Steps star Ian “H” Watkins has spoken out about the challenges of being a single parent during the pandemic.
The singer is father to twin boys Macsen and Cybi, five, who were born via a surrogate in 2016, but says he has been a single parent “virtually from the beginning” after splitting from his former partner Craig Ryder the following year.
Watkins is currently getting ready for the much-anticipated Steps‘ comeback – with an arena tour planned for later this year following the announcement of the band’s reunion in 2020 – but is also juggling the showbiz side of his life with looking after his boys.
With COVID-19 turning the world upside down in the past 18 months, parents have faced the extra challenges of home schooling and keeping children entertained when they were stuck at home, unable to see friends or enjoy their usual hobbies.
Life as a single father can be “tough” and “a little bit crazy”, Watkins tells Sky News, but he wants to highlight that modern family life is changing.
“I have been a single parent virtually from the beginning, I guess, so I know exactly what it’s like to be outnumbered if you are single parent out there,” he tells Sky News. “It’s tough… There is no traditional family unit anymore. Families come in all shapes and sizes.
“When it comes to single parent families, I’m outnumbered, completely. So I have to divide my time and I have to devote attention to what’s needed. I am a little bit of a, well, 90%, I’d say, I’m bad cop because I have to be, you know, I do rule my children with discipline, but I also put the fun dad hat on as well. So it’s a juggling act, really. And it’s tough.”
Watkins spoke out about his own experiences following research by family holiday site Vrbo suggesting that more than half (56%) of single parents have not had a proper break in more than two years.
“You need a break, especially after the year-and-a-half that we’ve had,” says Watkins. “I mean, that was unexpected and crazy.”
Getaways in the UK might be easier now than they were during lockdown, but with the traffic light system for travelling abroad ever changing, that is not so easy to plan for.
“I think if we were singing off the same hymn sheet, that would make life a lot easier,” says Watkins, referring to the differing rules across the UK. “I personally think that what [First Minister] Mark Drakeford is doing in Wales is a good thing. I think Boris [Johnson] has been way too lackadaisical. I think it would be nice to have a bit of a happy medium.”
As lockdown measures lift, Watkins has this message for other single parents: “Just keep going. Stay strong. You have got this.”