How the Social Welfare System has Treated Me

When I was 13 or 14 everyone I knew had a little part time job. It was either after school or at the weekends but everyone worked. Well back then, it was also a big part of your social life and you’d look forward to going to work everyday. Thankfully that continued well into adulthood. When college didn’t work out for me (that’s a nice way of saying I dropped out) I secured a job with the H.S.E. and worked there for over ten years.

Then life threw me a curve ball as life tends to do.

My relationship broke down and I had to move to Kilkenny with two boys in tow and a baby in my belly. I had no way of commuting to my job in North County Dublin. I had to resign. This was uncharted territory for me. I had never been unemployed before and it all happened so quick. I had no savings. No reserves. No way of providing for my growing family.

I had massive support; my mother took us in and provided for us as best she could. Then the realisation came that I was going to have to apply for social welfare of some sort or another. I had no clue but I wasn’t long about finding out. The forms were so long that they practically asked what underwear I had on when I lost my virginity, but I persevered and filled them in to the best of my ability.  It would take up to 6 weeks to hear if I qualified for my One Parent Family Payment.

In the mean time, my Mam and I were finding it tough to manage trying to plan for a new baby. We found out about the Community Welfare Officer – someone who can award interim payments in special circumstances. I had to go down and ask for help. Now I can’t say this aspect was pleasant.

Well none of it is pleasant, but I found this humiliating. I told the guy who didn’t know me from Adam that I was in trouble and needed help. Overcome by the situation I burst into tears. Not gentle ones. The big ugly face ones that could drown a small child.

He listened, took the evidence that I had brought with me and presented me with a cheque. He would continue to issue me with the cheques weekly until my case was decided. If I was denied I would have to pay the money back.

I left that office relieved. I didn’t want to be a burden on my mother. I couldn’t work for now and I genuinely needed help. I know that there are many complaints about how the systems work in this country. I can only speak from my own experience. The forms are a nightmare. The staff can be hard to approach. It feels like an invasion of your privacy. They look for the same documentation year after year.

However without it, I don’t know where I’d be.

I think the general feeling is that when people are on Social Welfare they get a bit cosy and don’t want to work, and to be honest I can totally see how that would be the case. I could have happily stayed at home for another few years and lived a pleasant life on what the government provides for me. But I am not that type of person. I want more in life. I am currently in full-time education in order to help me get back into the workforce. My course in Beauty Therapy is fully funded by a government scheme, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to get away from the kids  up skill.

It hasn’t been easy and it’s not the way I saw my life going. I never thought I would need Social Welfare. It may not be a popular opinion, but the Social Welfare system worked for me.

 

Wine O’ Clock Is Not For Me

As mothers, fathers, guardians or whatever politically correct title you choose to subscribe to we all have our coping mechanisms to deal with the unique experience that is called parenting. It’s very important to find that mechanism and to employ it when you deem necessary to get you through the day, the week or in reality the next 40 years. I’m not sure if it’s a coping mechanism or just a reward for surviving the day but one such example is the cutely named Wine O’ Clock.

This is the time of the evening where the children are in bed, hopefully asleep and mothers all over the country crack open a bottle of wine to unwind after the day’s events. Does that sound blissful to you? Well I have a confession to make. I don’t agree with drinking when you have children in your care.

Well I can almost hear the audible gasps through the computer screen. Before I continue with my reasoning I would like to point out a couple of things. I am speaking about my parenting choices and what I find acceptable in my own home. I have no interest in judging anyone or even pushing my agenda into anyone’s front room. I am not asking you to follow me into midweek sobriety or forgo your glass of vino with your spaghetti bolognaise. I am merely sharing with you my life choices.

It’s easy for me to not have a glass of wine because I’m not a big drinker. Don’t get me wrong I can hold my own on a night out but it could be months in between a trip to the local. My chosen affliction is Diet Coke and junk food…. That I don’t have to share!

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Some of the ways you view the world stem directly from your upbringing and my mother rarely took a drink at home. My father is tee total and my mother didn’t agree with drinking on your own so she would wait until she was in the presence of another drinker to have her chosen tipple. As a single mother I spend most evenings alone (not every evening, if you know what I’m saying *wink *wink) so I just can’t relax into the idea of having a drink by myself. I very much view alcohol as a social drink as opposed to a way to unwind, so that paired with how I was brought up, it’s just not a good fit for me.

Another aspect that plays on my mind is that if I take a drink at home and heaven forbid something was to happen to one of the children, I wouldn’t be able to drive or wouldn’t have my wits about me to deal with it. How would I cope with the guilt if I was tipsy? When their Dad and I were together we would take turns drinking at family events so that somebody was always of sound mind to care for the children.

