Monthly Archives: October 2012

Lemonade

The bargain basement late night delivery slot from the supermarket is great. While everyone else in the country is out spending pay day night in the pub or at a really good Halloween party, I am answering the door in my pyjamas with a towel on my head. I let the delivery man into the living room and he curses as he trips over the booster seat, then asks me just why I ordered twenty bottles of fizzy water (it’s just better than still, OK?) and if I plan to bathe in it (eurgh.)

At least I didn’t have to carry it all home from the supermarket. That and the pumpkins, all three of them. So, when my little boy comes downstairs in the morning, it will be like Father Christmas has been in the night, even though it was nothing like that.

We’ve got a whole week off to spend together. No juggling, no guilt: just us two and pumpkins, leaves and Frankenstein stuff. It’s nearly as good as Christmas, maybe even better.

“I’ll leave you to drink your lemonade then,” said that delivery man as he left.

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Make it Work

Make it work for single parents campaign
When Tom was one and I’d finished my degree, I went out looking for work with bags of enthusiasm and a massive, naive smile on my face. I’d done it: had a baby, graduated and I was ready to begin a career. I had no idea how difficult the next bit was going to be.

Paying a childminder to look after my son, I attended dozens of fruitless interviews. I lived with Mum in a small town, where work, particularly well-paid, part-time work, was scarce. I knew I was going to have to commute to a city, but also that I wouldn’t be home in time to collect Tom for 6pm, when most childminders finish. Eventually, I became self-employed and managed to save up to move out. I got a part-time job with Saturday shifts, but that nearly fell through when I found that many childminders who worked weekends charged huge premiums. Back then, I got help with nursery fees (I don’t know if I would under the current system.) The nursery was great: open until 6pm, all year-round. I got a shock when Tom started school: suddenly, it’s expected of you to do half-day or 3pm pick-ups – and it’s closed for 13 weeks a year.

Last week, David Cameron said (amongst other things) “there is only one route out of poverty and it is work.”

I don’t often agree with Mr C, but I do there. For those who are able, work is wonderful. Most people moan about their jobs sometimes, but we’d be lost without them. I for one don’t know what I’d be doing all day while Tom was at school if I wasn’t working. Work keeps our minds busy, sets a crucial example to children, it challenges us and of course, it pays the bills. But I am lucky to have qualifications, the ability to work flexibly from home and family and friends who help out when they can. It’s not that straightforward for others.

Despite common misconceptions, 59% of single parents work – and according to Gingerbread, the national one parent family charity, most of those who don’t desperately want to. The problem is that too many barriers stand in the way; many single parents need to have access to courses that will qualify them to work, affordable childcare, flexible hours, or wraparound clubs at schools. And after childcare and housing costs have been taken into consideration, work needs to be beneficial (Gingerbread say one in five single parents who work full-time are living in poverty.) Even with the new ‘Universal Credit’ system, childcare costs can outstrip wages.

Gingerbread want to make going out to work an achievable route out of poverty for single parents. That’s why they’ve launched the ‘Make it Work for Single Parents’ campaign, which ultimately aims to get 250,000 more single parents into work by 2020. You can read the full task list here.

Gingerbread are asking single parents to add their voices to the Make it Workforce. It’s a chance to tell the Government and employers what you need in order to be able to go to work. Click here to see what’s being said already. Even if you’re not a single parent, you can get involved in the campaign, by telling someone you know who is, or writing to your MP.

Work is the only route out of poverty (apart from perhaps winning the lottery) but it has to work for those who want to do it.

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Sticky tape

The fact that our family is small is something we’ve been talking about a bit this week. Tom has to make a family tree at school. Even though the teacher explained in her request for photos that all shapes and sizes of tree will be celebrated, I knew Tom’s was going to look particularly tiny and lopsided. So, we had the chat about how lots of people love him and it’s a shame the cat isn’t allowed on the tree and then he gave me a massive squeeze and told me I am the best thing in the entire history and it all felt OK.

Fast forward to this evening: My sister was coming to meet Tom after his swimming lesson and we were hurriedly wrapping her birthday presents and writing her cards in the foyer of the pool.

Being organised (I thought), I’d bought one of those paper gift bags, so that I could just wrap the presents in tissue paper and shove them inside, without any need to worry about things like scissors or Sellotape.

“What are you doing?” asked a little girl from Tom’s class, peering over the table.

“Wrapping my auntie’s birthday presents,” said Tom.

“You need Sellotape,” she said, as I wrapped a sheet of tissue around an umbrella and twisted it at the ends (like people do to make presents look like crackers at Christmas, even though it isn’t Christmas.)

“We haven’t got any Sellotape,” I said, plonking the brolly into the bag and moving on to the chocolate.

“When my mummy wraps presents, she always uses Sellotape,” said the little girl.

“My family,”  said Tom, stopping to add in a word, “my little family –  is a bit disorganised sometimes, but we make a great team.”

True, that.

This is a divi tree from the Caribbean. They never grow very big and lean one way because of the trade winds. Photo: Aruba Divi Tree – Eagle Beach by Serge Melki on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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