When is it ok not to work?

I was talking unemployment again at the weekend, and how guilty I feel about still being out of work (9 months and counting). "How long have you worked?" I was asked. "Oh about 25 years," I said. "Well do you not think you're entitled to take some time off, especially with the three kids to mind." he said. And it got me thinking about the whole nature of work.

During the boom did we all start to think that you were a useless human being unless you were in a paid job and an 'economic unit'. So all that talk now that child benefit should be abolished as people should not have children unless they can afford it are basically equating children with pets. Children do not earn, therefore they do not count. Ditto retired people, stay-at-home mothers and the unemployed presumably. The fact that children mostly grow up to be 'economic units' seems to be forgotten.

I've always hated all that talk about the Irish 'economy' and how well or badly it is doing. It is people that are important, not the economy.

Like a lot of other people I'm now doing unpaid work and I really love it! Because it's voluntary, I can say 'no' if I feel like it. The rewards are better - when things go well, the praise is dished out. Out there in the economy, you don't usually get praised for doing a good job, it is just expected. The recession also made clients much more demanding. I remember with distaste my boss saying to me that I had to get a feature for *** in the Irish *********** and she didn't care what I had to do to get it. At that point, I really lost interest in the job, so perhaps it wasn't surprising that I was the first person to be let go. It didn't help that I was a single parent contract worker with three children and so totally inflexible.

But the guilt doesn't go away, I started part time work at 13 and this feels wrong wrong wrong. But it also feels good! I have time to see my friends, talk to my children, think about my future, instead of just fire fighting. And who knows, all this unpaid work may one day lead me to become an 'economic unit' once again.

Is it Swine Flu?

Is it or isn't it? All over Ireland there must be families googling the symptoms of swine flu every time their little darlings start to sniffle. Today it was my turn. Smiley had a great day in school yesterday and slept okayish but was not happy about being woken this morning. Then she wouldn't eat her breakfast. All she seemed to want to do was sleep. So I let her, and apart from a little light TV this morning, she slept soundly all day until I started to panic ("call an ambulance if you cannot wake your child" - from one of the site advising on swine flu). But thanks to Britney and Angel Delight, she was awake long enough to eat, drink, take medicine and watch 'Baby One More Time'. Now she sleeps again. Tomorrow is another day and I hope a better one for her.

So what to do? It could be swine flu, but she doesn't seem very ill, just very tired. Am I a bad mother for not ringing the doctor straight away?

Small Change to Blog

Feel that calling the small boy Dude does not work. Cool Dude really does not work. So I think he will be CD in future. Hope this will not be confusing. It's easier to find names for girls.....I couldn't even find 3 names in the hospital for him, (was traumatised at the time) so he has one less than the girls -- could this be at the root of his problems? A chip on his shoulder due to fewer names?

Ryanair: The Big Why?

I just don't understand the phenomenon that is Ryanair. I flew with them twice and hope to never fly with them again, It's not that I had a particularly bad experience, but the tickets were not cheap and the airline seems to treat its passengers with contempt. The journey from door to door involves charges and hassles piled one on top the other, from the long term car park, to the queues, to the car hire. I felt that there was no interest in my comfort or safety - of course Ryanair is concerned about safety, but perhaps only because an accident would make a dent in the bottom line.

I am a nervous flyer and that may have something to do with it. Before I developed a fear of flying, I was regularly travelling all over Europe for business and pleasure, on a number of different airlines. Air France has great food, British Airways had very competent and efficient air hostesses - you felt they could deal with any crisis, while Aer Lingus had the warmest, most welcoming cabin crew of all - not sure that is still the case though!

Then there is Michael O'Leary himself. I cannot stand his sneery voice and endless plugs for his airline (which I'm doing here of course) so I tend to switch off the radio whenever he is announced. Yet he sometimes cuts through the crap and has some useful insights into the Irish economy.

My theory is that the airline is only interested in two types of passenger:

1. Young single people who can throw everything into a small overnight bag - and I once went on holiday for a week with cabin luggage only, including books. Ryanair attracts them with headline cheap fares.

