I just want to clear a few things up, because I’m frankly tired of the abuse I get on Twitter and blog comments from people who make all sorts of assumptions about me that AREN’T ACTUALLY TRUE.
I mean, it’s not like I don’t put it all here for everyone to read, so quite why I spend my evenings answering the same old same old same old abuse is beyond me.
So once and for all, here’s some clear-ups of some common misunderstandings:
1. I’m not a single mother. I was, for a very long time, but I am now engaged to my best friend and soul mate, and we will be getting married, hopefully in the spring. Yes, according to the law of the land, I am technically ‘single’, but not in the ‘woe is me, poor single mother’ sense. Just in the ‘Ms not Mrs’ sense.
2. I was not ‘abandoned’ by the father of my child, as people seem so insistent to point out. Small Boy’s dad is a brilliant father, a co-parent, he is supportive, caring, and bursting with love for his son. The arrangements that we have to jointly raise our child are our business – and our business alone. Thankyou.
3. I do not need to ‘get a job’. I work full time (and then some) as a freelance writer for several national newspapers and websites. I am also writing a book, due for publication in February 2013. I am an ambassador for Child Poverty Action Group and a UK Poverty Ambassador for Oxfam. I work about sixty hours a week, well into evenings and weekends. If that’s not a job, I don’t know what is.
4. I am not ‘on benefits’. Again, I was, for a long time. I claimed income support, child benefit and housing benefit, and tax credits, when I was unemployed from November 2011 until February 2013. I no longer claim Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, or any Tax Credits. I still claim Child Benefit for my son, as my income is highly unlikely to exceed the threshold this year. I don’t claim Tax Credits because I don’t pay childcare fees for my son (he attends 15 free hours a week) and I’m not able to estimate my income as a freelancer – and the last thing I need is to pay back a lump sum if I guess wrongly, so I haven’t claimed them since they were due for renewal. Some people may feel this is the wrong thing to do, but it was my decision, and you can’t live people’s lives for them.
5. I am not living ‘in poverty’. I was, again, for a long time. I talked about it at the TUC conference, I talked about it in my blog, and i’m still going to talk about it. I am thankfully working now, living somewhere that I can afford on the work that I do, and have reduced my childcare bill from hundreds of pounds to £6.75 a month by going self employed. The dark days are over, but that doesn’t make them any less valid or my experiences any less important to what I do.
6. I am not sponsored by anyone, not the TUC, not Sainsburys, not anyone. I do not get paid to speak at conferences or events. Occasionally I get my travel refunded, which is nice. If I ever enter into any partnerships with any organisations, I will be open and transparent about them. I have had several offers over the past few months from product companies, food companies, supermarkets – and nothing has matched what I want to do or say. I won’t tie myself to a corporation for the sake of it or for a quick buck. I’ll only do what feels right, and I’ll keep you all posted.
When I started writing this blog, I was an unemployed single mother living in a flat that I couldn’t afford, struggling to feed myself and my son. I had a nightmare with benefits, missed and delayed and suspended payments, which made a bad situation worse and worse. It has taken almost two years to get back on my feet from giving up my job in the Fire Service in November 2011. In that time I’ve learned what works best for me and my family and my circumstances – selling almost everything I own to get back on my feet, moving into a shared house for a little while to reduce outgoings to an absolute minimum, and eventually going self employed to reduce the childcare bill and do all the charity and campaign work that I want to do.
So please – before casting around to tell me how feckless and useless I am, before you rant about how ‘I’ spend ‘your’ taxes, before I get another ‘get a job’ comment, please take a moment to do your research, and to realise that just because a journalist that had never met me before from Channel 4 called me ‘a single mother’ on national television, doesn’t mean to say I am one. If I was hellbent on pretending I was single, I wouldn’t be plastering photos of my engagement ring on Twitter now, would I?
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe