We are permanently pennyless. We manage to do a lot with what we have, and we try to give our children happy times and we keep quite a few pets, who are all (with the exception of Sooty the cat who leaves home and only returns to vomit copiously in awkward places) very therapeutic and calming, in a household that needs all the calming it can get!
My budgeting skills are on a par with my ballet skills (non-existent), so there is often a frought period throughout each month when I have inevitably cocked up and not recorded how much I've spent on food; pig, human or otherwise, thus buggering up my husband's careful notes on how much we (and by we I mean I) have spent each month.
Holidays are rare, nights out never happen, the amount of planning and forethought necessary for anything outside of normal day to day living mean that it's easier to stay at home. It's also cheaper.
There are many times that I wish we had more money. Could afford a bigger house.
Since PDA boy was born, over eleven years ago, I have been at home. Having a third child was the tipping point where money I earned < cost of childcare
The obvious solution was for me to stop work and take care of the children. I managed to make a little money once PDA boy started going to a local playgroup, but nothing full time.
The plan was that when all the children were at school, I would would find a term-time job.
This never materialised.
We had the problem of school refusal from our oldest, bullying which necessitated meetings in school hours, six weeks of him being at home to recover and start at a different school, bus refusal (more school drop offs and pick ups), more school refusal and after five years of exhausting battles, home education.
Also during this time there were difficult times with PDA boy, lots of meetings (school hours again), assessments (school hours), involvement with support workers (yep, you guessed it, school hours!), referrals to CAMHS (school hours), school meetings arranged to work around everyone's schedule but mine, because as parent and carer of the boy, my presence at these occasions was unnecessary.
During the last year or so we also add the youngest child's difficulties in school, the crippling anxiety, the lack of care from those in denial about how awful he felt, the worry as he stopped eating and made himself ill, the worry as he repeated the same phrase to us over and over from 3.15pm to past 10pm every single night for over a month.
Add into that a daughter discovering the joys of being a teenager, whilst this has never been a problem as such, added to the fiery mêlée meant less time to deal with this and understandably more resentment all round.
My prospect of earning any money was constantly pushed down the list of priorities. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't disappointed by this. I think managing everything and working as well would probably have pushed me to total breakdown, as opposed to the steady decline in mental health, but generally managing to hold it together for the last few years.
To others though, outside this situation, "Go and get a job" seems like the easiest thing to do. No money? Get a job!
Where will I find a job that allows me time off for each and every appointment I need to attend? Appointments that go way beyond the occasional GP appointment and visits to the dentist twice a year.
Where will I find a job flexible enough for me to have the regular mornings sitting by the phone waiting for the GP to ring so I can update her that PDA boy has yet again been too anxious to go to school, keen for there to be a reliable record of his anxiety.
Where will I find a job that will allow me two and a half weeks off before Christmas because PDA boy is school refusing and is in such a state he has to be supervised constantly and cannot be left alone.
I admit there are times when I look at my life and see that to others (not all others, but some definitely) I will be considered a scrounger, living off her husband's lower than average wage. Then reality hits, and I realise that, for now, there is no other way. We are lucky to be able to keep our pigs who bring us so much joy and give purpose to our days, probably more so to us than luxuries that other families enjoy, and on the whole we are very grateful for what we have.
I have plans which I hope will lead to flexible, self-employment, but until these plans can be fully carried out, no, I won't be going back to work, because this isn't an option that will work for me or my family.