Scumbag Single Mother

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The inevitable battle with energy suppliers, often accompanied by non-justified debt collector letters, comes to many of us at some point in life. It appears that an apparently large percentage of staff at these companies have a faltered mindset: 1) that what a computer churns out is right and never needs to be questioned, and 2) that people who pay electricity bills are not actually people, they are a form of irritation there for the purpose of treating in a careless ‘poke-them-until-they-cry’ manner. They are the ego-ridden cats, we are the damsel mice.

I can imagine the job application form for these companies might start with something like: ‘bullied at school?  Now’s your chance to get your own back – and get paid for it!’ It’s the same mindset as cyber bullying – with no face-to-face contact, people are brave enough to be heartless to customers. It’s a sweeping statement, but backed by the fact that I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been in that position of banging their head against the wall in utter despair at the lack of evident incentive to help or listen.

I have become aware of a possible secret career opportunity to those who are particularly ruthless, perhaps to those who reach targets of reducing 1000 customers to tears and send 50 debt collector threats a month: these people are offered a job at HMRC’s Tax Credit office. I know, how can it be possible for enough material to be writing a fourth blog on the UK’s tax credit system? But this week they have surpassed themselves.

In order to secure your new position at HMRC, you must answer one golden question: ‘what does the term single mother mean?’ If you use any of the words listed below then you are welcomed into the magical circle:
Tramp
Scumbag
Thick as dog shite
A poor man’s Kerry Katona
Those deserving to be shot
Grey tracksuit wearing filth
A group of people who are there for us to piss on.

I’ve dealt with numpty energy service correspondence, it’s most frustrating, but this is something else. It’s disrespect at its finest.

To summarise my path of Tax Credit hell: I am dicked about for months, my MP helps to get my appeal won – an unnecessary appeal that was triggered by an unwillingness or inability to add up, on the part of HMRC. It was as if they didn’t accept my figures because they don’t believe single mothers can do sums (presumably because we clearly don’t know that sex – condom = baby). They then enter the wrong figures from the courts into my records – there goes complaint number two – thank you again MP for resolving. Now we have progress, an apology from an HMRC top dog, along with 70 quid compensation to cover the embarrassing number of recorded delivery packages I have sent, along with printing costs. This comes with a letter stating the correct figures and that I owe nothing. Surely this is now as finalised as Kris and Bruce Jenner’s marriage? No. The annual statement is released with a total misinterpretation of the figures. Back to the MP, three times, several calls to ground-level people who do indeed believe I am calling from a fully-funded rental property, whilst eating Monster Munch and smoking a fag, tracksuit-clad and slumped on my Bright House sofa. I couldn’t possibly be correct in pointing out that their figures have been copied incorrectly. I am a single mother scumbag, and no end of pleading, reasoning or tears will change that view point – we are single mothers because we are stupid, irresponsible and a toxic addition to society.

It’s easy to take the treatment personally, assuming it’s a result of my social status, but the truth is that I’ve never experienced attitude like it, and it is a service that exists for the majority of single parents. It’s unarguably presumptuous, judgemental, narrow-minded and prejudiced. I back this up with the knowledge of how mothers who became single mothers after their husbands died have been treated without the natural empathy you would show – the single mother label is there, the judgement is made – end of.

I’ve done well in recent years to stop taking things personally – I strive to live in a bubble of zen at all times, but this has burst my bubble. The pressure equates to having a vice on my head, whilst being sat on by a rhino and having a duvet pressed into my face. I thought panic attacks were dead and buried but reincarnation is knocking at the door.

This isn’t helped by deciding that this week it is safe to decorate: relocating all furniture and going at the ceilings with a roller, like an enthusiastic fluffer getting through a gang bang line-up. I’m up to my eyeballs in paint, dust sheets and shower caps; letters claiming I owe money that I don’t owe, and have proved time and time over,  are triggering the worst drowning feeling to date.

It’s none of my business what anyone thinks of me, but when it unfairly takes away our money, in my already tight position, then it’s not something I can easily let go over my head – despite trying to do so.

Attempting to see the positive in everything, I believe that life keeps testing you to see if you’ve learnt – like when it keeps putting rogue men in front of you to see if you bite. In my case, I think it’s testing a mind I boast will remain tranquil. And perhaps to see if I give up – the one thing that keeps popping into my head with regard to my book. I don’t know. But I intend to regain a tranquil mindset over this.  And I will not give up.

Right, time for another bag of Monster Munch and a can of Special Brew…

 

A Step(mum) too far

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It’s 10am and I’ve so far avoided pouring myself a pint of wine – I’m in a place today where I hope writing will keep me away from undoing three years of good work, in the field of tongue-biting.

Rage is knocking on the door; it wants me to clobber a certain bendy lady with her trampoline springs. It wants me to set fire to her trampoline collection and her leotards. I am battling with a force that is willing me to rip out her voice box and stamp on it – so that she can no longer say stupid things to my little boy.

