Tag Archives: work

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He has started school, embarking on his own journey through life. Of course his journey started over four years ago, when he first entered this world as a brand new, tiny human being. Back then he was so utterly dependent on me, to do everything for him, from feeding him, washing him, dressing him. I could lie him down somewhere and turn my back for a few seconds, knowing he would stay put, such was his inability to do anything for himself except breathe.

Now four years and four months have passed and he has started school. Proper primary school, with teachers and a uniform and term dates and inset days and homework and god forbid you take him out for a day during the week or else the government will fine you £120 for the pleasure. He cries about going each night and each morning and he drags his feet on the way.

There is writing practise to be done each morning in the classroom. In a class of however many children (25 maybe 30? I don't know) and then their parents and the teachers too. I find it claustrophobic and chaotic and distracting so I am not entirely sure just how much my four-year old gets out of. And if you don't fancy writing what about reading? He can recite the two books back to me but he isn't actually reading, he has memorised them, he doesn't look at the words or the pictures but the distractions in the room. Should I change the book now? Am I doing this right? Am I doing anything right any more and more to the point have I ever got it right until now? Should I tell the teachers that my son isn't getting anything from these 15 minutes each morning, other than delaying the inevitable that I have to leave him behind.

Then he sees his friend and decides that actually it is OK for me to go now, he will be OK now his friend his here. I sense he is still hesitant but take it as my cue to leave.

On picking him up, I question him like he is a terror suspect, asking him all the questions. "Who did you play with?", "What did you play?", "What did you eat at lunch time?" Some times he answers them, other times he doesn't. Every day he asks me why does he have to go to school again tomorrow "because Mummy it's a long time not seeing you and I miss you". It takes everything I have to not let the tears flow. "And I miss you too dude but if you want to be a fireman when you are bigger you have to go to school first".

The husband is working now too. Out of the house from 7 am until 3.30 pm. Leaving me alone to get Harry to school and pick him up, to manage the household, the chores, the shopping, the bills, the appointments, meals and everything else all by myself like a proper grown up for the first time in over two years. And in that two years so much has changed and I think I have forgotten how to run a house and now I have school-aged child and all the school stuff.

So many changes I feel left behind like the world is moving without me. Then a parcel arrives.

Open Uni pic

So I am changing too. Studying and trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.

All of this change is scary and exciting at the same time and I wonder, can I cope? I thought that now was the time to start studying after years of wanting to and never biting the bullet and now I wonder if I have made the right decision. So overwhelmed am I by my son going off to school and the husband working again and having all this stuff to do and trying to manage my emotions. I wanted to speak to my GP next week about weaning off my medication but all of this change has overwhelmed me and now I wonder if I should? Until two weeks ago I felt ready to have that conversation and I still want to but is that more because I just want to stop taking these tablets and to start feeling or is it because I actually am ready?

Next week sees another appointment with my Neurosurgeon, one that I will have to attend alone because the husband will be working and we can't afford for him to lose a day's wage to hold my hand. I have no idea what, if anything will happen. I am still in pain all day, every day. Some days worse than others but I get flustered and anxious and lose track of what I need to say, only remembering after the appointment and will anything I say make any difference?

Mind in overdrive. Change all around me. I can't keep up and feel lost but I don't want to feel lost. I want to feel normal. For once, I just want to feel normal.

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Kirstie Allsopp didn't go to university and neither did I. That's about where the similarities start and end. However, she was all but crucified recently for suggesting that young women should sidestep university, start their family first then go on to have a career. Her comments may well have been intended as an option for women but whether she likes it or not, they come from a place of privilege with her father being a Baron and her own partner being wealthy as well as being a "celebrity" in her own right, seemingly never out of work despite having children of her own later in life. She is in a position whereby she can help her offspring set up their first home.

As I said above I didn't go to university. In fact although I went to college after my GCSEs, I did not end up completing the course or go onto University as I had hoped. I guess you could say I lost my sense of direction. By the time I was 16 I found myself in pubs, bars and nightclubs several nights a week with a part-time job. A job which when a shift was offered, I'd take it even if it meant skipping college that day because, you know, money. When I finished college I went straight into a full-time job, moved out of home and had lots of money and a freedom I'd never had before.

