Friday, 11 May 2012

The first CFF

Today is CFF (child free friday) and I gotta tell you, I was so excited for this day. SO.EXCITED. Until Wednesday when I spoke to Centrelink. They destroyed me.

Some background:
I was made redundant in January which was awesome at the time, we paid out a couple of debts and whilst it would have been nice to buy a sparkly new car or go on a big holiday, we did the sensible thing. The sensible thing allowed me to be at home with my monkeys for a bit longer. Monkey Man and Missy Moo have been going to daycare once a week since July last year. They love it, I love it. We all get a much needed break from each other and start the weekend afresh.
My husband earns a decent wage, but with that decent wage we have a decent mortgage and trust me when I say there is not a diamond or chandelier in sight. We live month to month and sometimes often, its a tight finish to the month. As a result of that 'decent' salary we get no financial assistance from the government. Don't get me started on what they classify as a high salary or how stupid I think their thresholds and rules are. I personally just think everyone should get a fair go.
The only help we do get is the childcare rebate, which thankfully isn't means tested. 50% of the daycare fees are refunded and without this, we cannot afford to send our 3 kids to daycare one (or any other) day a week. I did the right thing on Wednesday and phoned to update our information, to inform them that Little Miss would be joining the big monkeys at 'school'. Thats when my world come to a stop, quickly.

'No Mrs T, thats not ok, as you're unemployed you are not entitled to that rebate and it will be stopped immediately. Here comes the kicker: You will also receive a bill for the rebate you have received since January. Yes you will need to pay it all back'.


but wait, it gets better

'You're at home with 3 children under 3 due to your own choices, its not our responsibility to assist you unless you are entitled. And from what I can see, you are not entitled to any form of assistance. You will need to return to work immediately'

WHAT THE FUCK?? and yes, she really said that to me

I have 3 young children, surely its better for everyone involved if I am home with them? I'm supposed to put more pressure on the already over extended childcare system and 'return to work immediately'. My baby is only 9 months old. This cannot be my only option. I cried on the phone and it got me no where by the way. I was so upset with how this woman spoke to me and what she told me to do. Return to work was her only option for me, nothing was mentioned about training or studying or anything. I hung up and cried some more. I have spent the last two days job hunting, racking my brains re options; working nights, weekends, locations of jobs, daycare drop off and pick up options, the fact we'd need a bigger second car. Until this is sorted my childcare rebate is no more so to send the kids is costing us $300 a week. Money we don't have. Do I pull them out til I return to work, do I not start Little Miss today? The older two are in a routine so do I disrupt them? If I give up their spots at daycare I most likely won't get them back when I need them. Not to mention the compounding guilt factor of sending them to daycare in the first place when I'm at home. I am a total mummy fail at times. Oh my god the stress, so many options, so many decisions. I have not slept much the last two nights due to the bloody stress. I am now watching my mailbox waiting for a bill. I am now stressing about going back to work, worried I will take the wrong job for the wrong reasons. Worried if I don't find a balance that works for me, I will go completely insane.

So rather than go to the movies today as I planned, I decided to ring Centrelink again and discuss my options - without crying. I thankfully got a nice consultant who explained that 'returning to work' isnt my only option. I can study if I choose, and receive the childcare rebate. I can actively look for work and receive the childcare rebate. I can return to work if I want to and receive the childcare rebate. Hallelujah! I am actively seeking work. All I had to do was register with them as an 'active job seeker' and attend a job centre. I could do this today as they had appointments. Yes, register me please! So off I went to the suggested job centre. The entrance stunk of urine, the office of cigarettes and everyone inside be they staff or job seeker seemed depressed, kinda stupid and stunk of cigarettes. I was stared at, alot. The 12 year old receptionist complete with yellow teeth, muffin top hanging over her hipster jeans, handed me a form while she stuffed her face with chips. 'Fill this in and come back'. ok

When I gave her my form she handed me a page of job websites, suggesting I use them. She then informed me that according to the system I was a category xyz.... which means I have a child under 6 or don't receive any govenment benefits. Correct on both accounts. Well, as a result of that they can't help me find work. What??? She then handed me an appointment card for 3 months time and I'm to attend if I haven't found a job by then. I'm also to phone and cancel it should I not need it. Thanks for coming. Get out. Seriously.

So unless I get benefits, the government won't help me find work. And to receive benefits I have to have no income yet my husband earns too much. And to send my kids to daycare and get help with fees I have to return to work. Work that won't cover the cost of 3 babies in care and would send us backwards from a financial perspective. If I was employed by someone but on unpaid leave I would qualify for the childcare rebate..... are you with me? farrrrk me. How screwed is our government??

So CFF was a bust, I have a stress headache the size of everest. I WILL find a job without the help of the job centre. I WON'T claim benefits I am not entitled to. And now I am registered as an 'active job seeker' my childcare rebate IS in place and I can sleep at night knowing we can afford one day per week at the current status quo. My sanity is secure, as is that of my children.

For fcuks sake, all I wanted to do was go to the bloody movies alone.



  1. Oh honey... I can feel your anxiety through the computer screen. I want to throw things and scream and rant and rave right along side with you.

    You are a perfect mother for your beautiful children. All three are thriving and wonderful!

    Centrelink get a middle finger from me!


  2. How disgusting! Like seriously, the government is totally screwed! We have paid enough taxes to receive benefits for the next 20 years... I too got a bill, but sorted it out quick smart. My husband did fill in a tax return in 09? We weren't even married then!! I am waiting patiently til I am fully entitled to go and get what I deserve.... No doubt will be just as painful as your exercise. *hugs for you*, *screws for centrelink*

  3. Oh wow that centrelink lady was rude rude rude!!!

    I hate it, I'm currently studying so we get the rebate, from July though I won't be studying as I'm having bub so Angus will stop D/C as we won't get the rebate anymore. It sucks!

  4. Oh Liza, I feel your pain on this one. They way our government treats middle income families is absolutely ridiculous. We fall into that same category of unless I work we get nothing. Fortunately we only have one child (for the next few months anyway), so I go to work a couple of half days per week and make (only) slightly more than the cost of daycare on those days. Max loves going though and it keeps me eligible for paid maternity leave when I need it.

    When I called centrelink after Max was born they said something along the lines of 'if you can't afford to stay home with your son, maybe you should try selling your house and renting something cheaper'. I was livid. How does that make economic sense?

    Anyway, that's my rant. Just wanted to say that I know how frustrating it can be xx


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