'I despair of getting out of this horrible situation'

I am nearly fifty, and have five children aged nine to 21. I have worked through all my pregnancies, and when the children were babies, toddlers, and going off to school. My childminders were there for all their special moments. My fourth child has special needs, and when my mother developed senile dementia and other health problems she came to live with us, so I had no choice but to stop working.

My husband has supported us on his chef's salary for the last ten years, and I have scratched around trying to get work from home, or work that would fit in with his hours (including cleaning, cooking, promotional work, and working in local restaurants). He lost his job in September, and we have desperately tried to get him any work, anywhere. His age is against him, as is mine, and our lack of third level degrees.

We have one child in third year of TCD (showing that economically deprived children DO need free university places), two more in secondary school, and two (including the child with special needs), in mainstream primary. Our second child has been invited to UCD to participate in their math labs for gifted students, on the basis of the results of his Junior Cert honours maths paper. I cannot afford the bus fares for him to get to Dublin without raiding the electricity bill money, or the grocery money.

I understand fully what Elizabeth Dwyer is going through, as my 13-year-old is the only boy in the rugby team who wears second or third hand boots, jersey, shorts and even socks. (€10 for a pair of rugby socks: can’t do it.) My 16-year-old went on a Transition Year school trip with €4 in (very) small change from his nine-year-old sister's piggy bank, as we had nothing else, literally, to give him.

We have striven to give our children as much encouragement to succeed as we can; to do well at school, excel in sports, music, and art, but we are now faced with the stark reality that we have obviously allowed them to hope and dream, whereas if we had prepared them for a lifetime of menial jobs interspersed with social welfare, or jobfare, or emigration, it might have been kinder.

If we want our academically gifted l6-year-old to join his sister at either UCD or TCD, as opposed to the local IT, we will have to split up as a family, put my mother into an institution, (her social worker says it’s doubtful she would even get a place) and have one of us live and work in Dublin or another university town, while the other stayed with the other children and tried to get any type of work to fit around school hours.

I feel suicidal at times, because at every turn, new bills arrive, new schemes are mooted by the government, (water charges! septic tank charges! septic tank inspection charges! slashing child benefit! slashing carers’ allowance! raising fuel/VAT/car tax !(try living in a very rural area with no car)). I cleaned toilets in an office block last weekend, and after petrol and expenses, earned less than €6 per hour. I despair of getting out of this horrible situation, and hope that my children do emigrate, so they never have to face it.

'Mags' originally left the text of this piece as a comment on an article by Elizabeth Dwyer published as part of The State We're In on Sunday. She has given us permission to publish it as a standalone piece.


Image top: lo.re.n.zo.