Five months ago we had a home. Now we have a room.
Five months ago I had a paying business. Now I’ve been forced to go on income support.
Five months ago I had a routine to my day. Now my days last too long.
Five months ago I had a direction. Now all directions are the same dead ends.
Five months ago I had my struggles and challenges. Now I have bigger struggles and challenges.
Five months ago my faith was up and down. Now my faith is firmly up.
Five months ago I didn’t feel I fit in anywhere. Now I still feel the same.
Five months ago I was trying to do the right thing in all things. Now I don’t much care what's right so long as it gets results.
The only thing not sacrificed is my integrity. Something that has no price and is untouchable by anyone. Thankfully.
I am frequently told ‘at least you have a roof over your head’. I reply ‘absolutely’. In reality that ‘roof’ does nothing for standard or quality of life much less moral, self esteem and mental health of my kids or myself. That ‘roof’ comes with challenges that many people wont see in their lifetime.
Some nights I sit on the windowsill watching yet another police/ambulance speeding up the road, feeling grateful we have our health. I yawn and wish the sirens would become less so I could sleep long enough to benefit from it. I’m so tired these days.
I often hear ‘don’t worry, something will come along’ and I feel like saying ‘yeah, so will Christmas’. But I don’t, instead I say a prayer and ask for the strength to get through this next hour.
I walk out the room, across the 30’ landing to the stairs, quite steep and very narrow, sometimes the automatic lights come on so I can see where I’m going, sometimes they don’t. Once down there is a further 4 steps then a 14’ landing, through the door and across another 30’ landing to the second set of stairs. These ones aren’t so steep or dark. At the bottom, through the door you then walk the 20’ to the reception office then out the main door. Sounds easy eh? Well it is if you don’t have a recurring knee injury that needs an operation that you can’t have due to having no back up for the duration of your recovery. It took just 3 weeks for my knee injury to come back with a vengeance. Only this time the other knee is also playing up because it has to work overtime.
For the past week I have only gone downstairs when I have had no alternative, taking Charley to school and back again, though if I can stay out all day I will do. Stairs are a nightmare for me now.
Once in the room we sleep, eat, relax, read and everything else in one room. No privacy for Kirsten, Charley or myself. Cooking a meal is balancing on a work surface I’d made but without the right tools it wasn’t good enough and it fell down, almost smashing the microwave oven, slow cooker and sandwich maker. The fridge works when it wants to, we never know if we’re going to have frozen milk or unfrozen chicken when we open the door. It was supposed to be fixed/replaced two weeks ago. I’m still waiting. Charley, now 7 has no garden or outdoor area to play in, it’s not healthy for a boy to be indoors this much. There’s only so much time you can spend at a park to let him run around and get fresh air.
To have a bath means we head over to the room opposite. The bath is so badly scaled that the scale alone could be a great mould for another bath! Gathering up the relative toiletries, towels and anything else before you lock yourself in the room isn’t such a deal but if you happen to forget anything whilst you are in there you have to rely on the reception on your phone to text someone in your room, that's assuming that the teen is actually here. Sometimes she cant stand it so much she stays at her friends. I don’t blame her.
Washing up after a meal means broken crockery. That means replacements. That equals more spending. Four each of plates, cups, bowls and cutlery are provided in this room. So far I’ve replaced 2 cups and a bowl and ended up buying plastic stuff that wont break. Having to wash up in the sink is a bit of a challenge, it is a small hand basin! In the same room (adjoining the bedroom itself) is a shower cubicle. We can’t use it because it needs re-sealing. That should have been done a week ago but we are still waiting.
To get clean bedding you have to put the dirty stuff out by 9am on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday morning and a new set will be given to you by the end of the day. Often the maid leaves at 12 and forgets we have no fresh bedding. So more expense for me means I have to go buy 3 single bed sets to be sure I have control over our hygiene at night, I hate to think what’s been on these duvets, pillows and mattresses. Yet I cannot afford to replace them as yet.
My self employed status has been stripped from me since being in the B&B because I do not qualify for any further assistance. There is no help with deposit or rent if I do not claim income support. But why would I claim that if I am able and willing to work? No matter, that is the way it is. So I take a cut in my income yet again. I categorically confirm that to be homeless is more expensive than having a home. Now on income support I find that landlords will not take anyone on DSS because they can’t be trusted to not trash their houses. Oh shucks, maybe that means I’m a down and outer now?
My food needs to be purchased daily because of the lack of freezer and or fridge reliability or availability. Carrying bags upstairs is an added challenge so I do the shopping when the kids are with me. Often this means I have to wait till the end of school when it would have been quicker and easier if I were to do it whilst they were at school.
Eating dinner is balancing a plate on your lap whilst sat on the bed. To iron your clothes means you cover the chest of drawers with a towel and try not to do tramlines on your sons school trousers whilst trying to keep the towel in place.
Storage of any kind is a joke. No wait, that’s not true, I had to go buy some. Knew it was there somewhere. Just add it to the much less income.
Washing and drying is freely available. The washer is to die for and the dryer does a more than adequate job. That’s assuming you are fast enough to get one. If you need more than 40 minutes to dry something you then pay a further £2 for the extra time.
It’s not an option to lounge on the floor or walk without shoes/socks on, the carpet makes as much noise and the drunks outside.
However, it’s not all bad here.
We do get 7 nights a week of entertainment by way of sirens, drunkards, gobby people and regular traffic. Free.
We do see the odd floatie in the toilet. Free.
We frequently get a close up of a drunk mother with her 10 yr old daughter holding her up. Free.
We very often hear some member of staff speak to another ‘'resident’’ in a harsh, threatening way. Free.
So, why the heck am I unhappy?
Where is my gratitude?
What have I to complain about?
Heck, I don’t know. Wanna try swapping with me?
Perhaps the judgement will not be quite so pathetic then.
I am a strong minded person, I am pretty flexible in many situations. Many things have I experienced that has not broken me so I doubt this will. Having been abused, raped, beaten and other things I am still happy, positive, strong, eager and there for others. I do not ask ‘why me’ I find I simply say ‘Wow my Heavenly Father has really given me too much credit this time’!! I have compassion like you would not believe, I have a special blessing (Patriachal Blessing) that tells me that because of my trials in life I ‘now know the deeper meaning of the word love’. I never doubt that. I love unconditionally, and not often do I ask for anything in return unless I am genuinely struggling. Yet my biggest nemesis are the people who have never walked the path of single parents. I tell you, we do twice as much in our homes, we work twice as hard, we have no-one to fall on when we need assurance, we have no-one to give us a hug when we feel emotionally over loaded and we have no-one to step in and say ‘sit down love, I’ll do that’.
No, we have no choice but to juggle those many balls that we have no choice to juggle. The same balls that married people juggle. Our struggles are just a different flavour, variety, shape, size than theirs.
Not all single parents are so by choice. I wasn’t. My ex had an affair. He didn’t pay our mortgage for 14 months and he had full control of our accounts, and I trusted him. I was not afraid to rebuild my life though. I was not afraid to get up and try. To fail. To try again. And when I felt over loaded I thought I had people to turn to. Instead I got judgement.
Well, all I can say is God have mercy on you when you meet him.
I am raising two children alone. I’m grateful my older two are settled, doing well and happy. I just hope I can pull it off for these two now.
My friends are spread out through the uk (and the states) I wish I could see them a lot more often than I do. They keep me going, remind me who I am, of my worth, they help me find solutions, make me laugh, kick my butt and let me cry when I feel it. They never, ever judge me, bring me down or tell me where I got it wrong. They accept me, warts and all.
That is what Christ wanted in us all.