I hate being angry – it interests me about as much as necrophilia. Given that you can’t reason with unreasonable people, the only feasible conflict resolution is with myself – I need to find a place where the wound remains closed, and isn’t reopened repeatedly by the twist of the knife in the hands of the flexible twenty-something that thinks that taking someone’s man also means that any children come too – in a ‘these are mine now, your work is done, kindly fuck off and leave me to my fairytale life’ kind of way. I’m guilty of letting her assumed ownership of my child upset me time and time over. And I’m guilty of sometimes letting it show at home, in my knee-jerk reaction to the ongoing bombshells that are dropped by my son.

I write to find a solution, to save me from carrying out every fantasy of retaliation, to try and view every hurdle with love, to remember what I have and to show anyone who stumbles across this in the same position as me that they are not alone in battling a natural fury.

I am woken up this morning by the little man attaching himself to me like a koala bear. It’s my favourite thing in the world (even more than eating a whole block of brie as if it was a slice of cake). Out of the blue, he informs me that the bendy lady is “part of our family – because she is my stepmother” – a term which has apparently come straight from the careless mouth of the woman in question. I’d rather he said ‘ball sack’, ‘piss flapping hell’ or ‘nob jockey’ to me. In fact I’d rather hear the sex session that featured in my last blog post – I’d rather hear it, see it and be forced to join in with a pig strapped to my back, than to be met with what I just heard.

It hurts. He’s five, and at times he’s lost. And I take it personally that, to the thieving gymnast, I will forever be an invisible mother – which I know I just need to get over.

So, before I resort to listening to Nick Cave and crying into a bottle of Merlot, or driving my car at one of her trampolines, perhaps with her on it at the time, I need to find peace, and if possible, clutch onto some humour.

The signs have been there – only last week was there a smack of a clue that this girl believes she is a fully fledged parent. I never thought I’d hear the words ‘I’m sorry’ from her – but last week she bent down to my son, and gave a heartfelt “I’m really sorry…” (I’m waiting for something appropriate that redeems some of her actions), she continues: “… I won’t be able to attend your parents evening with Daddy”.

I’m speechless. What planet do you have to be on not to know that that’s not OK? Really really not OK. No one gatecrashes a parents evening as a date or as their ‘time to shine’.  Let me just hide behind this cushion and die cringing, whilst teachers rally round to get a third chair for you, because you’ve decided to rock up in your American-tan tights.
I do some really dumb things, I’ve given credit to dumb blonde jokes and I will no doubt continue to say and do some stupid things.  But not grasping the concept of an event called ‘parents evening’ is taking it to a new level – the clue is there in the title – with great big lights on it. Parents evening: an evening for parents. Not mistresses, not pets, not girlfriends, friends, neighbours, dead relatives you’ve dug up or local celebrities. She’s either off-the-scale stupid and doesn’t understand the concept, or she understands the term and believes she fits the criteria.

I stand by the fact that I doubt any of her stupidity is malicious, she’s rude at times but she’s young, and immaturity is a huge factor.  My boy is allowing her an exciting game of mums and dads – this is way more exciting than a doll. She’s got the best toy in the box and she’s having a great time – she’s not a bully, she is just so lost in her own ego that she doesn’t see that her ‘toy’ belongs to someone else, or is in fact a real live human being. And she speaks as if the impact was no greater than if speaking to a doll – totally unaware that there are any implications on the feelings of a child when you start telling them that you are their stepmum, or on the feelings of the invisible biological mother.

There’s one person is this equation that cannot fend for them self yet – I wish I could control the degree of consideration that goes his way, from all three of the adults in this.

Last week I had a conversation with my son that I need to listen to.  He was talking about the ‘posh’ things his dad and girlfriend have in their life. “Listen, at the moment we don’t have much money, and one of my favourite things to do is to stand at the mill pond at watch the heron and kingfisher. If we ever have a million pounds in the bank then this will still be one of my favourite things to do – it costs nothing and doesn’t change with how much money you have.” And today, I need to remind myself that no amount of hurtful actions or mindless comments can change what real wealth we have: the resident heron, hills and trees on the doorstep, my nice job around our time together as a family and the nicest friends and neighbours we could wish for. This is the reality behind the name under which I write – keeping the important things in life to mind, and not losing gratitude for them.

I’ve put my blow torch down and I will strive to keep being kind to the bendy lady. She can call herself step mum, mum, mother Teresa, the Queen Mother, motherfucker, I don’t care – I will respect this, I will go with her style (American tan tights and all) and I will not break from the higher stance that my son will remember. Aside from that, I’m currently writing a book on forgiveness – which I cannot fulfil if I murder someone.

Note to self: forgive, stop taking it as a personal attack and be nice.