From poor to working poor

Last updated 05:00 06/03/2014

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I have three children, aged 3, 6 and 1. I returned to work 12 months after the third birth, putting my 1-year-old into Barnardos care with my friend, my 3-year-old in a daycare centre, and my 6-year-old in an after-school programme.

I work fulltime, as does my partner. We pay about $500 a week in childcare, which is about to increase as we add before-school care for my 6-year-old.

We don't get a childcare subsidy, we are just out of the income threshold by about $40. If we earned about $45 less we would get about $200 for childcare.

You could say we are worse off for working as many hours as we do, for the money we do. $500 a week, or soon to be $550 a week, that's a lot of money. We know our kids are cared for, happy and safe, but still, that's $500.

Each morning, my partner leaves to go to work about 6.30am, when I'm getting the household up. It's a struggle, the two older children crying that it's still night.

There's showers to be had, wet beds to be stripped, lunches to be made, breakfasts to be eaten, dressing, sorting the baby, bags to be packed, etc.

There are tears, tantrums, and stubbornness . My patience is tested. We aim to get out the door by 7.30am, which is slowly getting later and later.

Off we go to the childcare centre, where my friend meets me to take the baby, and up until now, she took my 6-year-old too.

My 6-year-old can't go to school until 8.30am, but I start my job at that time.

I am wound up as I walk in the door to work, skulling back a berrocca drink to try to shake off the morning yuckiness.

I work, come home at lunch and try to pre-start tea, rush back to work, finish about 5pm (sometimes slightly later) out the door, in the car, rush to daycare, and pick up one child.

The baby is dropped off at home as my partner gets home just before I do, and he retrieves the 6-year-old from the afterschool programme which is two doors down from our house.

Once in the door, three kids want attention, cooking tea, trying to sort the kitchen and dishes, tea served, homework to be done, sometimes baths to be had.

Clean up kitchen, kids to bed, washing on and hung out, check notices, etc.

My partner is doing the washing, with a baby in cloth nappies, and all the daycare clothes, school clothes, swimming gear, his work clothes, my work clothes, baby clothes, towels, kitchen towels, etc. There are usually four to five loads needing done a day.

Currently we have a broken washing machine which we can't fix. We can't afford a new one, so we manually fill it with a hose from the sink next to it, as the function on it for filling with water is what's broken.

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It means we have to stand next to it to ensure it doesn't overflow, and turn it off during cycles. I have flooded the house many, many times. If only we had extra money each week to be able to afford a new machine.

In all honesty, I don't get to sit down until about 10pm, sometimes later. I'm knackered and grumpy. I'm over it, and the next day we start the routine all over again.

Working and kids is hard. At the moment I'm struggling to find a work-life balance with no option of going part time in my current job.

The cost of childcare means each week after bills are paid, and basic groceries are bought, there is nothing for me.

I don't smoke or drink. I can't even occasionally treat myself to anything for the exhausting week I've just had.

We are trying to weigh up if it's worth us both working. We don't get tax credits from IRD either due to a stuff-up with ACC and IRD. Long story, but I have a huge debt and no entitlement.

If only the government would address working families like us, who don't quite qualify for the things which are meant to make it easier for families to work.

A childcare subsidy should be more realistic. Why make a family who is trying its best worse off? It's like being punished.

Working for families. Well, it doesn't work for us.

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