Working for spare change

Oh the guilt! Just went for another job interview. Although I hope we get it because we need the money it will mean baby boy going into full-time childcare 8.30 til 5. He has been in a childcare setting of one form or another since he was 9 months old but I have always managed to keep it to no more than 3 days per week. My only saving grace, if I get the job, is that he is now 3 and a bit years old so able to enjoy more of the typical activities on offer at nurseries.

As I browse through potentials though, I start to recall excerpts from a childcare documentary and the grieving family whose daughter suffocated to death in a Wendy house at a nursery. So any websites showing pictures of Wendy houses, particularly those with an upstairs (because the little girl suffocated on the window-ledge/step of the upper storey) made me wobble. 

You cannot put a price on a setting where you know your child will have a good and safe experience while you are working. But when this cost eats significantly into your earnings you wonder why you do it in the first place.

Then there is the issue of the dogs, we can’t bear to part with them so that will be £200 per month so they get a decent walk everyday. 

With any luck I will have some spare change at the end of the month to pay for parking at work..

This blog is for UNICEF.

Thanks for reading. 

Oh the joy of being ‘Mum’

I am going to try not to sound bitter in this next paragraph….

My cycle test to be a bikeability instructor for primary and secondary schools went well and they want me to do the full course. Downside being that, as a Mum of a 2 year old, childcare costs will mean my earnings are minimal. However this will improve as he gets closer to school age. Hubby doesnt understand this. Thinks I should stay at home until I am in a position to earn ‘decent money’. But when will that be…. when they turn 18? The fact is that jobs that fit around school time dont tend to be big earners. But when I have proposed to hubby that I take on the full-time breadwinner role and that he stays at home, he back-pedals faster than Chris Hoy in reverse. Why is it women who have to organise and deduct childcare from their salary thus limiting what they can actually do as a job?

So I guess my issue is not with parenthood but society’s historic approach to womanhood.

On a separate note, Oxfam emailed me about the appalling situation in South Sudan, which seems to be un-reported in the media. The country is nearing a famine and thousands of families are in refugee camps living in appalling conditions…… all because of war. If you can help please visit this site.

This blog is for Unicef. As i missed last night’s blog, £1 in the pot to Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

PS I did feel a bit of an idiot in my over-sized hi-vis gear and my panic buy helmet from Halfords, particularly when positioned next to  lycra clad and cycle shoe heeled streamlined instructor.

PPS, if you are in need of a laugh,check out the Sam Mendes film ‘Away We Go’.

 

 

 

 

 

Testing times

Tomorrow I will have to take a break from blogging in anticipation of preparing for a bike test. This time a bicycle with a view to getting a job as a bicycle instructor. I like cycling but not to the extent that I wear lycra, I have even had to buy a helmet in anticipation of the test. I will be expected to negotiate a busy roundabout without causing a crash and demonstrate how I would teach a 10 year old to negotiate the roundabout.

My bike is loaded with a basket and baby seat , yet the google profile image of my examiner is of a racing cyclist in style of Chris Hoy (gulp).

Exam nerves have a negative effect on me. During my motorbike test, I sailed through the gymkhana test through cones. However, on the road test I got obsessed about coming out of the parking bay at the test centre at a certain angle and tipped the bike over before I had time to negotiate the road. The examiner let me carry on once I had righted the bike and by the time we returned 40mins later, he said he would have passed me had I not tipped the bike at the beginning.

So I do not do myself any favours (needless to say I passed 2nd time).

Fingers crossed! I will report back on Thursday.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

 

Yes woman

Unlike Jim Carrey’s character in the film ‘yes man’, I have the opposite problem – I find it hard to say no.

I am a change junkie, I love change. If my husband said tomorrow that the whole family were leaving for Australia, within minutes I would be researching flights without a backward glance. I was once told I have a higher than average sense of mortality (which is a bizarre observation when you think about it), I am not one of those people who say ‘it wouldn’t happen to me’, more like ‘what if it happened to me?’ So I believe in living for the here and now (you might have guessed by now that I am not a huge fan of saving, but surprised to hear that I have been paying into a pension since my early twenties……i am also an optimist).

The trouble with being a yes woman is that pretty quickly your life can fill up. Just in responding to adverts publicised in my locality since giving up my job because of childcare costs, I have said yes to: a job working from home for the council, an interview to be a cycling instructor and become a member of a netball team). This is aside from two children, helping my husband with his business and helping look after horses 3 times per week. Oh…..and I did sign up to bootcamp on the village green every Wednesday from September.

