10 Jun 2012

Unconditional Love and The Single Parent

There is a lot of freedom in an unbranded blog.I can stay on message or ramble off into realms of madness and pique.
Up to me, really. But one thing I must do, is blog. Can't expect people to read old posts, and I certainly don't care to subscribe to blogs that are rarely written.
So this is my 'What have I been up to' blog. If you have no interest in one womans real life, I suggest you click 'next blog' because I'm going to be extremely frank and grown up. I promise the fluff will be back soon.

I've been flat broke this month. Waiting to hear about my sons DLA award has been stressful, financially as well as mentally. He has quite severe problems really, though he looks like a very cute, physically fit and able 13 yr old. He has Aspergers, and a few other difficulties that mean he just isn't wired up the same as the majority of kids, though there are certainly a lot of people affected to varying degrees with this condition. I made the tough decision to give up a full time job to devote more time to him. He's always been a handful, but these early teenage years have been harder than most. Because his father won't pay maintenance, and I have no partner, and I can't save up, I knew I would have to apply for certain benefits in order to feed us and pay the rent.
This process was started 2 months ago. Income Support is now only available to those in receipt of a carers award, which you can't get unless you have a Disability Living Allowance in effect already. Of course, I wasn't told this, and not really having kept abreast of recent changes in benefits I spent four weeks unaware of this detail. It took me phoning up on a day when I had one packet of noodles (the 12p ones) in the cupboard and wondered why I hadn't heard anything from the DWP. A crisis loan was approved, which I had to pick up on a particularly grey and windy Friday from my local job centre. You go in through the front, and leave through the back door. A Victorian feature I was grateful for that day. This will be paid back at £60 a month, once benefits are established. Felt good to be able to get through the weekend though. Two more calls to the DWP the week after revealed I was indeed given the wrong information, and nothing could be approved until DLA was awarded. The average time of a DLA award from beginning of claim to decision is 8 weeks. Desperate and in panic mode, I contacted the NAS National Autistic Society who managed to talk me down off the proverbial ledge, but were clearly out of their depth on the spot. I also opened a topic on Mumsnet to see if anyone had been through similar and found that through the encouraging responses and not one troll calling me a scrounger for claiming benefits (something this government and the tabloids really make you scared of) I plucked up the courage to make one last phone call to DWP. Planets must have aligned correctly, or a guardian angel must have been looking out for us, because the lady there had the incredible news that they were putting me on interim Income Support of £70 a week, and a giro was in the post. The giro arrived but was incorrectly made out to a post office across the city I live in, but hey..don't look a gift  horse in the mouth right?

The rent and council tax benefit parts are still being argued about as I type, which is making me scared I'll get evicted, or at least served with eviction papers. The carers allowance claim forms are mainly concerning what wages and jobs you held before caring, rather than what you actually do for the child, but today I got my boys DLA awarded at the highest rate, so at least if the worst comes to the worst, my Income Support will be validated. Big losses and little victories all still add up to an undesirable situation. Redhead and Dad and my friends Nancy and Chris have taken me out of myself and really scary situations when I've needed them to the most, whether they knew it or not and for them I will be eternally grateful.
Little angels
The blog has helped too, having little projects to plan and finish gave structure to the nothing days between Josh going and coming back from school. The shopping parts of the blog are a mere memory now but even the hardship has made me look for bargains in places I wouldn't have been seen dead in, and been pleasantly surprised with what I've found. I've also had more time to explore graphics programmes and illustrate a few things which I never would have time or energy to do before, so its true, every cloud has a silver lining.
To employees of the DWP that may be snoopily reading this, these projects are unpaid and mainly for my blog, which I don't have an Adsense for, in case you were wondering.

On those darker tinged days though, when I'm wondering how to feed us on a pound (noodles and hot dogs-tasty and filling) I have to keep reminding myself that I'm doing this for Josh, so he knows I'm always going to be there when he comes in from school, always have time to listen to his fears and lame jokes, always be the Mum he needs me to be, not the open purse but never there half Mum I could be when I was working.
Its a hard adjustment.
I feel very conflicted. I hear about great jobs, business development and sales roles, that I know I could do in my sleep, but I have to remember to just hold on, live this moment, have faith and patience in the process and most importantly these years will only happen once (thank God).

People say having a baby is hard, and it is.
In an ideal world there are two of you and a family to support each other. The dad takes over the night feeds and the days are spent with Disney sparrows changing the babies nappies and it's all a fairy tale. Some people even really get to experience this. For a lot of people though, their babies first years are conflict, not enough money, Dads won't or can't help with the night feeds, babies poorly or not quite right, and you don't have enough time to run a flannel over yourself. Be aware, those people who turn it into an art form and always look so in control will usually end up having some sort of breakdown or crisis in future life,so stick around, though they might infuriate you with their neatness and 'charmed life' they're going to need a friend one day.
Also be aware, all the sleep deprivation and  tears are just practice for when that baby grows into a teenager. If you have little support, or find it hard to ask for it, these are the years when your guts really show.
The fruits of being a good parent aren't really in producing over-achieving God-fearing little robots. Its loving the little shits when they stand in front of you and swear blind they haven't done something you know they have. Its having the strength to stand your ground when its easier to shut them out and let them go to the party or the park when its dark. Its managing NOT to set yourself on fire and run screaming down the street when they dye their hair a startling shade of ginger and green at half past ten at night and you have to spend the next hour dying it a school approved colour. Its being able to have a laugh with them or at them, and letting them laugh at you when you're being a dick.
It might still all go wronger.
The dreaded drugs could get them, a stranger could get them and stab them on a dark corner, they could end up doing things your worst enemy wouldn't do.
Who knows?
No two children are ever alike.
Its still parenthood, and as a single parent, you will bear it mostly alone.
Is it worth it?
If you told me what to expect BEFORE becoming a parent, and I believe I was told some pretty scary stories, I like to joke I'd have got a puppy instead and gone on lovely holidays, but I still did it anyway.  Because I KNEW I would have perfect, strapping children with my sense of style and humour and their Dads hands and I would love them more than all the commission and Ipads and a really good discount on Chanel beauty products and holidays in the whole world.

And you know, I was right.

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