Now I know that Wine O’ Clock doesn’t mean sculling Jagerbombs in your sitting room before streaking down the road to give the neighbours something to talk about. I realise its one glass or two and for those who choose to partake I have no doubt its well deserved. It’s just not for me. So ladies crack open the wine while you gasp in disgust at my point of view and I’ll crack open a bag of Malteasers while I read all the positive comments!

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I don’t have the same name as my children and I hate it.

Naming your child is so difficult. Straight away there are reams of names that you have to discount.

  • Any name of anyone you don’t like. (there’ll be more on that list than you’ll care to admit)
  • Any name of anyone either of you had any kind of a relationship with. (also a long list if you are lucky)
  • Names of dogs and cats. (why do people name their dogs after humans?)
  • Any cast member of a reality tv series (we all watch it but we don’t need people thinking our name choice is a nod to shit tv)
  • Any old teachers or bosses either of you had (that’s just creepy)

The list could go on…… if you let it. At the end of the day you just have to pick one you love and hope that your child loves it too.

Then in the modern age you also have the issue of the surname to contend with. Years ago the child took the father’s name and that was it. Now people have children before marriage. They may never intend to get married. There may be couples in same sex relationships who go on to have children, which surname do they use?  In all cases the conversation has to be had as to how to proceed with naming the offspring.

For me it was simple. Although we were not married the children should have their father’s name. I was traditional in my thinking and also as we were engaged, in time, I would have that name as well. Well life didn’t work out that way. We never did get married and now my boys and I don’t share a surname. Now to complicate matters further as myself and himself were not together at the time of Macy’s birth  she shares my name. Someone ring Jeremy Kyle!!!

This is a big bone of contention with me. Bigger than I like to admit. In hindsight I think I should have either put my surname in there or given them my name until we were actually married but like I said. I am traditional and I didn’t foresee any issues at that time of my life. We are in the process of changing Macy’s name to the same as the boys and I’m happy that they will share the name.

They are full siblings and I just think she shouldn’t have to deal with the judgments and the questions.

Ideally we would double barrel them all but an agreement couldn’t be reached so now they will have their father’s name.

I know I’m the primary care giver and they are with me the majority of the time but the name difference makes me feel a little disconnected. Almost as though I have no claim to them which is utterly ridiculous. Yet I still feel that way. At appointments for the children people will call me Mrs…. (the children’s surname) and it’s like a little knife in my tummy every time.  You know when you’d see your cousin’s coming and you’d say ‘here’s the Delaney’s’ well no one will say that about us because I’m not a part of that club. I can’t sign my correspondence , yes I correspond, regards The Brophy Family because we are not the Brophy family. I even considered changing my own name at one stage. My parents weren’t overly happy about that suggestion as you can imagine.

I think this is one of many hiccups that I’ll have to just accept. They know that I am their mother and really the disconnect I feel is an administrative one. My children and I are deeply connected to the core. They are literally a part of me and let’s face it most of the time what I call them under my breath resembles neither of our surnames!

it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O! be some other name: What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet;

 

My doll called Finn

You cannot beat the feeling of opening something new. I love opening new cartons of milk and new make up. I love unwrapping presents and ripping the tags off a newly purchased outfit. I’m 36 and the excitement is palpable. I can only imagine how a child feels. They don’t have the restraint that we have to control that urge to squeel with delight. Of course some items are more squeelable than others.

Case in point I got offered the chance to experience a new kind of toy on the market. I had to take a few deep breathes as my adult restraint system temporarily failed me. This was a doll called Finn. I suppose I should really explain. My middle son is named Finn. This was a doll called Finn. What’s so special about a doll I hear you ask? Well I’m about to tell you!

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Lottie and Finn

My son Finn is a wonderful boy full of warmth and mischief. He is kind and generous with a ferocious temper if pushed but that makes him a interesting person to watch grow. As a family we have noticed that Finn is curious about everything. This has even extended to the toys in the house that would be traditionally considered girls toys. He has tried dresses, lipstick and hair bands. Equally he loves guns and archery and all those activities that we class as boys activities.

Therein lies the issue. The marketing of toys to divide them into boys and girls can put off a boy picking up something he might love to play with just because it’s perceived to be for ‘girls’. So when I came across Lottie Dolls I was so impressed. A doll that is gender neutral. Now by this I don’t mean that the dolls have no gender, they come as both boys and girls. What I mean is that the dolls are not covered  head to toe in pink tulle and adorned with lipstick and high heels. The boy doll Finn is not an action figure with a six pack and super powers. They are dolls based on real children. They have child like bodies and wear child like clothes and I just love them.