Thinking about it, the only time I say ‘no’ is normally in response to my husband asking me if I can do something……because I am too busy doing everything else. I am also (on the whole) successfully saying ‘no’ to sugar (although ate an eton mess for pudding earlier…..whoops).

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading. 

 

The careers race – who will win?

My husband and I are engaging in a careers race. His body is broken and he needs to switch into the slow lane, my career has ground to a halt as most of you know thanks to the HMRC. But to get a job that makes childcare worthwhile, i need an experience level that i havent had the chance to attain. No wonder most women leave it til their forties before they have children, because then they at least stand half a chance of earning enough after childcare to make it worth their while (assuming they spent their twenties and thirties climbing the ladder). I spent my twenties and thirties in labour/toddler groups and voluntary roles  sandwiched between two dead-end jobs.

So when my husband eggs me on to go for the ‘big roles’ that I know i dont have a cat in hell’s chance of even getting to interview, i start to get frustrated by what is expected – Mum and career woman – aahh! I give it my best shot while cursing i wasnt born with a willy.

Then i moan at my husband for not focusing enough on his career change because of the continued effort to bring the pennies in – you cant really blame him for that can you?

All the while i wonder how many couples are going through the exact same issues and what, if anything, can be done about it?

At the moment we are taking the machine gun approach to job applications – a fast-track route to feeling rather shit about yourself rather quickly.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

Maternity leave or better pay?

Today I broke the news to my boss about HMRC’s decision. The option to improve the salary was quickly squandered and the other alternative that he offered was to work from home, although he later back-tracked from that idea. So, since receiving the news from HMRC last Thursday, i will now be leaving my job next Thursday after four years (because i was due to finish for the school summer holidays anyway). I have yet to find out from HR  whether i will be required to return to complete outstanding notice in September, I hope not as I will incur further childcare costs that exceed my salary.

I was also interviewing for the maternity cover post for my colleague. Three candidates were interviewed. Myself and my colleague favoured the woman with the most experience and skills set. My boss wasnt so keen, feigning surprise at her independent school background saying she was “a little rough around the edges”. What he really disliked was the lack of a posh accent and her short skirt. If I was to be brutally honest, the woman he preferred was very pretty and lovely but with nowhere near the same skills-set or experience. He felt that she would be a better ‘fit’ within the department – more like he has one eye on the hareem of good-looking women he has in his office. The only problem is that women have children and need maternity leave and money for childcare – damned inconvenient.

When my Mum had me in 1980, there wasnt such a thing as maternity leave, but she did at least get paid enough to afford childcare when she returned to work a few weeks later. Supposedly in 2014 we have ‘moved on’ but what is the point of maternity leave if most mothers cant afford to return to work anyway?

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

 

The best Government party for babies?

Outside I can see swallows swooping in the late summer evening sun, they genuinely appear as if they are ‘hanging out’. There is no particular purpose to their flight, they are just enjoying the ride.

That’s life really isnt it?

Apologies for the deep and meaningful, but it is Sunday night and I am in a reflective mood seeing that my career hangs in the balance this coming week.

Further to my news on the HMRC, I am now forced to go cap in hand to my boss and ask for a pay rise. I am not confident of the outcome so will let you know how I got on tomorrow evening.

A few of my friends are only able to work because they have free childcare via the grandparents. I would be interested to know how many grandparents have returned to becoming child-carers again in order to help their own children back to work?

I also have another friend who doesn’t see her husband because they both work in emergency services and manage childcare between them by juggling shift patterns.

I have two children, one age 8 and one age 2. I had my eight year old under a Labour Government and I was able to work, I had my two year old under a Conservative Government and I cant work.

This blog is for Unicef. I missed a post last night so £1 goes to Unicef. If you can support the campaign visit Unicef here.

Thanks for reading.

High-earning Mums Receiving Childcare (HMRC)

Further to yesterday’s post, my call to HMRC this morning left me with no other choice but to quit my job. It is not until something is taken away that you begin to realise how much it is appreciated in your life. This is the case with my job. I have been with the company for 4 years, enjoy working with the team, the variety of the workload and the work environment. The simple fact is i can no longer ‘afford’ to work there. Now HMRC have said our joint  income is  over the threshold, they will no longer contribute towards my childcare costs. My salary only exceeds my childcare costs by £50 and that is before fuel, so i would effectively be paying to go to work. It seems it is a luxury if you are a working mum earning less than £15 per hour to keep the wheels of your career turning, if you want o work before your child is at school and your husband earns at least 20k. In other words, unless you are earning megabucks, the Government want you to be a good wife and stay at home with the children.

