Monday, December 04, 2006

Thank God it's only money.

Doing the best for your children is all that any of us can ever hope to do. So when six years ago eldest daughter was looking at secondary schools and asked if she could also look at the very nice, local, but private school for Girls. We couldn't resist.

It was lovely. Everything that you could possibly want for your daughter. Bright, beautifully decorated buildings, a gym to die for, a fantastic modern indoor swimming pool, an auditorium with snazzy snap back seating and more spare land to surround it than the rest of Monmouth put together. Probably the rest of Wales really. And probably in truth, to send five chidren there you need to be looking at most of the available disposable income from Wales.They even gave us proper coffee when we went to the interview.

Being who she is, Eldest Daughter sat the exam with absolute determination and gained a 25% bursary offer as a result. We did our sums and somehow made 2+2 add up to 3. (Hubby is the mathematician amongst the two of us. I am just an optimist) It all seemed quite reasonable, the day we did the sums. She went, and I started my business to pay for it.

Now bear this in mind, I am married to a lovely Civil Servant. He is on a Civil Servant's salary. The day that we made that decision must have been the day that we thought we saw a magic beanstalk growing in the garden up to the geese that laid the golden eggs. I like to think that we are intelligent people, but that day, the day that we made the decision to send our children to private school, someone had taken away our intelligent brain cells and swapped them for ones which didn't see the wood for the trees. Quite good considering we live in a Forest.

A year later, we were so thrilled with it all (I just loved those carpeted hallways and leather sofas for parents to sit in while waiting) that we decided to expand the business and send number 2 and 3 to the Prep Schools within the same organisation. We moved house too. So as to be on a better bus route.

A year later still and the expanded part of the business hadn't taken off with the same gusto as the first bit. So we remortgaged, I started yet another bit of the business and struggled on. Six months later, new bit of business was doing well, but the bit that was ailing was seriously struggling still - wrong area - and so I eventually, after much discussion and soul searching closed that. Only problem was that it left me with insufficient income and huge debts.

After more deep soul searching and discussions with various people, we gave notice to the schools for Eldest daughter, who was coming up to the end of Year 9 and due to start her GCSE course that September and Eldest son only son, who was just finishing primary school. Local school couldn't take daughter number two to do year 6, so we made a decision, with the school's blessing, who were by now in full knowledge of our situation, to keep her there for another year, until the end of her primary school.

We promised them too much money in repayments and struggled on. Again.

Meanwhile Eldest daughter and Eldest son got into brilliant state grammar schools and second daughter sat for various grammar schools to move onto after primary school.

Everything went according to plan (that is plan number 2) and all moved in time to state grammar schools. The kids were fantastic. Their awful parents had promised them the Earth and given them just the type that comes out of the ground. But they rose to the occasion and have positively embraced everything that has since been thrown at them. Which I personally believe makes ED's Angel campaign for Orange all the more deserved by her. Her parents have managed to struggle one way or another for the last 20 years. I would never wish to inflict such struggle on our children, so if they can become financially solvent at an early age, all I can say is thank God. And clearly there is one who is looking after my children in the absence of a good mother.

I was a wreck for weeks. No, months. Years. Even now I can't write this without tears streaming down my face. Because I feel, as a mother, I have failed. I set out to do something for my children which I didn't achieve. We all make occasional rash promises to our children, and sometimes it doesn't work out exactly as planned, but this was a very very big mistake.

The worst thing was that when eventually daughter number two left at the end of Year 6, we still owed the school money. I also had big business debts, and the most ridiculously oversized mortgage. I joke in my other blogs about huge mortgage for huge house for huge family. Like most jokes the funny thing is, that it is funny to those who know us, because it isn't funny. But being funny and looking at the funnier side of life is my way of dealing with everything else that has been going on in my life recently.........

Last month after struggling so hard for the last five years, I finally sold out my business to my franchisor. There is no profit and I still have business debts. I still run the business as a manager for a weekly fee. They have been very good to me, and I am quite blessed in that sense.

There won't be enough money left to pay off the debt to the school. And currently, they won't accept our offer of meagre monthly payments. They are being, to say the least, unpleasant. And so it's a bit of a mess really.

But, thank God, it's only money. And I do believe that there is definitely more to life.


CeeCee said...

Hi Sally,

I've only been reading your blog for a week or two, so first of all I'd like to say that I find it lovely to read.

However, what a sobering post today. I've only lived in the UK for 5 years but will probably stay and have kids here. But I can see the struggle ahead. The fees of some of the private schools could feed an african country for a year!

Of course you wanted to give your kids the opportunity of going to a school of their choice, and of course they are going to choose the one one with the big pool etc. However I think the fact your children have accepted the changes without complaint goes to show you've raised them well and they are intelligent enough to see that the big pool isn't every thing!

So well done to you!

ChrisB said...

Sally it sounds to me that you are great parents. You did your best at the time and children are resilient particularly if you are honest with them. The fact that they have managed the changes so well is a credit to their upbringing.

Sally Lomax said...

Thank you CeeCee and Chris!

That is so lovely to hear.

Thank you.


meredic said...

Well if it all goes pear shaped and you find yourselves out on the street I have loads of spare rooms!

Sally Lomax said...

Gosh! How kind!

Hopefully it won't be necessary - but thank you!


Beccy said...

Sally want a lot for you to contend with. Your children sound fantastic and are coping well. Children who have been taught about life adapt to situations and soon realise that life is not about money and swimming pools, far more important are friendships, honesty and love, all of which you have in abundance.

Prehaps in this season of goodwill the school might rethink your offer re the monthly repayments.

I wish you well and am sure with your sense of humour you will come out of this a stronger person.

