Monday, 19 November 2012


I know parenthood is a huge change in lifestyle for all those concerned and when I was pregnant I was excited about that new lifestyle, and now it's the lifestyle I'm living I do really enjoy it. I never expected that parenthood would be my sole lifestyle though. Don't get me wrong, my son is the love of my life, and if I could I'd spend every one of his waking hours with him (well maybe not the 5am mornings) I would. I'm sad to leave him in the mornings, and glad to pick him up, despite his persistant attempts to drive me insane on the way to and from pre-school. Hey, some of the time I loose hours just watching him in awe. I just never anticipated the feeling of being trapped that being his sole-carer has given me.

I ran out of toilet paper the other night, and Kit was asleep, it's a bizarre set of emotions that goes through you when you realise that you don't have access to something that is pretty essential. Before I'd been so used to a lifestyle where if you wanted a chocolate bar you could pop across the road to the shop and get one, if you ran out of toilet roll you could pop to the shop and get some more, if you were invited out for a drink you could just up and go. The only thing stopping me from doing those things was me. Now, I can't, well I could, but it's not really that easy is it. I miss being able to be dis-organised and spontaneous!

I had a bit of time where on odd Mondays I was able to go for a quick drink after work, or pop to the supermarket alone, but ironically I was trapped out of my own flat at these times, and strangely enough Monday isn't the best party night, especially when you have a curfew of 10pm and live at least an hour away from any of your pre-child friends. The end of October brought a change for me. Quite a big one really. It has started to give me time for me. It doesn't ease the toilet roll traumas, but it does lessen the emotions around them. Every other Sunday, while Kit has fun with his dad and his half-brother and -sister,  I can do all the things that I can't take a small child to. I can do the things that my small child doesn't enjoy doing. I can remember that I was someone before I had Kit, that he has made me a better person, but that there was a person there before and some of the bits about her were pretty good too. I still miss him like hell, and count down the hours until I get him back but when I do get him back I appreciate him that little bit more because I'm beginning to feel a little bit more me.

Monday, 12 November 2012

We're going on a bear hunt

Undeterred by the rain today we set off to one of our local country parks, High Elms. We were searching for Gruffalo's and bears, once we'd fuelled ourselves with beans on toast and cream tea. Kit even got to help the lady to hammer some of the post for a new weave fence that she was building in the nature trail behind the cafe. There are benefits of being a nosey three year old with a perchant for asking strangers what they are doing.

I think Kit thinks those glasses have super-powers. We didn't find a gruffalo or a bear, but we did find some imaginary foxes, owls and snakes. We went squelching through some mud, and climbing over tree stumps and sloshing through soggy leaves, casting spells on objects with stick wands and hiding under trees from the rain. We popped by the nearby garden centre on a detour to the way home to see the fish, and were greated by an animatronic reindeer and arctic fox. In case anyone is nearby and interested, Father Christmas arrives at Coolings on the 24th November at 11am, and it is free to see him arrive, I heard brilliant things about their grotto last year (which is an extension of the nature trail) and think we'll be going to visit him there at some point in December.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Make it work for single parents

Make it work

Gingerbread recently launched their new campaign Make it work for single parents. Their aim is to help to make it financially and logistically possible for single parents to work. Returning to work is a pretty big nightmare for a lot of parents, single or in couples. The financial strain of childcare and the inflexibility of working hours mean it is often a stressful and unrewarding time. The added strain of being the sole (or close enough to) provider of care and money in a family causes you to feel trapped in a situation where it doesn't always pay to work.

I've been fairly lucky in terms of work. The job I had when I was pregnant basically disappeared while I was on maternity leave and so I was given the option not to go back, which I chose. Logistically I couldn't anyway as my job was a full-time position in London and at this stage I was living with my parents on the South Coast. I waited out my maternity leave and then once I was unemployed I went on jobseekers and searched high and low for a part-time job, pretty much any part-time job. And there weren't many out there, and they didn't pay very well. I did get one though, I moved back up to London and I was excited about being able to work to provide for my son, even if the salary was less than my old job, and then pro-rata.

