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.

 

Clothes are so Uncomfortable

I’m sitting watching tv. The heroine is after being kidnapped. A bag shoved over her head and stuffed into the boot of a car by two large men. She struggles of course with little effect. What I want to know is with all that fuss how the hell do your trousers stay on!!!

I can’t walk from the car to the school without hitching up my pants at least once. I’m pretty sure if I was bucking like a bold child not wanting to get into the bath I would expose myself to all who cared to watch.

What’s more I wouldn’t have some fancy knickers on underneath. No no. If I were to be kidnapped I’d be wearing my oldest, grottiest thinnest pair of period stained excuse for a knickers. My arse would be a welcome distraction from the embarrassment of them.

Then they tied her to the chair and her hair was in her face naturally enough. They proceeded to torture her by showing someone beat up her sister. Well they wouldn’t even need to go that far with me. At this point those vile briefs are under my butt cheeks and I’m about to gnaw through the ropes with my bare teeth for that reason alone. My bra is driving me insane. I want to pull it down at the back and stuff my triple diddies back in at the front. Paired with the hair in my face I’m ready to tell them everything they want to know.

Then as if I thought the threat of them hurting my sister wouldn’t be bad enough (I mean who the hell would mind the kids while I line danced on a Monday. Went to see friends on a Wednesday. Got my hair done on a Friday…… I could go on.) I realise my runner sock had slipped under the heel of my foot. Heaven above is there no mercy!?

I imagine at this stage Beast Mam takes hold. This level of discomfort is more than I can take. I muster up strength reserved for mothers whose children are in grave danger. I break from the ropes. Fix the knickers, remove the hair from my face put my boobs back in my bra take off the socks and burn the bastards kill the bad guy and save the day!

Clothes grate on me. Nothing is comfortable. I could obviously lose some weight that might help me but problem solving is not my strong point. I often contemplate nudism if that’s a word but i don’t like to make other people feel inferior and let’s face it if this goddess was walking around nudey rudey that would be inevitable.

So I’ve slipped off the bra and I’m going to see if my heroine will save the world with or without exposing her arse in the process.

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I didn’t know I was pregnant!

There are many experiences in life that you will never understand unless you go through it yourself. From giving birth to the death of a loved one there are no words or advice that will prepare you for your emotions. You can not anticipate how you will react. You won’t know if you will deal with things rationally or freak the hell out. Despite my flair for the dramatics that my daughter has subsequently inherited I’m usually calm and follow the premise that everything will be ok in the end.

In this instance life was pretty frantic in our house because we had just had our first baby. He was a good little boy but on my first I was so hell bent on doing everything right that I squeezed the joy out of watching my little boy grow. I found that the birth of the baby had put a strain on our relationship and it just wasn’t everything that I thought it was going to be.

Still, I took one day at a time and it wasn’t the worst time in my life.

This day myself and himself were pottering around the house and I think the baby was in his rocking chair when stood in the kitchen I felt something in my underwear. Maybe I was due my period that week and I thought, my word, that’s a heavy flow because I literally felt it come out. I went upstairs and he was in the shower and I said ‘I think there is something wrong with me’. I sat on the toilet and looked down to see what I can only describe as a mass about the length and thickness of my thumb. Well I thought I was dying.

‘What the hell is that??’

My first thought was that it was placenta left over from the baby. I took a picture and sent it to some nurse friends of mine I put it in a tissue and brought it to the doctor. She said it was a clot and I disagreed so we agreed to have it sent off to be tested! And I thought no more of it. My cycle continued as normal you’ll be delighted to hear and we went on about our lives as a new family unit.

A few weeks passed and the doctor rang. The phone call floored me. ‘Ms Brophy, we had it tested and it was actually foetal matter.’ I responded ‘I don’t understand? You mean left over from Kyle?’ The doctor spoke and I’ll never forget it. ‘No Ms Brophy you’ve suffered a miscarriage’. I couldn’t even process the sentence.  I didn’t even know I was pregnant. My son was three months old. Had we even had sex? I hadn’t felt any pain. How could this be the case?

Then the events flooded my brain. I had taken pictures of my baby, I had carried it in a tissue and spoke about ‘it’! I was so deeply ashamed. I was trying to reason with the loss of a child I never knew I had, paired with the absolute horror of my actions towards a baby that my heart now ached for. Somehow weeks after the event to be told you miscarried it felt like I had missed my chance to grieve.  I cried and I cried despite feeling like I didn’t have a right to. This was magnified by my unspeakable behaviour towards my baby. Family, friends and my partner all reassured me that I wasn’t to know and rational me would agree but these feelings knew no logic.

I was disgusted by myself.

The pain of miscarriage for me is the never ending list of what ifs? Was it a boy or a girl? If I had given birth would I still have the children that I have now plus one or how does all that work? How would I have coped with two under a year old and all the never ending questions that I ask myself regularly? I gave my baby the nickname of Sweetpea so I had something to call him or her in my thoughts. I’ve forgiven myself because I wasn’t to know. How could I have known?

