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.

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 Rolls Royce of timewasters

Life is precious and in an ideal world, we would all like to make every minute count. But life is also a maze with lots of dead- ends and U-turns and times when a lot was sacrificed for little achievement. That feeling of achievement or lack of can make the difference between a bad day or a good day at work. On a minor level, failure is not getting to the bottom of the to do list. On a major level it is being in the position of someone like John Kerry who, after nine months of negotiators, has failed to engineer a framework of peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. Having looked at the media coverage, I get the impression peace will never be possible under Netanyahu. The whole process needs to learn from the Northern Ireland experience. In fact John Kerry needs to have a chat with Mo Mowlam. They need to stop the talk of each sore being terrorists as an excuse for not continuing. A lot of forgiveness of Sinn Fein and Unionist terrorism was cast to history for the benefit of future generations. That is what Netanyahu needs to think about, the future, rather than vengeance.

On the back of a fairly depressing news broadcast about conflict around the world, I next watched a documentary about Rolls Royce and the number of man hours and investment they channel into achieving ‘perfection’ for people with more money than sense. The average car costs 200k and options tend to be from 50k onwards, such as hampers made out of platinum to the tune of 20k. Of course the hamper will never be used, but apparently that’s not the point. A special project to embed diamonds into interior panelling hoes wrong when the RR quality control team decide it is not good enough. So the silversmith then casts aside his 350 hours spent on the project to start from scratch. Meanwhile the ‘front of house’ manager at RR scans the grounds surrounding the factory to check the grass is the right level and that the trees are the right shape. While I acknowledge it must be a privilege to work for such an esteemed brand, I do not envy the amount of time the entire staff spend on meaningless crape for people who cannot think of better ways to spend their money. 200k alone on a car is ostentatious to say the least but the average RR owner has 7 cars – and that is the best they can do with their disposable income. What a monumental waste of money.

I am blogging every day for UNICEF to raise money for the charity. For every missed day of blogging I pay a pound. As I missed last night due to internet connection problems, another pound goes in the pot. Read more about the campaign here.

Thanks for reading.

Babies on benefits

I consider myself to be the left side of liberal. I was brought up on the mantra that the Tories help the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I am from a working class background and the chip on the family shoulder is bigger among some of my family members – its more of a ding with me.

So I am caught in the middle on the whole benefits argument that is raging at the moment. I do feel that there are some changes that need to be made to the welfare system. For example, a couple of years ago, my friend’s sister, a single parent, managed to find a nanny job that meant she could earn and look after her child at the same time – ideal situation. However she was advised by the benefits office that she was better off remaining on benefits rather than taking the job because she would be financially better off. That is just wrong. Another friend, and single parent, was recently told that she had to drop her course to be a teaching assistant, which combined well with her part-time role in a school. The reason? because she could get a full-time cleaning job thus putting a tick in the JSA box of ‘back in work’. This would be no good because she would have to fork out on childcare meaning her earnings would be negligible. That was why she was pursuing a career in childcare to earn around her daughter’s education. Not the case with today’s JSA – they just want you to up the full-time employed figures regardless of your situation and  how much you will realistically earn at the end of it.

In contrast to Daily Mail rhetoric, it is not easy to claim benefits. I used to claim JSA when my daughter was of pre-school age and I had to drive 30 mins twice a week to wait for what seemed like ages in a soul destroying environment to tell someone who was not particularly interested what I had done to search for a job. In my case, because of the industry I work in, they didn’t know anything about it so they were even less interested in my job search. They just ticked the relevant box so that I received my cheque. So many people, particularly young people, many of whom have low self esteem, look so helpless in the queue – with the expression and stature that shows very clearly they have already given up hope before they have even started. My youngest cousin has never held down a full-time job and he is in his twenties now. His schooling was shocking, he had so many learning difficulties the teachers just left him in the corner of a classroom to fend for himself in a packed classroom.

My other cousin, in his thirties, has five children and his girlfriend has just announced she is pregnant with number 6. They have a 3 bedroom house and they sleep in the smallest bedroom and the other kids share the other 2 rooms. He has a job but they obviously have state help. I also listened to an interview with a 21 year old on the radio who was a single parent and is expecting number two – she argues that it is hard for her and that she doesn’t want things to be any harder following more benefit cuts.

My granny had four children without state help, apart from a council house and was a single parent. She managed to sustain her family just about. My mum had an orange crate as a bedside cabinet so they did without life’s luxuries but she managed. If she had the option of contraception, would she still have had four children when there was no state help?

My argument is that we are in the luxurious position of being able to control conception. It makes sense to have a baby when you can afford it. Of course life has a way of screwing up plans and hard times can seek you out, but if you are a single parent struggling on benefits does it make sense to conceive another child? I watched a programme of a couple who were clearly in love but had a shit education and came out with no decent grades, no further career options to pursue, so were living on benefits. They were debating whether to interrupt the tedium of their day by having a child so that they would have to ‘change nappies every now and then’. What chances does that child have if the parents haven’t got jobs?

With many people on benefits for longer than they should be, it is a case of building self esteem. So I think anyone who has been on benefits for too long should do compulsory charitable work so they get valuable experience, gain confidence in their own abilities and help good causes in the process.

I am blogging every day for Unicef  to help children and families around the world who are not lucky enough to have a benefits system and do need help. Please visit my page on the Unicef site for more info.

Thanks for reading.

The price of fish

The price of fish has always been high. The price of food generally, now that’s a different matter. Since when did it become so expensive to eat? We are a family of four. We aren’t greedy, I weigh about 9 stone, my husband 11. My daughter is a beanpole. My son, well he is quite a chubby cheeked 11 month old and likes his food but he is only a baby so barely counts. Yet I seem to be forking out more and more for our fortnightly shop (well more like 10 days, I cant seem to make it stretch to 14).

I have tried all the supermarkets, well apart from Aldi, Lidl and Iceland (not because I’m a snob but because the nearest shop is miles away and you can’t shop online). Asda is the cheapest but only just, closely followed by Tescos. Sainsburys tends to be about £20 more expensive than Tescos. Ocado, £30  more expensive. Waitrose even more expensive and M&S….well don’t even go there. Ive used Ocado once but only when they had an offer reducing the bill by £20 for new customers. I was impressed with the service though. I got a text message to confirm the delivery time, together with the name of the driver, the reg plate of the delivery van and even the name of the van, “Onion”. It was by far the best website to order from. It asked you a few simple questions about your family to get started (how many adults, children, babies and pets) and then used this info to provide a selection of items that you may need. It was spot on except for 6 items. I was a bit miffed that our shopping habits were that predictable.

My friend who nannys for a number of wealthy families continues to be astonished by the amount they spend on groceries. From £250 a week (yes – a week!) to £2000 a month (for those M&S families). What she can’t understand is why they waste so much food. One of her families chucks things out as soon as it is past the sell by date. Its great because we get some of their cast-offs. Perfectly good vegetables and meat. Its shocking that there is so much food wastage when people are starving in other parts of the world.

The cost of food is becoming a problem for many low income families. This is the reason why food banks are now experiencing a much higher demand. Its shocking to think that so many families in the UK can only just about afford to feed their children and the adults go without, hence the need for food banks.

It is wrong that some wealthy families are spending too much and wasting food while other families struggle. Anyone would think we are back in the Victorian times again….

I am blogging every day for Unicef. If you can spare a £1 for reading this blog, please donate it to Unicef on my fundraising page.

Thanks for reading.