Sometimes I wonder what our life would be like now if I had decided to have a career instead of becoming a stay at home Mum? I believe everyone has the right to choose and both paths have their pros and cons. I thought I was doing the best for my child when I made the decision to stay at home and look after him. I couldn’t bear to be apart from him all day. I wasn’t expecting this decision to be a large factor in us being made homeless.
Nineteen years ago, I was two years into a four year degree course at Oxford Brookes University. I studied Hotel and Catering Management and day dreamed of becoming the next Conrad Hilton or at least whoever it was who invented the Travelodge! Then I found out that I was pregnant and suddenly my dreams changed dramatically.
I was twenty one and wanted nothing more than to stay at home with my unborn child, this was only strengthened when J was born in June 1995. My husband P agreed, we had only been together a matter of weeks before I fell pregnant, so I was pleased we had the same views on how to raise our child. That said I didn’t make the decision lightly and it hasn’t been easy.
At twenty one I’m not sure I realised just how difficult life as a stay at home Mum would turn out to be. Money was perhaps (and still is) our greatest issue, P had just graduated with a building studies degree. Sadly in 1994 building jobs were scarce and no one wanted to employ him without experience, so he struggled to find a decent job. During my pregnancy, he would sometimes work for weeks on end without taking a day off, just to keep the money coming in. So I worked as a Christmas temp at Debenhams in Cardiff during the first trimester of my pregnancy but no full time position was offered. As my bump became obvious no one wanted to employ a visibly pregnant girl and immediately sign up to pay her maternity leave.
At seven months pregnant we moved from our damp house in Newport, which came complete with free mushrooms growing on the kitchen walls (!) to North Wales. At first all was idyllic we lived near the coast and there were no more mushrooms hoorah. However, we had moved in with a friend from University and as nice as she was it was tough not having our privacy. This only worsened when J was born and soon hormones and baby blues left me feeling so down we decided to move to Durham. This time we shared a house with my best friend and hoped things would be easier. J was two months and already on his second home. In hindsight we had jumped from the frying pan into the fire. We are still best friends today, but at that time in our lives a party girl and a new family did not make great housemates. P had also only been able to find part time work. So before our friendship became irreparable and with the hope of a full time position for P we moved again …..
J was by now approaching six months and our only option was to move in with my parents and two of my sisters in Oxfordshire. I knew this probably doesn’t sound a smart move and you would be right. My relationship with my Mother had never been brilliant but it was a kind offer and as we had no savings, we couldn’t afford to rent privately.
Six months later my Father had a new job in Canterbury and my parents moved out. We stayed at their old house, but as soon as it was sold we were unfortunately homeless. Throwing ourselves on the mercy of South Oxfordshire council we were given temporary accommodation in a council run Bed and Breakfast.
Perhaps understandably this was my least favourite house, we shared a three bedroom terraced house with two other families. Privacy went out of the window and there were often long queues for the only bathroom. On the plus side there was usually someone around to talk too and as part of the Bed and Breakfast deal the landlord would pop round occasionally with a free box of cornflakes. I’m digging deep for the benefits here!
Six months later when J was 18 months old we were finally in our very own home. We had a two bedroom housing association flat and at long last it was all ours. We still struggle financially today, J is now 18, but I don’t regret my decision to become a stay at home Mum. I did what I thought was best for my child and I stand by that. Although sometimes there may be the teensiest falter in my resolve when our credit card bill arrives!