Michelle lives in the house she owns in Nottingham, with her three sons aged 15, 12 and 2, and works 30 hours a week in construction. She dreams of becoming a teacher, and had almost completed her training when she had her youngest son. Her older children were able to make their own way to and from school, allowing her to study. The family was also in a good financial position, and able to afford holidays and activities by saving carefully.
Michelle did not plan to have a third child, but became pregnant despite using contraception. Her youngest son was born prematurely and now suffers from a condition affecting his breathing, which made Michelle reluctant to go back to work and leave him in childcare. She has now gone back to work in construction but cannot afford the extra childcare she would need to complete her teacher training, meaning this ambition has been put on hold. Her son’s health condition also means that she has to keep the home warm, increasing her heating bills. And as the cost of living has risen, with no increase in her wages or benefits and no extra tax credits for her third child, she is struggling financially. As she put it, ‘everything goes up, and you don’t get any extra for it'.
Despite working, Michelle has both acquired debt and had to rely on help from her parents, though she bad that she has had to depend on them financially and recognises that not everyone has family members who can help: I’m quite lucky. You shouldn’t have to, should you? You shouldn’t have to rely [on her parents] at 36 years old’.
She has also had to cut back on activities for the older children and the occasional treats which the family used to enjoy, and has observed that they sometimes blame their youngest brother for having to miss out: ‘I feel awful because it makes them think “That’s Jason’s* fault”… They’re children, they’re still kids themselves’.
Michelle feels that the two-child limit does not take into account people’s real-life circumstances, and that if it were lifted she would be able to afford the extra costs of childcare allowing her to go back to teacher training.
*Name has been changed
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