Wednesday, 19 November 2014

I Quit (36 weeks + 1 day)

HEY. HEY, LOOK AT THIS! Look at all this LOVELY money that I was TOLD I was getting:

And, for those of you who can add up, you'll be able to work out that for this term, I was informed that  I would receive a nice big chunk of money- £5657.81. to be exact. Lovely! WONDERFUL!

Except for, today I was told that I'm not getting it. I'm not getting any of it.

The loan that uni are providing me with for nursery fees does not cover December. I am going to have to take Percy out of nursery, and look after her by myself, full time, whilst trying to write up my project. 

So, I quit.

I quit fighting. I've been fighting everything, constantly for as long as I can remember. And I give up. Because I'm not getting anywhere. And I hate it. And I don't have the energy to fight anymore. 

I quit uni. I can't focus. I can't prepare. I'm going to fail. Why bother?

I quit motherhood. I'm rubbish. I haven't got the patience. Percy would be better off with someone who knew what they were doing. AND SHE NEVER EVER EVER SLEEPS, AND I DON'T KNOW HOW THIS IS EVEN POSSIBLE.

I quit cats. Because they're messy and they smell and they're noisy and I'm selfish.

I quit decorating. It sucks. I hate it. It takes forever, and I HATE HATE HATE WALLPAPER.

I quit caring. Because nobody cares about me.

I quit. I'm not the poster girl for "having it all". I suck. I don't CARE how close success may be, I don't CARE what people may think, I JUST DON'T CARE. I am exhausted. I am broken. I am beaten. 

So, I quit. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

I Keep Losing My Little Spoons (35 weeks + 4 days)

I keep losing my little spoons. When I first moved up to Seaham, I had LOADS of spoons. Loads and loads and loads. There were the generic teaspoons, of course, but then there was the array of plastic, multicoloured utensils that were for Percy Use Only. There was A Lot Of Spoons.

Somehow, these have all slowly disappeared, and I'm not entirely sure how. At the moment, I'm down to one normal teaspoon and just two Percy spoons. Where have all my spoons gone? Are the cats playing some twisted mind game with me? Maybe they've all been pushed to the back of a drawer. They could have been accidentally thrown away?

I've been under a lot of stress recently, and I think that might be part of the reason I'm struggling to find my spoons. It's a well-known fact that severe stress can have a serious impact on short-term memory.

As I've previously mentioned I'm having a lot of trouble with student finance, and getting them to release payment to me. The last time I spoke to them, they asked me to send off the past three months worth of bank statements to them, along with a letter from uni. On Friday, they contacted me and asked for even more evidence to support their "decision" on releasing my funding. Such evidence includes: proof of my medical reason for suspending studies (i.e. my pregnancy); my tenancy agreement; all direct debits from my account; all contractual payments that I have; proof of any debt; invoices from nursery... This isn't even the full list.

To begin with, I don't think I have actual paper work for half the things they want. For example, I spend a fortune on gas and electric each month, but seeing as I am on pre-payment metres, I don't HAVE invoices for these things. Secondly, the paperwork I do have is all filed away. It's going to take me a significant amount of time to dig it out/ print everything off/ make photocopies. This is time that I am supposed to be using to prepare to return to university. So far, I have spent the past two months chasing student finance for money. This is seriously inhibiting my ability to focus.

Nursery asked me about Percy's fees on Tuesday. I think they were getting a bit worried- obviously we'd just been away for a while, and I am yet to pay them. Student Finance (SFE) did not care about this. Luckily for me, I have been in contact with the most wonderful lady in the student finance office at Imperial. Amanda James initially contacted me after I sent an email to records, asking about my situation with regards to SFE. She was the person who told me that I should still be supported even though I was on maternity leave- a fact which nobody from SFE had ever mentioned to me, even though I had called them an innumerable amount of times. Amanda James has saved me. She has gotten me a £2000 emergency loan from Imperial, which is to cover the cost of Percy's nursery fees for this term. I am forever indebted to her, and can honestly not thank her (and Imperial) enough,

I had a fire on Friday. My wallpaper steamer was on fire. I don't know how, I don't know why, it just went bang and there was fire. I am never using a wallpaper steamer again.

The cats decided to bring me a present on Friday aswell. A fish head. I have no idea where they got this from, They brought it to the back door, and proceeded to eat it. Including an eye. Leaving a half-eaten fish head on my steps.

