Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Work? Where's The Incentive For A Single Mom To WORK?

Sorry everyone. This is one of my longer rants. But it's been building. And now, it's time.

I've been working since I was old enough to babysit.

I graduated from babysitting, to grocery girl, to food waitress in a hotel, to drink waitress in a bar (cause we all know, THAT'S where the money is!), to nanny, to technology and training, to where I am now.

Sometimes, I wonder why I bother to work.

I mean, I know I HAVE to work. Being a productive member of society, self respect, paying my own way in the world, role model for my kids. All that good stuff.

But one thing I've noticed being a single mother, is that I'd have a WHOLE LOT MORE money in my pocket, and a whole lot more options for my kids, if I just quit the rat-race and went on The System.

Yes, I know. The System is for people who can't seem to help themselves. Or to temporarily help them get over the hurdle(s) life has thrown at them.

But who are we REALLY helping here?

And who really NEEDS that help?

But, more importantly to ME at the moment, who comes up with the RULES on WHO the Government and social programs are willing to help?

Cause I've gotta tell you, the programs that I've looked into since becoming a single parent, they certainly weren't designed to help ME!!! Or anyone else trying to hold a mid-level paying job, hold it together and be a productive member of our society!

I work a Monday to Friday, 9-5 job.

I have a salary, benefits and vacation.

Sounds great doesn't it?

But let's put this into perspective, shall we?

I may have a 'good' job by Govt standards, but it's still only ONE income. And my vacation time is used for things like March Break and Christmas Break from school. Basically any time the kids are out of school for an extended period, I take vacation time, to save on the daycare costs.

I do NOT receive child support. I should. But I don't. And that's a whole other post. One I'd probably write, if I hadn't promised myself 'NO EX BASHING' on my blog ;-)

I pay for everything for my children on my own.

School supplies
All school costs (trips, milk money, school fundraisers etc.)
Daycare during the school year
Day-camp for the summer months
All sporting costs
Birthday parties
They have a house to live in
I have a car to drive them around in
Incidentals (Mom! My bike helmet broke, I need a new one! They're ONLY $50)
And every other want and need, within reason, that children between the ages of 9 & 13 require.

I pay for it.


And it's HARD!

Yes, it was my choice to have these kids.

Yes, it was my choice to end my marriage.

Yes, my mother sends me more than 'a few bucks' to help sometimes. I don't know what I'd do without her.

But for the most part, it's all me. Just me.

And what I wasn't counting on, when I ended up as a single parent, was having to do EVERYTHING financially on my own.

However, no child support for the last five years, and the bare minimum amount for Child Tax Benefits ... because the govt thinks I make too much money, to refund anything sensible ... has forced me to change my thinking.

That's when I started selling everything that wasn't nailed down on Kijiji.


I've only sold some things ;-)

I also started seriously looking into the 'Programs' that are out there to help people.

I use that term 'help' very loosely, because what I found out, is that unless you earn very little, and have basically hit rock bottom, too bad, 'You make enough, help yourself, Sweetheart!'

Or, unless you fall into a particular 'category', no help for you!

Salary seems to be the only deciding factor, and there are SO many other things to be taken into consideration.

And that's the problem for me. I don't WANT to hit rock bottom before I can get the help I need NOW.

Not asking for and getting help, from programs designed to help 'people like me', is just sending me further and further into that black hole of 'HELP YOURSELF SWEETHEART!'; forcing me to stand on the edge, and peek over to that rocky bottom.

And just where would I end up if I hit that bottom?


As a full fledged member of The System perhaps?

Anyone see a pattern here?

The first time I ran into this, was with a program that DIDN'T involve money or whether or not I work, at all.

But, since I still didn't fit the cardboard cutout of who should be accepted, I associate it with the others experiences.

It was with the
Big Brothers / Big Sisters program.

My ex lives less than five minutes away.

He 'takes' the boys every second weekend. No visits / sleepovers other than on 'his' weekends, unless the boys specifically call and ask him if they can stay over.
Now, without getting into Ex-bashing, this is wrong.

It bothers me, that one or both of the boys can't simply go over for a night, unplanned, without them calling HIM first to ask.

It bothers me, that my Ex will not call one or both of the boys after dinner some evening and say 'Let's go shoot some hoops.' Or, 'Let's go fishing!' Or, 'How about we go to the bike park?'

It doesn't have to cost money. Just time. It's all about spending time.

That bothers me. A lot.

So, I went to the
Big Brothers / Big Sisters program.

I wanted the boys to have a guy they could 'hang out' with if they felt the need to. Someone they could TALK to who wasn't their mother.

Maybe, they would LOVE to go and shoot some hoops after dinner on a Tuesday night. Unplanned. Unscheduled.

They wouldn't help me.

I'm single. But not single ENOUGH I guess.