Then, stuff happened and I met my husband at 21. Married at 24 and had Harry at 27. Whilst I have considered for years the prospect of returning to study, the time has never been right. I was too busy working and having fun as part of a young couple. When Harry arrived, I was too tied up in caring for him and now? Now it feels like I have blinked and suddenly he starts school in September.

What am I going to do with my life then? I feel I have lost my way in life once more. As my health stands at the moment, I still cannot work on full-time, normal basis; have periods when I need to nap or when my pain is too high to even leave the flat. Yesterday I went out for coffee with a friend. I was out for 2 hours and that exhausted me. Whilst the government can say the right things and make the right laws (for example that companies have to at least consider requests for flexible working) the reality is vastly different, certainly as a women who has taken time out to raise a family, whether her choice to or not.

Even if I could work, I daresay few employers would be willing to employ a women with a young child. A women who is still in her fertile years and has the potential to go off on maternity leave at the drop of a hat, even if said women (me) declares they are highly unlikely to have any more children. I know by law that selection processes for employees have to be fair but in the real world, I would bet my bottom dollar that most employers would admit that they would be far more likely to employ a man of similar qualifications and experience, to a woman in her twenties or thirties.

So, I have applied to do an Access course. I hope to then study for a degree. All through Open University. Because I still need to be at home for Harry after school and even funding holiday and after school clubs is expensive (and generally not subsidised). I need to have that flexibility now, a flexibility I didn't have to think about when I was younger. The husband will have to look for work to support me and Harry, something which is easier said than done these days.

Isn't this what we should be discussing in the media? That actually women still don't have real choice? If you work in an office environment, workplaces still are not as flexible as they could be. If you work in retail, hospitality and many more industries huge swaths of employers now use zero hours contracts. The sort of contracts that are useful if you are a student but with no guaranteed income, they are not a real choice for those with families to support.

I don't regret for a minute not going to university when I was younger. I wasn't focussed or driven enough and I would not have met the husband. That doesn't mean that if I had a girl that I would suggest she follow the path I took. I would ask her if she knew what she wanted to do and if she did and her choice required a degree (or a degree meant higher earning potential) then I would support her decision. Not in the financial sense (mainly because I don't have two pennies to rub together) but in the emotional sense. But then that's exactly what I will be doing with Harry.

Should we be warning our girls that this perceived choice isn't real, that at some point some thing does have to give, sacrifices have to be made and you cannot really have it all? Because ultimately, whether we like it or not, it is still largely women who make these sacrifices.

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Overhaul the benefits system, says David Cameron

 Image credit The Telegraph

So, Mr Cameron has announced a whole raft of ideas to cut an extra £10 billion from welfare.  You can read them here.

Whilst I agree with a lot of the ideas, such as banning school leavers from going straight onto benefits and introducing a regional benefit linked to cost of living, I am not at all comfortable with the idea of removing access to Housing Benefit for 16-24 year olds.  Let me give you a bit of background to my story and hopefully you may see where I am coming from.

By the time I was 18, living at home (with my Mum, brother and two sisters) was becoming unbearable.  Largely because I didn't get along with my brother or my mum.  There were arguments and door slamming several times a day, not a good environment for a 3-year-old and 7-year-old I am sure you would agree.  As the eldest, my Mum felt she had little choice but to kick me out.  Originally I moved in with a couple from the Church we were attending but after 6 months they needed to downsize and got a very quick sale, I wasn't able to move with them.  Despite working full-time, I couldn't afford to rent a flat and I couldn't find a room in a shared house, all the ads were either for language students or people simply didn't want an 18-year-old living with them.  For a short time I crashed with friends who were living at home and unfortunately my contract came to an end.  I turned to the local housing charity who put me into a hostel for Under 25s.  Having already had a taste of freedom this was far from ideal as it was staffed 24/7 and there was a curfew of 11pm but I was grateful for my own room and a roof over my head.  The staffed helped me to access housing benefit, JSA and council tax benefit.  Out of the JSA of around £50 a week, £12 a week of that had to be paid to the hostel for service charge, washing was £1 a load, electricity about £8 a week and I had to buy my own food, needed money for bus fares to job hunt etc.  I took temporary jobs and couldn't get a permanent one as I didn't have the experience.  There were several times during that period when I needed to claim benefits and I hated it each time.