Like I said, a lot of stress. So, I guess this could be the reason that I can't find my spoons.

Percy has still been sleeping in my bed. This morning, I was googling how to safely co-sleep when your baby has started moving (she's not fully crawling but she is dragging herself around on her tummy). I turned away for two seconds. And she fell off the bed. Onto a plug. She has cut and banged all her head. We've spent the day in two hospitals. We went to the urgent care centre initially, where everyone was incredibly helpful. It became apparent as soon as we arrived that Percy was fine- she was smiling and chatting away to everyone whilst I was having a minor breakdown. She was looked at there, and they were happy with how she was, but because of her age, she needed to be examined by a doctor at an A+E. So, we were then transferred up to Sunderland. Where it was very evident that I was being screened as a potential child abuser.

For example, I had taken her in for a head injury. The Urgent Care Centre had sent me with a letter detailing what had happened to Percy. The first thing the Doctor said was "just run by me again what exactly happened"- and this wasn't said in a friendly tone. It was accusatory. He also asked me to undress her so he could "check for any other injuries caused by the fall". I wasn't happy. Percy was discharged though. They said she was fine. Before we left however, he made it very clear that she should not be sharing a bed with me and that it was unsafe and irresponsible.

Percy is sleeping in a cot tonight. And she's fine with this. I am not. I don't have my little spoon beside me. I am alone. And I don't like it. But for her safety, this is how it must be. There can be no accidents now. We can't afford another trip to A+E.

I keep losing my little spoons. And tonight, I lost the most important one of all.

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Chrysalis Phase (34 weeks + 6 days)

So, I guess I should start with the biggest news since I last posted:


I was so relieved! In all honesty, with all the stress and multiple illnesses, I truly didn't think I was going to be able to do it. I hadn't trained enough at all. Nowhere near as much as I would have liked, so my sole aim as I stepped up to the start line was to finish.

It was... actually easier than I thought. Initially, anyway. It was a lapped marathon- 5 laps, to be exact- and as I began the race, mentally I was on the fourth lap. Percy was asleep. I was wired. Everything looked pretty good...until I got to the 7 mile point. I've got a bad knee, and a bad ankle. And I know this. But recently, they've been quite well behaved, and haven't given me any trouble. However, at mile number 7, I landed oddly, and sprained my knee, and (I'm not joking) I was in agony. Every single stride after that point HURT. A LOT. And I was a bit worried about running on it (I'd got mental images of my kneecap suddenly pinging off and rotating round to the back off my leg). I carried on though. Physically, I wasn't tired; I was just in pain. So, I ignored it. And figured that I could worry about it later.

Percy was very very very good. She was asleep for the first three laps. Woke up and had her bottle on the fourth lap, and then fell asleep again. I started really flagging at about 20 miles. That was my wall. At 20 miles, I thought I was done for. That last lap really killed me. BUT WE FINISHED!!!!!

Honestly, so so so happy. Couldn't believe it. I could barely walk for two days afterwards, but it was SO worth it. And it was a really nice race to finish the season on. Really lovely atmosphere.

(I should add as a bit of a side note that Percy was an absolute nightmare that night. She woke up at 2am and decided it was playtime for the next three hours. That was my penance for her behaving so well during the race!)

We've been down to see my parents for a couple of days, which has been nice. Percy loves coming to see everyone, and it's nice to have a bit of a break.

In terms of money, I am still 110% financially screwed. Student finance aren't helping me, uni aren't helping me- they're both just pushing the responsibility for me onto the other one. Nobody wants to give me a job. This is probably because:
a) I am a single mother, with no "support network"
b) I am returning to full-time education in two months.

So, this evening, I sent the following e-mail to Nicky Morgan, who is the Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality:

​Dear Ms Morgan,

I am writing this to you, as a fellow woman. A woman who is in desperate need of help.

I am in my fourth year of study at Imperial College London. I am currently on maternity leave until January 2015, where I am due to return to complete the final 6 months of my Chemistry masters degree.

My current issue is with regard to financing myself in this interim period before I return to my studies. I am a lone parent. I live over 200 miles away from any of my relatives. I am completely alone.

