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The Head Juggler

Category: BEIS, Flexible Working, Government, Working Parents

Red background with white text overlaid spelling Testimonial.

It’s 1.38am and I can hear a commotion in the room next to mine. Having mastered the art of sleeping with one eye open, I stumble over to my daughters’ bedroom. My youngest is throwing up on her pillow and her older sister is holding her hair back. After doing a quick mental check I conclude that my daughter will be fine – she hasn’t eaten anything dodgy, she didn’t have a temperature and she’s not in pain. My concern lies elsewhere – firstly if she throws-up again she probably has a bug which means she can’t go to school for 48 hours. Also, I was working from home yesterday so have crucial meetings lined up today. In addition to this, my fall-back option (ie. my Mum) is on holiday. This means I will probably have to work from home, re-arrange my day and if experience is anything to go by my other two kids will probably also get the bug as will I and I will be extremely exhausted by the end of it!

This was just a 60-second assessment at 1.38am. As other parents may understand, we perform these assessments far too many times to count - whether it’s seeing your iPhone flash with the school’s number while you’re at work, noticing your child being slightly warmer as usual when you leave them in the morning or juggling the patchwork of wrap-around care needed during the summer holidays. What really helps me perform this assessment is knowing that my employer is always understanding if my working pattern has to change suddenly.

So, who am I? I am the Head Juggler (aka - a single parent with three children, all of primary-school age). There isn’t any involvement or support from my children’s father, whether it’s financial or emotional – it’s just me, paying the bills, looking after the children and keeping our home ticking over. Yep, the Head Juggler.

I’ve been moonlighting between single parenting and working for the last 5 years now and have changed roles four time during that time. I joined BEIS two years ago and have been working on EU Exit since then in some very high profile and fast-paced areas. In spite of, this I’ve managed to keep-up the juggling act and have found that my colleagues and managers have been extremely understanding of my circumstances. I work from home two days a week which allows me to save on travel time and use this time to actually see my children outside of them getting ready for bed. But more importantly it allows me enough time in my week to focus on my job which gives me personal satisfaction and spend time with my children, which also gives me a very different but equally humbling contentment. I know that as an ambitious human, I need both of these balanced perfectly to keep me happy. And, to be honest now that my children are growing-up they have a sense of pride knowing where I work and the job that I do so it contributes to their happiness and work ethic as well.

During school holidays and when the children were slightly younger I have been able to take advantage of the Westminster Holiday Playscheme at BEIS. I’d usually transform that day into a day out where we will stop for breakfast before heading into BEIS and a pizza at the end of the day celebrating the fact that we made it to work and back without losing anybody! Not to mention the excitement the children felt at actually seeing where I spend all my time away from them and a glimpse of the government machine they usually hear so much about in the media.   

But I digress; so on the morning in question what did I do? It was simple really. I contacted my manager as soon as was socially acceptable and said that I’d work from home. I kept my youngest home from school and emailed colleagues who I was supposed to be meeting shifting our meetings to a dial-in instead. I was still online and visible but I was also there for my daughter and managed to stay on top of the copious amounts of laundry which ensued – not a bad result in the end!

Those of you who are parents will know that nothing is ever perfect, circumstances are never ideal and more often than not we are pushed outside of our comfort zone. But no matter how old your children get (and I can say from experience that) this is part and parcel of parenting. What I’ve learned though is that it does take a village to raise a child – and that village is not just our family, friends and immediate network, it is also our employers. Our employers not only provide us with the rewards and benefits we can use to support our families, but also the empowerment that contributes to our happiness and the flexibility that can step-in when things crop-up abruptly. BEIS has accommodated my personal commitments and allowed me to bring my whole self to work – my whole single parent, working from home two days a week, leaving the office at 4pm-self and that has meant so much to me in this village where I raise my children.


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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

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