Thursday, 8 January 2009

"Mummy is Sad" Guest post by Boy's J

Boy has asked me to guest blog. We’ve tucked the kids into bed and I have armed myself with a glass of red as I embark on personal revelations in unknown territory. This might be a bit long so if you don’t want to read it all, just go straight to the end where I flatter Boy or into comments and say hi.

I love reading Boy’s blog and a few of the others he links to though I don’t do it myself and rarely comment. I don’t always agree with everything Boy says but I love his candour and humour and it does lead to some colourful conversations around here.

My Boy has asked me to blog about something specifically – being disadvantaged. How would I know? I’ve never been disadvantaged. Oh, maybe he’s referring to a period when I was a single mum. I know Boy thinks as I do that feeling disadvantaged / young / beautiful is a state of mind, not a state of wallet / wrinkles / two heads.

A large appeal of blogging is anonymity and being able to disclose harsh opinions and home truths without necessarily revealing your identity.

I am by nature a private person (except with friends and alcohol – that's what they're there for and why I’m armed with one) but I have some thoughts surrounding Boy’s "Mummy is Sad" post which Boy thought I should share in a guest blog rather than comment.

You've probably gathered that Boy is Junior's step-dad. Junior's dad and I divorced 8 years ago when I was 28 and Junior was 5. I was working full time and ex-hubby was primarily a stay-at-home dad in between acting work. Sometimes he wouldn't work for months then get $8K for a 2 day advertisement shoot, or a month part on a TV show, in theatre or a film role so still contributed to a reasonable combined annual income. Our split was not nasty, did not involve alcohol, drugs or abuse. We simply weren't meant to be but were still determined to keep it amiable and give Junior a nice life.

So I became a single mum, rented a gorgeous 2 bedroom house in Drummoyne and incurred about $15K of debts for new furniture and a month overseas to visit my brother who was completing a masters degree on a stunning Mediterranean Riviera.

Was mummy sad? Yes - my marriage had just broken up and I was in debt.

Was mummy disadvantaged? Hell no.

Did mummy do anything to cause Junior to worry? Absolutely not (well which didn’t involved cleaning his room or doing homework).

I worked hard, budgeted to pay off the 3 loans and raise a happy, well adjusted little boy who also spent as much time as he could (and still does) with his dad. Some times were a little tougher than others. I remember prior to one Christmas Junior left the internet on just as we were going away for a weekend (at a time where time over the limit was charged at nearly $5 per hour incurring a nearly $300 bill). He was also playing out in the street with friends and threw a rock through a neighbour’s car window (another $350). That Christmas he got a totem tennis which cost under $20 and he loved.

What message would I have been sending him if we applied (or how ever you do it) to receive Christmas pressies from our local charity? If we were hippies living in a commune on tofu and rice, we may have been broke but Junior would still have been raised to be happy with his toys made our out of wine corks and egg cartons.

We ate well, dressed well, saw movies, had holidays and lived in a lovely little house with nice stuff. When times were a little tighter I would forgo the night out with friends and watched TV, didn’t renew the gym membership and jogged around the bay, gave up the car and cycled instead. I would shop without Junior so he did not ask for treats. I paid the rent, bought good food, paid the bills and dept repayments then saw what was left over. I never fell any further into debt or took out another loan. Even now I only have one $1,000 credit card for the odd bill, phone or internet purchase, despite the bank telling me year after year that I am pre-approved for more credit. I figure if I can't afford it in cash, I won't buy it. If I really want something I budget and save.

I did not live off welfare. I did not request housing commission, take up smoking, develop a drink or drug habit, eat crappy food, gain weight or become a sloth. The only time I went to Vinnies was to take in old clothes or home wares. We gave some of Junior's clothes to a younger friend (of parents who also do quite well) and some of these clothes are coming back to us now which Monkey then the new bub will wear. Junior is counting down the months until he can legally start work so he can buy stuff he wants. He has already identified where he prefers to work on weekends (at a cinema first, then games store/arcade, then Maccas or KFC). Most importantly, he understands that if he wants something, he's going to have to work to earn it.

He has learned that from us as we learned that from our parents. My parents came off a boat from Europe in the 60's, have never been on the dole or received a "minority group" allowance, and even now as seniors still work. They actually left Sydney and their network when we were young, learnt English, brought us up in a small town where a large percentage of the population was Koori and they were the only Croatians. Hmmm, who was the minority group? Did my parents ever think they were disadvantaged? The suggestion would make both of them laugh. My mum so enjoyed my uni course notes that she enrolled herself as a mature aged student and graduated with a better result than I did!

