The Benefits Cap. Why not just shoot us single parents now?!

I like Facebook. I like to see what friends and family are up to. I like to share a few things like pictures of my girl with people I know. It’s a great platform for sharing things in general. Today I saw a post that frightened me greatly.

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I was obviously aware of the new benefit reforms but not in this amount of detail. I didn’t know exactly how they would harm so many lives in relation to people in my position until I read this report. As a single parent of one child, I don’t think, currently, I will lose any money each week. (I could be wrong of course but I think I must come within the cap limit. If wrong, please feel free to correct me.)

However, there are some women with 2, 3 or more children, who have been made a single parent not through choice, who will now have money deducted from them weekly, taking into account the new cap limit, meaning they will be worse off and will struggle even more than they already do. The report admits that this will leave families at risk of losing their homes, being unable to pay their bills or rent, with losses in income estimated at about £60 per week. I know the value of living off £60 per week as a single parent to one child, so I can’t imagine the difficulty people much face when forced to lose this amount of money. Especially after being used to it and having already built their initial foundation of how they live around it. The simple fact is kids cost money. Take it away, how do you clothe and feed them?

Most people have already set up their living arrangements based on the income they already get, meaning the rent will now not get paid as that deducted money will have to be covered out of other benefits and on goes the cycle of juggling money around to make ends meet, to cover bill deadlines, to feed the kids, until something doesn’t get paid, until the kids don’t get fed, until the rent isn’t covered on time. That is how it starts. One missed rent payment leads to possible eviction. Eviction leads to homelessness. (Imagine that with 3 kids in tow.) Homelessness leads to fear and desperation. Fear leads to vulnerability. Desperation leads to prostitution. Prostitution leads to vulnerability. Vulnerability leads to danger. Danger leads to loss, death or illness. Sound extreme? It can happen and does. A lot.

Not paying the bills leads to bailiffs knocking at your door with the kids watching. Bailiffs being called leads to personal possessions being taken away and never seen again to cover the arrears of the bills you can no longer pay. Losing your things leads to borrowing money from dangerous and willing loan sharks, at eye watering interest rates as most will have no other option in this situation to cover the loss of the possessions taken that are so necessary to everyday functioning in this day and age. (We need a washing machine to clean our kids clothes. We need a computer to look for the jobs you are so quick to push us into before we are ready or able.) Borrowing like this leads to significant mounting debt that stands no chance of being paid off. Mounting debt leads to massive amounts of stress. Stress and a general lack of hope can lead to depression. Depression and no alternative can lead to death in some severe cases. Sound over the top? It is not. It happens when pushed. A lot.

Stress is the one thing that is actually most likely to hold people back from gaining the right employment. To be not properly supported and then be expected to hold down a job is just not realistic. Whilst the government are busy penalizing people for daring to have fallen on hard times, how is that going to help them to become the working citizens you expect us all to be? Who wants to live in a world where we are made to feel hopeless and are punished if we ever DARE to find ourselves in a position like I am that I didn’t ask for? The benefits system is supposed to be a fall back for when you need it. There are people who say how proud they are that they have never had to use it. Well lucky you. We are not all so fortunate.

And what about the children? It’s all very well saying “Dont have kids until you can pay for them yourself”. This isnt Cinderella. We all know, deep down, that life is not that simple. Some women are raped and anti-abortion so keep the child whilst dealing with the aftermath mentally of that horrifying ordeal for the rest of their life. Other women work really hard for a family and get abandoned by men who claimed they were the world but in time had no intention of sticking around leaving the woman to do all the hard stuff by herself as the child gets older. Others fall pregnant even with the safest and most assured methods of contraception. It can’t always be planned in the way the fairy tales or society tells us it should be. Meet, date, consummate, get engaged, buy a house, get married, start a family, live happily ever after. Yeah that sounds great, in reality it happens to very few of us. Punishing people for this all just leads to one big mess and who suffers? The people who were the last people who needed benefit cuts. Single parents with children under five and the children they carry with them. Single parents who really need the help with children under school age. Its ludicrous this had been deemed acceptable. It’s the last place the cuts should have been made.