Three months after I turned 21, my mum died suddenly.  My Dad had long since stopped supporting my mum or us and at that time was unemployed, living hundreds of miles away in Newcastle in a bed sit.  He couldn't have taken his 3 children in even if he wanted to.

My youngest sister's Dad was an alcoholic and had always contributed financially.

My brother was approaching 20 and was living at home and working.

Thankfully for my sisters, my Uncle (mum's brother) and Aunt stepped up, despite me saying I wanted to move back into the family home to care for them, they were adamant that they wanted me to continue to live my life, find something I was good at etc; the chances of that happening whilst bringing up my sisters was nigh on impossible.  Is Cameron seriously suggesting that my Uncle should have taken in my brother and myself as well?  Bearing in mind he had two sons of his own from a previous marriage and his new wife (they'd been married for little over 6 months) pregnant.

Of course I imagine there would be exceptions to the proposals for those who find themselves in situations similar to mine, or fleeing violence and, presumably, those that fall pregnant which then pushes the family home into over-crowding.  Between the husband and myself, we have clocked up 6 years in supported young persons hostels.  Neither of us have ever come across a single person who is there simply seeking independence from their family which is what Cameron seems to suggest most young people do.  Neither of us were in a position to return to the family home for various reasons.  Neither of us wanted to turn to benefits or a housing charity.

I owe a lot to the workers at the hostel were I lived.  Shortly after my mum's death I was moved into a shared flat, managed by them with fortnightly visits and where I met my now husband.

Housing charities are struggling as it is.  In fact the one that helped me were struggling 10 years ago when I first went to them!

A sixth of Under 25s who claim Housing Benefit are actually working, those that are lucky enough to find and keep a job at the moment of course.  Perhaps something needs to also be done about high rents and low wages?

What do you make of Cameron's most recent ideas?

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I've been following this meme from mother.wife.me and Pret A Mummy for about a month now but as I am not a working mum, I've not taken part.

However, as regular readers/twitter followers will know, I am now looking to return to the workplace, largely through financial necessity and have very mixed feelings about this.  I am sure that it is these thoughts, worries, apprehensions which Musings From A Mum had in mind when she took her turn and then tagged me to join in!

It sounds straight forward enough so I shall give it my best shot!

Rules:

Post the rules.

Answer the questions in as much or as little detail as suits you.

Leave a comment on mother.wife.me so we can keep track of the meme.

Tag 3 people and link them to your blog.

Let them know you've tagged them.

Tweet loudly about taking part (well OK, that isn't a rule but how about if we start a hashtag - #amothersworkmeme).

Questions:

Did you work before becoming a mum?

Yes.  I was working full time within the financial services although, I hasten to add, I was NOT a banker or trader.  I actually quite enjoyed my job although it was at times very stressful with little satisfaction or reward.  Don't believe everything you read in the papers.  Whilst I loved my actual role, there were elements I was unhappy and if I am totally honest, I only stayed for the very good maternity package, although pregnancy wasn't on my radar for a good few years.  Then I fell pregnant.  I got SPD early on, in fact my midwife suggested it at my 8 week appointment, by 17 weeks (when I had finally seen a physio) it was confirmed and by 22 weeks I was on crutches and off work.  I guess I was a bit of  a late starter in terms of choosing a path and (as is often the case) I fell into the financial services industry quite by accident.

Once I had H, I started to dread returning to work.  I adored being at home with him and meeting up with the new friends I met through a couple of groups I attended.  Once I informed my manager of my intended return date, she advised me that I had been selected for redundancy and therefore, would go in for a meeting on that day, be given my notice and that was it.  Except things didn't quite happen that way and it was a further nine months after my return before I was officially given notice.