I’ll shed many tears for Sweetpea for many years to come and when the kids are older I will tell them that in my heart I have four children.

To my darling Sweetpea, you deserved so much better but I hope you know you are loved deeply. I never knew that I could love someone I had never met but I do and the pain doesn’t get any easier. All I can I can do is try to be the best Mammy for the three that are with me, forever keeping Sweetpea in my heart.

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;

 

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”

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”

who knows?

Three years ago today I left my fiancé, the father of my two boys and my baby bump which was going to turn out to be a little queen to complete our little family.

5 1/2 months pregnant I left his house that we shared with what I could fit in the back of my aunts jeep and we drove to Kilkenny and I never returned.

It was the hardest decision in my life to date. A decision that not only effected my life but his and the lives of our children.

People ask me time and time again why? Why did ye spilt? Well it’s not something you can wrap up in one nice neat sentence to satisfy people’s curiosity. Sometimes even when we put both our heads together we can’t agree on a reason. Was it him? Was it me? Who knows?

When I sit and think now the reasons actually don’t matter because that is the past. Knowing why doesn’t ease the pain. The pain we have both gone through. The pain of our children or the pain yet to come as we try to agree on how to parent our children together.

I will never know if the decision I made was for the best. We can’t look to the future at a junction and see which road is better. You pick your road blindly and hope for the best.

I know the weight of the decision lies heavy on my heart. I mourn for the family I thought I would have. I’m sad for my children that their parents live apart and I can only pray that in time they will understand.

Blended family’s and parents living apart are more and more common so it’s not as though we are unique in our situation. I’m more content as a person and I always believe happy mammy makes happy children.

We have come so far in three years from sharing a box room with my daughter to having a home of our own. I’m embarking on a career I know I will love. Writing my blog and contributing to community radio. I’ve found friends I love and I have two gorgeous handsome men in big school and do you know what we are doing alright.

When times get tough or I feel overwhelmed I sometimes look back and think. You got through that….. You’ll get through this. My advice whatever you do ……… Just keep swimming.

Not a whorehouse

As most of you know I am single. This paired with motherhood has numerous challenges. How do I date while protecting my children? Where do I find someone to date? Where do I find the time to date? Now let’s park those issues to one side and deal with the real problem. The men!

This post is not going to be complimentary to the opposite sex. So I apologise to my three male readers but I am sick to death of men. I am going to illustrate my point with a scenario that occurred over the weekend.

I get a random message request. A guy who saw me recently from afar thought to text and ask me out. Now credit where credit is due. Not only was that brave but it was romantic and exciting. Of course I was flattered and proceeded to chat to see if a drink was something I’d be interested in pursuing.

Turns out he was a normal attractive funny guy with a cheeky sense of humour. We had great textual chemistry…. See what I did there. We text on Sunday and the initial scenario was that he would like to cook for me. I thought wow a real man willing to put in a bit of effort. I declined because I wouldn’t have a date in the house with the kids. So then it went to a meal and drinks. That was just as good. The flirting was peak and I giggled the weekend away.

Then there was a switch. I’m not sure what happened and I refuse to blame myself but the meal got dropped and it was just drinks. Then a text came to say he was going casual so to give me the heads up not to go full hog. Then it was sure will I just call over when the kids are settled.

Well that was it my back was up. I had indicated to the boy (demoted due to immature behaviour) that I had a fiery temperament but I had not expected to display it so quickly. I told him I couldn’t keep up that he kept changing his mind. Then the usual sermon came….I’m not looking for romance or anything serious I’m just looking for fun. Well hose me down lather rinse and repeat because I’m a woman of course my immediate thought was marriage. The first thing I thought when you text me was how will I pin this guy down?

So the following correspondence pretty much put the nail in the coffin of our relationship. I text. ‘I think what you are looking for is a whorehouse.’ It wasn’t taken too kindly to. I relented and said sure call up and we will chat and I was…. I think you call it ghosted…. That’s where you get ignored completely.

Now I wish that I could tell you that this incident was unique or isolated. Sadly it’s not. In the interests of fairness I have no idea what that guy is going through in his life and he’s probably lovely but this one was the straw that broke the camels back.

I’m sick of organising a baby sitter to have to suffer the humiliation of telling her that my date has let me down that she is no longer required. I’m sick of blokes thinking that they have to put in no effort and still expect sex. Just because you don’t want a relationship doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least still have respect.

I remember getting the shift when I was a teen. After you’d wonder were you gonna meet again. It was exciting and nerve wrecking and sometimes crushing. But if before that guy kissed me he had said …… Just to let you know I only want this kiss and that’s it ….. Well sure I wouldn’t have kissed him at all.

