Lifestyle & Travel

Published on November 16th, 2013 | by Parenting Solo


Lone Parents Mean Business: Unexpected death left Emily Williamson alone at 25

Mum-of-two Emily Williamson, 30, is bringing up her daughters Angel, six, and Starr, four, alone after the unexpected death of her husband Leigh five years ago.

Emily and Leigh married in 2006, while she was in the middle of her law degree. She went on to have their first daughter, Angel, during her third year on the course, and while holding down five part-time jobs. The couple discovered they were expecting their second baby while Emily was working in hotel sales while completing her LPC (legal practice course) with the hope of qualifying as a solicitor.

Five months into her pregnancy, Emily woke one morning to find her husband struggling for breath. Despite attempts by paramedics to save him, train driver Leigh tragically died from a pulmonary oedema – a condition where the lungs fill with with fluid. He was just 40. In the following months, Emily had to deal with mounting debts and an inquest into Leigh’s death.

Emily went on to give birth to their second daughter four months after Leigh died. Despite the help and support of her family, she eventually had to abandon her dreams of becoming a lawyer and return to her role in hotel sales, eventually progressing to her current role of business development manager.

She spoke to us about how she balances work full time work and building her career with looking after her young family .

How do you juggle work with lone parenting?

We have a very strong support network with wonderful family and friends who help out as well as a childminder three days a week.

What is/what has been the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge for me is the guilt I carry! I often feel bad that I can’t attend every event that the school run for parents to be involved in, or that I can’t be there to pick the girls up at home time or every ballet rehearsal. However, I know I would feel just as guilty if I didn’t work and I couldn’t afford to provide them with the lifestyle we are able to lead together.

You have really developed your role and progressed with your career – what advice would you give other lone parents who want to take on more responsibilities at work?

Only you know what is best for your own family. Have trust in your instinct and use your drive and determination to make it work best for your children in the long run.

What is your biggest fear as a lone parent?

My biggest fear is that my girls will grow up to be so independent that they won’t realise how truly special it is to share your life with the person you love most deeply. I worry that by not witnessing their parents growing old together but still living a lovely life they will believe that a life alone is ‘normal’
How do you think lone parents are generally perceived by society?

I think society in general believe that lone parents are ‘quitters’ who are happy to allow the rest of the country to support them

Have you ever experienced any negativity as a single mum?

Yes! Regularly. The most laughable would have been when a man in a bar said I must be a slag if I’ve got two children alone!

Is it harder for lone parents to be as dedicate to their careers?

I do think it is harder for lone parents to work full time as there is only one wage for childcare bills to be paid from, and only one person to have to drop everything when illness strikes and it is that same one person that the children need for emotional support and care. There is nobody else there to pay the bills if you can’t be at work because youre at home with a poorly child who only wants their Mummy to make them better!

Do you think there should be more help for single parents?

I’m not sure what would help. My main struggles as a lone parent are emotional and it is only really my friends and family that can keep me strong. Life throws different circumstances at each of us and its having the drive to work through it for your children.

“I want my children to think there are no boundaries to what they can achieve – no matter what life throws at them. I also want people to know that no matter how bad it seems you can get through it”.

Are you a one off among your family/social circle, or do you have lots of lone parent contacts/support network?

I don’t have any friends or family who are single parents, I have single friends without children and married friends with children.

Tell us more about your job?

I am business development manager for Principal Hayley Hotels and Conference Venues, which is a collection of 23 individual hotels and conference and event venues across the UK and Europe – we have everything from city centre Victorian grandeur hotels to country estates, and modern purpose-built conference and training venues.

Prior to working here, I was the sales manager at Hotel du Vin in York, and was shortlisted for both the Yorkshire & Humber Forward Ladies young businesswoman of the year award and the York Woman in Enterprise award 2012 for the contribution I made to business development there.

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About the Author

Parenting Solo

is an online resource for lone parents, offering news, debate, features and expert opinion. It is edited by journalist and broadcaster Kelly Rose Bradford.

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