As much as i love baby boy, i also enjoy some time at work and I am not altogether thrilled at the prospect of being at home 5 daus a week, but i have done it before when my daughter was my som’s age, so he may as well get the same level of attention. Some people would argue, ‘if you dont want to look after them full-time, why bother having kids’? Which has an element of truth, in an ideal world i would share this responsibility with my husband but  i can only justifiably do this if i can match his salary or exceed it. This is tricky when my CV already has gaps from previous spells of ull-time parenting.

I have just got to do what most mums have to do and ‘suck it up’ , whatever ‘it’ is. This scenario goes to show that Kirstie Allsopp’s view that young women are better getting married and having children in their twenties makes far more sense than spending years getting qualified, only for it to all fall by the wayside once children come along – because to work is a lifestyle choice, only worthwhile for Mums in the top income brackets.

Now…..where is my pinny?

The only Mums who can work are the HMRC – High-earning Mums Receiving Childcare

This blog is for Unicef – thanks for reading

HMRC or Sherriff of Nottingham?

Since I have returned to work after having my son in 2012, i have been relying on HMRC’s childcare element of working tax credit to assist with childcare costs. If I didn’t have this assistance it would be completely pointless to work as my childcare costs would cancel out my earnings. Every time i receive my annual tax credits award, it feels like i am reading some complicated general ledger. For Part 2 you have been awarded £xx, part 3 you have been awarded £0.0 and then at the end of this complicated list of sums and numbers, i read that i actually owe HMRC £6,000. “What!” i scream to an empty room. I then dog put all my previous awards notices to see if i can locate the logic of this total but to no avail.

I dont trust their judgement. They tried to claim £3000 crom my husband recently for the tax year 2012. My husband was confused so he contacted his accontant and rang our old bank to get bank statements and sure enough we had paid ir years ago, it had just hot lost in HMRC’s system and they couldnt be bothered to check it for themselves.  I am hoping it is poor admin that hasled to this bizarre request for money.

I will look forward to sitting on hold for 30 mins before i get through to someone.

Regardless of the outcome, HMRC paperwork would not win awards from the plain English campaign. Yet this is one of the most important national forms of communications – supporting millions of people at all levels of society with their means of earning a living, but what you are entitled to and why is indecipherable. It is almost as if the complexity of the literature they send is deliberate. At least i only have to try and get help with childcare, god knows what it must be like if you are claiming other benefits or allowances. It is so complicated that I believe most people would need the assistance of an accountant to work it out and also establish where HMRC have hone wrong. But most people cant afford accountants fees.

HMRC are there to help the nation, but why do i get the impression that they are more like the Sherriff of Nottingham. In which case we need a modern day Robin Hood, especially under this Government.

I missed a post yesterday so a pound in the pot to Unicef.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

The rutting season

I could barely walk this morning. Yesterday i powerhooped, jogged, rode and jumped my way through the day and paid for it today – i was all out of high-kicks.

I swam during my lunch-break, which felt good although i do find it frustrating. Swimming is one of the few sports where the more effort you put in, the less progress you make, hence the frustration. It is not about effort, but technique. I have a friend who seems to effortlessly glide and tumble turn through her lengths, while i am gasping for breath at each end. If i attempt a tumble-turn, i always end up in a different direction of travel. So i do what i do in most situations, i try harder, which only serves to slow me down more aarrgh!

My husband’s career is a bit like swimming. He has tried to work harder to get better qualifications but so far he isnt even getting job interviews, let alone jobs. He is trying to switch jobs, albeit in the same industry but having worked as a tree surgeon for 20 years, employers cant see him as anything but a tree surgeon.

For me, in my existing career, i have all the qualifications and experience i need o progress, but having a family and taking a couple of years off for children has stalled my earning potential. I have had at least 2 potential employers turn me down simply because my current salary doesnt look good, despite my skills and experience. They find it difficult to take me seriously, hence the dead-endedness of my job.

As for ambitions to be a social worker…still waiting for that 1 year magic conversion course o materialise. Until then i will carry on ploughing this furrow (albeit not a bad one as furrows go).

With the boot on the other foot, we had a few job application forms to sift through for my colleague’s maternity cover. For some reason i honed in on the birth-date and my boss questioned short-listing someone in their early 60s arguing that they would not have enough knowledge of social media. On paper this particular person seemed o be the most experienced of the lot of them, so i am interviewing her. This remark comes from the same boss who asked me in my interview if i was going to have more children…..

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.