All of this talk about the general election, and everything that I am seeing in the culture of UK politics at the moment, is giving me a lot to think about. I never really got involved with politics before I became a mother. In fact, I didn’t really think about a lot of important stuff, because it never seemed relevant. I was too busy working full time, and sleeping or spending time with my family at weekends. My job became all-consuming, and resulted in me developing stress and anxiety, and almost having a nervous breakdown. But I’m not talking about that today.
I am feeling increasingly agitated about the work ethic in our country. And I am only just beginning to realise the level of inequality there is in our society. When I was younger, I was led to believe that we should allow the ‘men in suits’ to run our country and tell us what to do. We should never question the elite authority, because we knew nothing about what they did. Well, we still don’t know much about what they do, but now I realise that the collective ‘they’ should be held to account. Yes, David Cameron, I am talking about you and your cronies!
So, back to my issue. I am currently unable to earn a wage. I am attempting to work from home as a writer, but silly me, I chose a career that doesn’t pay, at least when you come from a working class background and have no connection to London. I chose to give up full time office work, and I took on a part-time retail job in order to spend some time developing my career as a freelance writer. I have plenty of experience. Now, I cannot find a job that will actually pay. You know, like real money? That stuff that apparently makes the world go round? Yes, that.
You see, I also made the mistake of falling in love and getting married. And that resulted in my getting pregnant and having two children. Yes, I know, silly me. How could I possibly think procreating was a good idea? Anyway, it happened, and we decided that my husband should be the breadwinner because he works in a highly skilled sector (environmental waste management), and he can earn a decent wage to support the family. If I were to apply for a job elsewhere, my options are limited to low level office work or shop floor retail. Minimum wage.
But my problem is further exacerbated by several factors. First of all, I am actually reasonably well educated. I graduated with a 2.1 BA Hons Degree. I am a competent, literate, intelligent writer. But the jobs are not forthcoming. At least not those that I could physically attend. My husband and I could not afford to put our children into full-time childcare so that I can go out to work. We do not have any spare cash. And we could also not afford a second car, which would be another requirement based on our home town and its lack of available jobs within easy reach.
But there is one more factor. I actually do not want to put my children into full-time day care. I want to spend time with them. Why can we not set up our working lives to incorporate families with young children? Surely, in the 21st century, we can be more flexible? I mean, we do have this fantastic thing called the internet, don’t we? Come on, politicians, get with the program. Let us set up the UK to be a global business player, using the best of modern technology and allowing our hidden talent to shine through. We are waiting. Will you answer the call?
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*Signpost image courtesy of Working Mums; Working mother and daughter image via The Big Give
I’m sorry, too, Catherine, that society now clearly puts over the message that it does not value mothers who choose to stay at home with their children. I didn’t go back to work until my children were age two, and three, respectively. Many mothers put their babies into nurseries when they’re only a few months old, and return to their full-time jobs; and although I respect that many mothers do like to carry on working, I still think that is sad. I remember the first day I put my two year old daughter into nursery, and went off to a temporary full-time job. It was very emotional and I was sick on the way to picking her up. Child benefit and child tax credit do help, but not enough. I do hope that you get through this period of struggle; your relationships with your children will be your reward in the future, and may you start to see an income from your writing before too long.
Thank you, Sheila. Yes, I truly appreciate that my husband can still afford to keep me at home with the children, even though it is a struggle. I am very privileged, and I do not wish to jeopardize that by blindly seeking paid work just so that I can subsidize the tax system and afford a few extra luxuries. It will all fall into place when the time is right.
Hi Catherine, I’m in my 37th year of writing and I’ve never made any serious money. I’ve won prizes and written for posh mags. I’ve had “best sellers” and recently have been number one with some children’s books ….blah blah blah. In order to make a wage I’ve expanded into audio book production and third party publishing and I still don’t make serious money. I work at it at least 12 hours a day with my partner helping and covering the chores. My gut feeling is that I’m never gonna make any money. I’ve turned down publishing deals because they still expect the writer to do all the promo while they take all the money.
What saved me was not university or other qualifications. I went and got bus and truck driving licenses. School bus driving is relatively well paid and fits in with kids. You get to hear the way kids are talking and also what they enjoy. Bus driving fitted in with my own kids and put food on the table. It probably made me a better writer by keeping my “voice” authentic and modern.
I’ve read your stuff and you have a great sense of a story. My advice is to keep writing but only because you love it – if you make money so well and good. If you don’t – well those books will be there and you’ve written them. These days I sometimes hang about with posh folk in the UK. If I had a champagne cocktail for everyone who lah di dahed the fact they they are gonna write a book I’d be a complete soak. They don’t write books. People like you and me write books and no one can ever take that away. We are writers and that is what we are. It’s a bit like being a vampire I guess.
Thank you, Emma, for your honesty and support. I will never give up writing. It is a part of me. I am determined to find a way to earn a living wage that will fit my lifestyle, and not interfere with my children in detrimental ways. I don’t know how long it will take to find this balance that I seek, but the point is, we make things happen when we put our mind to it. Like you, with all of your projects and subsequent life experience. And yes, it will all go into my future stories and books…