2. People who have to travel, whether for business or family matters. They just pay whatever fare Ryanair feels like charging.

Families with lots of luggage, or older people who need help, understanding and reassurance do not really fit into the Ryanair model. As the mother of a child in a wheelchair, I actually find the whole concept of trying to fly at all too challenging, and take the boat instead. Besides, I now get treated like royalty by Irish Ferries staff, who always organise parking by the lift and reserve a suitable table on board - they seem to remember us even though we only travel 2-3 times a year. During the summer, the entire cost of a trip to Wales was less than €300, including diesel, and I cannot believe that Ryanair can match that.

I can't wait to see what Panorama will reveal - though I note that Ryanair asserts that the programme has very little to say. Maybe I am just hoping that my prejudices will be confirmed....

Respite: guilty pleasure for carers

Smiley has just returned from a night of respite. She arrived back giggling in her wheelchair despite being awake for most of the night! Meantime I went to the pictures with a friend, Angel minded Dude, and I was home in time to put him to bed, so he was happy. Respite is such a guilty pleasure - it's unnatural surely for a mother to want a break from her child? And carers especially are seen as saints, so we cannot possibly be human and need a break and the kind of night out that other people take for granted. I missed Smiley, but I did not miss the endless feeding, toileting, hoisting and entertaining, nor the getting up at 6am to be ready for when her home help arrives to help me to get her ready for school. I did not put her into respite until she was 12 and nearly 6 stone. Now I really need the breaks, the chance to do normal things, to catch up on sleep, and to not be exhausted at the end of every day. So I just hope that the upcoming 'tough' budget is not too tough on carers....

Mad about the Car

Even as a tot I was mad about cars, and still have a well-thumbed copy of the Ladybird book of motor cars c1969. High heels and handbags leave me cold, but give me a sexy little sports car with a 2 litre engine, and I go weak at the knees. My first real job was with Ford, so I got to try and buy every hot hatch they made - and there were plenty of those in the 1980s. Sadly no-one has yet designed a car that's fun to drive and also caters for children in wheelchairs. So my latest motor is big, slow and deeply un-cool. Just to be contrary, I also try and be green, and in the city I would always walk rather than drive. But give up my dreams of owning a gorgeous car again one day? Don't think that is going to happen.

My current dream car *sigh*

My Life

The Cast

Me, of more later, my ex-husband, let's call him Richard Harris (RH) and I'm not saying much more about him until I understand libel laws a bit better. Then there's 'Angel' and she is a teenager. She will feature mainly as one of the good guys. 'Smiley' is 12 and has cerebral palsy and 'Dude' (short for cool dude, as that is all I'm allowed to call him apart from his name) is 8 and has asperger's syndrome. Also my friends, and various inanimate objects and causes will probably creep in.

Setting the Scene

I have always kept diaries, but often lost them, which is a bit worrying as I was never very discreet. I think it actually might be safer to keep a diary online. And as this is a blog and not a press release I can be as ungrammatical as I want - the freedom is great! Also since this is about me and my life I am also going to use it to make a few notes of things that will probably be of no interest at all to almost anyone.

Today's Footnote of Very Little Interest

After damaging ribs on Saturday carrying Smiley down the stairs, it's my lower back hurting tonight. More strong painkillers needed I think.
My Grandad used to say that he was looking for enough blue sky to make a pair of sailor's trousers, and I guess that's some sort of metaphor for my philosophy of life. Especially here in Ireland where you'd want to celebrate every bit of blue sky as it can be kinda rare. It's just that everyone I know seems to have to deal with more and more sh*t as they get older. If I didn't look for the good in everything I'd be on the drink or worse. I started this blog today as the husband of a friend of mine dropped dead at the weekend. He was one of the good guys, and leaves behind a distraught widow, and two girls who previously lost their Mum to cancer. I'm so sad and shocked for them. But his death makes me even more determined to grab life with both hands and do the important things I've been putting off. Not relaying the driveway or clearing out the garage, but stuff that means something to me, like seeing more of my friends, standing up for what I believe in and starting a blog. RIP EL.