I understand fully that cuts NEEDED to be made SOMEWHERE. But this is all wrong. Why do I see people in my area who have never worked a day in their life, sat outside at all hours, in their pyjamas, smoking pot and drinking all day whilst claiming DLA. Are they disabled? No. Could they work? Yes. Are they lazy and choose to claim disability  to get out of work? You know it. Are they wasting their benefits on unnecessary drugs and vices? Of course. Openly. Why are they not having their weekly income cut or abolished completely? How do they slip through the system yet innocent parents that really need support get punished so that society feels better about them existing? It madness. Cuts could have been made else where.

I have worked none stop since I was 16, right up until I had my daughter at 26. When I stopped working, due to there being no free childcare for under 2 year olds and having no family around us to GIVE us free childcare, my partner worked instead. The plan was ALWAYS supposed to be that once she hit nursery age, with his income already in place, anything I earned part-time over those two days she was attending would be an extra bit of income that would benefit our family, allowing us both to work and contribute. Unfortunately, from age 2, before our daughter started nursery, he left us. Is that my fault? Should I be punished for this? Do you think I enjoyed through the personal grief having to admit I would now join a group of society on Income Support that were belittled and looked down upon? Should I be made to feel any worse than I already have done since we watched him go and knew we would from that point onwards struggle just to eat properly?

I can hear some of you saying “Well she’s in nursery now, why don’t you just work now?”. People have said this to me too. Yes, she gets (on paper) 15 hours of free childcare per week. Due to it being an all year round nursery and with the staff rates being taken into account, they spread this out over the year, meaning she actually gets 12 hours per week, over 2 days, from 9am-3pm. So for me to “just go to work”, with not much outside help to fit around what I needed to be able to do to work, I would have to either find a job for just those hours (not taking travel time into account), earning less than I receive now as I wouldn’t meet the 16 hours requirement for working tax credits to be exempt from these cuts, or I would have to work 16 hours plus per week, paying out of that income for an extra day at nursery, again making me no better off or possibly worse off. On top of this, finding a job to fit with her nursery hours and collections will be hard in itself.

I have heard so many people, and friends, with young children themselves saying “We do it, why should you sit on your arse all day”. So many people go on Facebook rants about how lazy single parents are and how if they have to work then so should we. Firstly, anyone doing it properly never sits on their arse. Its full-time. You know this. You have children yourselves. You do a good job too. You know it aint easy. Secondly, you answered your own question. “WE do it.” Together. As a unit. To co-ordinate pick up times, to swap childcare duties on days off, to share household responsibilities, to have the dinner ready for the other person when they get in, booking annual holidays off to cover childcare between you for those who don’t work in education and don’t naturally get these same times off throughout the year as their kids. It is so easy to say “Just do it” when you have no concept yourself of what it takes to raise a kid by yourself. No idea of what it would take to juggle all of that life with a child under five by yourself. It is no walk in the park. 

Up until now, it has always been accepted that if you have a child under school age you were not pushed or required to work until they were in full-time school. This I feel is right.  That they are pushing now to change this to seemingly demonstrate their power, will to save money or to make a show of people already suffering, is wrong. It is not possible. By all means, when Emi is in full-time school next September, I will be working. She will still only be 4, but the hours at school will help me with finding a job that will fit better around that. I will not have to pay for all day childcare, her main school hours will at least be covered, therefore I will have less barriers holding me back from earning and working. That will be the right time to go back to work. It makes logical sense. But the benefits cap and the government in general is not what you would call logical.

What doesn’t make sense to me, is the belief by the masses of the propaganda allowed in the media to discriminate against all single parent claimers as a whole. For instance, a newspaper headline may shamelessly document a family who happens to claim £19000 “free” benefits per year, squaring them up against a hospital worker earning the same each year in a more “hard-working” manner. With the media, its black and white, its right and wrong.

What I want to know is, when you see a headline like this, do you instantly think “scumbag”. Or do you think of the reality about what that figure is covering and where exactly the money is going? Are you actually being brainwashed enough to believe that the parent is pocketing that amount of money each year for themselves to live on?

