My back pain journey.

Yes, my trousers are stuck around my ankles.

Not a glamour shot by any means but the reality of my current situation.

I have a dodgy back.

I’ve struggled with a weak back from teens. There was a car crash and untreated whiplash at 13 which probably contributed.

Then immediately after my wedding I really struggled with all sorts of pains and went to see every type of treatment going.

Then I fell pregnant with my first child. The pains were worse, excruciating sciatica. I couldn’t take pain meds and I couldn’t have the MRI I badly needed.

Post baby, eventually, I had my scans and was told I had a pro-lapsed disc on L5 (low spine). Shortly after this I experience the most horrendous pain I’ve ever had, that saw me rolling around the floor through the night crying. I was told this may have been my disk imploding.

I was put immediately on morphine and had to stop breast feeding there and then.

I chose surgery. A discectomy. It was not chosen lightly ( a chance of paralysis) but the pain was crippling me daily and I had a new born. When she was 8 months old the prolapsed bit of my disc was removed. I wasn’t allowed to sit or lift for 6 weeks. But it worked! No more pain. I was joyous.

Two years later I had my second child. All was good, through pregnancy and birth. When he was about 11 months I started to suffer the pains again. A second MRI showed the same disc, what was left of it, had prolapsed again. There’s 5 % chance of this happening. I was offered surgery again but told that it would definitely lead to further issues later that would probably mean me needing my vertebrae fused together.

This combined with further 6 week recovery but now with two children left me feeling helpless.

I turned to Pilates. It changed my life.

It was no easy journey. I had one on one sessions for 3 months. I cried with frustration before every one: why should I have to pay out and work so hard in order just to not have pain in my back?!

But it worked. Slowly but surely my sciatica and lower back pain symptoms vanished.

It’s not all plain sailing. I have a weak back, and an emergency c section thrown in, there’s not a lot of strength in my core. But my third pregnancy was good; no pain and the easiest labour of all.

My back pain journey hadn’t ended though and sadly became more complicated by ….. The drugs!

I took a lot of meds at my worst with my back problems in the past; morphine patches are visible on me in my eldest’s baby pictures. There’s a whole year of my life that I have poor memory of.

But as I got better and with my new found Pilates I’ve suffered fewer and easier back aches. I didn’t need drugs.

However, one day post second baby and following a tooth extraction, I popped a voltarol. I went into anaphylactic shock. I nearly died.

My poor husband had the worst of it, calling an ambulance and watching people stab me and more on our sofa and then take me away to hospital.

There followed a couple of slightly less severe reactions that led to getting tested.

I had become allergic to all non-steroidal anti inflammatory (that’s anything from aspirin and up) drugs and codeine. This is a huge issue when suffering with any kind of muscular pain.it also make takes any medicine terribly frightening. I used to have to remind myself, after giving my child nurofen when Ill, not to lick my fingers, where it had dripped, for fear if the reaction.

Yesterday, going for meds, wasn’t an easy choice. I had the usual lengthy chat with a GP about what I can’t take. I was prescribed two things it was hoped would be ok. “But let’s not take them without an epi pen nearby” is the general and not so confidence inducing advice.

So what follows is a scary hour in which I warn my husband I’m taking some pills, we have the epi pen ready and I experience extreme panic. My heart races, I have hot flushes, my tongue dries up; none of these symptoms dissimilar to the beginnings of anaphylaxis. I have to talk to myself continuously to try and create calm and convince myself it’s ok.

Anyway, thankfully the drugs are working today and not killing me.

Today I can move a bit and the pain is easing.

Here’s to this incident of pain going. Here’s to getting back in the Pilates bandwagon and hopefully not experiencing this again.

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(Sometimes) we have nothing

“Hi honey, welcome home. I got the text today”

We’ve run out of money. ‘The text’ refers to the one from the bank telling us we’ve reached the end of the overdraft. I get paid on Monday. It’s Wednesday evening.

My plan had been to get the food shop done tomorrow and then it would be ok; any extra costs would be swallowed up over the weekend by my pay on Monday. But it’s half term, I had to take the car to the garage, the middle child’s feet suddenly grew. You know, life just happens and it generally costs money.

We’ve never had spare cash but this situation of no cash is getting all to familiar. The biggest issue being our high rent. We now live on a yearly income for our family of 5, that after tax, see’s half of it go on rent.