When I applied for my student finance for this year, I was informed that my application had been approved, and that I would receive funding for all three terms of this academic year; it was on this basis that I enrolled my daughter in nursery full-time, as I believed that I was entitled to the childcare grant. I have since discovered that this is not the case. 

After multiple discussions with student finance, I was eventually informed that I was not entitled to any funding whatsoever. Since this point, my university have told me that this is not the case, and that in actual fact, I should be eligible for a discretionary payment, due to the nature of my interruption of studies. Again, I spoke to student finance, who refused to acknowledge such a service until I quoted their own guidelines to them. At this point they stated that I must send innumerable amounts of evidence in for them to assess my situation, and that once they had this evidence, it would take them 24 working days to process my claim. After speaking to them again today, regarding the status of my application, I was actually told that it is unlikely that I will be accepted for a discretionary payment. I do not understand this. I am in serious financial hardship. I now have a nursery debt that I cannot pay; as I said before, I am completely alone- if I am ineligible for a discretionary payment, then what am I supposed to do?

My predicament is as follows: I cannot look after my 8 month old daughter, by myself, whilst attempting to prepare to return to my studies. I require childcare. At the moment, I am now at risk of losing my childcare place, due to the aforementioned unpaid nursery fees. If my daughter loses her place, there is little chance of me finding her somewhere else to attend ahead of my return to university; most nurseries have substantial waiting lists. ​I have been seeking employment, in an attempt to gather money together to be able to afford her nursery fees, however this search has not been fruitful. Unsurprisingly, nobody wishes to employ a single mother who is due to return to full-time education in the next two months. 

I am under a serious amount of stress, and I am not coping. I am trying to succeed; to better myself; to provide a good example for my daughter, and I feel like I am fighting a losing battle. I began this journey so full of hope for the future, and that hope is slowly ebbing away. Please, for the sake of my future- for the sake of my daughter's future- is there anything that you can do to help?

I want to be an outstanding member of society. I have the intelligence, and the determination to be an outstanding member of society. At the moment, however I risk falling at the final hurdle, all over something as ridiculous and small as issues with student finance. Without meaning to sound melodramatic, there is a chance that I will not be able to complete my degree if this situation continues. This cannot be the case. I want my degree- I need my degree. I cannot describe the sheer frustration that I feel at the moment. 

Please, do not just be another person who fails my daughter and I- be the person who saves us. 

Kind regards

Harriet Stanway (and Baby Persephone)

I don't have a lot to add apart from that. I'm feeling very vulnerable still. Very scared. Unsure of what's going to happen to us. I feel powerless, and I HATE that. I'm hoping we turn a corner soon. As such, I'm going to end with a poem that my Dad sent me a couple of weeks ago. He said it was one that my Gran had previously sent to him, and it's what's been keeping me going whenever I've been feeling hopeless and stuck:

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
Whe he might have captured the victor's cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Ghost Hunting (33 weeks + 3 days)

So, this morning I did something that I truly thought I would never do: I called the child maintenance service to ask them to arrange for Percy's dad to pay towards her upbringing.

Over the past few weeks, I've had innumerable people ask me if he contributes anything towards her. When I have said no, they have queried whether I have tried to get anything. I have always stated that it was my choice not to receive money from him- I didn't want anything; we don't need his money; it would give him a "right" to see her; I want to be able to do this on my own. Everyone I have spoken to has been shocked by my response- they have said it is not a matter of my pride, it is a case of her being his child aswell- he should be helping us financially.

I dismissed these comments. If he were to turn round in a year, five years, ten years time, and state that he wanted access to Percy, I felt that if he had not contributed to her upbringing in any way, then a judge would most likely turn round and deny him access, on the basis that he clearly had no interest for x amount of time, and it would be detrimental to her. Another aspect of it is that he didn't want to be involved, and I knew that straight away; in my eyes, I have been thinking that it is in some way unfair to ask him to pay for a child he did not want.

Last night my opinion changed. I started looking into everything surrounding child maintenance payments, and how it may impact upon Percy and myself if I were to proceed. I reached a stage where I realised that Percy's wellbeing is far more important than my pride- I do not want to see my daughter having to go without, simply because I am being too pig-headed to ask him for money.

