The government loves hard working families, and puts those three words together every chance it gets. To be a good person in the UK is to be part of a hard working family. Neatly disenfranchising those who can’t find work, aren’t well enough to work, aren’t allowed to work (asylum seekers), who are too old to work, or not working to raise children, or not part of a regular family unit. They don’t say it explicitly but we all know that no single mum is part of the Tory ‘hard working families’ vision.
What we are to understand is that if you work hard, you will be ok. Never mind that the minimum wage isn’t enough to live on, and that one working class wage will not buy a house in many places. Never mind the food banks and the pay day lenders, the young people who have no choice but to stay in the parental home, we are to believe that working hard will save us. Even if it doesn’t. Even though the loss of a job would put most households on their knees in all too short a time frame.
The thing about working hard, really hard and raising a family while you do it, is that there’s not much chance to think. School, after school care, food and laundry, work, commuting, shopping, paying the bills… You run around frantically from when you wake up to when you fall into bed, trying to make ends meet, and to get everything done. There’s not much time to notice how you aren’t winning. If you’re tired, you don’t work smart, or efficiently, you just stumble on as best you can.
There are things that reliably lower and wipe out self-esteem. Having no time for rest and leisure is one of those. Make people work all the time, give them no quality of life and day by day you grind down their sense of self worth. A person with no sense of self worth has a hard time defending themselves, standing up for their interests or even feeling entitled to fight their own corner. I think this may be deliberate.
So we have schemes to keep the unemployed busy and stressed, jumping through hoops so that they don’t have time to think either, and we’re maybe going to extend school hours and get those kids broken in sooner. Work hard enough and you’ll never have the time or energy to ask why you still can’t pay the bills, and why the prices are rising, and why you keep being asked to do more whilst being paid less for it.
That’s why I wrote this blog on Friday. I’ve been working seven day weeks for ages. I’m not doing it any more. I’m taking some time out to think about things, and to decide what would work, and how best to do things – not running flat out all the time, but working smarter, and having days off. Whole days. Regularly. I am not going to be part of a hard working family. I want a decent quality of life, and I’m going to make that happen.