We have to work out out how to get through the few days of nothing or rearrange plans to suit the cash flow. I lost a filling a month ago and I’m waiting for November to book into the dentist as the car needed fixing this month and last month I needed new glasses.

I have spent a long time carrying around this inbuilt shame/guilt about money and our lack of it. I can’t really put my finger on it but I used to want to cover up how much we struggle. It’s feeling like a child amongst adults perhaps? when you can’t afford things. And by things I mean food and bills. I think that perhaps it also ties in with what ‘poor’ looks like. We don’t fit into a stereotype and somehow this can make it hard to have people see it. I think this then adds to a feeling that this shouldn’t be my situation.

But when I evaluate this shame that I carry, it makes no sense. We work hard and always have. We may not have chosen professional careers or high paid roles but what we do matters and provides and we are good at it. I know that my wage is ok ( I mean it could be soooo much better but it’s more than minimum wage ) and so why should I feel wrong about it. The fact that rent and bills and food prices are so astronomical is not my fault.

And in the realms of honesty it really gets me when people suggest they are in the same boat, that they understand when they are not and they don’t. Maybe it’s comes from more money induced awkward feelings; perhaps it’s easier to say “oh yeah I know, we’re finding it really hard too” than just sit with the difference. Just accept that some have more than others and that’s ok. Because it is.

We don’t want sympathy and we certainly don’t need pity. We get it, life is different for all of us. Some of us started a work path earlier than others and so now earn more, some of us had help to buy a house and so have lower payments, and some people trained hard for well paid professions, and that’s great. Really. But sometimes it can feel like the comments meant to empathise with our situation can actually come loaded with judgement. How have you got in this situation? Why didn’t you get on the property ladder when it was affordable?

Let me be clear that there are many who are sincere and supportive. To those, I thank you.

I guess i feel that if we were all a bit more honest about money then some of this awkwardness and feelings of judgement would disperse.

Anyway for now we just have to manage, get through to Monday. An d for a few weeks of the next month we’ll be ok.

I guess my overriding point is this: being poor/financially struggling (whatever we call it) takes many forms. Like any other stereotype it doesn’t always fit the mould.

I am a 36 year old married mother of 3 who works 33 hrs a week. We live on a low income and sometimes we have nothing. We’re ok with this (we’ll, we manage) but we just need everyone else to be ok wit it too.

That sinking feeling

At this point a week ago I was lying in my garden with my youngest relaxing across me. The sun was warm on us and it was a rare quiet moment. It was still holidays but I was preempting my return to work after 6 weeks off. I was being met with the ball of nerves in my stomach and the ongoing sick feeling.

On Monday I returned to work and it was a system shock like every year but I told myself it was ok and it was alright. On Tuesday I came home early for the little ones home visit for school which he starts next week. It wasn’t what you would want as far as home visits go, but what I expected from this strong willed boy of mine. That night he got up 3 times in the night. All because, I think, he was worrying about school. It wasn’t until 4.30 am when I stroked his hair and said you’ve got a lovely daddy day tomorro )not school) that he appeared to peacefully fall asleep. On Wednesday morning I got up and left for work again before the kids had woken. At work there was an incident that meant I had to stay late. I had to sort things for some other children. By the time I was done it was too late to get back home before bedtime started. I rang my husband to say I wasn’t sure when I’d be back. I spoke to my older kids on the phone and asked how their first day back at school had been. I listened to my husband and son telling an exciting account but the reception was breaking up.

Today I got up for work and left the house again before their get up. Today I raced home on my early finish to be greeted by my youngest. He hadn’t seen me since Tuesday bedtime. We spent the afternoon together for the last time with him as a pre-schooler.

I write this in some disbelief that within 3 days of returning to a new year at work I’m not seeing my own children for whole 36 hr periods. It’s a sad reminder of the fear I had a week ago that I was going to return to my struggle for a work life balance. And yet I think I’d carried that (false) hope that it would be better. Because you do, hope. Don’t you?

But the realist in me isn’t surprised my year has begun this way. I joked to colleagues; start as we mean to go on! But I mean it.

Our social care systems are breaking in front of my very eyes. The impact on people like me in schools is both terrifying and unsafe. The lack of resources in education means the situation is unmanageable. And I honestly can’t see light at the end of the tunnel.

I carry on doing what I can. And yes, I have this job because it’s what I’ve always been good at, passionate about. But now? I do it because I have to work and it’s paying me. I do it because if I have to be away from my children working then at least I’m helping other children.