Because the boys see their father every second weekend, they do not qualify for the Big Brother program.

Doesn't matter that they may want to hang out with a male role model one of the other 12 days of that two week period.

According to the Big Brother people, they're with their father 4 days out of 30-31.

That's ALL the male role modelling/interaction they need.

And we wonder why our world is so screwed up?

I'm ASKING to have my boys influenced by good male role models, on a REGULAR basis. More than FOUR DAYS a month!

Apparently I'm wrong in thinking that way. Go figure.

Maybe I just expected too much of the program, and it's really NOT designed for my kids.

The next time I ran into the 'We'll help you ONLY if you've hit rock bottom' scenario, was when I looked into getting help paying for the kids sports programs.

I'm a HUGE believer that sports keep kids healthy, happy, learning and OUT OF TROUBLE!

And hey ... maybe even ... positive male role models!!! ;-)

My boys have always played Baseball
Alec has played Football
Alec has played Soccer
Adam loves Gymnastics
Both in Basketball
Both have done swimming programs through the day-camp

And these do NOT include the sports programs (offered at $55/week) through the day-camp program, which is over and above the cost of the day-camp program itself.

ALL of these sports cost money to play.

And Hockey? Forget hockey! Do you know how much GUILT I have, over having two CANADIAN boys who have never played organized HOCKEY?!?!? I can't afford the gear, let alone the registration fees!

But, just to give you a small example: Adam's gymnastics? Because he's THAT good, he was in an advanced program. Which costs more, of course. Pushing $300. For 12 weeks.

Boys basketball fees? Because they both play competitive ... $285 ... EACH!

That's almost $600 for the boys to play basketball alone!

And of course any sport related gear that goes along with all of it.

But I pay it.

And they play it.

But it would have been nice to have a little help with it.

That's why I looked into

KidSport. After seeing all their fantastic commercials, stating how 'No kid is left on the sidelines'

According to
KidSport Canada: We believe that no kid should be left on the sidelines and all should be given the opportunity to experience the positive benefits of organized sports. KidSport™ provides support to children in order to remove financial barriers that prevent them from playing organized sport.

I believe in that too!

Oh yes! $600 IS a financial barrier for a single parent!

'Oh .. but you work? You make how much? Sorry. NO HELP FOR YOU!'

Thanks. So my kids MAY end up on the sidelines after all, because I don't fall into the right category of single parent. The one who earns barely enough to keep the kids fed, clothed and housed in something more than a car.

They look at what you take home, but don't take into consideration the deductions from the take home that are required to survive.


And before I get jumped on, yes, I KNOW you can claim up to $500 for 'sports fees' on your taxes, and get that money back, but every year, I pay more than I get back.

And it would be nice to have the help up-front, when it's time to actually shell out that $600 in September, when basketball starts ... along with all the other back to school fees. THAT'S when it would help!

Apparently, my family just isn't right for this program. Again.

My last straw with 'Let us help you!' programs, came a few weeks ago.

I need help with my house.

Or more specifically, I need help making my house 'energy efficient'.

You see, although I make this buttload of money, (sarcasm, People!) so I can solely support my kids, I have nothing left over to finish my (w)rec(ked) room.

The basement that was not finished when we bought the house.

Which wasn't actually a big deal, because at the time, the Ex, who works in contractor type work, was going to FINISH the basement.

A year later, due to a slight change in plans, known to some as separation/divorce, those renovations didn't happen.

So, I still have a basement with a concrete floor.

A laundry room with incomplete walls ... I look at pretty pink insulation when I do a wash.

A crawl space that's not properly insulated.

No baseboards.

Walls in some places, no walls in others.

I could throw up some pics, but do I really HAVE to? lol

All kinds of issues where heat is escaping the house.

Except the windows. There were all new windows in the house when I bought it.

Now, again you may think 'You knew this when you bought the house'.

Yes, yes I did. However, what I also knew, when I bought the house, was that it would be 'fixed', here and there, over time, by my then-husband.

Fast forward five years. No husband. No fixing. HUGE electricity bill.

HUGE! Monstrous! Almost half my mortgage per bill, monstrous!

So much so, I've spoken to NS Power regarding the bill on NUMEROUS occasions over the past five years.

They always agree with me. 'Yes! Your usage IS extremely high. For a house having new windows, new appliances, only one adult and two children who aren't there during the day. Yes. Extremely high.'

Then out comes the hand. Smile. And 'Thank you for your money!'

I need this basement fixed. I need that power bill to go DOWN!

I can handle paying my mortgage. It's the power that's killing me.

I've tried selling the house. Upstairs is great. New kitchen & bathroom, refinished original hardwood floors.

But I got the same reaction from everyone who came through it, 'Too much work to do in the basement'.

Wouldn't you know, there is a government grant that will help me.

