In mid-September of this year, having spent at least 10 weeks enjoying his summer holiday post exams, I received the news that with university about to start, my sister and nephew had not bought a thing in preparation! Understandably my nephew was waiting patiently for notification of his student loan. However, doing nothing in preparation made no sense to me. As well as contacting the student finance company, I immediately contacted an acquaintance who had already been down this road. Her son, who has since left university sent a list of things he had taken when he started. With credit card in hand, I took my nephew to get the technology he needed that weekend, as well as items for kitting out his yet unseen room. That well known Swedish store was a god-send, as well as my favourite store which is supposedly never-knowingly undersold. During the early part of the week I would rush every day after work to a handy high street store for the remaining reasonably priced items. However, the toll it took on me was a severe upper back problem which I am only now just recovering from with weekly physio; most likely symbolic of the heavy load I am carrying. Shopping distracted me from the pain somewhat until I fell into my hotel room at 8pm each night in this northern city. Notwithstanding the fact that the poor thing seemed unable to look beyond his nose, I got on with it. I suppose he had no idea what to expect as he had not been in this position before. The last thing I needed this far from home was a phone call saying he did not have something. Most things I offered up or suggested, he did not think he needed, but I ignored him. Better to have more than was required and take it back later. I was impressed though when he suggested a tabletop fridge for his room. What a good way of ensuring your food remains fresh and that no other hard up student takes your food in desperation. In halls with many students sharing a kitchen that is more than likely. Along with the rice cooker which my friend’s son suggested, he was on his way. It is very difficult to deal with an 18 year old who one minute acts like the characters in Harry Enfield’s ‘Kevin & Perry’ and the next is your best friend. I also realised that the ‘Kevin & Perry’ behaviour is when he is at his most anxious and frustrated. He says few words and the silence means that in contrast I utter many! At this point I gather he is ‘in his cave’, as informed by John Gray in one of his bestsellers ‘Men are from Mars…….’. I feel very sorry for this poor young man in a world of ill and anxious females. With the exception of school and his friends with healthy father/son relationships, he has no healthy family male role models to turn to.
The drive took around 4 hours there and back. I left him confident in the knowledge that he had already made new friends, found one of his friends from school and was meeting them for the provided meals in the campus dining room. Once back in London I got to lying with my back against a hot water bottle and religiously taking the diazepam prescribed by my GP. By now the seized back had moved on to a trapped nerve with some of the pain running intermittently down my arm. What came out of this was that this kind of crisis management would take its toll on my body. Stress had found a weak spot – my back and shoulder! It was a price I could ill-afford to pay, as who was going to look after me? Already as a carer my finances had been hit hard working part-time. I had supported the children and in turn my sister, by filling in financial gaps to give them the things they needed such as school shoes, stationary, etc. Prior to having MS my sister had often compensated an emotional need by wasting money on things such as make-up and toiletries (she has more of these than the high street pharmacy) and shoes – an item she needs less now that she is confined to her home. These items take up a larger proportion of her bedroom and bathroom than any other and continue to grow. All the while her children need and there is no forward planning from either of us, as I am crisis managing financially and emotionally and my sister is just floundering.
Now over a month has passed and I hope that my nephew is managing to get by. However, this is where I agree with those who are pushing for financial education to be included in the curriculum. I have no idea if my nephew is financially savvy as he comes from two emotionally immature, spendthrift parents. I can only suggest things to him. Last year I enrolled on a short course about managing my money by the Christian group CAP (Christians Against Poverty). While it was a brilliant course, I realised it could not address how to manage money if you are not earning enough or earning at all, which can be the case for many of us who are carers.