My rent, for example, works out at nearly £5300 per year. This is in a relatively cheap area. Imagine if that headline covered the cost of a London rental? This is paid directly to my landlord. I never see that money. Yet this figure is always included in the total figure of what “scum bag” claimers like me are getting. We don’t get it.We dont see it. My water rates are nearly £400 per year. My gas and electric nearly £600 per year. That is just for the two of us, being very careful to switch everything off we don’t use. Imagine the cost per year in a four or five person family unit? That is before food, clothing, phone bills, tv licence, kids costs for school etc, all the extras kids and babies need as they grow like nappies etc.

Do you really believe that people who genuinely claim as their only income are “laughing” at all you “hard” workers who have to earn your money whilst scum like me rolls around in excess? If you do think that, you have been misinformed. When you take into account travel and basic living expenditure on top of the other bills, it does not leave a lot. Anyone going on holidays at the tax payers expense and bragging about it must have other income they are not declaring. I for one am not into drugs myself. And that’s not trying to generalise myself. The type of people that flash this magical cash that has seemingly appeared out of nowhere are very often dealing or associated with drugs. Anyone like a struggling mother would probably be more likely to do a bit of cash in hand cleaning and not declare it just to feed her children, she certainly wouldn’t be flashing it, or proud of not declaring it. People need to eat. 

I know what it is to eek out your last £2.00 of the week  on the cheapest food you can find to get you through the next few days until there’s money in the bank again. I know what it is to have to feel ashamed as you cash in your saved up few pounds worth of coppers at the bank, just so you have emergency money on your card for things like milk over the weekend incase you run out. I know what it is to hold off from putting your heating on at all until at least December, preferring to sit with a jumper, blanket and hot water bottle rather than run up any more money and be landed with an energy bill you don’t have the available cash to pay, worrying your child is cold at night in a freezing flat, so much so that you sleep together to keep each other warm. I know what it is on the income I receive for my daughter, how it feels being 3 months behind with paying the water bill because it’s the last bill that gets chased and the kid needed to be fed first so you ignore it for a few months because you can, always stressing its hanging over you and hoping your services aren’t cut or you’re not hit by legal action for ignoring the red warning letters.

I hate that people paint this “scum on benefits” picture of EVERYONE on them. I also hate that people who work assume that people who claim are out to spite you or somehow getting one over on you. Claiming benefits isn’t about you. Until you have to do it, you wont understand that Mrs high and mighty “I work and you don’t”.

Say this does happen as they want and all single parents are pushed into working part-time regardless if it makes them better off or not, just to right things in their minds on some form in some office somewhere and so that the poor woman ensures her kids are not made homeless? Will there even be enough jobs for this anyway? I have looked at the Directgov website today and through the limited amounts of part-time jobs available, most of the ones I could find were night work or evening work. How does a single mom like myself with no close family or supportive partner do night work or evening work? Who watches Emi whilst I go? It works in theory in your little minds in your top paid jobs, sat behind your big desks in your nice suits your maid has ironed for you, whilst you make these rules up that are so unrealistic it would almost be laughable if it didn’t harm so many lives.

Single parents with babies will have to now search for work to meet the shortfall in benefits cuts if they cannot pay their rent. That will be their only option. Working for nothing, to pay the rent, to cover the babies child care, with nothing left over. Its disgusting. Before there is ANY free childcare at age 2? Are you kidding me?

I am not a fan of this government. However, I am even less of a fan of people who are not in the position to judge but do anyway. Stop it. You have no idea.

Parents, on their own, having to apply for help, should not be pushed into work until the child is in full-time school, unless their job income can cover their costs and they can realistically do it alone . My daughter wont even be 5 when she starts. They should be given choice or at least support and training during this time so that when they do return to work they are better qualified to get a better wage. There is currently no support in place, only unrealistic pushing which will make the mothers and childs lives twice as hard as they already are. The benefits system should be set up and in place to allow this much needed support to happen. Not to BULLY already hard done by mainly women into further hardship to save a few pounds. 

Single Mom,not Superwoman! (And what its really like living with a 3 year old!)