But sacrificing the limited time I have at home with my family for this job is not what I ever signed up for. Missing out on key moments of my children because of work is not the kind of parent I want to be.

And again I turn to look at our society; the one where the social care and education systems are in such dire states. And I question how having stressed, under paid working mums is good for society. How does it add value to have parents who are not living the way they wish to, who can’t parent the way they wish to because the cost of living is so high, because renting a home for their family is untenable.

I have always worked as a Parent. I have, i think, provided my kids (daughter in particular) with the example that I work because it makes me feel good, because I will contribute just like their dad to the family and our home, because whilst I love parenting them I also love doing something else. And I showed that this worked: they had a mum who was there for them and who also happened to work.

Now I feel the message my kids are getting is mummy has to go to work even though she doesn’t want to. That mummy often won’t be around for key things or be there for them because she has a job. They see that mummy doesn’t seem to enjoy her job. What will this lead to in their futures?

I want to see a change happen. Not simply in my life but societally. I need to feel that buzz that occurred with the general election is still buzzing and that something will give that will give us all the change that’s needed.

Meanwhile my youngest will start school on Monday, which his dad will take him to. I will hopefully get home asap Monday to hear all about it.

I will carry on working because I need to, and hope for some easier days.

Having it all*

*the greatest lie told to women ever.

Right? I mean, really. Find me a woman who is successfully 'having it all' (happily parenting little people, working in a fulfilling/successful job, and holding down a positive relationship) and I'll point out that she is either; actually loosing her marbles, a figment of social media or just a mirage (in which case, I should probably break it to you that you may be loosing your marbles).

I am a working mum. I have a job that fundamentally I'm good at. I write this whilst sat in my kitchen of an evening. The two boys are asleep and my eldest has friends over for a sleepover. The kitchen is pretty clean, I completed 3 loads of washing today and my husband and I are on a good terms, last time I checked. I have no real feelings of anxiety thinking about what tomorrow brings. Sounds good doesn't it? You may think, "well what's that, if not 'having it all'"?! BUT…. I'm on 6 WEEKs of HOLIDAY!

What I guess my life looks like on the outside: it's a job I choose to work in, I'm good at it, I have school holidays, it pays more than the minimum wage.
How it actually feels: exhausting, never done well, resentful to my kids, guilty always, rushing, not enough money to live comfortably, wishing for time at home, wishing for time alone.

I'm a 36 year old wife, mother to 3 children who works full time but term time. I 'have it all', apparently.But.

It is not sustainable. Something has to give.

I will leave the house before my kids are awake and work all day, I will rush home worrying about the work I haven't completed/done well enough and try to be present through tea time. I will throw on my sports bra to fit in a run (because this is meant to make me feel better) which means missing bed time, before seeing a friend or holding down a hobby/class because again they are meant to help my mental health, and then if my kids will not settle or one  argues with their dad  I will blame myself for not being there.

Not to mention: I am always tired, usually stressed (presenting as mouth ulcers or back pain), and rarely enjoying the moments of my children or the successes at work.
Because I chase a dream. Except I often mistake it for reality.

That's not 'having it all'.
I was told I could or should or would have babies and a career. I grew up with heart-in-the-right-place suggestion's that I could have it all. And I thought that meant that I would be doing well and being happy in both.

I'm not. You can't.
Not without something breaking. Your kids; because you're not present for all the important moments in their lives or you're too tired to be fully 'on' with them. Your work because you cannot always commit the hours needed or you resent it for taking you away. Your relationship because you never have time for it. But most probably you. You will break because you'll do brilliantly at trying to hold all the above together and the result will be your own poor emotional wellbeing.

I don't write this looking for a solution because actually the whole point of 'having it all', I thought,  is that it shouldn't be a choice between one or the other, between mothering and working. And that's all a solution would be. I also don't write this to have a moan about my situation (well, obviously I do, moaning is one of the things that helps these days) but rather because, this is a bigger picture. Its not just my working mum view point. What about women who are parenting and looking at careers thinking 'I'd like some of that' but feeling overwhelmed by how that could possibly work because  of the logistics or the guilt of leaving the children. Because its just too bloody hard to make it all work.

I've been writing this post for 4 weeks. I had the idea when talking with a girlfriend. Then I got as far as some bullet points one night. Another week went by and I wrote some whole sentences. And this is the reality of me fitting anything else into my life right now.