Not all women want a serious relationship but what we do want is respect. It wouldn’t hurt to put in a bit of effort. Being taken out, getting to dressed up and making an effort adds to the build up of eventually getting what we both want. Make no mistake I love sex. What I don’t enjoy is it being made clear that that’s all is required of me. Then my dear what you are looking for is a prostitute. If I were one sweet cheeks …. You couldn’t afford me!

I am slowly resigning myself to the fact that I am going to spend a long time alone maybe it will always be the way. I just don’t understand the modern way. Sometimes I think if you can’t beat them join them but I feel deep down its not for me. I’m a traditional girl. I like to have a relationship. I enjoy being a part of a couple and the last time I checked it was fun!! That being said I’m not opposed to short flings. That’s fun too.

So to wrap up the incident. I was fuming at being ignored. There is nothing worse to me. So I was trying not to turn 100% psycho. For my own closure I needed to say something. So I returned the pic of his dick he sent me. Said… Here you can have this back and a bit of manners wouldn’t go astray.

Case closed.

Next.

Teenage Delusions

So motherhood happened. Not once but three times. Yet despite my experience I really don’t feel like a mother nor do I feel like a grown up. It’s like a poster I saw on Facebook. I think they call them memes or something even though I have no idea what that means or how to pronounce it. When a crisis occurs and you look for someone more adulty than you. Woah there Nelly. I’m the adult. Well I must have missed that memo.

adult.

My son told me I was just a kid cause I still had a Mammy and Daddy.  And yes he used the word kid. Because, yes he watches too much American television. He even asked me for candy one day. I was like I’ll candy stripe your arse for you and attempted to get him to watch Fraggle Rock on tg4. That’ll snap any Yankee notions out of ya boyo.  By his estimation I’m not an adult and I’m beginning to think he’s wise beyond his years. Continue reading “Teenage Delusions”

And they call it Puppy….. insanity!

 

 

 

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You have your hands full

These words are directed to me at least once a day. I get it. Three children is a lot. The fact that I’m no longer with their Dad probably makes it seem like more. I don’t do as much as I should from a motherly perspective but between the jigs and the reels life is fairly busy. When they go to their father’s I really do enjoy the peace. The doing nothing way of life suits me down to a tee ( or is it tea ??). In the midst of one of these marathon nothing sessions in which I relish  a post that often pops up in my newsfeed reared it’s head again.

The post was a heart felt plea from Cara Rescue Dogs for foster homes for puppies in their care. Now I’m not overly mad about animals and I’m not overly mad about the number 1 and number 2 that comes from said animals. I’m not overly mad on the smell of dog hair, dog breathe or dog farts. That being said my fingers started moving and I was texting and I was having some sort of a turn because the next thing I knew I was going to be considered as a foster parent for two very small puppies.

How the hell did that happen!!!

Sunday afternoon at 5pm after a home check was completed I became the rather petrified carer of two teeny balls of fluff. One brown and white the other black and white. Cara provides everything you need to take care of the pups for how ever long they are with you. All you have to do is love them. Well feeding and watering them wouldn’t go a miss either but you know what I mean.

The best part is the children had no clue and when they arrived home at 6pm tired and hungry after a busy weekend I was gonna reveal two puppies. Sure what could go wrong?

Two minutes after my grand reveal all hell broke loose someon wet themselves there was whimpering and begging  and that was just the children ( that joke never gets old). The two boys didn’t end up in bed until ten. Yes, Monday morning was torture.

Once everyone calmed and settled in the lovely part of the experience began. I have never heard the children laugh so much. The TV has hardly been on in days and the house has never been as clean. I’m really enjoying having the dogs as my guests.

Our little  fur babies are called Flake and Krispy kindly named by Karla at Cara. My children keep calling her Caramel so Aunty Caramel gave us our dogs to mind. I have explained to them that the dogs won’t be staying and I am fully aware that they will be upset but I’m hoping they will see the good that we are doing. Let’s face it they get upset when I give them the wrong the wrong coloured bowl for breakfast so I’m prepared for the hysteria.

I suppose the purpose of fostering for me is to see if I’m willing to put the work in that is needed to care for a dog. I don’t want to be the type that takes on an animal and realise that it doesn’t fit in with my lifestyle or my children especially. That’s one of the reasons why Cara are kept so busy. People think it’s all cuddles and sleeping. It’s far from it. I can tell you one thing though it’s very rewarding. I’m teaching my children about giving back in this world. Doing what you can when you can. How to care for something other than yourself. Also how important it is to respect other living things. I’m hoping this will be something that I can do regularly.

Cara Rescue Dogs Facebook page is <<<<< there if you click on the link. You’ll find everything you need to know all the contact details. If you feel like taking on a dog is not for you there are loads of ways to donate. You’ll feel great and you’ll make some dog’s day. I would like to just say that it’s a completely vouluntary orgainsation run by people with full time jobs and familys and lives of their own so if you have more than you need build a bigger table… not a higher fence.

Be well

Ellen