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children

Separated Reflections

Posted on 29th October 2016 in children/ custody/ debt/ debts/ depression/ divorce/ ex-husband/ family/ money/ only dads/ onlydads

OnlyDadsI’ve been asked to reflect upon the experience of separation, how I handled it and if – upon reflection – I would have done things differently. The whole concept here is along a theme of ‘putting the children first’.

The questions are:

1. What did you do well?

2. What didn’t you do quite so well?

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be?

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today?

I’ve pondered this for a while. It isn’t an easy thing to look back on, and I wanted to be sure that my answers were honest and that I would only go ahead with the post if I felt it could be useful to someone else.

Here’s the thing, when I found myself in this position (out of the blue), I would have been desperate to read this kind of thing, there was literally nothing around at that point to tell me what to do, how to feel, what to think. And although, obviously no one can do any of those things for you, sometimes when you can feel the floor falling away from under you, you just need something, some shred of evidence that someone else has been through this and that they got through it ok.

So, my answers are:

1. What did you do well? Not much I don’t think. I wasn’t in control of my thoughts and so I floundered for a long while, taking advice from people who were ill-equipped to help. I did my level best to put the children first, in terms of caring for them, loving them, trying to retain some normality (some context: the house was being repossessed, my partner of 10 years had run off with someone he’d known for 2 weeks, I uncovered huge amounts of debt, my parter decided he needed to put his new relationship first, i.e. before the children). So retaining normality was hard, I was an emotional wreck with very little (almost zero) support but I tried to keep up with bedtime stories, walks, collecting leaves, play dates (while I sobbed in a supportive friend’s kitchen), and, I tried to facilitate my ex seeing the children. He would make plans, then cancel at the last minute, but I would still allow for new plans the following week and explain to my confused babies as best I could.

Actually, a better answer to question 1 would be:

It isn’t about you. It isn’t about your bruised emotions, your confusion, your pride or your finances, it is about the children. The innocents who need to be protected from as much of the impact as possible.

2. What didn’t you do quite so well? This little question is deceptively hard. I think I’ve touched upon a few things above so I am going to say that I should have sought better legal advice. I had a trainee solicitor who essentially told me I was screwed. She was no help to me emotionally or practically and as such I lost my home, my children lost their home and many possessions and I ended up responsible for a huge amount of debt. I don’t think I’ve heard of many other people who were dealt such a poor hand in this situation.

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be? Time is a healer. Have faith that your personal wounds will heal and that the best thing you can do is invest time (not money/gifts etc) but time with your children. Make them feel loved and secured. If your ex is willing to have regular contact with the children, let them! Do not get caught up with petty arguments, point scoring and playing the blame game, let them feel loved by the two people who should love them.

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today? I have a great life now but that is no reflection upon things at that time. If I go back say 6 months after he left, it is a very different picture. Then I was homeless, in debt, with very little support, even from the ‘system’. I was offered a, frankly, terrifying B&B (one room for all 3 of us, sharing a bathroom with strangers, you cannot be in the B&B during the day), which was in a completely different town to our old home, the children’s school and friends. At this point I literally couldn’t afford tea bags and toilet roll.

Now, the children don’t hear from him, he hasn’t seen them for at least 6 years (and the last time was for an hour even though he was meant to have been having them overnight). I still find that I beat myself up about the fact they don’t have a relationship with him – which is the main reason it has taken me so long to respond to the request to answer these darn questions!). I have to remind myself that it isn’t my fault he doesn’t see them, I have to remind myself that no matter how reasonably one person acts, no matter how easy they make it for another person to do the right thing, it doesn’t mean that they will. I am not responsible for his lack of responsibility.

One final piece of advice. When I was going through a particularly testing time, I decided that I needed some independent advice. Initially I went online thinking I was looking for a mums support group, or Homestart or Gingerbread, but I soon came to the conclusion that I needed to hear from a MAN. Someone who would be guaranteed not to be biased to my viewpoint, and that (along with being the reason why I am answering these questions) is how I ended up contacting OnlyDads and subsequently received some reasoned, grounded and sensible support from a man called Bob.

 

Child Maintenance Service – not impressed!

Posted on 5th April 2016 in break up/ bullying/ children/ CSA/ debt/ family

money in a binHaving suffered at the hands of the CSA I was actually quite pleased to hear that a new child maintenance service was being set up. Not so naiive as to believe that they’d be able to retrieve any payments from my ex-husband, obviously, but I did feel a glimmer of hope that they might have a more professional approach and greater powers available to them.

I was wrong.

It took an inordinate length of time for me to be able to transfer to the new service. This isn’t optional by the way, they just close your existing CSA case on an arbitrary date and unless you set up a new account with the CMS then that is the end of that and your ex gets away Scott free.

So, I jumped through the various hurdles to set up the new account and was advised during these conversations (it doesn’t take just one phone call, obviously) that they would take over and start afresh. As such I was asked if I wanted the arrears to be carried over or wiped off? Seriously, does anyone elect to wipe them off?!

