To assume is to make an ass out of you and me (ASS-U-ME). Yes, it’s a middle-management cliché and an incredibly cheesy David Brent style one at that, but just sometimes it’s infallibly true.
You see, as an older mummy with a decent job, people assume that I have my shizz together when it comes to money. They see the nice holidays and the Orla Kiely oven gloves and think here is a woman who likes nice things and has the salary to afford them. Certainly, the pre-child salary would suggest I could anyway. The fact that we purchased our apartment when interest rates were cripplingly high (albeit house prices were lower) and the fact that I spent a year earning SMP and have since returned to work on a part-time basis (whilst paying extortionate nursery fees) would suggest otherwise. Sure, there were the exotic holidays back in the day. Trips to places like Sri Lanka and Langkawi – all afforded by living off beans on toast as a staple dinner option. I know, I am very fortunate that I can afford beans and there are others who have to queue at Foodbanks to get theirs. This isn’t a plea for pity, nor me saying that I’m poor, it’s just a wake-up call that – because we don’t talk about money – we all make assumptions of the state of others finances.
As an older mummy the assumption is that I have the money to do as I please. I’m sure there are equally assumptions that perhaps younger or single mothers are a burden on the benefits system – when, in fact, they may be working hard to support their family.
Because we don’t have an open narrative about money we don’t know how Daisy in accounts is affording her latest Gucci handbag. Maybe she has a rich husband whom she never sees? Maybe she earns more than we do? Maybe she’s inherited some money? Maybe she saves hard and never goes out? Maybe she’s paid for it on credit card? Maybe we envy Daisy? Maybe we want to be like Daisy and also get ourselves a Gucci handbag (certainly my idea of what brands I deemed acceptable altered when I worked in a wealthier area of the Midlands)? Maybe our salary won’t stretch that far? Maybe we try to save but become disheartened because we can only put away a small amount each month? Cue a huge ‘It’s not fair! I want what she has!’ grump. Or maybe we decide to splurge on the credit card and face the consequences when the bill comes? Maybe that’s what Daisy was doing in the first place? Maybe that’s why she barely gets a wink of sleep and dreads opening the post lest it be another letter from the bailiffs..?
All of this might sound extreme, but I’ve seen it first hand. When I left college I wasn’t sure if uni was right for me, so I took a year out. Not your usual ‘year out’ spent travelling around Thailand, I was from a single parent working class family after all. Instead I worked in the office of Financial Advisors, as well as sorting out people’s mortgages they offered debt management services. People would pay a small fee to have this company make arrangements with creditors after their debts had spiralled out of control. The amount of people who would call up, already in substantial debt, to tell us that they had taken out yet another credit agreement, or had run up a huge bar tab at the weekend was crazy, their desire to keep up with the mythical Jones’ stronger than their self-preservation to avoid acquiring a CCJ.
I can’t help but wonder that maybe, just maybe, if we were a bit more honest about our finances if those mythical Jones’ might cease to exist?
What do people assume about your financial situation?
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