I am still without my student loan (they have yet to respond to my e-mail regarding contacting MP's/press). Christmas is fast approaching. It is Percy's first Christmas, and, like any other parent, I want to be able to spoil her. On my current income, I won't be able to do this. Being completely honest, it made me feel a little sick thinking that his other children would be having a fortune spent on them, and I wouldn't be able to do the same for Percy.

So, a few things that I learnt about child maintenance:

1) A parent is legally obligated to pay for the upkeep of their child- he's actually BREAKING THE LAW by not aiding me financially- I didn't realise this!

2) Custody arrangements are completely and utterly 100% separate from payments- if I receive payments, he still does not have an instant right to access.

3) The "paying parent" does not need to be on the birth certificate- hence, he still does not get parental responsibility

4) If he denies he is the father, he must pay for a DNA test; if he refuses to do the test, he is assumed to be the father- he can't get out of it, basically.

I called them this morning. Initially I had to speak to Child Maintenance Options before I could make my application. I actually got a bit emotional whilst I was talking to them, which really surprised me. They were asking about his involvement, and whether he wanted to be involved, and I said that he already has a family and we'd basically been brushed under the carpet. And it made me quite sad. For Percy, aswell as for myself. It's sad that she has a father that has done that to her. It really breaks my heart.

In terms of me, I think it just made me feel worthless. I was hurt when he left me. As much as I knew that the relationship had no future; as much as I knew that we weren't suited, I was hurt. And I don't think I really let anyone know that at the time. I don't like being hurt; I don't like acknowledging that I've been hurt. I think I see it as a sign of weakness, which is incredibly silly. Everyone gets hurt sometimes. And it was only when I was vocalising our situation to the woman on the phone that I realised how badly I'd actually been treated. And it stung like a bitch.

So, after I'd had that minor breakdown. I then got transferred to the actual maintenance application man. Now, this conversation featured no crying. but a lot of embarrassment. They ask for a crazy amount of details  to verify that the person they are going to contact is the right one, which is understandable. Some of these I could answer:

Nice easy one to start with- what's his name? Could get that one! 

What's his address? I actually didn't know this until last night. All I'm saying on the matter is, that if you register to vote, then it is very very easy to find out where you live. So, another question I could answer (I was quite impressed at this point- thought I was on a roll!)

Then things got a bit trickier:

Does he have a middle name? I said I was about 60% sure of what it was, but couldn't be more confident than that.

Have you got a contact number for him? Should have had some foresight when I deleted his number in a fit of rage all those months ago!

What's his date of birth? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

At one point I did actually apologise to the man I was talking to for how embarrassing I was, and how little I knew. Anyway, long story short (or at least shorter), they've found him. They're getting in touch with him in the next week.

I do have mixed feelings about the whole thing. But at the moment, I'm happy that I've done it. I feel like I'm in control again. And I'm making a point that Percy can't, and won't, be pushed to one side. She doesn't deserve that. I don't deserve that. And we aren't going to stand for it any longer.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Let It Be (32 Weeks + 6 Days)

Right, so it's been a while since I last posted. This has mainly been because I've been:

a) busy
b) stressed
c) busy and stressed

As such, this is probably going to end up being a very disjointed, rambling post that doesn't make a lot of sense (I apologise in advance).

Ok, so where to begin.... Got it.

So last time I posted (properly) was the week that Percy had started nursery. So, that weekend (the 11th), we ended up being a bit poorly. Percy had a bit of a cold; I was convinced I had meningitis. So convinced that I actually rang the out-of-hours NHS service to say that I thought I had meningitis. Like the total mess that I am. I didn't have meningitis- I had an "infection". I have no idea what type of infection. I have no idea where this infection originated from. I was simply told that I had an infection. given some ibuprofen, and sent home. I had a fever of 103 degrees. I was ill. I honestly couldn't move from my bed because all of my joints were in agony. It wasn't pleasant.

We also had our march on cancer that weekend, on the Saturday night. That was nice. Well... it was nice because I really like organised events and things like that. In hindsight, I don't think I'd do it again. There was a lot of people, and anyone who knows me knows that I have a big issue with being stuck behind slow walkers- even if everyone is supposed to be walking slowly. I think I'll stick to the races in future.

In terms of Student Finance, I received a bit of shocking news. They approved my loan (after I'd sent my ranty e-mail, of course), but hadn't released the money. I called them to ask when they would be doing this, and was told that because I was on maternity leave, I wasn't actually entitled to anything from them: PANIC.