Today? today I feel completely different to the me that started this piece. I have enjoyed my kids, completed housework and felt good about it. Last night I loved cooking the evening meal. I popped out to pick up a household item we'd been needing for weeks today and it was an easy process. I can sit here and peruse my writing happily. I'm not worrying about what I should be doing instead. Because for the next 6 weeks I am mum and nothing else. And that feels possible. Enjoyable. Realistic.

So, I think we need to stop suggesting 'having it all' is a thing or be a bit more honest, a bit more realistic;

You can have it all, just not all at the same time. And if you try to have it all,  then it just might not feel that good.

And actually, for real success?  Lets encourage the team work of parenting equally with partners, lets focus on expecting equality at home and at work so its not all on us,  and lets celebrate ……. simply getting through a day. Maybe not strive for everything in our plate being great. Lets give ourselves a break.

 

 

 

It brings me to tears 

What is it that has me regularly fill up with tears? That has me carrying a feeling of dread around inside? That gets me so unbelievably full of rage, that then I’m crying?

The state of our public services.

I’ll be more specific and acknowledge that I’m talking about social care and education. I know there’s more, but quite frankly I’m struggling just with the ones I work in. I’m not sure my heart could take the NHS right now (no pun intended).

I did a mini video clip in the lead up to the election in which I stated my fears for children and young people. I wondered if I sounded a little mad at the time; suggesting that I am just waiting for a tragedy to strike, a child to die,  and feeling angry and helpless. 

I’m not mad, not in the crazy sense. I stand by what I said. I am watching these services be pulled apart from the inside out and from the bottom up and I can’t keep ranting away to my husband, or having a moment in my car. This needs to be spoken about, shouted about. 

I support children and families from a primary school in a disadvantaged area. This,  once upon a time, would have meant spending time making connections with parents, creating welcoming opportunities to get them involved in school life and meet one another. I would have put on some groups or classes to boost esteem or aid  skills. I’d spend hours with kids giving them the extra attention and care they needed to get on in school. I’d happily share my work and the information gleaned with services who needed to know. There would be some challenging families; ‘hard to reach’ or unsafe situations and they would be held by social care. We, at school,  would support their work.

Now? Our schools are becoming social services. Only we have no social workers and in fact very few staff who aren’t teaching all day in the classrooms. Staff in schools don’t generally come with expert knowledge of heavy drug use or serious mental health conditions or even what poverty can do to a home. As the family support worker my case load is not a significantly and frustratingly high number; it’s all of the pupils on roll (currently 288). I can not sit in my office and arrange meetings; our school building is (rightly) public and families and parents will appear at any point needing crisis help or demanding action or being abusive. Where once our role in safeguarding children from harm, was to support social care, it’s now an every day occurrence that I make what can feel like life/death decisions. I cannot go home, especially on a Friday, feeling comfortable. I will be thinking about the child who has been late to school by at least an hour every day for months, who is looking more and more dishevelled and is always hungry,  who’s only parent is a drug user. I know they are not ok, that they will face a weekend with their needs not being met,  but I can’t get help. It’s not a big enough problem or a complex enough problem or a desperate enough problem.

The reason for this? Cuts, cuts, cuts. We can not keep children safe, can not provide vulnerable parents with support, cannot teach children without: fully trained and supported humans. It’s fact. Computer systems can not do it. Students alone can not do it. Trained professionals but with a tripled work load and no hands on management can not do it. Having a few very well paid people at the top of a service but few, poorly paid on the ground won’t work. It isn’t working.

The worst of it? We’re beginning to fight each other. We’re all so stressed, so over worked with no resources, that we are turning on those who could help us the most. Social work managers are told to get through more cases with less workers and so social workers are closing cases almost as soon as they are open. Cases must be so severe to warrant social care involvement that social workers caseloads must feel like dealing with world war daily. This means theres a huge number of children in dire scenarios who don’t reach the threshold, but the only help open to them is voluntary and often, given the space the parents have reached already, they are not open to this. Equally most voluntary services, both council run and charity sector, are disappearing before my eyes. The result is overwhelmingly that schools are told to hold these issues, be the lead worker supporting these families. If a school is lucky enough to have a family or parent worker it will be a start , but my reality is that I’m holding more families with social care than ever before, for whom I must be ‘the eyes and ears’. And then, more worryingly, I have so many children that I am anxious about but, as one person I can’t possibly do the ground work needed to find the cause, to offer the help, to protect. I used to be able to rely on a network of support. As schools we could get children out of class  and offer a nurture group or some mentor time. These sessions may lead to disclosures of harm that would then get the help needed and most certainly these sessions would give the children confidence and security. But now schools must save, they must prioritise the money for the learning in the classrooms and all the additional holistic work is gone. 

