Lone support

July 2, 2015

Nicole Westmarland’s heartfelt article about the challenges of widowhood struck a chord with me: both my mother and my sister lost their husbands when they were in their early forties and raised their children alone (“Life after loss”, Opinion, 18 June).

When I was also in my early forties, and my son was 18 months old, my marriage was annulled and I became a lone parent. The challenges of widowhood and lone parenthood in maintaining a professional life are very similar. Westmarland’s account of taking her toddler to a conference rang true to me, and although it can be a nerve-racking experience, these occasions have mostly been positive for myself and my son.

Any parent on their own is at a disadvantage because, in theory, they have half the time along with half the financial and emotional resources that a two-parent/guardian set-up will have. We already know that female academics earn on average less than their male counterparts and have fewer opportunities for promotion. We must ensure that widowed and lone mothers are not dealt a double blow.

Of all professions, the academy is surely where we should explore creative adjustments to imposed or inflexible work patterns and be responsive to the personal circumstances that inevitably frame and shape individual work potential. We owe it to our children and our students to be open about the reality of single or lone parenthood and find positive and imaginative outcomes from potentially disadvantageous life situations.

Rachel Worth
Arts University Bournemouth

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