Hence, I then began a mad mad mad mad manic job search. I've literally applied to probably in the region of 100 jobs in the past two weeks, if not more (more on this later). After about a week of job hunting/crying into pillows/ plotting to run away from the financial mess I had created, I got an e-mail from a lady at uni who I'd contacted about the whole situation. She was incredibly helpful, and told me that actually, because of the very nature of my interruption of studies (posh talk for "time off"), I was entitled to my loan. They SHOULD pay me, regardless of me being away from uni at the present time.

So, I called them again, and they tried to fob me off. Told me I wasn't entitled to anything. Now, the uni lady had very kindly sent me over the exact guidelines that they use when it comes to people in my situation. As soon as I quoted these to the man on the phone, he shut up. And told me he had to speak to his supervisor. I was then informed that I had to send off my past three months of bank statements, a letter from uni stating that I was in financial hardship, and confirmation of my dates of attendance at university... and that once they had all this information, they would release a payment within 24 working days,

24 WORKING DAYS?! HELLO???? I contemplated sending in that evidence. For about two seconds. And then decided that I was going to send another e-mail to their complaints department instead, first. To summarise quite a long story, I have essentially informed them that they have seven days (not seven WORKING days) to put that money in my account, or to give me an exact date as to when I will have that money. If not, I am going to inform my local MP of the appalling service that I have received from them, and take my story to the national press; prepare to see the headline "Student Finance Leaves Baby Without Socks" in The Times next week.

I do have every intention of doing this. It is I, not student finance, who is having to explain to people why payments for things are late. It is I, who is running up debts with various people/establishments due to not having my loan. It is I, who people are going to be annoyed at. I am really, really, REALLY fed up with the entire thing. And I am sick of having to fight for everything.

I feel that I am being penalised for wanting to better myself. That I am being disadvantaged for wanting to "have it all". I feel like a child who keeps building their tower of blocks, and someone keeps coming along and knocking them all over as soon as I reach the top. I feel disheartened. I feel scared. I feel vulnerable. And these are all feelings that I really am not comfortable with. At all.

Back to the job search. I've had a few interviews already. I had one last Friday (17th) which was VERY misleading. Essentially, I (and around 12 other people) were all told that we had been successful for a care assistant position. (Brilliant! This is really going to enhance my medicine application!) We just had to attend a training course for two weeks, and then we would start the job. Oh, how hilarious this is... Started the training course... and that isn't the case at all. At the end of this two week "training course", we will be told about any "opportunities" they might have for us. Oh, we were also told that we would be getting an NVQ Level 2 in Adult Health Care from this course- we're not. The course is "based" on the NVQ. Needless to say, I'm really annoyed with them aswell. I have a lot of anger, and annoyed-type feelings going on right now. The only good thing about this stupid course, is that I have actually met some really lovely people. It's been quite nice being able to socialise and have actual conversations with people that aren't babies/cats.

I got ill again. On Wednesday. I never normally get ill. And in the past four weeks, I've had three different viruses. My immune system is a mess. I'm 95% sure that it's down to stress. There was a sickness bug that was going around nursery- Percy managed to avoid it, and I got it really badly (how that happened, I don't even know). I literally couldn't move without being sick. I'm not even exaggerating. I was that ill. I had to call 111 again (I KNOW, I KNOW, I AM THAT PERSON!) and they sent me out some anti-emetics. I'm slowly getting over it, but even now I'm pretty nauseous. I was on a liquid diet all weekend because I just couldn't cope with food.

Last Thursday, I had a new boiler fitted (yay!). The house was a bit (a lot) of a mess, because I'd obviously been out at training (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, not even getting paid, absolute joke) and then I'd been really ill. I wasn't in the mood at all to have the boiler men round- I actually tried to cancel them but it was too late. I had to leave halfway through the day because I had an interview. Came back to find they had taken a kitchen cupboard off the wall and left it in the middle of the kitchen floor. What exactly am I supposed to do with that...? So, hate the boiler men too.

Right, back to interviews. Thursday, I had an interview for Barclays. It was terrible. The questions were atrocious and stupid. The job was to work in a call centre, so I really didn't expect such ridiculous questions. Also, it was very obvious that the woman who was interviewing me just really didn't like me. Very clear. And I spent the entire hour praying that I wasn't going to be sick on her. Needless to say, it didn't go very well at all, and I got my rejection e-mail today. It wasn't a shock, but it still stung.