I struggled a lot with working.  Not so much in the four months when the husband was unemployed and a SAHD, then various health issues of mine came up, both physical and mental.

What is your current situation?

I was officially made redundant in December, although I had not been in work since an accident in September and actually was off sick for a total of six months last year.  I have spent the last few months as a SAHM and in all honesty, as much as I love H, I am quite frankly shite at it.  I can play with him, entertain him, love him etc but I always feel like I am not DOING enough, like the stuff I want to do with him costs money that we don't have (baby sign, music and movement classes, swimming classes etc).  Added to that I am the opposite of a domestic goddess and really, I'd be more use back in the work place.

Freestyle: Got you own point you'd like to get across about this issue?  Well, here's your chance...

Where to start?

Childcare is the biggest point I think.  Not only the hourly/weekly/monthly costs but the fact that there is no help available for those initial deposits or payments in advance.  How one is expected to magic up this sum of money when they have been taking home a fraction of their usual income is beyond me!  For us, this is the biggest hurdle to me returning to work now.  When I went back after maternity leave I was lucky enough that I had family who could loan us that money (remember, I had been told I wouldn't be required then was given two weeks notice of a new project).  I can't really ask them again.

Since the recent budget announcement by the Chancellor, the handy BBC Budget Calculator has revealed that we are worse off BOTH working full time (based on my salary expectations as advised by various recruiters) than if I was to go back to work full time and my husband just work two days a week, which in turn has the impact that we wouldn't get family time together.  I'd like Mr Osborne to explain what he means by this year's budget being one for the working family?

So there are my thoughts.  And now I tag Romanian Mum, Chelseamamma and The Mummy Blogger.

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I must start by apologising for my absence this week.  Sorry.

This week has been a weird one.  It started off with the realisation that I have no choice but to go back to work.  We simply cannot manage on the husband's wages alone.  We've managed thus far over the last few months but with the new financial year, the annual water, sewerage, council tax, TV licence etc bills have come in.  Of course these can (and will be) paid monthly by Direct Debit but the money still has to come from somewhere and short of growing an as yet undiscovered money tree, that means I have to return to work.

As much as it pains me to admit, I also struggle with being a SAHM, particularly now H has started tantruming.  And it's not just H.  I am no domestic goddess.  Don't get me wrong, my house isn't dirty or anything but it is untidy and it isn't the cleanest when I am in charge.  Having a husband who is a chef and a total clean freak, this causes arguments.  I just don't see things he does and in that respect, I should have been born a man.

I contemplated working in a shop or supermarket.  Whilst I have good customer skills, I cannot stand on my feet all day.  Literally, I cannot do it.  My pelvis is still buggered from the pregnancy.

So I started applying for general administrative roles.  Not feeling too enthusiastic about them but knowing I needed a job.  I got a couple of rejections.

Then I uploaded my CV on a website.  Within 24 hours I had received 5 phone calls from recruiters, 4 of whom wanted to put me forward for the same role!  Having already arranged to meet with the first one who called me, I explained to the other 3 that someone was already representing me for that role.  The final call came from someone who admitted she didn't have a role but wanted to meet anyway.

Both meetings were on Thursday morning and the two firms deal with different industries.  The first is for the more specialist roles, matching my skills and experience and she gave me a real confidence boost.  The trouble with that is going back down the specialist role means seeing a lot less (if indeed anything) of H during the week.  However, the flip side, is potentially a lot more money plus scope for training and career progression.  It's the long-term benefits if you like.  Then I can't help but be reminded H is only young once.  The second recruiter I saw deals with more general admin.  A lot less money, more roles based in Bristol (as opposed to commuting to Bath) so more time at home with H during the week.

I know I was terribly unhappy working before but I did actually like my job.

I know that either way there is still a long way to go.  I mean, I haven't heard from either of them since the meetings but should I be offered both options, I've no idea what to go for?!  Can anyone make a decision for me please?