And where does this leave the children? At best they will have adults who may be struggling but even without help from school they will access something. They will visit their GP, or attend a children’s centre, and someone will eventually help but it will probably be a long journey. 

At worst? Nothing will get better. These children will remain hungry or dirty or scared. They will hopefully come to  school some of the time and be cared for but will suffer in most part, in silence. They may open up with a supportive adult in a safe 1:1 space but no adult at school has the time anymore. And so they will present as ‘worrying but ok’ as they do not want to draw attention to the problem. But the message they are getting is ‘I’m not important enough to be helped’. And then, there we have, another generation growing up to be adults with no self confidence or worth. Or these children they will shout out kick out with their behaviours and the stressed school staff will feel frustrated and overstretched and rather than support these children will be excluded. Cut off from the community they so desperately need. And the message they receive is ‘I have to fight to survive and be noticed’ and worse still ‘the system doesn’t care about me’.

This is a bleak picture but I’m not exaggerating. And so we must shout about it, we must politicise ourselves and not assume someone else is fixing it. And we must fight from the inside. I myself have made complaints recently. This means challenging and reporting my fellow professionals. I don’t do this lightly; I know that they are feeling just as I am but, without shouting and shining a light on this mess, what will change?

I can not stop all harm happening to children. But I can not bear that harm may continue to happen,  because of a system failure. A system failure based on the basics of not funding enough professionals and their resources, to do the job that’s needed and the job they want to succeed at. That will be a crime that will bring me to tears and I’ve shed too many of them already.

The sinking feeling of loosing our home 

I share this picture of beautiful flowers because a friend gave them to me today. She felt I needed a reason to smile and I did. 

She had been with me having a cuppa and I don’t think I was really present. I’m not at the moment; easily distracted, vague in my commitments and definitely less giving. 
What else I see in this picture is family photos that sit on the mantelpiece in what has been my home. But now we have to leave. And I’m struggling with it. This has been an ongoing saga over the last month with our long term landlords surprising us with notice to leave. We are over the huge initial shock of it. I no longer burst into tears without warning. I am able to use the beloved garden again. We are for all intense and purposes getting on as normal. Except we’re not. This home has been tarnished and the remaining 5 weeks we have left feels rather like living in a strangers bedsit; a murkyness has fallen over it all. We just got back from holiday times at my parents and coming home felt like such a wrench because we knew we were coming home to house we must give up.

We’re on the last few days of holidays now and we have planned a street sale for Saturday. This means our dining room is piled high with stuff we want to get rid of. The rest of the house is a shithole. It’s like I just can’t be arsed to keep on top of things and yet the mess just adds to my feelings of sadness in this place.

I’m also feeling a sense of impending dread. It’s one thing to sort through some stuff to clear out but packing and moving?!!! What the actual…… how do I do that? Where do I begin? Come home from work every day and spend the evenings packing, use the weekends to start sorting and putting away bedding or working out what furniture will fit and what needs to go. I was proactively cleaning  (I AM a mum on a mission; it’s keeping me busy) a toy kitchen I hope to sell when the kids aren’t looking and I thought ‘oh god, where are we gonna keep the kids art stuff?!”. I realised so much of our stuff is going to be in boxes whilst we figure out it’s place in a new home. It made me feel tired just thinking about it. 

I think perhaps, this all sounds ludicrous; I mean we’re only moving house and we seem to have found a new house close by which makes us lucky ones. But I tell you, it’s been like having the rug ripped out from under you. We didn’t get warning or time and we haven’t chosen this. We are attempting to make the whole process exciting for the children when we’ve seen the new place once for 20 minutes and them not at all. They ask us how big their room will be or whether the garden will have space for toys and I don’t knwk. In fact all I can worry about is the total lack of storage compared to our current home and where the hell wvweuthing will go (hence the sale). 

And so today, my friend bought me flowers to cheer me up. She’s also my neighbour. It’s another sign for me of what we are saying goodbye to. Our wonderful street.

We are a  working family with 3 young kids. We don’t have parents on hand to help us. We have survived some of our hard times in parenthood with the love of a community we joined when we moved in on this street. And so it’s a wrench to be leaving them. We may well be moving round the corner but I think my husband and I know that this truly is an end to an era, one we didn’t intend on giving up. 