I can receive up to $5000 for home improvements. Under the
program to make my home more energy efficient.

Oh ... wait ... but since I make a buttload of money (again with the sarcasm, People!), they won't help me!

H-E-L-L-O! I have no intention of running to Vegas with the money. I need to fix my freakin' excuse for a basement!!!

I even told the Govt. Grant Guy on the phone 'Come and see my basement! THAT should determine whether or not I need the help, NOT the salary cap alone! And while we're on 'the cap', let's discuss how all the regular DEDUCTIONS that come off that salary come into play in this equation!

Sorry. Bottom line, they look at salary first.

First and ONLY if you make too much money.

If not, then they look at your house, and whatever other factors come after that.

Makes sense huh?

Maybe to some. Not to this single mother, who's simply trying to avoid that whole 'Rock Bottom' thing.

This single mother who chooses to work, instead of going on The System, and having all this taken care of FOR ME! Instead of trying to take care of myself, and my family, and getting a bit of help, on a few key things.

Now you tell me, where's the incentive for the single mother to work, when there's so much more HELP out there, if you strive to earn LESS. Or worse, for those who are more willing to simply sit on their ass?


And by 'those who are more willing to simply sit on their ass?' I mean those who choose to make The System a lifestyle, and not a one time, or even temporary means of assistance.

But once again, I guess I'm expecting too much and it's just not a program meant for our family.

One, who for the most part, are trying to help themselves.

OK, off my soapbox (for now), I have to run.

I have to go find things to burn in my (w)rec(ked) room, so I don't have to turn the heat on down there tonight.

My own version of 'energy efficiency'!



Susie said...

Kim I commend you on bucking the system and doing as well as you are, certainly not an easy task. But I do agree, no single parent should be left out on a limb doing it on their own. Some programs are left to make the difficult choice of deciding where the cut-off should be since funds are low...believe me, nobody wants to turn away those that need it.

But I do have to say this...why does it always seem that it's up to the courts to determine the "bare minimum" of what the father's part should be? God bless the man who steps above and beyond to be the Dad and helps out more than the court "requires" him to do, even just calling every day to ask how a child's day was...not waiting for the child to call first! He should thank his lucky stars that Mommy has it together and is getting the job done, but hell, even if you were making DOUBLE what you make, he should still at LEAST be contributing to their RESPs or something. They are his BOYS!!! Even a gesture of checking out the basement and see what little things he can do to help the energy's his boys' home, wouldn't be a bad place to start Dad!

Sue said...

Oh, Kim, I can relate on all levels, even though I'm not a single mom anymore. Josh and I make a mere pittance, but it's slightly (and I do mean slightly) above the income 'cut off'. I guess a few hundred really DO make a difference (*cough*). It rankles me, too, that there are people who are on welfare and get more money in food stamps alone than I can afford to spend on groceries. That's wrong.

I really wish I could help you out, sweetie. :-(

Kim's Korner said...

Susie - Welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

I understand that 'Govt. Grant Guy' on the phone is only following process, that he's working within his guidelines.

I know it's not against me personally. But I guess that's where I think there should be a change.

It' SHOULD be about me personally. And my personal circumstances. Not just salary, ALL circumstances.

Looked at as a person. Not a salary.

Even if the programs were altered per circumstance. 'You exceed the cap, and your renovations only require x dollars, so we're not going to give you the max of $5000 but we'll give you $3000.' Or whatever alternate amount.

The thing is, any amount that could make an improvement, would BE an improvement!

Having said that, I also agree with you that, in MY opinion, my Ex should have taken a more active role in fixing the state of the basement, for the exact reason you stated. Not because it's MY basement, because it's the basement his children spend THEIR time in.

But that seems to be only my perspective.

And now, in order to follow my 'no ex bashing' rule, I'm going to shut up ;-)

Sue - God luv ya, offering to help! Thanks so much Sue, you're a sweetheart!

I know I singled out the single mom in this post, but I know dad's and couples are finding themselves in this same situation.

I guess my frustration lies in that the people who need these assistance progrmas, are forced to wait until they've lost control of what little they had to begin with, and it all could have been avoided with a bit of help from the programs designed to offer it.

While the people who are third generation system workers, continue to receive a share of that limited funding budget. Just because they have the rigth stats.

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

Wow Kim. Putting it all down like this makes me wonder how anyone in your situation survives without going crazy.

But I don't buy the NOT GOING TO VEGAS bit!! ;)

And you are so right, people are freaking out about my list I wrote today!


Kim's Korner said...

Hallie - ' anyone in your situation survives without going crazy'. Well ... I never ... ever ... said I was completely SANE did I?!?!? ;-)

You know what? That Vegas comment tells me you read that WHOLE rant! God luv ya for that!!!

And of course people are freaking out about your post ... we're the 'me me me' society, and everything is about US isn't it? ;-)