Husfriend has returned and all can slowly resettle into familiar patterns. Maybe things shouldn’t though. Maybe I should learn that I can do more and therefore do more across the days and weeks I’ve left of my confinement.
Except I also learned that it’s really really hard to do it all adequately.
If I were a single parent. Pregnant and working. I mean, I suppose I’d have been signed off sick just like I have been whilst married – there’s no reason to suppose that would change. But imagine for a minute, because plenty of people don’t have the option; because plenty of people’s contracts don’t cover sick leave; or they’re in jobs that don’t … anyway it’s perfectly possible for someone like me to be a single pregnant parent who has to manage working as well.
It’s like some kind of a horror movie. The thought of it. I barely managed to scrape along for five measly days when I’m on a paid absence! Even at that, things have fallen to the wayside. Like hoovering and dog-walking and just even the general feeling that things aren’t getting done. Coz I suppose certain things just aren’t getting done.
How fucking privileged am I? Seriously. There are so many stops and breaks and supports surrounding me that will stop everything from descending into chaos even at times when I get reduced functionality. And yet I don’t tend to immediately recognise the lack of those structures in other people’s lives.
I’ve a friend who’s at a similar stage of pregnancy as I am and due to the nature of the contracts she’s been working she will be out of work and unpaid – I’m not even sure if she’s entitled to the statutory Maternity Benefit, but even if she is, I know that’s available at different rates to different people too – for the next year and a half.
Now it turns out that she’s pretty privileged too as her husband (and she has one) has full time work and they’ll be fine, but even so, that’s a huge monthly difference between she and me and we’re really in essentially the same boat.
Why do I get so lucky? Was I wise and structured my life in such a way as to take full advantage of the systems, or was I just born the right way with the right combination of genetics, and the right family background and expectations that has just made it so much easier to slide into the roles that society has set up for us.
I spend enough time complaining about the ways I don’t quite fit in the world, and I rarely really examine the ways the world has actually been shaped just for people like me. Or at least people who hold most of the same outward characteristics that I do.
One such example: I was born into the country where I live and claim citizenship, to parents who were citizens here. I went to renew my passport last week and it was the easiest thing to do, despite layers of bureaucracy in place, just because I look and sound as expected for someone applying for an Irish passport.
Okay, maybe not just because of that – the paperwork has to match up, etc., but all the same, it wasn’t in anyway intimidating for me to walk into a police station and march up to the desk and get my bits and pieces signed with a smile and a “no problem at all” and general nice friendliness.
Meanwhile, behind me was a queue out the door for the immigration section and signs up from hundreds of meters away stating that you had to turn up and queue in person and there was no place-holding or anything like that.
I mean, it’s not exactly the USA and its immigration borders, but it’s still a difficulty. And there were husbands and wives and young kids, and nearly all wearing skin-tones of varying shades of brown. And I know that that’s just the start, you know. Everything – job searching, housing, registering their future children’s births – everything is just going to be that extra bit of hassle at best if their even lucky enough to be allowed to stay in the country.
I’ve lived as an immigrant in another country. But I was never called an immigrant. Because I’m white and educated and had a choice to be there or be in my own country, I was called an Ex-pat. As far as I can tell that is the difference between the two terms. It’s a way of recognising privilege. Furthering it even.
So anyway, I’m not solving any world problems here, but I’m taking a pause to recognise that I’m starting further up the ladder than most. Despite all my complaints (and rage).