Still we have our street sale Saturday. We hope we will get rid of some of what we’ve gained over the last 7 years and that will ease the packing. The kids are excited and think they’ll earn whatever they sell. Hmmmmmmmmm. What I think we’ll get, is a day enjoying our lovely community and perhaps a chance, despite the purpose, to forget this whole dam moving bollocks. 

Precariously balanced

I have realised that I was already on the edge. I was balancing, and not comfortably, holding too much in my life, never quite feeling that I was on top of things. And it was too much. It means that now a challenge has come along I just can’t cope. 
I don’t recognise the person I am the last few days. I have cried so bloody much and even now the smallest thing will set me off. I find myself feeling rage at inappropriate moments and my mind cannot concentrate on anything. 

Today has accompanied me with a sick feeling in my stomach and a thumping in my chest. I haven’t eaten. I didn’t sleep last night. 

It’s a bit like someone has died.

If someone told me that the house they rented was being sold I would be sympathetic and would show sadness but I wouldn’t have thought this was how they felt. When women I have supported at work have had this very experience and I’ve provided them with the practical advice of notice and section 21’s it hasn’t occurred to me that they’d be so upset that they wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my help. 

Because it’s about loosing a home. And having no control. And being forced to make massive descisions that affect your families life. As a friend said last night ” shelter is one of our basic rights and it’s been swiped away from you”.

Now, I may be able to get over loosing my home that I have lovingly created for my family over 7 years, because, as a renter it’s always at the back of your mind (though that’s not strictly true. I currently can’t bring myself to look at the garden as it comes into bloom; the thought of all the care I’ve put in to it and now won’t see).

But, finding a new home, when the option is to stay close to where we have made a life for ourselves but not be able to afford it or move away from what we know: it feels like an impossible task.

Don’t even get me started on the issue with our society where by a family with 2 working parents cannot afford to rent, let alone buy.

I can’t even bring myself to think about the practicalities; actually moving house! I mean wow! Most people do this stressful life event because they’ve chosen too, because the place they are going to is even better. We have to do it out of the blue and begrudgingly and without a real plan.

Heartbreak has come from the children. The elder two know. In the first 24 hours we couldn’t hide our shock and upset. I am cross with myself for my uncontrollable tears infront of them because that’s not my style and it’s panicked them. One of them has cried a few times; she doesn’t want to loose her friends (who are neighbours) that she’s grown up with. She said “I just don’t think I can be happy now”.

The other has cried but quietly and to himself. He said “how is it fair that someone can just take our home away from us?” And then commented that “I don’t like it when you talk about because I just don’t want it to happen”.

The youngest doesn’t understand and is happily pointing at every door we pass and saying “I think we should live in that one”. In fact he requested that when we move we get house with a telly upstairs. He’s got his priorities sorted.

Tomorrow I go to view a house. Just 4 days ago we lived in our home and that was that. Now I have to go and decide whether another house that we cannot afford to pay for will make a good family home. It doesn’t seem real. I will be panicking about whether this house will throw up the same problem in a year or so. I will be worrying that I may make a snap decision based on the panic to house my children.

I feel like my life before was a seesaw and I was balanced precariously in the middle, often slipping one way or another, sometimes catching a glimpse of the view but now I’ve dropped down to the ground with noone at the other end and I haven’t got the strength to push myself up again.

I know at some point this will be over. I know that I’m still in shock. I hope that when it’s over I will take stock to try and ensure that life won’t get the better of of us like this again. I will strive for better balance.

Can we talk about money?

If we were to talk about money I might say; We don’t have enough.

 I believe that if I were to say this, some people may agree but I don’t think really understand what I meant by it. And I believe that others just wouldn’t believe me. But generally most people would seem quite uncomfortable at the subject and the comment. 
We don’t do talking about money do we? Well not in a personal sense anyway. We will protest the lack of funds to public services, we will admonish that families needing to use food banks is at an all time high but talking about how much money we do or don’t have personally is generally not done.
If I were to continue talking about money I would state; We are not as poor as many. Let’s be clear. 

Our children eat 3 meals a day and not from a food bank. We are paying our rent and bills each month and so do not have bailiffs knocking at the door. We have a car that (until it’s recent numerous problems) we could manage.

In many ways we are ok.

But in other ways?