Sally Lomax said...

Ohhh - thank you Beccy. This morning when I received the letter I felt that I couldn't write today. I felt this because the Blog is not about any of our problems generally.

However, when you feel really low, there does come a time when you can't write frivolously. So I started writing this - and it flowed.

I nearly didn't publish it, because I realised that it does put me in a different light to my other blogs. I was worried that people would think really badly of us. Old friends read this blog, and we have never been this open with anyone really.

And then I thought that really as my blog has gone on it has become more of me anyway, and without knowing the real me then the rest has less point anyway.

So here it is, in full horrible glory.

I have been quite stunned though by the lovely support people have shown and the lovely comments from everyone.



Beccy said...

Your posts usually make me laugh, often out loud, but you are not a one dimesional person and it's nice to see the full you. You are very brave to share this with us your readers and I for one am enjoying getting to know you.

Thank you for sharing the real you with us, it's a real pleasure.

Sally Lomax said...

Thank you Beccy!!


Ignorminious said...

Wow, what a story.

Money is awful stuff if you ask me, and not having enough of it is even worse. Don't blame yourself though. Not being able to afford the most expensive school in the area doesn't make you a bad mother. From what I've read of your last few posts, you seem to me to be quite the reverse.

Good luck sorting things out with the school!

Sally Lomax said...

Thank you Ignorminious!


Nicole said...

What a terrible time of the year for all of this to happen, as well! I agree with CeeCee- seems like you have raised your children very well. Although the solution to this isn't evident right now, something will come up. The thing is, and I have a feeling that you already thinking this way, you just have to deal with one day at a time. Good things happen to good people- not always in the way that we expect, but surprises are the best part of life.

Sally Lomax said...

Oh thank you Nicole!


emilina ballerina said...

love you mum!

also, i've told you a million and one times that moving us was one of the best moves you could have made...i'm SURE we will all turn out much more rounded, much less pompous people from being at school in - admittedly not so gorge, and everso slightly tramptastic - Gloucester!

the Grammar schools are waay better anyway!the people are normal, cleverer, and dont all own six ponies two shire horses, a maid, a butler, three chauffeurs and nannies and have mummies and daddies who drive their soft-topped porsches down to the isle of white for mini-breaks!

seriously, you did the right thing and you should know that!and i KNOW that my social life would be pants if i was still there!no WAY would i have a party to go to every week!let alone every term!

and its SO much better for anna-look how much she's changed!guy too actuellement!

lol dont you worry babe!everything will work itself out


Monday, 04 December, 2006

Sally Lomax said...

Love you Em!

Thank you!


Monday, 04 December, 2006

Jenny said...

Beccy sent me here.

I'm so glad she did. Beautiful and moving and I can so relate. (I wish I couldn't.)

Sally Lomax said...

Thank you Jenny. I have just read your Mama Drama post. That is VERY moving. everyone should have a look at that.

Karmyn said...

It's ONLY money? You have a great attitude!!!!

Came here vis Peppermint Tea.

Emma in Canada said...

I'm coming from Beccy also. I have been reading your comments on her site for months and have often meant to come visit but never did. I have missed out I see!

That was a very moving post and a very lovely comment by your daughter.

enid said...

hi sally, enid's coming from beccy too . of course she reads you already, but hadn't read back to this particular post, which is wonderful* and brave. how proud you must be of your daughter to make that comment, too.

*not a word enid uses lightly.

Sally Lomax said...

Dear Karmyn, Emma and Enid and everyone else who has read and commented so kindly on this blog....

I am really touched by all your lovely comments.

As a post script to this, we found out, only this week that the school are finally prepared to accept a sensible offer from us to pay off the fees.

They were planning on taking us to court, but thankfully, in the end we won through - but not without a lot of battling. I haven't written several follow up posts to this, because to be honest I could only write it once. It is just too close to the bone really.

One day, I will write it all. Possibly in fiction form. That way I can let rip a little wider.

In the meantime, any of you considering sending your children to private school, do think very carefully about it. It can take over your life and fees go up sometimes without any warning.

When Eldest Daughter started at Monmouth, her fees with bursary were £4500 a year.

By the time they all left, the fees in the last year for all three collectively were over £30,000. Big difference!

Someone once said to me that to consider paying out of your income is crazy. I fear they were right. If you have capital handy, then that's fine. If not, and if you are not earning serious money, then think again. There are good state schools around, and children thrive wherever they are. It's the extra things and your upbringing that really makes the difference.

It took me a long while to accept that.

Thank you everyone....


Beccy said...

Sally, thanks so much for the update, I have been thinking about you since you wrote this post. I'm so glad the school saw reason before a messy court battle, and great advice about schools. Here in Ireland a lot of people have the attitude that paying for a school automatically means it will be better, I think choosing the right school to suit your child is far more important.

Sally Lomax said...

Thank you Beccy! I agree. And thank you for highlighting me to everyone...


Pamela said...

coming over from a fun monday post hop. I've been linking and have no idea where I am

But, I know what you are talking about -- regarding financial decisions and acting upon them,

the old sayings apply: so much month left at the end of the money

Sam said...

good luck sally and thank you for sharing this story with us.

Robin said...

Hey Sally, I'm here because Beccy told me to come :).

You have a wonderful outlook and attitude, and that will be an on-going gift in the lives of your children. Perhaps my favorite part of this post was Em's comment, it appears to me you are NO failure, not in the least. All moms feel that way at some point, but the lovely thing is you have 5 children who will tell you otherwise (not just with their words, but with their actions).

Lovely post, indeed.

Sally Lomax said...

Thank you Sam, Robin and Pamela!