Balancing work and study

by | May 29, 2023 | 0 comments

Finding paid work

The Federal government wants to see all single mothers working. We do not support any degree of compulsion and understand why many mothers, single and partnered, choose to invest their time in caring for their babies, children and teenagers over paid work.

We also know that many single mothers want or need to find paid work. Here is some information that may help.

  • Fitted for Work is dedicated to helping women who are experiencing disadvantage to find and keep meaningful work. Single mothers are welcome and well understood here. You can get help with clothes, training, writing your resume and more.
  • McAuley Community Services for Women has an intensive employment program any woman can access. Their aim is to help women secure good jobs or to access training that will help themselves and their families financially. The program can help women who feel they do not have the confidence to apply for a job or training course, or who are finding that Job Service Providers are not giving the support they need. Phone: 03 9371 6600 or email
  • Job providers are paid by the Australian government to help people find work. If you know someone who has used a good one, that is a good place to start, as some single mothers report to us feeling they received very little help, were given the wrong information or had to do all the work without help. If you enter your suburb and postcode on their website, it will bring up all the providers in your area. The website gives job providers star ratings from best at 5 stars to worst at 1 star. Those with higher ratings have achieved better levels of long-term jobs for job seekers disadvantaged in the labour market.
  • Career Matters has some worthwhile resources for mothers returning to all levels of the workforce. They are not specifically for single mothers but are useful.

Support while studying

Depending on the nature of your course and your time commitment, balancing study and parenting can be like balancing work and parenting, without the money – however study can be a path to better future financial prospects.

Here are some links that might help:

  • It is definitely worth checking if you are eligible for some financial assistance from the government. These change often so we suggest you ring us or search for your options
  • Low income loans may be an option for some.
  • Support is not just about money. Look at any support options your TAFE or University offer including groups like study groups, bulletin boards, and your lecturers and tutors.
  • Lots of single mothers tell us they make it through with the help of family and friends, using online study supports and a lot of juggling. They all say that while it is hard, don’t give up! It can lead to a better the future for you and your children.

Flying solo

Many single mothers find that starting a small business or a micro business (less than 5 employees) fits in with their parenting responsibilities. While it is still a tremendous amount of work, the flexibility can be the best solution for the many roles single mothers’ juggle.

If you are thinking of starting a small business, be sure to do plenty of research first to understand both the potential workload and the financial risks it might pose to you. You could also reach out to the founders of the single mothers’ businesses and ask them about their experiences.

We think starting with the Australian Government websites is the best place to give you unbiased information and step-by-step guidance:

Single mothers’ businesses


Childcare allows single mothers to work, study, get to appointments or can give some much needed respite. It is vital for those without family support. Childcare is available from a few occasional hours to regular care on a part time or full time basis.

Types of childcare:

  • Long day care or centre-based care is generally located at a purpose-built childcare centre run either through your local council, community organisation or a private operator. Most centres operate between 7am – 6pm Monday to Friday for children aged 6 weeks – 6 years. Many of these have an early learning component and most are approved for government allowances and rebates.
  • Family day care or home-based care is in the professional carer’s home. It may be more flexible in hours of operation and ages of children, with care for primary school aged children or overnight and weekend care sometimes available. Most are approved childcare services for government allowances and rebates, and operate under supervision.
  • In home care, or a nanny, is a professional carer in the child’s own home. This is a limited service and special circumstances must apply to be eligible for payment assistance. It is a private arrangement and often suits mothers who are working and earning good wages and who want their child or children cared for at home.
  • Outside school hours care (OSHC) for primary school aged children usually takes place at the child’s school, before and after school hours (7.30am – 9am and 3pm – 6pm), school holidays and pupil free days. Most are approved childcare services for government allowances and rebates.
  • Occasional care is professional care offered on a casual basis and is usually flexible for parents with irregular or unpredictable work hours or occasional appointments. Community occasional care is often not very expensive.

Most services require you to pay for the days your child is booked regardless of whether or not they actually attend.

Planning ahead
Many childcare centres, particularly those with a good reputation or in areas of high demand, will have a waiting list for places so if you think you may want childcare, put your name on their list as soon as possible, even when you are pregnant.

If it’s financially viable to do so, it can be a good idea to settle your child in care before you return to work or education, which could take a few days or even a few weeks.

Even though childcare centres have strict policies around sick child attending, your child will be mixing with other kids. This means they will be exposed to common illnesses such as colds and the flu. With your child’s immune system still developing, you can expect the first year of care will be disrupted by illness. Unless you have family support or can make alternative care arrangements, this can mean time away from work or study. If you’ve just started a job or your position is casual you may not have sick leave or holiday pay available to you, which can make sustaining employment quite difficult.

Things to look for in a childcare service
Knowing you have chosen a good childcare provider can make the transition easier for both you and your child, but how do you know what to look for?

We recommend you visit the facility before you book your child in to get a feel for the service. Ask questions and talk to other parents if the opportunity arises.

  • Is the facility clean, safe and in good repair?
  • How do the staff interact with the children – are they engaged and responsive?
  • What activities (physical and sit-down) will the children be participating in – is there variety, do the activities stimulate learning and are they engaging for children?
  • How often are younger children left in swings or rockers? Do they get picked up often and what activities stimulate and engage their brain?
  • Does the centre have an early learning program for older children and a qualified early learning facilitator?
  • Do the children have access to safe, secure outdoor activities and facilities?
  • Are there meals, are they nutritious and do they offer variety? Do they cater for special dietary requirements? Who prepares the meals? Is the kitchen clean and organised?
  • Is the arts and crafts section well stocked – look around the facility to see if there is an indication the children are actively engaged in activities, such as lots of artworks on the walls.
  • Can you drop by unannounced to pick up your child early, or look in on how your child is going?
  • If the centre has televisions or computers, how much time do children spend in front of the TV and electronics?
  • Check the facility is approved for government allowances and rebates – you can find a list of accredited childcare providers in your area here

Government assistance:
Depending on your circumstances and requirements, government financial assistance is available to help with the costs of childcare. Single mothers returning to work or study who are in receipt of an income support payment may also be eligible for the JET Childcare Fee assistance.

The online government portal provides links to information on how to get assistance with the cost of childcare. You can search there for registered childcare providers in your area and the site has links to other websites with useful information and advice on parenting, child health and wellbeing and family support services.

Alternatively you can contact Centrelink on 136 150 or online

Big picture issues

Many single mothers struggle with the balance of work, study, caring for children and sometimes elder care as well. CSMC provides a supportive ear via our telephone Support Line for women wanting to talk to someone who understands, about the pressures. Call us Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 3pm on 03 9654 0622 or outside Melbourne metro 1300 552 511.

CSMC is working actively with employers, educators, government and community organisations to support and enhance flexible work opportunities and accessible education that fit with the parenting responsibilities of single mothers. Flexible work can include permanent part-time work, job sharing, having the flexibility to work from home when needed or being able to take time off when your kids are sick or have a sporting event, and make it up later.

Access to training and education opportunities is sometimes limited by financial barriers (with solutions including low-income loans, scholarships, bursaries etc.) and at other times involves fitting course hours and requirements into school hours.

We know there are many pressures from government for single mothers to work. We come from a different place. We understand why many mothers, single and partnered, choose to invest their time in caring for their babies, children and teenagers over paid work.

We know too though, that many single mothers regard study and work as ways of ensuring their future and that of their children. CSMC is committed to helping make these dreams a reality.

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