Tough times

I have been sitting on this particular blog for over two weeks now. I haven’t written it yet because it brings up feelings and memories that I wish to forget. It is the hardest time I have had as a solo parent. It is in the same time period as the hospital trip I described in my opening blog.

When I had one baby by myself – that was hard. When I had two – it was extremely hard. Like I said before, I felt extremely lonely, my support system was broken, and my future consisted of getting through the day in front of me.

Welfare.

When I was pregnant with my second baby, I moved into government housing. I was on welfare, and I received $360 a week for my son and I. My rent was low at $89. The only way to get power at my house was through a pre-paid card that I had to go and load weekly. It was a 15 minute drive away. I was lucky that I had a car that I had paid off before I had my son. I spent around $100 a week on groceries. This included nappies, formula, baby wipes, and food for myself. I could not breast-feed as I had developed mastitis. While I tried anyway, it resulted in my son going hungry. Formula was expensive, but it was the way to feed my son adequately.

I also had a $30 gym membership I was still paying off,  with one year left on it. I put $40 petrol into my car a week, which resulted in very few car trips as petrol was over two dollars a litre. And lastly, I had got a small loan of two thousand dollars from the bank to buy the things I needed for the house. It didn’t cover everything – not even close.

This left me with $30 a week.

$30 to cover all the new baby’s things, clothes for me and my son, car registration, car break-downs, furniture, birthdays and everything else.

I was broke.

To say the least, I was broke. And in reality, I didn’t have enough to live on. Every week my power would get down to the last couple of dollars before I got paid. I would check it several times a day, freaking out that it would turn off. There were several times when it did, and I would have no power. This is a hard thing to accept and remember that I went through.

Sometimes my food budget didn’t stretch as far as it needed to, and I went without so that my son didn’t have to. And sometimes, I had to borrow money off the welfare system to pay for a car break down, or another big cost that I could not afford. Then I would have to pay that back at ten dollars a week – which would mean less money again. Options were very limited.

An extra $30.

After the arrival of my second son, I received a letter stating that I would now get $390 a week in welfare. $30 more for a second child. I still hadn’t found the money to buy a couch for my lounge yet. Six months on, and we still had a mattress on the floor. Lucky for me, my mum helped out. She was also a solo parent with two kids still at home. She managed to get me a couch for $10. I was happy with anything. She also got my fridge for $20, and my washing machine for $20. They were old – but they served the purpose needed, and I couldn’t afford anything else.

The feelings of inadequacy, failure, loneliness, doubled with the fact I was constantly stressing out about my situation, resulted in me being overwhelmed – all the time. I resented the situation I was in, but I knew there must be a way out.

Finding a job.

So I decided that I was going to get a job. Even though I had no support, no adequate child care – apart from the 9 free hours the kids got a week – and no real plan, I began applying for jobs. I got a call from a fast-food chain who asked me to come in for a three-hour trial. I got excited, until they asked me to go in for a dinner rush from 5-8pm. I explained that I would no have any child-care available for that time. When asked when I could come in, those times didn’t match their needs. I was told that they needed people who would be available at all times, including the week-ends.

I thought if I couldn’t get hired there, for even one shift a week, then who else would hire me? I found myself in an impossible situation. I wanted to work, but I couldn’t make the trial times I was being asked to attend. The kindy had a six month waiting period for any additional hours or days. I didn’t have the petrol to run around everywhere. I couldn’t buy new clothes to look good for the interview, and I couldn’t promise a prospective employer that I would be available for the hours they were asking me to work. The feelings of failure rained down hard at this time.

Unhappiness.

I was becoming extremely unhappy. I didn’t want this anymore. It was hard, I was sad, and to top it off, now that my youngest son was one – the food just wasn’t stretching far enough. My social worker said she could drop off a food parcel that week. I said yes please, and she turned up with two boxes the next day. This helped so much. The next week she asked again, and the week after that. She must have got the point, because she began turning up with them every week from then on. But, that was my reality. I needed food parcels every week to get through to the next week.

When I think about those two years now, I wish I could have done better, been better, not been in that situation, felt better – the list goes on. When I was there, in that time, it felt like there was no way out from what I was doing. It felt truly impossible.

Moving on.

My dad lived very far away from me. I was in Christchurch, he was in Tauranga (957 kilometres away). I told him how unhappy I was, and he told me to move up there, so that he could help me. So I did. I sold all of my belongings for the move. When I moved there, I told him that I wanted to get a job and my own house. A private rental, not government housing. With his support, I began applying for jobs – and the same fast-food company rang me again. I went to the interview determined to succeed. And succeed I did. I got a permanent job in the cafe, with hours to suit my children. I got the kids into home childcare, and started my job. Not long after, I got a small two-bedroom flat privately and moved in. Within three months, I was working full-time, and had been picked to manage the cafe. I have never looked back since.

Okay, so I do look back. I look back to remind myself how far I have come. To remind myself not to judge others, and to stay humble with what I have today. I still look back, and the same feelings of failure and inadequacy are linked to those memories – but they are there to remind me to push forward, and to keep momentum. We all overcome struggles and tough times in life. And it’s also why I do this blog, even if it makes a difference to just one person – that’s enough for me.

Jaimi

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