Anyway, back to now, finally, finally, in March I received notification that they had decided what payments should be made and that I would receive the first payment on April 1 (I know, I know). Needless to say no payment has arrived. So I’ve phoned them today (twice, as the first time I failed their security questions…) and discovered that they felt I should have provided my ex-husband with my bank account details.

I should have given the man who has committed fraudulent acts, left me homeless and in debt, stolen from me and my children and my family, been abusive and has no regard or respect for me or my property – I should have given that man my bank account details?

Besides the fact that they had never asked me to do this and had, in fact, in January advised me that they would not expect me to do this given our history. Which the guy I spoke to today agreed was in the case notes, but said it was wrong and that I should never had been told it.

Their suggestion now is that I open a new bank account purely for receiving CMS payments. I asked if they’d actually had any contact with my ex and had any agreement that he would make payments? No, they said, but we have to give him the chance to.

Because 12 years of dodging payments isn’t enough of chance is it; let’s give the fella one more go huh.

Free Money? Yes, really…

Posted on 26th June 2015 in children/ debt/ family/ money

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 18.41.14Free money! Yes, literally and yes, really… I have been using KidStart when I buy things on the internet – M&S, Amazon, Sainsburys, Expedia, Mothercare, Boden, Disney, Boots, Wickes, Debenhams, for tickets, furniture, clothes, hotels, trips, gifts, shopping, clothing, comparision sites etc etc etc. So long as I click through to the site via KidStart then they pay me a percentage straight into a bank account for one of the boys.

It is literally that simple, you just need to remember to go via the KidStart website first. At Christmas and holiday times you can receive quite a lot of FREE money – it makes it kinda rude not to :)

Take a look for yourself

Do YOU have to reapply to the CSA?

Posted on 20th March 2015 in child/ children/ CSA/ money

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 19.16.04From June 2014 all new applications for child maintenance are processed via the Child Maintenance Service.

However, a representative of the CSA has confirmed to me today that ALL existing CSA cases are going to be closed.

ALL CASES.

She advised me that this process has commenced and that within the next six months to two years ALL cases with the CSA will be closed and anyone wishing to use the service will have to reapply to the CMS (Child Maintenance Service), for which there will be fees.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 18.55.34

It has rules, like Fight Club, the first rule of the Child Maintenance Service is that you must talk to the Child Maintenance Service before you can talk to the Child Maintenance Service…

Fees

There will be a £20 fee to apply to the CMS and then there will be a deduction of 4% from the maintenance paid to the person receiving the payment and there will be a 20% fee charged to the person making the payment.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 18.55.45

So a little example for you – if the person making the payment has 2 children and therefore pays 20% of their salary, they will then pay and extra 20% of that amount in fees to the CMS. If that person is already in arrears, the CMS will endeavour to capture those arrears as quickly as possible, often increase the amount taken by a further 20% – leaving the person making the payment with virtually none of their salary!

I queried this with her and she said it is meant to encourage people to make family arrangements rather than use the service. That’s fine, except that most people using the service do so because the absent parent refuses to pay and is often out of contact entirely. So this system will penalise those who actually need it most.

This is utter madness.

Below is a list of what this new service will do for its money. Yes, it is exactly what the CSA does now.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 18.55.57

 

For further information please see this article by Gingerbread.

Or visit the Government information page here.

Made With Love

Posted on 5th July 2012 in boys/ children/ origami

I’m so touched, my lovely boys have just presented me with these ‘for all the lovely things you’ve done for us’ – how sweet is that!

From my dyslexic 10 year old, who has painstakingly followed all the instructions, a paper swan:

 

And from my 12 year old, who knows I love cats, a cat in a box!

Does YOUR child use the school toilets?

Posted on 11th June 2012 in bullying/ children/ school

I’ve noticed that when I pick my boys up from school they are always busting to use the toilet.

I hadn’t really thought anything of it until I jokingly said to my oldest “What’s wrong the the loos at school?”

and he replied “I never use them.”

NEVER?

When questioned further he had several reasons for not using them:

– fear of ‘getting pranked’

– lack of privacy as the cubicles are open top and bottom

– embarrassment

– cleanliness

The end result being that he goes from 8.15 am to 3.30 pm without going to the toilet which simply can not be good for him!

I’m horrified that he is doing this and also quite sad that he doesn’t feel that he can safely use the school facilities. He tells me that hardly anyone uses them for the same reasons.

It’s a couple of years old, but this BBC story seems to echo what he has said: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11539933 – actually the fact that it’s a couple of years old really suggests how deep seated (no pun intended) this problem is.

When your children come home from school – please ask them for me if they use the school toilets?

Mother’s Day Meme

Posted on 21st March 2012 in children/ love/ meme/ Mother/ mother's day

This meme was created by over at More Than A Mum as a way of celebrating motherhood in the run up to Mother’s Day.

I have been tagged for this meme by the lovely Kate from Makeshift Mummy. The only person in the world I’ve ever had to tell that I don’t own a horse. Bless her :o)

Q1. Describe Motherhood in three words.

