Would you have a baby to stay on benefits, and is all really fair in a world where ovaries & testicles co-exist?


I heard on the news last week about a man who got divorced 20 years ago. He has since won the lottery, which is probably irksome for his ex-wife, but surely, decades on, doesn’t mean that much?

However, his ex is taking him to court in an effort to get her greedy paws on his millions. How on earth does that work? And do some women have no shame in terms of what they’re willing to take from a man, simply because they’ve spawned some kids?

As far as children go, if you’ve given up a glittering career to have them, then I think you’re entitled to some financial recompense, especially when it comes to the issue of pensions.

My husband’s pension will far exceed mine for example – because, via staying at home once our youngest was born, I have essentially facilitated his career, whilst ignoring my own. I have therefore missed out on years of private pension input. I gave up work when I was slightly further along the career ladder than him… By the time I went back, he had shot up to the heights of head teacher, whilst I stagnated. I have been fortunate enough, since returning to work, to find myself in a school that just happened to need a department lead soon after I joined; this is rarely the case for many of us females, who often have to go back a few career steps, if not to the bottom rung.

In fairness we did discuss the idea of him being the one to give up work for a few years, but I think this was a conciliatory nod to his testicles – in that he wanted to keep them and knows my views on the Man As Hunter Gatherer/Woman As Domestic Slavery debate.

Furthermore, if you’ve both studied hard for years to become qualified, made it in your own careers, and then mutually decide that the female will stop working in order to have children, then that’s a vastly different kettle of fish to if you’ve given up nothing – and have, until divorce, enjoyed not working, with no intention of ever returning.

I’ve been divorced, and I may have been young, but it was traumatic and heart-breaking, racked with a guilt that lasted for many stubborn years. Our families were broken, and luckily we had no children – but even if we had kids, and he won the lottery tomorrow, I would, hand on heart, not be interested in his millions. That would be my fictional children’s entitlement; not mine.

I wonder would the story be different if the lottery winner were the ex-wife? Would she be taken to court? Or agree that she should give him a substantial portion of her winnings? I very much doubt it.

In this age of equality, I cannot fathom that we are still bringing girls up to believe, somehow, that the world and the testicles in it owe them a living. Where is the wish to stand on your own two feet? And why should it be the man’s sole responsibility to support children? Ovaries do play a part in conception.

A ruling came in recently that means anyone with a child aged 5 must go back to work, and if they don’t, then they’ll have to sign on and be monitored in their job hunt. A friend of mine has told me that suddenly, a lot of Year R mothers are sporting bumps again; anything to stay on the benefits. Nothing financial would induce me to have a child in order to avoid work. It’s not even the financial benefits of work that I enjoy so much; it’s the sense of self, the ability to function as ‘me’ and not ‘mummeeeeee’ 24 hours a day.

Benefits are a good thing for those who need them – but there’s a world between ‘want’ and ‘need’. If you’re working as much as you can, whilst turning off the heating so your kids can eat, and going without yourself, then you’re in need. If you’re physically or mentally unable to work, then you’re in need. If you are made redundant or you’ve left education and are job-hunting, then you’re in need. If you have a child who is disabled or you are a carer, then you’re in need. If you have been bereaved, or your life torn apart, or have been diagnosed with an illness, then you’re in need. Maybe you’re a teenage mum with no support from the father of your baby, or you’ve been brave enough to have left an abusive relationship with nowhere to turn. Perhaps you’ve left a relationship your child was being abused in. The scenarios are endless: it’s unquestionable that there are, and always will be, myriad people in society that society should look after, whether long or short-term. After all, who knows when it could be any one of us in need? There but for the grace of whichever god/goddesses you do or don’t believe in.

But if you’re having a financially fine time at the hands of those of us who are working their backsides off to fund your lifestyle, then perhaps you need to take a look in the mirror and consider what your contribution to society actually is? Because it isn’t the government who are paying you – it’s me, and the other squillion workers out there. For each monthly pay check I get, I can divide into hours the exact amount that I’ve gone to work, in order to pay you your ‘income’. And if you fall into ‘need’, then I am happy to do so.

As far as I can see, there are only two sets of people who get heated under their collars during the benefits debate: those who are working hours in order to donate their tax to people who are not legitimately in ‘need’, but simply in a state of ‘want’, and those who are in a state of ‘need’ and know that they are reading this whilst paying for their wifi with PAYE contributions. Those in a state of ‘need’ know that they are entitled; those who are fiddling the system should perhaps take a look in the mirror that the workers of the world paid for.

First published in the Portsmouth News, Tuesday 24th March 2015


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