Sunday, 31 July 2011

A Special Dedication...

'The World's Best Husband'
... and now...the world's best Dad

   I want to make this post a dedication to my husband Neil. I remember seeing something like a 'Dad of the month' award on Bounty or somewhere similar, where you could nominate your husband/partner as the best new dad and I just knew that no-one would deserve it more. Unfortunately I have looked online and cannot find it anymore :S. So... instead, I am going to write a post explaining why my little daughter and I are so lucky to have this wonderful person in our lives.

  Let me start at the beginning. Obviously I think he's the most gorgeous man alive, but that's my very biased opinion. I will mention here that I love drawing and a few of my friends have commented on how Neil looks a lot like the male characters I used to draw; so I'm not just saying it, he really is my ideal man looks-wise (long hair, beard, not too muscular etc etc). He's perfect for me in every way and for once I found someone I could talk about intelligent things with and also have a laugh. We hit it off so well that he proposed to me in a beautiful bluebell woodland at sunset, while we were out filming deer. We had an amazing wedding in a castle and although Neil had to work away all summer on a farm to get us some extra money, we still managed to have a wonderful honeymoon in the caravan he was staying in. He made an excellent husband from the beginning; always more interested in spending time with me than going out with mates drinking or doing anything else normal husbands do.

  When we decided to have a baby and Neil really became a perfect husband. My pregnancy wasn't 'the most amazing time of my life' as some people describe it; I had morning, noon and night sickness for three months, then chronic tiredness for the rest of it. Aside from that; being a small person I found my bump made breathing etc difficult and sleeping became almost impossible not long in. Neil made it all so much easier from the beginning though. He made me drinks, snacks and ignored my mood swings. He let me sleep as long as I wanted and hog all the pillows. He went to almost all my antenatal appointments and scans and took me out to buy baby things on regular occasions.

  Through the labour and birth Neil was caring and devoted. He made me as comfortable as possible and unlike all the other people crowding around at the birth giving me useless advice like 'Push, push, push!' etc., he just stood by my side, holding my hand and feeding me water every so often. Now our little daughter is here and he's become the most amazing dad I could have wanted for her. He is absolutely brilliant with her and never stops talking to her and smiling. It hasn't been easy for us, as I have insomnia and will spend hours trying to sleep without any luck, but he has been patient and devoted, letting me sleep in the daytime while he looks after her. We take it in turns to feed and change her and I am so proud when I tell everyone how great Neil is a dad. We are both so lucky to have him to look after us the way he does. I'm sure I don't deserve the treatment I get and I'm probably a terrible wife sometimes!

  For all those really devoted superhusbands and superdads: You are real men and you rock!

-You clean, cook, do DIY, know the best wild foods, look sexy in wellies, drive tractors, work hard, aren't afraid to show your emotions, you're an amazing dad...the list goes on. Neil I love you and I never stop being grateful that you let me into your life. Happy anniversary for the other day, I'm sorry I didn't get a card, hope this will do.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The struggles of maternity entitlements

From early in my pregnancy I had planned to leave work as soon as I was possibly allowed, to go on maternity leave. I had nice ideas about working full-time on my PhD research and starting the write up, so that I would be well ahead on return to work. My part-time work as a lecturer makes great demands on my time as I teach a good 12 hours a week within 2.5 days and it requires hours of prep; no mean feat I can tell you.  Anyway; I had hoped that my leave would be a nice relaxed situation, as I was promised that my monthly research bursary would continue as long as I continued my research and this would mean that along with the Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) I would be on a much lower income, but still be able to get by as long as my husband and I stuck to a good budget. I will mention here that he is a full time undergraduate student and therefore receives a student loan to supplement our income. 

 Sadly my plans were never to be. I was called into human resources for my final discussions on my leave about a month before I was due to take it and informed that due to the fact that the college pay my bursary, they felt that I should not be carrying on with my research over the course of my maternity leave. OK so that sounds fairly reasonable? Well unfortunately I could not put the research on hold as the summer season is the only time I am able to collect the ecological data for my project and my leave coincided with the summer months. I explained this to them very clearly, but they seemed uninterested and made it very clear they would not be paying me the bursary as they were against me continuing research whilst on leave, despite the fact that it was the perfect time for me to do this. Normally I am so busy with work I hardly have time to think about the research, even on my allocated PhD days. 

