Warning – contains a graphic image
Six months into a year at home with the kids, I am still mostly sane and continue to enjoy each day (with the occasional exception). Cooking, cleaning, changing nappies and going to toddler groups all combine to make the time pass quickly and one day soon becomes the next. The initial challenges still prevail (including the very fact that I am a dad, which still seems to make me invisible to mums from time to time) but I am getting better at the art of home management. This naturally includes procrastination and only cleaning the bits that people can see. My further education in life outside paid employment includes an apprenticeship in people watching, where I have an interest in trying to work out what some people do all day, and trying out stuff that I have never done before (mostly due to lack of opportunity). An example of this is pilates, so I went along to a class – nothing remarkable in doing pilates but this one was at 10am on a Tuesday morning, with an average class age of around 65 and not too many Y chromosomes in evidence (an ongoing theme). I did find the pilates quite relaxing but rather underwhelming (maybe that is the idea?), although I have no regrets that I tried it. A significant lowlight was what I am pretty sure was an emission from a lady of a certain age, in my immediate vicinity (we were all lying down on our sides doing some sort of stretch with a big elastic band, so everything was at the same level) and there was no admission of guilt or regret. Did she even realise? This did cause me to wonder “What am I doing here?” but, on reflection, it is hardly a heinous crime and what is the odd uninvited fart when compared to discovering an actual turd lying on the bedroom carpet, courtesy of daughter #2?
As MasterCard once pointed out, such experiences are priceless but when it comes to actual hard currency the feeling of getting a decent pay cheque each month is now a distant memory. Once again, I stress that I am not complaining: I submitted my notice with the full knowledge that I would stop getting paid and that I would have to adjust my lifestyle accordingly. Perhaps the “full knowledge” statement is not entirely accurate… safe in the belief that I would be in receipt of a generous pension (but not too generous, and within the income tax personal allowance threshold) I figured it would be plenty to keep me in coffee, t-shirts and other important personal effects whilst still making a meaningful contribution to the household pot. All well and good, apart from I left the Royal Navy (and paid employment) halfway through the financial year meaning that my pension was very much subject to the taxman’s attention and my pocket money was now only £150 a month, after paying my share of the bills. This isn’t so bad – I have enough clothes, I already have plenty of bikes (ahem, five) and I can make a better Americano than most coffee shops anyway. But I certainly value every penny more than I did when I had a job and seek every opportunity to save cash whenever I can. Groceries come from Lidl, charity shops frequently get a browse and second-hand purchases on eBay or Gumtree are the norm. It has made me realise how much the term “disposable income” lives up to its name: it is disposed of, often on products or services that bring little or no benefit. Think mobile phone insurance (just take better care of your phone) or gym membership (just go out for a run, or improvise some dumb bells). Martin Lewis would be proud of me.
Do I look forward to having a paid job again? Of course, but thoughts of employment are exciting and scary in the ratio 51:49. Knowing that I can get through a month on what some folk spend on a night out is quite satisfying and relieves the pressure of trying to find a job with a big salary. Actually going to work is still a little way off but the time to really work out what that job might be, and to start applying for it, is now very close. Lots of ideas abound but it will have to be a pretty good one to be a match to what I do now on a daily basis (or I could just work in a sewerage works and continue my current close relationship with feculence). Such is my life.