Well, it’s a daily struggle. We work out how and when to do food shops to ensure we’ll fit enough in before each pay day. We have to shop at Aldi because it saves us so much. We recently tried to use some delivery shops to break the monotonous cycle of fitting the food shop in to the week but the cost was eye wateringly high.

We cannot do school lunches, however much pain packed lunches may cause in the mornings. With 2 of our kids at school we’d have to pay out £22 a week?! 

Whilst we manage to pay the bills and rent it is always a panic as to whether the money will be in the right place at the right time. This kind of panic is pretty hard to live through so often. 

We are in constant dread that our rent will increase or the car will need yet more work because we cannot see how we will cover it.

Our children do not struggle,I don’t think. They take part in many after school activities just like their peers because luckily their school has a great range of free clubs. We pay for swimming because its a life skill. Drama was a recent foray into something new. The kids were really eager and so we’ve given it a go but it’s a paying club and finding a spare £60 for a term was hard. I worry that’s as the kids get older they will want and need more that needs to be finanaced and I’m not sure how we can budget for that. So far we do not have to pay out pocket money but we’re probably not far off.

Our lack of money is the kind that despite me wanting to be generous, in reality it sees me calculating how much food is needed for the weeks meals/ packed lunches before trying subtly not to offer it out to friends and neighbours.

Our lack of money means that there is nothing spare, at all. Saving is an amusing joke. Our tv has been broken for the last 2 months. It can work, it’s just that it chooses when it will switch on. Sometimes it’s the first time but usually it’s 30 minutes of pressing the button and wiating. The kids have come up with a chant “we do believe In tv, we do, we do” in the hope it will make it work. It’s funny. But not always. 

Our lack of money means both of us working is not a choice, but a must.

We do spend. The kids and I love the charity shops. It’s a great way to shop, better for the environment and giving to good causes. 
We have to do a food shop each week and so we’ll make the most of it; we’ll pay a little extra to have ingredients so that the kids can bake. It provides a free activity and gives us sweet treats throughout the week that we don’t have to pay for.

Work can be hard. If you have a workplace then you will recognise the constant call to contribute to someone’s gift, to sponsor a good deed, to be part of an expensive night out. You find ways of avoiding these moments or risk looking like the ungiving individual. 

As a family we have always had 2 working parents. One of us part time to be around for the children. So I don’t believe we should be struggling quite so much. We have fallen into the growing bracket of families not being entitled to much help, despite the growing cost of living . And that cost of living is scarily high. I can recall 7 years ago living on very little and it being possible. I can still remember the cost of food and utility bills going up literally over night. 

Rent is now so high that we are priced out of our community. If our landlord were to sell or to choose to charge the new rent for the area we would not be able to live here. 
But, my biggest issue with having a lack of money is the lack we feel able to talk about it. I feel it’s rather like mental health. If we talked about it more, and with honesty, then we may break the stigma around poverty and it’s effects. The not talking is hard. It creates a real wall between people; friends and family included. When you can’t admit money restrictions it can lead to a defensive or anxious demeanour because you are preoccupied. It leads to feelings of anger or resentment against your loved ones. Hearing about random significant purchases can hurt. You carry around a personal sense of failure and as a parent, a sense of guilt.

Life can feel very unfair.

Because it shouldn’t be like this, should it? We should be able to live more comfortably than this.

We are incredibly lucky in many ways. We get holidays every year because we have family in both Sussex and Yorkshire who we can go and stay with and this doesn’t cost us anything more than petrol. 
We live in a long term rental with friends of friends as landlords, who just want to keep the house and don’t rent it as a money maker. This is the best any renter can hope for.

Our kids live in an incredible community that isn’t, as yet, a materialistic one. They don’t demand the latest gadgets or clothes and aren’t really aware of this side of the world. 

Another perk of our community is babysitting swaps so a night out can be considered. 

But again I return to the question; can we talk about money? I feel that if we could live in a time where being able to state “I can’t afford that plan for so and so’s birthday” or “yes, my kids get their clothes from charity shops” without apology or embarrassment then the world could begin to be a more equal place. More people would have a better understanding of the financial pressures on some, and we  would not feel so emotionally effected by financial struggles because it wouldn’t be a secret.
So here I am talking and I’m saying this:

We have less money than others (but more than some). We cannot afford to be spontaneous. But we’re ok. 

We work hard within our limitations. The state of the country and the rising cost of living is not our fault. Our way of life means our kids have a great idea about the value of money. 

What about you?