When my son saw the box he was instantly impressed with the doll because it had his name on it. I know not every child will have that treat but once that novelty was over the thrill of his new little friend remained. Nobody would even think of buying a five year old boy a doll but if they saw the way my Finn carried Finn Junior around for a solid week they would certainly change their minds. He dressed him and undressed him and repeated that hourly. As a mother I noticed how easy it was to change the clothes which was great because he didn’t need my help. The small exception being the socks as is the case with real life Finn also.

The day after Finn’s arrival in the house I had to hide him up on a shelf to avoid him being ripped asunder by the other two. He sat up their until his buddy came home to take him away with him on any number of adventures.

From a mother’s perspective I loved that he had a doll that wouldn’t necessarily bring with it snide remarks. The resemblance to a real child was refreshing, I didn’t need to address feminist issues of make up and body image which would arise from my constantly questioning child. To top it all off it’s an Irish company and knowing this was a home grown treasure made the joy all the better.

IMG_Finn on couch with boxed doll

 

 

If you want to investigate these wonderful characters you can find them at on the  Lottie Website and in store at Art and Hobby Shops

Lottie, Finn and Friends get a big thumbs up in this house!!!

Child you had one job…. where are your thumbs????

 

 

Godparents

First world problems

There’s a hash tag going around #firstworld problems designed to acknowledge that whatever it is that you are giving out about is actually not really a problem at all. Well I have one such first world problem that actually bothers me.

I don’t have a god child.

Big Deal

I know it’s beyond ridiculous to even think about but being honest it really makes me sad. I swear I do have more important things to be worried about.

In my defence of my harmless pondering. In our family god parents are a big deal. It’s viewed as a huge honour. I know the concept it rooted in religion but as a gesture it’s saying to that person. I would trust you with my child. That’s a pretty big deal. There are people in my life I wouldn’t trust with a sandwich.

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Is it me?

At this stage I can’t see that I will ever be asked. Most of my friends are finished with their baby making days or even if they weren’t there are sisters or cousins or life long friends that would be way ahead of me in the line.

When my mood gets low I used to wonder what was wrong with me that no one saw fit to ask me to stand for their child? I’m unreliable and fickle or maybe before I became a mother I may have seemed irresponsible but truth be told it’s just a mixture of circumstance and bad timing.

Worth the wait

I see my sister with my children and I am really in awe. I don’t know what it is to love a child that isn’t my own. I can’t comprehend choosing to get up and spend time with a child. Like……. I have to love my own…… I’m pretty sure it’s part of the deal!

My sister has no children (so I’ll never be an aunt either ) but I really believe she couldn’t love them anymore even if they were her own. I’ll never experience that relationship. My children have cousins but I have no relationship with them because of my break up. Pity cause I’d be such a cool aunt. Even if I do say so myself.

I suppose my opportunity to experience that love of a child that isn’t my own will come when my own have children. If they are blessed I’ve heard that grandchildren are amazing. You love them like your own but you get to hand them back at the end of the day. Obviously I’ll be waiting a while. But from what I hear it will be worth the wait.

 

 

 

Line lover

It took me almost 35 years to find a hobby I enjoy. I’ve started many things and promptly lost interest. That’s my usual progression but The Line Dancing has stuck. Yes you heard me right Line Dancing and before you break into the chorus of Achy Breaky Heart and ask me if I have cow boy boots ( I don’t YET) it’s not what you think it is.

There is of course a massive country influence because that’s where it started but it has progressed to include modern routines to chart songs as well. It’s really good fun and great exercise too. So the club were heading off to England to a social weekend of dancing and I decided to join them. I haven’t left the country in 8 years and that fact alone shocked me. What shocked me even more is the amount of preparation I had to do to get away for two nights.

It started months in advance with the weekly saving for my fare and spending money. Gone are the days of where I’d book it all on the credit card and worry about it when I came home. When you have little ones depending on you for like food and stuff you have to be a bit more responsible.

The beauty regime pre travel was nuts. I got the hair done, I got fake lashes, shellac and a spray tan… perks of my course. I exfoliated and moisturised I buffed and polished and it took a couple of weeks for me to head off looking pretty much the same as I always do.

me and dee

Then because the children were being minded by family on the Friday and going to their Dads on the Saturday I wanted to have the house nice ( passable ) for my sister to sleep and I needed to think ahead to the Saturday morning and have everything ready for her to send them off. I was a bit stressed that I’d forget something because well I tend to forget things.

Then the packing for the airport. Trying to compress my make up was a week long job in itself. We were only bringing carry on and then all your liquids had to fit into this one little tiny bag. I mourned for the eye cream that I couldn’t squeeze in. I apologised to the toner that had to be left behind and vowed to bring it on the next trip. I was distressed.

