Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Working Parent Trap

Between the strike that shut Trainboy's school on Wednesday, and the fact that today he has been thoroughly off-colour and therefore in bed while Chopwimp watched TV for most of the day (it being Chopwimp's day to be here), I have been thinking about the whole work/life/parenthood mess.
The sort of jobs that really fit round looking after children are either the unobtainably wonderful ones where you're basically a sleb and all your whims are indulged, or they are precarious, unpredictable and badly-paid. Oh, and one of those Big Lies, the perpetrators of which should be either taken out the back and disembowelled or at least made to join the queue applying for not-quite minimum wage dinner supervisor jobs in a sink school because it's the only thing you can get to, given that you're car-free, have several infants and are going to have your
benefits cut off if you don't show that you have at least applied for a job this week... well that's the one about the Mumtrepreneur, who has Reinvented her Life after getting up the duff and now runs her Own Business from the kitchen table selling miniature fairy wings or handmade pet dildos or something. Whenever one of these is featured in a magazine, there's always a bonus-guzzling banker hubby in the background, or her grandparents just carked it in a bizarre gardening accident and left her a convenient quarter of a million. Or she's actually made three sales in eight months but happens to have gone to school with the editor of the glossy magazine that's featuring her.
When Trainboy was embryonic, I did have a job, which was hell for various reasons, including being on 24/7 callout for not that much money and having to interact with a particularly demented and unpleasant cross section of the general public. I have never been one for logical career progression, at least not since I got forcibly made freelance about 15 years ago, it's always been a bit here and there, so to an extent I might have been better prepared for the prospect of random life changes and being able to Trust No One. The job I had was pretty grim, but as a manager of other staff, including quite a few single mothers, I had set it up in such a way that it wouldn't be entirely impossible to combine it with parenthood, and I did visualise, from time to time in the early stages of gestation, doing my share of the work with a chuckling chubby infant in a carrycot at my feet.
Unfortunately, the company decided to dispense with the division I was running about a fortnight after I passed the deadline for a legal termination of pregnancy, so there was no option but to work out other ways of surviving and earning a living.
Much as I may have disagreed with vast chunks of the New Labour government, I have to say that if not for tax credits, Trainboy and I might have starved. As it is, I am in an endless cycle of borrowing from one moneylender to pay another while working about 45 hours a week in jobs that pay maybe/sometimes/dependent on results/not at all if they don't feel like it. Getting a Proper Job doesn't seem to be an option open to me any more. I have limited qualifications in a specialist and almost defunct area (magazine publishing), for everything else that comes with things like a desk and a secretary and a guaranteed monthly salary I am either too old, 'overqualified', or have no relevant experience. Many jobs demand 'flexibility' and 'commitment' by which they mean a willingness to work unpaid overtime at short notice - not possible for the single parent or even the co-parent whose own Chopwimp doesn't live in and has his/her own work responsibilities anyway.
It's all a complete bastard and if I can think of a solution I'll share it with you.

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