On Friday, I had an interview for Boots, which was far better. I know what I'm talking about at Boots- I could quite happily live there. However, I was also rejected from them today. They said they didn't have any shifts for the times that I was available, and that if I did become more flexible with times, to get back in touch with them. Childcare restraints are a bit of a nightmare when it comes to job hunting.

I've applied for a million more jobs tonight. Hopefully someone, somewhere will realise that, you know, I'm actually super awesome? Alternatively, if student finance sort their act out, I won't need to get a job, and can focus on preparing to go back to uni. Which is really what I should be doing at the moment....

Seriously, I'm just so, so, so, so annoyed at everything. And 45% of me wants to just sit in a corner and cry, and cry, and cry about my life. Luckily, I've got 55% that's still trying to fight, And I'm hoping that part stays in the majority. But I really don't know how many more setbacks I can cope with.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Reason That I Write.

I just wanted to add a bit of a note about this blog, and my reasons behind it. I've had quite a bit of feedback about this: some people think it's a really lovely thing to do; on the other hand, I have also been told that I "shouldn't be airing my dirty laundry in public" (although, that statement was said by somebody who has no place reading anything I write, and is far from my biggest fan).

I'm not letting negativity stop me posting; I intend to continue with my blog, hopefully until Percy is far into adolescence. I'm aware that at some point, we are going to have to become "anonymous", and I will have to omit our names from here- when Percy starts school, probably- as I don't want anyone new that either of us come into contact with to have stumbled across something that is so personal. At the moment however, my readership is limited (I average about 1000 views a month, which isn't colossal in terms of web traffic), as are the people we encounter, so I'm happy to put myself out there.

Percy is going to be my one baby. I am not having any more children. I am aware that a lot of people say this, but most of them attribute that statement to a traumatic birth. I didn't have a traumatic birth. I'm just happy with one. I like how we are. I like that it's just the two of us (and Boris and Jeremy)- we're a team. And, I don't think I'm going to meet a new partner for a long time, (if ever), because of that: you'd have to be seriously special to get an invite into our club.

I am detailing everything that happens to us, for Percy. So that, one day, when she is old enough, I can give this to her. That time may be when she is 18, turns 21, has a baby- I don't know yet. It will be my gift to her, so she can see how our lives began (yes, our lives), and how they progressed as she grew up. My daughter was not the reason that I began writing; but she is the sole reason that I continue to.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Pride And Prejudice (30 weeks + 3 days)

Ok, so I'm going to cover several main themes in this post. I've ordered them into sections, as follows:

1) Percy starts nursery/I have no money
2) Student finance suck/I have no money
3) Job hunting as a parent/I have no money

1) Percy Starts Nursery
So, Mrs Piglet started nursery properly on Monday. We were a bit late for her first day, because we'd had quite a rough night on Sunday (Percy didn't go to sleep until midnight and then woke up at 4am and decided she wanted to play. Mummy was not amused). So, we were supposed to be there for 8am... and got there for 10am. I'm just that mum. I don't know why I try and fight it, I am the late mum. (That being said, we got there for 8:30am on Tuesday- practically EARLY!)

Percy loves it. I am lost without her. It's lovely to have time to get things done (namely wallpaper stripping and cleaning) but it is very very odd being alone. She has a diary that she brings home with her each day, that details what she has been doing. Everyone says that she is the most pleasant baby they have ever looked after. She smiles at everybody all the time. She is wonderful. I'm pretty sure they think that I am a disaster. A bit like "that baby is so lovely, poor child, how did she end up with that mess for a mother?" But that's ok. I'm fine with that. (Also, I think I'm slightly paranoid at the moment.)

Now, obviously nursery costs a lot of money. And I am very very very lucky that because I'm a student, I am entitled to a grant from the government, which covers 85% of the fees (HAHAHAHAHA more on this later). It works out so that basically I pay about £10 a week top up. Which is great. However, there are hidden nursery costs, that nobody tells you about- EXCEPT FOR ME!!!!