I managed to pack for me and for them and to leave the house organised by my standards ( low low standards ) I left instructions and directions and before I even stood foot on a plane I was exhausted.

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This is where the divide between men and women becomes apparent to me. Take away the fact that I’m on my own. Let’s just imagine as I often do that I have a loving, extremely attractive,well built, tattooed husband who likes to bring me out dancing and who plays guitar and…… Hang on I got a bit distracted there….. What was I saying? Oh yeah… Let’s cut it right down. When men go away they only have to worry about themselves. When women go they have to think of EVERYTHING.

Exhausted as I sat on the plane I got a little anxious. It was bizarre it’s not like I’ve never been away from the children but it was almost as if leaving the country was a bit more serious. I actually cried after take off and was mortified. My emotions were haywire. I felt such guilt because I was going away and not bringing them. Then I made the huge mistake of telling The Sun that I was going on a plane. They’ve never been on a plane. Silly silly silly Mammy.

Once I had let my extremely practical and honest friends talk sense into me I relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed my weekend away. I learned a few things. I learned that I’m shit at line dancing but am going to try harder because I really do love it. I learned that a tan makes everything better… fake tan of course. I learned that it’s ok to have a life apart from your children. In fact it’s essential. I came back in fantastic form and grateful for my children and grateful for the support I had  that allowed be to go.

The next trip is to Latvia in August…… I started prepping yesterday. Honest!!!!

 

from behind

Deep Thoughts

Some blog posts come naturally, they flow and I could write them in twenty minutes at the most. For some reason this one is tough, I just don’t know where to begin. My natural tendency is to write about topics from a light hearted stance. However there is little humour to be found in the subject of mental health.

Even to say the words. I have mental health issues. They get a little stuck in my throat somehow.

I am not ashamed.

I’m an open person I wear my heart on my sleeve but somehow that sentence doesn’t fit me? There are a number of reasons for that.

I don’t really fit the stereotype. The perception is that I’m outgoing, confident and full of the joys of life. Well there was a period in my life that none of those words could have been used to describe me. I can’t remember the first time I felt depressed. It started with bouts of crying. I’m a girl sure  that’s just hormones. I was either pre menstrual, menstrual or post menstrual. But that was the point. There was no end to it. I felt sad all the time. Continue reading “Deep Thoughts”

Phoney

I have an aul gra for mass generalisations but I think it’s fair to say that we would all be fairly lost without our phones. The phone is no longer a privilege of the wealthy but really an everyday necessity. From 8 to 80 everyone has one. Some people even have two. The way we communicate with one another has changed so much. Could you even imagine writing a letter to someone and having to wait weeks maybe even months for a reply? Everything these days is about the instant fix we really don’t like to have to wait for anything and our phones afford us that luxury.

You can chat or text anyone anywhere in the world. Now grant is most of us are texting our other halves to stick the kettle on or to bring some toilet roll upstairs but the potential is there to text someone in Brazil, if you knew anyone in Brazil. Continue reading “Phoney”

The Cross we Bear

kyle-oakwood

I recently attended mass. I can’t say that I am a regular attendee but this was a mark of respect for the anniversaries of a number of family members. The children were with me this particular weekend so it was time to don the best clothes and put our best foot forward and I was looking forward to showing off my beautiful little family. This enthusiasm was soon dampened when I found out the anniversary mass was at 9;30 in the morning. Three plus myself all to be suited and booted and up and out for that hour on a Sunday. We were not off to a good start!

My darling sister said she would help by taking one of my wee cherubs over on a sleep over so that I only had two to suit and boot.  See who ever said that prayers aren’t answered?

Off we headed to mass and when we parked up on the college road the eldest refused to get out of the car. Did I mention that it was raining? Continue reading “The Cross we Bear”

Other Mothers

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Hellloooo Yes i’m talking to you. You dear other mother that is listening to me right now. I would like to address this strange dynamic that you and I, as mothers, have with one another. We both have children. Whether you gave birth or someone else gave birth for you or you took on a child, we are both now blessed in our role as mother. This role might involve one or more children but the title remains the same. You might have a partner or a husband or mulitple sexual partners that you call on from time to time but again we are both mothers. You may have a job or a number of jobs or you may be a stay at home mother but guess what yes at the risk of being predictable we are both mothers. So now that we have established that we are part of the one team. Why is it we compete and compare?

When I had my first son I had a feeding schedule that I adhered to at all costs. I was rigid to a fault. If I broke from my routine the universe would surely implode. I was totally convinced. I did it by the book and was doing everything ‘right’. Then guess what I discovered?  My besty who I genuinely consider to be an excellent mother had her own feeding schedule and it was so different to mine. How could this be? Continue reading “Other Mothers”