I couldn't afford to go back to work full-time, because of the cost of childcare (the limit for help with childcare is £175 a week - full-time childcare for Kit would have cost nearly £300 and that isn't the most expensive by far), add that to the sliding scale of other benefits I would have been worse off in a full-time better paid position than the part-time role I had. Having a job meant I could keep off income support and obviously job-seekers. I got tax credits to help with childcare and I get housing benefit. I'd like to be off benefits, I really would, but I simply can't afford to live without them and while I have to pay for childcare I can't afford to work more hours.

Recently I've switched jobs again. This time it was more to do with wanting a career change. I've been studying since Kit was born because I wasn't happy in the job I had before him and the career path I originally had planned out was never going to work (unless anyone would like to employ me as a museum curator?). Part of the reason for choosing the job I now have is because it is term-time only. Kit now goes to an all-day pre-school which closes in the holidays. Next year he'll be at school. I found life incredibly stressful whenever my childminder mentioned that she would be on holiday (and that was only 5 weeks of the year) I didn't want to have the stress of dealing with all the school holidays. And then there is the time that Kit is sick, and that gets taken off your holiday doesn't it and you can't plan for sickness. I know this is the same for all parents, but the difference for a single parent is that there isn't always two people to split the childcare/holiday allowance between. I ended up with £160 worth of childcare cost that hadn't budgeted for in August this year because you can't always rely on someone to pick up the extra days holiday you need.

As I stand I'm in the benefits trap. I can't save to get out of it (actually the benefits system penalises you for saving), and I can't afford to work more hours to get out of it. One of my big plans is to find more work that I can do while Kit is asleep, from home, or while my parents could babysit, so that I can fit more hours into the day and work myself off benefits outside of childcare issues. The problem is the gap between earning too much to be on benefits but not earning enough to live on. There is a gap between being on benefits and being financially independent, the question is if I can get across the shaky bridge quick enough and earn enough more to make it pay.

Check out other single parents stories on the Gingerbread website to see other experiences of work as a single parent. And get involved with Gingerbreads campaign to help create a more parent-friendly work market so that more single parents can go back to work without having to comprimise their career prospects and their families.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

There's no such thing as a Gruffal-oh

I think I might have mentioned, more than once, that I made a Gruffalo costume for Kit. And I might have promised to post a picture. So here it is.

I made it up as I went along but I reckon it came out ok. Kit likes it anyhow. Have plans to use some of what I figured out to do to make some other animal costumes, but think that will be after Christmas, as have lots of knitting to do before then.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Did you miss us?

So I went underground for a while. Not like a womble (although I do enjoy 'making good use of the things that we find, things that the everyday folks leave behind'). Underground like a scared rabbit. I briefly moved to here but I was completely de-motivated to post because it really felt like starting from scratch, and I love this blog, I didn't want to have to move it over.

Lifes changed a bit in the past few months, and it set to change more in the months to come, but we're still here and we won't let anything blow our metaphorical house down.

It was all about Halloween for the whole of October for Kit. He is now a very keen witch, and casts spells on a daily basis. Since I have to enrol him for school soon I'm trying to find out how one applys for Hogworts. We had to buy some plastic snakes from the charity shop today for his cauldron.

November he seems more interested in dressing as a pirate. But pirates can be witches too right?

I've just enjoyed my first school holiday from work. Back tomorrow. Not looking forward to the early morning pre-school run, you know that you are a fool commuting when you've had to ask to drop your child off at pre-school before it officially opens.

I finished my OU module and have started the next one. And I'm half-way to being trained as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter.

I've nearly actually caught up on the washing up, which is a monumentous time in this house, generally followed by one pot meals in an attempt to not increase it again.

Well we're back. I will post again before the week is out. Promise.


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