I was chatting to a friend the other day when they pointed out to me how they thought the systems that be often expect single parents to be more like superwoman than anything else. And it wasnt until she said it that I realised how much I am expected to be able to manage on my own. And what a good job I’ve been doing actually. I have been feeling somewhat overwhelmed by it all since last year when this became my living status, that being me and my daughter on our own.

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Now she is three and a half, has just started pre-school and is growing so fast it scares me! I am a busy single mom trying to work out what to do next whilst wondering how the hell I will fit going to work into the equation next year when she starts at school. I have a lot to juggle and would really love to hear from any of you that have done it and succeeded! Here is a bit of an insight into what living with a three-year old is really like for those of you who think it’s a walk in the park!

As it’s approaching next September, I find myself more and more daunted by the day. I am sure some of you reading this have been there and can assure me it will be ok. I know deep down things will work out in whatever way they are supposed to. That is usually how life goes. Just getting there is always scary. I would be a liar if I didn’t admit to this. My head is a cloud of decisions I have to make pretty much alone and I often feel ready to give up. I don’t though. I suppose that’s my saving grace. I’ve come close to giving up. But the benefits of having children, single or otherwise, far outweigh the negatives and that is why us parents carry on when faced with only one other option.

Choosing a school: I’m just realising how scary it is making sure you pick the right one! Even if you are happy with a decision and make a choice, there’s no saying they will have space for your child anyway. School life is a whole other ball game to just having a baby. Its getting very real. Choosing a school is something you hope to be doing with a partner on a lazy Sunday in bed, with her tucked up in the middle of you both, looking over the relevent prospectuses whilst cooing over how fast your little one has grown up. To progress as a unit is always the ideal. I looked forward to that bit. You work with what you have. I will of course discuss it with her father, but, inevitably, I will be the one taking her and dealing with the school every day, so it is on my shoulders to make that final decision. It already takes me 25 minutes each way to walk up hill to her pre-school, that’s each way, 25 there and 25 back. Twice over each day. Nearly 2 hours of my day taken up with getting to pre school and back. No wonder my calves ache! Yes I could spend £4.40 per day on the bus but you do the math, especially when she’s at school. It may not seem much to some of you but every penny has to count when you don’t have excess.It has to work for me too whichever I choose.

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School runs: Managing school runs with work as a none driver is not going to be easy. (Those who have helpfully said why don’t you just learn to drive have obviously never survived on £45 income support per week.) I had a friend once who said I would manage as everyone else in my position had to. It’s a  good point in theory, but coming from someone who was driven to the school gates door to door every morning by a family member and who had a supportive partner paying the bills whilst she got to raise her kids at home, it didn’t really bring me much comfort. Remarks aren’t really helpful unless they come from experience. We have a practice routine now of course, which will help us prepare for the real thing, as she’s been at nursery for a year now and the hours are pretty similar to a school day (9am until 3pm) But that’s just two days per week,whilst I am at home and don’t have to rush to work after. The five day week is going to take some getting used to I think!

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Getting out the door:Trying to get yourself up and out the house is one thing. Getting up to an alarm for anything in the early hours is never nice for anyone, kids or not! If I leave without food on my clothes or lipstick on my arm it’s a successful morning. (Ever tried just nipping upstairs to do your make-up without a 3 year old following you and destroying every piece of makeup you ever owned?! Not managed it yet myself!) Trying to get yourself and a young child out of the house, on the other hand, is a whole different kettle of fish. To be clean, dressed, packed and fed and at the place you’re going on time is a challenge. We are managing it so far! Just about!

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Inconsistencies: There are smooth days where she is so good that I feel a little smug my seemingly angelic child at the time does all she’s told. Then there are days when angel is not the preferred choice of word and she doesn’t co-operate at all. Those days where you will get her dressed, leave the room with only 10 minutes to spare until you need to go, come back in and she’s running around with her trousers on her head and a completely naked body apart from her pants and one sock. All in good fun of course. But not in the least bit helpful. Or those days where you get her dressed and she spills her whole bowl of cereal down her top and it pours under your tv cabinet, giving you another job to add to your morning, reducing your time to get ready and meaning you have to then power walk up the hill arriving very sweaty and frantic but just about on time! Buy hey, if you’re going to be inconsistent at any point in your life, three is a good a time as any to get it out the way!