So, to start with, you have to buy two of everything. So there's stuff for nursery, and stuff for home. You're buying a box of milk for home? Don't forget the nursery one! Ran out of nappies? Remember to grab a pack for nursery! Baby food? Grab some for nursery too, because Wiggles is a fussy eater and might refuse the food they offer her. Instantly your expenditure is doubled. (I am aware that these costs will even out as time goes on- because everything will last twice as long- but I'm on about initial start-up here).

Clothes is the next one. Percy has recently had a bit of a growth spurt. She's currently on a capsule wardrobe, which consists mainly of Summer-type clothes. Now, if she was staying at home with me all the time, this would be fine. I could wrap her up in 53 blankets, put the heating on (for a restricted time, obviously) and she'd be warm as toast. At nursery, you can't do this. Babies need to be dressed appropriately, otherwise you are a Bad Parent. And the worst thing you can be is a Bad Parent. So, new clothes for Percy is also on our shopping list at the moment.

Now at this point, I can quite nicely roll into section 2:

2) Student Finance suck (and that's being polite)

I was supposed to be paid my loan on the 3rd October. I was not paid. I have called them 532542 times over the past two weeks. After being told a million different things, I was finally told that I should expect my application to be approved on the 3rd November. I'm fed up. I'm utterly disgusted. I can't be bothered to write about them anymore. They've really upset me. Here's the e-mail that I sent to their complaints department (I'm not expecting a response):

They are a complete and utter joke.

3) Job Hunting As A Parent

Ahahahaha THIS IS SO DEPRESSING. I've decided to search for a job for two main reasons:
1) I need to save money anyway in case, by some sheer stroke of luck, I am accepted to study medicine.
2) I never ever want to be in the position that Student Finance have put me in ever again. I literally had no money.

When I say I had no money, I mean, I had no money. Someone very kindly lent me enough to see me through this week- I am paying them back when my income support comes through. For that, I am eternally grateful to them. They really really helped me out when I was in a mess, and I hope that one day, if they ever need it, I can do the same for them.

The "pride" in the title of this post, refers to my own. I have mentioned that I am solely financially responsible for Percy and her upbringing. I do not claim any maintenance from her father. And that is because of my pride. I do not want his help. Not just because he would then have more rights to see Percy, but also because I really want to be able to do this alone. My problem is that pride is a luxury; if the aforementioned person hadn't helped me out this week, there's a strong chance that I would have had to swallow that pride, and go and request payments. Which would have really mortified me. It would have been a short-term solution to my financial issues, but in the long-term it really would have had the potential to mess everything up for Percy and I. I never ever want to be in that mess again.

SO, job hunting has been an interesting experience. So far, I've applied for something in the region of 7639503 jobs. I've been rejected outright from one. I failed one of the online tests (I know, I am shocked). And I'm still waiting to hear back from the others.

The issue with searching for a job when you're on your own and have a baby, is that you can't be flexible with the hours you work, Percy is in nursery from 8am-6pm, Monday to Friday. Those are the times that I can work. If needs be, I do have the option for her to start at 7:30am, but I'd rather not. A lot of places want you to be able to work weekends and evenings, which obviously I am unable to do.

It's really annoying. I'm applying for jobs that I know I could do. And I know that I could do them WELL. I don't think that I should be instantly discriminated against, simply because I have certain times that I am unable to work. At this rate, I truly don't know how anyone is able to find a job when they are a parent.

It really is just such a twisted system. I have no doubt that if I was able to work anytime, then I would be one of the stronger candidates; it is that point that's messing me up.


In terms of what we've been up to, I've been a decorating bunny. STILL stripping all the paint off the bannister; doing some more wallpaper stripping. I've been experimenting a bit with foam filler (never use foam filler. Don't touch it. It's a nightmare) because some of the "holes" in the walls were essentially just...well, like the Grand Canyon. Percy has been playing, all day, every day.

We're off to march against cancer tomorrow evening, as part of the big big big big Stand Up To Cancer event that 's going on all over the country. You can sponsor us here if you fancy it. We've got our placard all ready, to go:
I'm still debating who to run the London Marathon for. There's so many charities to choose from, and I really don't know which one to pick. They're all sending me e-mails at the moment saying "PLEASE RUN FOR US!" which is confusing me even more! Any suggestions, would be greatly appreciated. You can tweet them to me- @el_snazzbeans :)