May and I, a month after I returned to work
Only 16% of mothers with disabled children work.
Compare that to 61% of mothers who work whose children are not disabled.
I’m one of the mothers who had to cut back on her working hours after I had a disabled child. I took a 20% pay cut and work one less day a week. It wasn’t by choice, it was by necessity.
My workplace, a school, was gracious enough to trial me returning to work at my pre-maternity hours. But, it was only after a long meeting where I agreed that we would revisit the subject the following term. For one term, I could miss any days I needed to, to attend May’s appointments.
And, there were plenty. Occupational therapy. Equipment meetings. Epilepsy clinics. Specialist ophthalmology. Physiotherapy. X-rays. Brain scans…
Just today I received a call about availability for an appointment in two-days time. “We work,” I said. “So, I’ll have to call you back.” I get calls like this almost every day, usually with only 24-hours notice. But, given the choice between 24-hours and a six-month wait, I often chose to give my work one-day’s notice.
Even the most understanding of bosses, and mine was, couldn’t help but see the difficulty employing me posed. So, at the end of the term, we reconsidered and I agreed to cut down to three-days a week.
Even then, I remain one of only 16% of mothers in the UK who returned to work after having a disabled child. Just 3% of mothers with disabled children work full-time in the UK, and 13% work part-time.*
There are many barriers to returning to work. An understanding boss and the ability to attend a multitude of medical appointments being two already mentioned.
But, I believe one of the main issues is child care. I documented our struggle to find a provider who would take May. A child like May costs more money because she requires more supervision, time and equipment.
But, the government was not forthcoming with help. I was told that returning to work was a lifestyle choice. There is no statutory requirement to take children like May, even in state run nurseries. And, only weeks after she was admitted, our council cut the funding for her one-on-one care. Without it, the nursery would not have been able to watch over her safely.
A long fight ensued that we won. But, the children that followed May were not given the same provision.
Without exaggeration: if the funding hadn’t been reinstated, May wouldn’t have been able to attend and I would have had to quit my job.
I am more than May’s mother. Is it wrong that I want to use my two post-graduate degrees and over a decade of teaching experience? I have published a novel. I have written for major publications in the US and UK. Why is it less important that I work full-time than it is that my husband does?
What does being May’s mother mean? Does it mean my life is not worth as much as hers?
I want to work. I want to be independent. I want to pay my bills. I want to be a part of the world. Help me.
#WeWork. (We do. If you’d let us…)
*All the statistics in this post came from a study by the Papworth Trust.