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Above: Who, me?!

Invasions: Mornings, at times, can be a mammoth task. Eat your breakfast (No!), go and get your shoes (Sits watching tv ignoring me), go and have a wee before we leave (cries saying she doesn’t want to try then after 5 minutes of stern mom talking she goes and does a massive one that she obviously needed all along anyway.) You find yourself often sneaking around the house trying to do things in secret. Like tiptoeing up the stairs to have a lone bath whilst she’s watching Bing, only for her to hear me getting in, run after me, then harass me to get in too until I can’t bothered to say no anymore. She proceeds happily making it her own private water world fun time regardless of its original occupier and I quickly wash my hair in the only corner she hasn’t taken over with toys and bottles. Cold water runs freely no matter how much I say to turn it off,my knee is throughly washed at least 12 times whilst I watch my best body wash I was trying to make last at least another week rapidly disappear before my eyes and my 10 minutes of peace become yet another long-winded mess to clean up after. More work for Mommy. Its exhausting sometimes. Mentally draining. Of course there are mornings shes wonderful and does whatever I need her to. And at other times I adore her company in the bath and love that everything is fun at that age. Who am I to spoil her fun. Simple pleasures are all a three year old really needs after love and food. But when you have somewhere to be, its hard work to see the fun side too often. The clock waits for no man once they are in the system.

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Me Time: Every one needs this. Shame we don’t all have the luxury of taking it when we live on our own and away from family. I think it must be so easy for men to just walk out on the tediousness as they see it, of a nagging women and young noisy baby, not fully knowing or wanting to know the full sacrifice they are leaving them to make for the remainder of that child’s life (As if they didn’t sacrifice enough having the babies in the first place-So long tight stomach, confidence and energy) Women often are the backbone of the family and yet are so overlooked at times its frightening. A mother can do a 15 hour day, feed her baby, tidy the house, do the shopping and still manage to get something edible on the table for when her partner gets home complaining about his single task of working that day and being tired. Yet we are made to feel grateful they have earned the money and find ourselves running round after them to meet their needs. Who is meeting ours? We constantly multi task and it’s just not noticed.

Now I am alone I am having to double the multi tasking I was already doing! It never ends! I am permanently exhausted. I am not always able to clean the house properly or go out for yet more food supplies because it’s too much work after cleaning, cooking, chasing and entertaining. It takes several trips sometimes to do top up shopping. On my own, I cart everything back on the bus, juggling my toddler holding onto one bag with the other hand full and a back pack on too. There isn’t much time left over for me. Yet I am proud of myself for rising to the challenge because the alternative is not even an option.I am going to do this job properly and raising a child is nothing to be half soaked about.

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Time Restraints: My evenings will be taken up with coursework from October, going from one job as Mom in the daytime, to another of student whilst she sleeps at night. I have to do this to better the situation I have been left with. My day will be something like 6am until 11pm constantly doing work of some sort. Once shes dropped at pre-school, I come back and clean up last nights mess I was too exhausted to clean up last night. I have a real bath to make up for the one she stole that morning (If cleaning didn’t take the morning) I might go food shopping or pay some bills and before you know it its time to collect her again. The day goes fast and the night even faster. God help me fitting it all in next year. I will. I have to. I’m just not looking forward to working even harder. I don’t feel its possible right now.

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Self Care: It’s a life of choices and sacrifices on your own I have come to realise. People often say raising a child is hard work in general and even as part of a couple. I am not disputing this. Partner or not, its hard work. But with a partner, at least there is a choice that includes you in the equation getting what you need also. I used to be able to have 20 minutes to myself on a morning whilst me and my then partner tag teamed the care of our daughter whilst the other got ready, all getting to do what we needed and getting out the house on time. Always on time. Always with washed hair. Pre single life I washed my hair every day just to feel fresh. Because I had time to wash and blow dry in those days. And put on make up. And paint my nails. And cut them regularly come to think of it. What a luxury. Post split, on my own time, if it’s a choice between getting her to her nursery on time or washing my hair, im going to be walking up that hill with a hat on instead! I come last now in the household list of priorities even more so than I did when I had a partner because im now doing double the work. It’s not a choice to not make an effort with my appearance. I try as much as I have energy to and as much as time will let me. Sometimes a face full of slap is the least of your worries when your toddlers just been sick all in her nursery bag right before you leave the house!

