woman buckling toddler into car seat

Going back to work as a single parent

If you’re a single parent thinking about going back to work, you might be asking yourself how you’ll manage.

Parenting solo is challenging, but like all parents you might have lost some confidence in your abilities too. You might feel overwhelmed with the number of changes happening in your life.

If this feels like you, you’re not alone. The proportion of single-parent families is expected to increase by 70 per cent in the next 20 years.

However going to work can benefit your family, allowing you to provide for your children now and in the future.

ParentsNext can help eligible parents access support to help them get back to work, including child care subsidies.

But here’s a list of other things you can do to set yourself up for success when you return to work.

Be prepared

When you’re out the door early and not home until late, preparing ahead of time can make work days run more smoothly. Consider cooking and freezing lunches and dinners on weekends to save time during the week. If your children are old enough, start setting small chores for them, like laying out their clothes and packing bags the night before.

Having a back-up plan for times when sickness, family emergencies or problems with child care strike will also pay off. Ask around and make a list of people you can call on for child care or assistance.

female barista making a coffee

Talk to your manager

Some employers offer flexible working options. Ask your manager what’s possible. Can you start later and finish earlier? Can you work from home for part of the day or at night when your children are in bed?


If your children are doing a lot of out of school or other activities, is there a way to simplify this? Can they take turns to do activities such as one for summer season and one for winter? Can other parents drive or take your child instead? Making things simpler for your household will benefit everyone.

Get help

Asking other parents, family or friends for help can make things easier too. You might be able to swap or alternate school or child care pick-up and drop-offs with another parent. Friends you trust might be willing to help too, sometimes all you have to do is ask.

You might also be able to tap into parents’ groups online or in person. There are lots around, including some targeted specifically for single parents. They can be a good place to share experiences and get advice on being a working parent.

Look after yourself

When you’re in charge of a family it’s important to care for yourself too. Eating well, trying to get a little more sleep, and being active (even if it’s just dancing in your lounge room with the kids) will all help keep you balanced. Make sure you take some time out for yourself too. Watch a favourite TV show once a week, read a book on the bus, or ask a friend you trust to watch the kids while you go to a movie once a month. Dedicating some time to “you” will help keep you happy and healthy.

let it go, let it go

Let it go

Things can and do get chaotic at times. But they don’t have to be perfect. Keep your eyes on the bigger picture – the positive future you’re creating for your family.

Image sources: Jason Reekie, Department of Jobs and Small Business, giphy


  1. Yes exactly right, they don’t take into account peoples individual circumstances. For example my circumstances like i have a 14yr old son with a Sensory Processing Disorder who has reports to say he needs a high amount of scaffolding everyday in & out of school, catching public transport by himself is not an option.. so i have just been so lucky to be offered a trial period at a job vacancy i applied for, but according to the job network im not doing enough hours to reduce my job search activities. So whilst i get up at 6am in morning to get myself ready, get my son ready walk 10min with my son to bus & commute with him for 20min to bus stop 10min walk from his school, then walk 10min back to bus stop wait for next bus to the city another 35min on the bus to Elizabeth Quey then get on another bus for 12min to work, then 4.5hrs at work if provided I don’t get another phone call from the school saying my son has escalated again & i need to come pick him up as i have no support from family or friends whom could pick him up & care the rest of the day for him, sometimes I’ll get 3 or 4 calls from the school before they tell me i just have to come pick him up regardless of whether im trying to secure a position of employment or not! Then back on bus from work to perth train station 13min, then get train from perth to Fremantle another 35min, then on another bus 20min commute to stop near school…10min walk to his school, 10min walk back to bus stop…then bus for 20min to near home, 10min walk to my front door….& I am still required to look for 20 jobs a month & attend all the appointments with job active job provider..all because 4.5hrs a day is not enough as a single parent especially with a son needing high amount of scaffolding daily (centerlink don’t provide any support or assistance with this) & to top it off im not eligible for the wage subsidy so if i was an employer i wouldn’t want to hire me, especially with no incentive…be lucky if i make it through the trial period..oh & im turning 41yrs old to!

  2. What happens when you have absolutely no support no work experience no education and a teen with mental illness and a 8 yr old on the ASD and you arent mentally well yourself. We are forgotten pushed aside 38 too old to bother with because we arent young mums to make feel better we are classed as those stupid woman that should of known better.

    1. Hi Julie. Nobody should make you feel pushed aside. You should be able to talk about your personal circumstances with your employment services provider. You might need to get an assessment to make sure you are in the right progam and getting the right support. If you’re unhappy with the service you get, you should first raise it with your provider. If you don’t feel like you are getting the right response, you can escalate it to our department. Call our job seeker hotline on 13 62 68 to talk about your options.

      I would guess you are aware of services and support available for your children, but here’s a list just in case:

      Headspace is a great organisation that helps 12 to 25 year olds with mental health issues, and they also have resources for parents – https://headspace.org.au/

      Lifeline is also an excellent service – https://www.lifeline.org.au/

      Autism Awareness Australia is one of many organisations that can connect you with resources and give you information about the financial support available to help families manage an ASD diagnosis and care – https://www.autismawareness.com.au/

      My mother was a teenager when she had me. It was not easy for us. In my experience most people understand single mums and young mums do the best they can. But, there will always be people who are quick to judge. I think that usually says more about the type of person they are, right? Best wishes Julie, I hope you find the support you need.

      1. Sorry our government has no idea and they don’t want to know about individuals like Julie and I.
        I’m similar situation. My provider want the following from me on a Friday.
        6am up get 3 children ready and myself
        7:15am leave to catch bus
        7:40am arrive at station, depending if bus was on time.
        transfer to next bus. Arrive at school at 7:55 (hope staff members is early so I can leave 2 children at school) walk 15mins with son back to train station, catch train back one stop the change to third bus for 25-30 to son speech therapy appointment. Arrive at bus station near appointment walk 10mins. Appointment approximately 1hr. Then 10min walk and on fourth bus back to train 26-30mins away. Catch train and walk 15 mins back to school. Drop son off.
        Walk back 10mins (faster without son) to train to head to my provider office. 20min train ride. 5-10 walk arriving approx 11:30-11:45 for a course (started at 9:30) I’ve booked by my provider. I have to leave around 1:30 to commute back for school pick and public transport home.

        My provider think this schedule is acceptable.
        I spoke to Centrelink and lady could see the anxiety it was causing me and offer for social worker to call me.
        Social call me two days later 20 minutes chat, one suggestion for help and she was going to do follow up call the following day. That was 4wks ago
        This is an example of one of my days.
        No car just feet and public transport. No friends or family to help. Just me me and me
        I’m 41 not 21 I’m exhausted by time I get home.

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