For messy corporate restructure reasons I resigned from my job. I loved the kind of work I was doing but wanted to do it without restrictions placed by certain industries. So I set up a business (nearly 6 years ago) on my own, without loans, incentive schemes or help from anyone else and got some great contracts. I could not afford to pay for database designers and web masters but was my business disadvantaged? Nope, I learnt to do it all myself (even before I hitched up with an IT Boy).

I am currently home based until our youngest starts day care sometime later this year then I will move into a modest office. The business has grown and I have 2 staff who work alternate days as only two of us can sit at the shared desk at home (I guess we’re a bit disadvantaged there). I also outsource work to 2 other people. We launched our own new product last year which is a hit with its target market, are about to launch a new version for a broader market then later this year will start trickling it out nationally.

Despite our landlord being a cheapskate and Boy’s description of slugs and rotting floorboards, our house is really quite lovely, we have nice things and I am a bit obsessive about cleanliness and order (much to the dismay of all my boys). After three kids I am still fit, energetic and love exercise (other female relatives are testament to the fact that my thinness is not genetically pre-disposed). We have a lovely family, home, jobs, friends, holidays and life.

Why? Because we work hard, live rationally and realistically, we eat and exercise sensibly, take responsibility for own lives, educate our kids and try and instil in them some values, discipline and decency. Then occasionally we can indulge in a ski trip, a boozy night out, a lovely new painting, fabulous dress and shoes, have our chips and eat our cake too. We will buy new sofas when our kids stop eating, jumping and vomiting on the current ones (although last year I did have custom-made an exquisite ooh-la-la 2 metre sofa in pink and gold French silk damask in high wing style upon which the kids don’t play). We can afford a flat screen, second car, labelled clothes and even buy a house in cash in some suburbs – we just choose not to spend all that we’ve saved or live beyond our means.

Instead we play in the park, paint in the backyard, build our Lego sets and Thomas tracks, kayak around the bay, have dinner parties and picnics with friends, sing nursery rhymes, pop and metal loudly enough for the neighbours to hear, tell our kids every day that we love them and organise babysitting when we want a grown up night out.

I had struggling immigrant parents, have been a single mum, on occasion felt sad but have never in my whole life believed to have been disadvantaged and that the world owed me because I might not have had it as good as someone else. When times were tough or even now if something goes wrong I think “how do I fix this?” not “where do I get a hand-out”.

Our family life is loving, stress free and great because we make it so.

Here’s the bit where I flatter Boy. He is well bred, well read, hard working, high earning, fun loving and a bit of a hottie with a killer smile. He was a catch. We knew each other through work when I was still happily married and saw each other around through common friends over the years. I don't think he would have been attracted to me if I'd degenerated to "woe is me".

Um, OK, that’s it from me. As this is probably the only time I’ll ever blog, it would be cool to get some comments even if it’s not related or just say hi.

Boy’s J x


Anonymous said...

Hi J,
thanks very much for your honest post. I'm a lurker here and love the honest no nonsense common sense that is often posted.

Anonymous said...

I've seen your Merry Christmas photo. BOAB isn't the only hottie.

kae said...

Thanks J, for your story.
I hope this isn't your first and last post!

Anonymous said...

Go Girl! You are a role model and my hero of the hour. Boab and your kids should be proud.

Anonymous said...

Are you the definitive woman? I broke up with my missus a while back and she wants to get back together. I've been thinking about it but after reading this I remembered why we broke up. You seem to be all the good things she is not. You have made me want more in someone than just a talent for shopping. You should send this blog to those chick magazines which seem to place so much importance on spending money to scrub up. Congratulations Boab, J is a catch.

Tee Solie said...

I love this post. I'm a fan of Kae's but lurk here occasionally too. I thought about starting my own blog site but didn't really know what to write about and even if I did I don't think I would be able to write as beautifully and articulately as this. I hope you blog here again, or maybe you might start your own?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 4:57 PM "You should send this blog to those chick magazines".

I think this should be shoved up the bums of Centrelink, DoCS, various charities and the like and handed out to lazy slobs wanting a free meal ticket - assuming of course that they could read.