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Employment: Finding a job to fit around a 9am until 3pm day will be hard. Ideally I want to be self-employed but havent quite found that thing that I am really good at yet. I wont have the luxury of juggling the school runs and collections with anyone, it’s all on my shoulders and after this last year I do worry if I will be able to handle it all. I have also just started an Open University degree which I will have to work around next year. Finding a quiet moment to study with that feels almost impossible already being on my own with her, and that’s whilst im at home, so the thought of fitting paid work on top of that next year is something im finding hard to come to terms with. This  wasnt my life choice of preference. I believed in my family. On my new handed path, on a systems time scale of when they think im ready, im feeling more than a little bit terrified. But a day at a time is what I keep saying and doing.

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The fact is that people often see single parents as moaning individuals who must be saying how tough going it is to get sympathy. I have also found that it’s usually those without children with no day-to-day hands on experience of how draining it is, that have the least empathy for your situation doing it alone.

I don’t want your sympathy. I just like to tell it how it is. Some of you might find it interesting. This blog is something I will look back on with happy memories, knowing I allowed myself to process and progress onto better things for myself and my daughters future. I am not expecting any prince charmings to come and rescue me like in any of the chick flicks featuring any of the famous Jennifer’s that I really must stop watching (Lopez, Aniston, you know who you are giving us false hope these men exist!) I am pretty certain I am doing this alone from now on and all I can do is give it my best shot, exhaustion and all x

Single Parent Benefit Stigma

Here we go. I feel like I need to stand up in a circle and admit a sin or something the way this next topic is viewed. A bit like you do at an alcoholics anonymous meeting. “Hello, my name is Saisse and I am a single mother claiming benefits.” Shock horror, gasps all around, I know.

I can almost hear another person now, just by hearing those few words put together (Single mother, benefits) rolling their eyes and judging about the state of the country and how lazy none tax paying individuals like myself should be ashamed and “just get a job” like everyone else. I have seen so many friends saying stuff like this unaware of their own judgement on people they may know. In some ways, I feel I have to justify myself to everyone, daily. You are instantly looked down on like a lesser part of society when people hear your situation as a “claimer”. People, I have found, like to assume in their own minds that you have obtained this low-level of public standing by choice, rather than look at the bigger picture sometimes. I would like to open up  a few unintentionally narrow-minded individuals eyes to the reality of one example of a benefit situation, mine.

Give me a chance and see what you think.

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It is fair to say that the media, in particular, portray single moms as a nightmarish, lazy, out of control epidemic. There are cases, I will agree myself, especially in the past, where women have had a lot of children, for instance, to get out of having to work. There are other cases of people, who have never worked a day in their life and have no intention of doing so, having no living standards in their own lives or anything else. There are those that spend all their dole money on alcohol and cigarettes and don’t pay their rent on time. There are those that spend all their child allowances on drugs, whilst their children eat baked beans on toast every night. There are families that sit outside in their pyjamas all day to keep the electric bills down, eating junk and talking trash, obese beyond belief, claiming disability benefits due to their size and self-inflicted inability to work. These cases do exist. Trust me, I have seen it all, I do currently live in Birmingham, after all.download

I, however, am not one of these cases. I am a hard-working, intelligent,honest mother of one who has fallen upon hard times. I get up each day with my daughter and live life to the best of my ability considering the circumstances we did our best not to be in. I wanted the same as all of you, a loving partner, a stable home life, the house, the car etc. I worked really hard to do all those things and keep them too. It takes two to tango, though, as they say. My girl is happy, cared for, eats well and is so bright it scares me at times. We are a family, just the two of us now but we exist still. We are not a number, a figure or a statistic. We are not a stereotype to throw in with the rest. We are real people living real lives. Not the ideal life. But still together and needing to stay alive. Not all single moms need carry the same stigma. We havent all appeared on Jeremy Kyle.

