Thursday, 28 August 2014

Knocked Up and Unemployed

This post will be about my experience of signing on while pregnant. I found out I was pregnant just after I had completed my PGCE (teacher training). With no full time position secured I didn't have many options. I decided to sign on and hopefully pick up some work. I signed up with teaching agencies who said they could get me cover/supply work in September which sounded great. No planning, marking or setting homework! You just go in a deliver a pre planned session and make sure the kids behave themselves. I could be thrown into any subject but thought I'd be alright although I honestly think I would struggle with maths but I would get through it. 

The only problem was, it was June. I had to either pick up something for three months until september or look for a permanent position. I registered online to claim benefits, I have never claimed before, even when I was out of work for a month I just put everything on my credit card. But this time the credit card was already maxed out. My first appointment with the job centre wasn't too bad. I was told I would have to provide evidence that I had finished my course and have proof of an end date. No problem. I was also told about the job seekers agreement and that my sign on day was 9:30 in the morning. At this point I had terrible morning sickness but felt far too cheeky to ask to swap times. I told the nice lady I was pregnant and she jotted it down into her notes. All was well, I would come in a week on Thursday and have my first meeting with a job advisor. 

After getting up and being sick twice I manage to get the job centre bang on 9:30, Imagine my heartbreak when I was then told my appointment wasn't until 2:30!I was told that, it's on my book but I just had 9:30 in my head. I asked if I could be seen now but was told no, I would have to come back. So I took myself off feeling like a prize idiot. I went home and slept on the sofa with the cat. I woke up had some instant noodles (the only thing I could keep down at the time) and headed back into town for my appointment. 

My job advisor seemed nice enough and all was going well. She explained that if I did everything in my job seeker agreement I would be working within 6 weeks. She wrote down everything that I had been doing, PGCE, Masters and Degree and she seemed very pleased about. Then it happened. She asked if there was any reason I might not be able to accept any work. I dropped my pregnancy bombshell, "I don't think so but I am 11 weeks pregnant, you probably need to know that" It was almost like I physically see the black cloud come over her, she completely changed. Her smile dropped and her tone deepened. Then those words came out of her mouth "Oh! Right! Well, was it planned?" I was in shock, was this part of the process? Did she really need to know that information? She also asked;

"How is this going to effect things then?"
"What does your boyfriend think?"
"Will you work after the baby is born?"

In shock I answered all her questions and it wasn't until I got home I realised how angry I was, but then it was too late. I 100% feel like her entire opinion of me changed that moment I told her I was pregnant. To be honest she was nice enough (fake nice though, I know the difference sweetheart) and every time I saw her she infuriated me. I felt like she was patronising, opinionated and at times completely clueless. 

I think because my education is in dance and I am educated to a high level she did not know what to do with me. There is no box for her to put me in. Here are some of her suggestions for work for me;

  • Choreograph the pantomime. Bit seasonal don't you think?
  • Work in a theatre. What as a stage hand, yeah they are pretty easy jobs to come by?
  • Work in dance therapy. I have no experience and that requires a separate degree of it's own.
  • Work at East Midlands Airport in a cafe.
  • Get a job in Tesco because it's close to where I live. They are not recruiting.
  • Work in the butchers because they have lots of staff. ?
  • Get a pushbike with wheels to work scheme. I am pregnant!?
  • Work as a civil servant. Knocked up and working for The Ministry of Defence?
Honestly the list is endless, those were just some of a few I can remember. Not once did she mention education. She had literally no idea about how to become a Further Education teacher. She once asked me "so how do you go about getting a job in a college" Really! REALLY? The worst thing was is she was some team leader/middle management type so was on my case big time. She always brought up my education and once said "With your qualifications, you could probably work within the same pay band as me!" Well whoop-de-fucking-do! Thats just wonderful, thank you so much for that amazing compliment.

I am unsure why my job advisor had such an issue with me, maybe she is like it with everyone, maybe she felt threatened by me, maybe they are all like it, maybe she judges me on being knocked up and unemployed, who knows? But what I do know is she told me today that unfortunately I would be no longer her 'customer'. She is moving and will be dealing with income tax from now on. The relief is just indescribable. Like I said she wasn't nasty, but that made it worse. I can cope with nasty, I have the responses to deal with people like that. She was false, that I can't manage, I have no strategies that would have been appropriate to use in this situation. 

Now I am looking for work but pubs/cafes are not too keen on 29 year old qualified teachers pouring pints, especially not knocked up ones. They want 18 year old students. I have searched for work everyday and sent off at least 4 applications a week but have found nothing. I have altered my CV written covering letters and had no success. Although I am still searching I am really hoping that these teaching agencies deliver what they have said in September. It's good money, on my terms and with no stress to bring home. It sounds perfect. Fingers Crossed. 

Have you ever had to deal with the job centre, what are your experience with them? 

photo credit: <a href="">Caro Wallis</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>