I always said when I started my blog I would blog not only about the good times but the bad times too, so I thought that instead of painting the picture perfect idea of how our family are doing that I would be realistic. So I wanted to talk to you about the other side of being on benefits, the one nobody talks about or shows.
We are through no fault of our own currently a benefit family. I cannot put into words how much I hate it too. The main reason I hate it is because of the stigma that comes with it. I mean lets face it, who wants to be a mother of 5 children on benefits. Automatically people think of a family like those on the TV show benefits street, or something from the show shameless. However not all families are like that.
This wasn’t how I had my life planned
Not once when I was growing up did I sit and think, I know I will live on benefits it’s easier. Instead I sat and dreamt of a career, a happy family. Holidays, day trips. A beautiful house. I always wanted to own my own home and have it furnished beautifully because I grew up in exactly that. My parents worked their arses off. We lived in a bought house which was always beautifully decorated and had so many holidays it was unbelievable.
They worked hard so that we could play hard and mum often worked 12 hour night shifts so that this could happen. I wanted the same things but sometimes life has other ideas.
From the age of 14 I worked. My first job was at a restaurant in the beautiful Ironbridge. It was in a restaurant called the coracle. I kept this job whilst I was at school and then when I had finished all of my exams I started working full time.
My first full time job was in a factory making mobile phones. It wasn’t my ideal choice of jobs but I really didn’t want to ever set foot in a jobcentre if I could help it. After working at the factory I worked with a touring theatre. We were touring the UK with a show called pound puppies and the secret treasure map.
Then I found a job working in a taxi office, this was a job that I actually really enjoyed. A far cry from all of the taxi offices you find on the tv this was a real office with a computer system and several people all answering their phones through headsets.
I even had 3 jobs at once!
Whilst working their I also found not 1 but 2 jobs to work alongside it. So I would work as a security guard in the local town centre during the day, I would finish there and go and work behind the bar of a local pub and then on a weekend I would work in the taxi office.
This continued for quite a while until I started working in holiday parks. My first job was as an entertainer where I quickly worked my way up to an assistant manager. Every summer I would work in the holiday parks and every winter I would come home and work in the taxi office. Not once claiming a single benefit.
I then had my first 2 children, even that didn’t stop me with me returning back to full time work when Harry was very young only to discover that I was pregnant with Ellie. I completed the season as Restaurant supervisor before taking the winter off looking after my baby and heavily pregnant. Even then I didn’t claim a thing as my then husband worked full time so we lived off his earning. We weren’t rich by any means but we had enough to get by.
Then Ellie was born and when she was just 5 weeks old I returned to work again, It was far too soon so I gave it in for a few months before returning to work. Making the agonising decision to place my children in childcare so that both me and my then husband could work. On the times where childcare was an issue I would work days and he would work nights so that we didn’t have to rely on any other forms of childcare. Then I suffered a miscarriage, despite the heartache and the pain I still returned to work 2 weeks later and carried on in my role as a restaurant supervisor. During all of this time I was also suffering with a medical condition called benign intracranial hypertension and having to have regular lumbar punctures.
This was at the point that I had to admit defeat and stop working for a while. I settled into being a stay at home mum. Again I didn’t claim anything due to my ex-husband working full time. Then my ex-husband and I split and I was alone with 3 children so had no choice but to claim something. I then met Gareth who worked full time and as soon as he moved in I came straight off benefits. I then started working again myself back in the taxi office I had worked in when I was just 16 and on and off during the winters in between my holiday park jobs.
We were comfortable and happy then suddenly things changed. Gareth got very sick with his mental health meaning that he had to leave work. The strain of trying to work myself as well as take care of the children and Gareth became too much and I also had to leave work to care for Gareth and the children and that is when we became a ‘benefit family’
people say it’s easy being on benefits
Despite that fact people seemed to say people on benefits had it easy I have struggled with the fact I don’t work. I have dreams and ambitions. I still want to make something of myself and still want to own my own home but I’m not getting any younger.
When Gareth and I split I found myself having to go to the jobcentre and claim single parent benefits , it was heartbreaking so I fired out CV after CV and even wrote a blog post begging someone to give me a chance and work.
As time passed by Gareth and I realised that we just couldn’t live without each other and we wanted our family back so Gareth moved back in and we had to then stop the single claim to return to a joint claim and that is where we are now.
the side people don’t see who haven’t been on benefits
Is that right now whilst we are waiting for those claims to come through we have absolutely no income at all. All money has been stopped, EVERYTHING. And for 2 weeks we have literally been surviving by selling our things. Our bills are becoming behind and we are starting to struggle. We have no idea when it is going to be sorted which means we can’t even give people a rough idea of when we can pay them.
In order for our children to have a day out we have had to choose things that are completely free and scrape together as much money as we can and things from the kitchen to even provide them with a small picnic.
The moral of the story
So the moral of the story and reason for this post is to tell you. Just because you see a family like ours struggling on benefits don’t just assume we are on them because we want to be and that our children will be rogues. Every single one of my children has manners and is well behaved ( well apart from Freddie and Bethie but they are toddlers who are finding their feet so certainly aren’t causing problems on the streets)
Right now we are both still trying to work. Gareth has been told by his doctor that he will try to stand in his way if he even tries.
I have worked almost all my life until recently then the times I did have to stop working was due to a serious health condition that I had then one that Gareth has. We don’t have the nicest things in the world and we certainly struggle to afford holidays which is why we only go once every few years. Don’t tarnish every person on benefits with the same brush.
Some of us are really struggling and have no choice!