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The last place I expected to be when I hit 30 this July was a single mom on benefits. I felt and still often feel a complete failure. It upset me greatly, this last birthday of mine. My milestone 30th birthday and my Nan passed away the week before it, my partner left me the year before and I had no idea what to do next. When the world then makes you feel ashamed for seeking help when it’s really needed, you feel exactly that, ashamed, like a lesser citizen for doing so. I would dread meetings with old friends or the thought of a school reunion, because, so many of the kids I went to school with had their careers planned before they even left the school gates. They knew what they wanted to do and did them, some of them being really successful, travelling the world, seemingly having amazing lives in the process. I never knew what I wanted to be. I still don’t really. All I can be right now is what I am.

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Much like a lot of us, I left school and I just wanted to work a bit and earn a bit. So that is what I did. All I wanted to do was have a bit of money of my own to go and shop in the Select sale on a weekend, or maybe buy a new cd to sing to in my bedroom. Life was so simple at that age. Those were the days. From age 16 I got my first paid job in Poundstretchers. (I hated it!) I worked my way around different places (that’s the good thing about living in Cornwall as I did then, there was always word of mouth jobs available and on you go onto the next!). I have not had any run away success stories or a career as such, but I have always worked and been happy with money in my pocket, enjoying the journey along the way. It can be about the journey too, not just the status.download (3)

I have worked in a health food shop, taking on a full product knowledge package to advise people on the medication dangers when taking extra supplements. One time I was thanked by a bloke with a lovely card for spotting the relevance to his shellfish allergy when he had been about to buy a supplement that could have killed him, had he not been informed of the ingredients.

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I have run a gorgeous shabby chic Interior shop for a lovely couple in Mousehole on their time off, walking from Penzance to Mousehole each day along the winding coastal path, listening to music in my own world and taking in the breath taking views along the way. After work I would stand in the sunshine and take in the little harbour atmosphere before doing the long stretch home again. It certainly beats getting the bus in a busy city like these days. I adore the couple that took me on and we have remained great friends, with them always having been a wonderful support and encouragement to me. 13533006_10208102676059035_2434674267148354836_n.jpg

I have worked on St Michael’s Mount in Marazion, both doing paid work and volunteer gardening also. I loved getting the little boat over some mornings and being followed by the local seals along the way. The main boat man would always bring his dog onto the boat, his constant salty splashed companion forever at his side. I used to swap carrier bags from the National Trust shop I worked in, in exchange for some fresh mackerel caught a few minutes before by the island fisherman. I think the National Trust might frown upon my giving away of their plastic bags in exchange for fish but I wasnt going to turn that down ;-). I met one of my most positive and inspiring friends in this job, Lizzie, who I am glad to say is still in touch with me and as sunny as ever nearly 10 years later. We used to eat so much cake behind that counter when the customers weren’t looking. The good old days.

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I have helped a lovely couple in Newlyn run their successful guest house, meeting loads of different nationalities and interesting characters along the way (Usually at the breakfast table!).I loved looking at the panoramic views out of their beautiful sitting room on breaks in my shift. I don’t think there’s a more time-consuming job than running a guest house, with room changes, washing, ironing and breakfast to me made every day. I had first hand experience of the effort involved and I take my hat off to Rob and Lynda and hope that I helped to contribute to at least half of the pace that they do each day. I am still in touch with them too, lovely friends and always there when it matters.download (5)

I have worked as a libraries Assistant at a book selling company. Boring work but I met my daughters dad there. Exciting memories in the years that followed and a whole new chapter which ultimately gave me this gorgeous girl in my life.13876687_10208416798511900_7737910137444055215_n.jpg

I worked as an evening waitress in a restaurant on a beach, owned by an ex famous sportsman. I had a blast as the only female on the night shift, with horny boys always willing to help me clear away in the hope of walking me home…didnt happen by the way ;-).

