Friday, July 20, 2007

"Single parents to be forced back to work"

There are some huge and silly assumptions in the title sentence, which I took from the thread about this news story on one of the HE lists. The news story concerns the green paper published by DWP this week: In work, better off: next steps to full employment, and accompanying public consultation (deadline: 31st October). I might respond to this consultation if I think my response might make a difference to anything, but I don't intend to get sidetracked from the one about home education (deadline: end of this month.)

The government has been trying very hard to 'change hearts and minds' on the single parent issue for a long time now, under the guise of 'eliminating child poverty', for interesting and complicated reasons, I think. The main reason being that Western economies depend on the majority of the population living in nuclear families and both adults being in full-time paid employment. A quick glance at the graph here shows how much this is changing though.

So I don't think this latest flurry is about winning votes, as much as being about maintaining the status quo, and ensuring that unhappy, overworked, stress-ridden housewives don't get the idea that the grass might be greener on the other side.

But I think about work and leisure in a slightly different way, though I see I haven't blogged sufficiently about this, and will remedy that soon. Suffice, in this post, to say that single parents do work, and that 'sitting around watching TV all day', as someone accused us all of doing on the list in question, is actually harder work, in my opinion, than working. I wouldn't dream of living that way: it would be boring, I'd probably become obese, my brain would atrophy and my children would suffer horribly.

No, as a home educating single mother of five, I'm on call 24/7, every day of the year. If I'm not washing, cleaning, tidying, fixing or making something then I'm reading a story, discussing a principle with someone, driving someone somewhere, doing the necessary paperwork which enables us to live, shopping for food, cooking or foraging. Often I'm doing several of the above at once. I work far harder than many people in their salaried employment, and for significantly longer hours. To replace me they'd have to pay someone about £30 per hour for 24 hours a day - several someones, actually, but we'll just count them as one for the purpose of this sum. Yes: it'd be about 20x the amount I'm currently costing the state.

So this is not about money, and it's not about work. It's about the idea that we're all dependent on employers or the government and we must toe the line and behave ourselves and be good little consumers, so that the money-go-round keeps turning, so the rich can get richer and the poor can get poorer.

The issue will come down to who is 'available for work' and who isn't. For what it's worth, I don't believe that any single parents will be 'forced back to work'.

More on this later, when I've finished with this. :-)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Dear Prudence....

Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day.
The sun is up, the sky is blue,
It's beautiful and so are you.
Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?

Dear Prudence, open up your eyes.
Dear Prudence, see the sunny skies.
The wind is low, the birds will sing,
That you are part of everything.
Dear Prudence, won't you open up your eyes?

Look around round
Look around round round
Look around

Dear Prudence, let me see your smile,
Dear Prudence, like a little child.
The clouds will be a daisy chain,
So let me see your smile again.
Dear Prudence, won't you let me see you smile?

Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day.
The sun is up, the sky is blue,
It's beautiful and so are you.
Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?

I do love prudence. I don't want to be rich. I don't want for anything - only to have enough and that's always achievable by being prudent.

prudent adj. 1 (of a person or conduct) careful to avoid undesired consequences; circumspect. 2 discreet. prudence n. prudently adv. [ME f. OF prudent or L prudens = providens PROVIDENT]

I don't wish to sound like our new prime minister (*shudder*) because my kind of prudence is much more cheerful than his, for all his newly-practiced smiles. That might be because I only have my family's economy to think about, and he has the whole country's - but those kind of thoughts are for another blog.

My kind of prudence is based on trusting that we'll always have enough, because I think money is a form of energy, which is therefore as affected by positive and negative thoughts as any other. I've written extensively on this in a post about the Cosmic Supply Company, so I won't say it all again here. But on a day-to-day basis, I do keep a firm handle on our financial situation and I teach the children to do the same.

It's important to be able to take a snapshot view of the overall financial situation at any given time, which means asking:
  • What's the balance, in cash and accounts?

  • What funds are due to come in and when?

  • What funds are due to be paid out and when?

  • What funds are therefore available for spending?
And, most importantly:
  • What do we want to spend them on?

The last question is where the fun comes in, because there's an element of choice and decision, which is empowering. Do we want to save up for our new wetroom? A holiday or long journey? New clothes? Art/craft stuff? Books? Or splurge it straight away on food? It's even fun to work out what kind of food we want to buy and eat. Sometimes all our spare cash goes on that, if we feel so inclined, and we eat quite expensively, by our standards. Other times we opt to spend money on something else and make food money stretch a long way. And we're very good at making food money stretch a long way, when we want to.

The thing is, it's much more enjoyable, in my view, to spend time relaxing as a family, idly discussing what we want to do with our spare cash, than it is drifting alone around the shops spending on impulse and credit, like a lot of people seem to do. We end up with things we really wanted and will make very good use of.

I know a lot of people don't enjoy having just enough, but I do. Maybe this is because I grew up in a family where there was slightly too much money (after my mother left my dad, who didn't really have sufficient). Stepdad was a chartered accountant, and piled up money in various accounts, bonds, shares and schemes, which he then lay awake most nights worrying about, like Smaug the dragon. I decided this wasn't for me. But Stepdad did teach me how to keep accounts, and the value of so doing.

A person who knows how much money they have available to spend and how they want to spend it is an economically healthy person, in a strong position of personal power. You can achieve this quite easily and quickly, no matter how dire your current situation and no matter how steep your debts. When you have achieved it, you're as well-off as anyone else, in my opinion, as long as you have some small amount to make a decision about, because it's the perception of choice that makes the difference - the amount to decide about is largely irrelevent.