional level I feel I have something to contribute,” she says. “The situation I am in at the moment is not for ever. I have to be positive and proactive.”

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