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I did a few months work selling Aga Cookers in the upmarket Mailbox in Birmingham city centre.I was rubbish at this, as I much preferred watching the food demonstrations run by chefs on the cookers, rather than talking about the equipment. I did have a private cookery demonstration from Aktar Islam from the famous Lazan though, along with the other lucky on shift staff. That was pretty special taking those left overs home for tea. We also enjoyed lots of quiet mornings eating Sausage sandwiches over the latest gossip 😉 before the late shopping customers wandered in.

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The point is, I have not had one solid career path, but who says everyone has to do that when they leave school? I have lived a fair bit in my short life and met so many people along the way.

I stopped working in 2012, when I discovered I was pregnant with my daughter. I only stopped working at two months pregnant because we needed somewhere to live, back in the Midlands, as my then partner was adamant his son from his previous marriage should be involved with the new baby.I wanted this also having a relationship with him myself. I quit my jobs in Cornwall, we moved back, we both applied for work, me at three months pregnant. My then partner was employed within a month, I wasnt offered even an interview. Employers claim they can’t discriminate but lets face it, they all do. Its much easier to take on a willing 16 year old with loads of weekends spare than an up the duff 26 year old who will need maternity pay and leave for 9 months soon enough. It’s just reality.407777_4577195462296_1560785887_n.jpg

We moved away from family, so it made sense for him to work and for me to stay at home until she got free hours at nursery (do you know how expensive day care is?!). He would then support me back into work.That was the plan.Then when my daughter hit nearly 2, he had an affair and left me quite out of the blue.

My planned out life just didn’t happen. He dumped his old life of 8 years for a new one. Meanwhile, me and my girl were left in the old one, suddenly on Income Support and wondering how the hell I would figure out what to do next. My support in getting back to work with him paying the bills was gone, as he was. It was suddenly all on my shoulders and even now I am terrified most days when I try to figure out how to make things better again. I have never faced a higher mountain or been more scared in my entire life.

My Nan became ill with Cancer (before he had left) so I swapped one care role for another. I was a technical wife, mother and heart of the family in my life with him. Then he went and I had no option but to go straight into Carer mode for my dying Nan, whilst being a full time mom to a 2 year old. We got a good year together, me and Nan, her sadly passing away only last month. So even then, I was still working, as a carer. Most people wouldn’t go out to work 35 hours per week and be happy with £62.10 in their pay packet at the end of it in a “real” job. I can’t think of a more real job than being a family members carer. It doesn’t get more real.

So that’s where I am up to right now. I have worked constantly for the last 14 years. I have new challenges ahead, as I will now be looking at ways to earn some money that will fit around my life with my daughter as a single parent, juggling work, home life and childcare. I will face these as they come.

I just wanted to share a realistic spin on the benefits system. It’s so easy for people with standard jobs who have had the privilege to do everything the right way. School, uni, drive, work, house, babies….Life doesnt work that way for everyone. I wanted all of that. I worked for all of that. It didn’t happen for me so I have had no choice but to fall back on the benefits system whilst I need it.

Do I like claiming benefits? No I don’t. I hate it.

Do I plan to stay on them? Not a chance.

Do I plan to get a job now, as I have constantly been asked in the 4 weeks since Nan died? Yes I plan to work, work that will fit around my daughter, who is still only three and has only me in her daily life for childcare options.

But crucially, do I need benefits right now? Yes, I do and that is the point.

If the system is used correctly, to those that really need it, it’s there and its brilliant because it means that me and my daughter, through a situation of no fault of our own making, have a home, we can eat, we have a lot to be grateful for. We do not see it as a lifestyle choice, a long-term plan, or a get out of work clause. I will not teach her that benefits are the way forward. She already has a strong work ethic thanks to watching me not stop and that wont stop for her as she grows.

It is a safety net, in which, if people have no choice but to use it, they should not then be judged, slagged off or type cast as we are so horrible at doing in this country. Next time you find yourself stereo typing (and we all do it!) look a bit deeper, it’s not always what it seems x Thanks for reading x