So. Much. Love.

Q2. Does your experience differ from your Mother’s – how?

I think this is the hardest question of them all for me to answer. In some ways I guess they’ve been similar as we’ve both been single mother’s. But we’ve both dealt with it very differently and I think we all try to learn from what we perceive to be our parents mistakes.

Q3. What’s the hardest thing about being a mum? 

The fear.

The fear you feel when they are ill, or when you momentarily lose sight of them, is heart stopping.

There is also a constant battle between wanting to shower them with everything they ask for and knowing that you will teach them more about life and the differences between want and need by sometimes saying no.

Q4. What’s the best thing?

Kate’s answer “All of it” was so spot on. Sounds twee but every experience is amazing in it’s own way, even the bad times!

The pride you feel when your child does something of their own volition. When they suddenly smile at you. When they share without being asked. When they tell you they love you without any prompting. When they confide in you. When you share a moment because you both ‘get’ something and you realise how much you genuinely have in common.  When they reach out to you for a cuddle or to hold your hand; just because they want to.

Q5. How has it changed you?

It made me find a selflessness that I didn’t know I had. I would do anything for my children. I would lay down my life in a moment to save either of them.

Q6. What do you hope for your children?

I hope they learn to be happy with themselves and not require external validation. I summed this up in one of my favourite ever posts, called My Legacy.

Q7. What do you fear for them?

Oh god, everything! I want to be able to protect them from every mistake I ever made even though I know it’s not possible.

Q8. What makes it all worthwhile?

They do. Seeing them smile. Seeing them be friends with each other. Watching them grow into their own personalities and make their own footprints on the world.

 

I won’t tag anyone else as Mother’s Day has passed – but it’s a nice meme to do so I would invite anyone who wants to do it to consider themselves tagged by me and to go for it!

The School Appeal – aka catch 22

Posted on 7th November 2011 in appeal/ applying for a school place/ catch 22

So we now have a date for our school appeal, gulp.

This should in theory make me feel better but it doesn’t. It gives a single date in time where my childrens’ future is to be decided by strangers. It gives a date after which I have to abide by the decision of these strangers whether I agree with it or not.

If you’ve read The Great School Place Debacle then you’ll recall that my situation is a little complicated. However it turns out that there is absolutely no flexibility in the appeals procedure for our circumstances. You could almost believe that we were the first people ever to have done this – but of course we aren’t.

The school they have offered is just over 10 miles away from the house we are buying.

There is a school bus, but the nearest stop is 5 miles from the house we are buying.

The school we want is 0.4 of a mile away from the house.

In a nutshell:

– for the appeal, they will use maps showing that we live nearly 60 miles away (ie from my current address in another County) from both schools.

– in order for the address that we are moving to to be used in all their distance calcuations, we have to have exchanged contracts.

– we do not want to exchange contracts (and therefore be commited to buy) as if we lose the appeal then there is no point in us moving to that town.

That’s right – if we lose the appeal then we can’t even live in the TOWN that we want to live in because there are so few schools there. The only other school is just dragging itself out of special measures.

How Do YOU Choose A School?

Posted on 20th September 2011 in department for education/ ofsted/ secondary school

With the 31st October deadline for secondary school applications looming, and several recent conversations I have had with people who are moving house NOW in order to be in their desired catchment, I am wondering how people choose their school places.

• Do you just opt for the nearest school?

• Do you go by the Department for Education’s guide which shows the % of pupils at the end of KS4 achieving Level 2 including English and Maths? If so, what percentage do you consider acceptable or unacceptable?

• Do you let your child choose?

• Would you (or have you) move house to get into catchment?

• Do you go by the ofsted report – if so what makes a difference to you?

• If the school you had choosen had just announced that it was now an Academy would that affect your decision?

If you aren’t sure which catchment area you fall in, or your likelihood of being accepted, have you tried the Good Schools Guide interactive catchment finder? Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to find it. 

I would love to hear how and why you have chosen your secondary schools – maybe you had a reason for choosing which I’ve not even thought of!

And 20 fags for me dad please

Posted on 4th July 2011 in children/ cigarettes

Have just sent my 11 year old son to the shop (which is about 200 yards away….) to get a packet of rolls for packed lunch tomorrow and some baked beans to go with 9 year old’s dinner.

I know it’s an important part of his development that I allow him to do this but I fret the whole time he is gone. Will he drop the money and run into the road to get it? Will he be mugged? Will he drop something in the shop and panic? Will he get run over crossing the road? Will a peodophile target him?

As ever, he is a sensible boy, we live in a nice neighbourhood and he comes home safely with all goods in a bag and all change accounted for.

Made me think of when I was sent to the shop as a child…… most days I would be sent to get a copy of the Sun, a bar of fruit & nut and 20 fags for my dad!

The shopkeeper would always sell me the cigarettes as he knew they were for my dad. When the regulations changed, I used to have to take a note from my dad asking for them!

How times have changed huh!

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