 Obviously I was distraught, as the reasonable income I had hoped for, was now down to about £700 in total including my husband’s loan payments. Sadly that amount doesn’t even cover our monthly outgoings of around £800 (rent, bills, and my own loan payments etc., food not included). The SMP pay by the way starts off alright at 90% (remember however my bursary of half my monthly income is gone regardless), but quickly falls to a very low amount. In order to pay our bills and then have more money for food and baby products we were going to have to find some help financially. After a tearful conversation with my own parents they assumed me they could help us if we needed it and I told them that would be a last resort.
 I took legal advice on the situation and help from the university’s financial guidance team, but apparently there are no benefits, grants or any other sources of income available due to the fact that I work and my husband is a student. I also took advice on the cutting of my bursary, but apparently there are no laws governing maternity rights of research students with regards to bursaries and if an employer doesn’t want to pay it they have the right not to, even if it is bad practice not to continue the payments!

 Well needless to say I was forced to remain at work until I could no longer carry on physically (Outdoor teaching is very hard work and I also work very late nights wardening for the college on a regular basis), about a month before my due date. I have been forced to borrow a large amount of money from my parents and ask for family to contribute towards other costs where they could. This has been so difficult for me and even harder for my husband, as he feels terrible about relying on my parents so heavily. I had to sell my car to get a more economical and cheaper to insure/tax model and we have cut all our bills to the lowest we can afford, but we still struggle to get by. Whenever I have mentioned it to collegues at work, people have been appalled, however one of my male managers stated that he thought that if I chose to have a baby I shouldn’t be allowed to work, but that my husband shouldn’t be doing a degree but working full time! I’m sorry fella but getting a job at the moment isn’t easy, especially if you don’t already have a degree. I have been informed by advisors that I could sue the college for harassment and discrimination, but I know it would make everything much harder when I want to go back, so I have just given up and resigned to the fact that we will have to owe my parents for years to come. 

 Well there it is; the story of our struggles with maternity leave and pay. Here I am wondering how different it would have been if I were a single mum! Benefits galore I can imagine…

Monday, 25 July 2011

Nice to meet you... I'm an alien

OK so I don't think I am actually an alien, but sometimes I do wonder...

  Let me introduce myself... I'm a part-time lecturer and PhD student in the field of Applied Sciences, I have been married one year today to my amazing yeti husband Neil and we now have a wonderful baby girl who was born six weeks ago. My main interests lie in the field of conservation ecology and now of course the science of parenting. Yes... I see most things from a scientist's perspective; however being slightly eccentric, many of my ideas tend to verge on what most people might class as crazy.

  So... to explain the blog title. I'm not your average woman and certainly not your average mother. My husband and I have what seems to be an atypical relationship; with both of us sharing the usual marital roles. I work and bring in most of the money, whilst trying to get my PhD and he is an undergraduate student who spends more time at home. I was most drawn to him because he isn't your average macho man; he hates football and he gets emotional at almost everything. He was attracted to me for the fact that I'm a tomboy with more brains than fashion sense. I always thought I was born to be a man and I finally found someone accepted me for who I was. If I believed in soul mates then I would use that term, but personally I just think we were a perfect match. With that in mind we were engaged three months after we got together and married two months after that. Please note: planning a brilliant wedding does NOT take years; we are living proof of that.

  Since as long as I can remember I have been very disinterested in babies and children (People always made the mistake of handing me babies because I am a woman only to find I would just sit there looking like I was holding an unexploded bomb). Neil mentioned he had never really wanted kids, but soon we realised we wanted to replicate our genes together and we decided to procreate. Since our daughter Willow was born I have realised what people meant when they said that the birth of your first child is the most special moment in your life. I love that little girl more than anything and I will look after her till I die. That being said, I'm not going to start attending parent and baby groups because women and other people's children annoy me and I'm not going to give up work and become a housewife... I have a husband to do that stuff for me.

  I plan to write about my experiences as a mad lecturer, useless wife and dedicated mother. I think my work as a lecturer teaching teenagers, special needs students and undergraduates has given me a lot of experience with the way the UK education system works and also how not to bring up children! Trust me, I have worked with some horrible young people and I'm sure their parents are mostly to blame.

Thought of the day*: Feminists are stupid... how can you go on about being treated equally to men and not being judged for being a woman, then make sexist comments which stereotype men as stupid neaderthals?

* I decided to add this to my blogs, because I don't want to start posting pointless blogs about my obscure thoughts, I'd rather just add a section for me to include a 'thought of the day'.