Sunday, 29 June 2014

Paying the price for being a non-nuclear family

I took part in a wonderful organised bike ride yesterday with my boys - a twenty mile route in and out of Bath. It was special for lots of reasons; but mostly because I love cycling, and this was the first decent length route that we had done together, as a family. A wonky, one adult, two children family - but a family nonetheless.

The boys, Teen and Tween, loved it. I'm not ashamed to say that, when I heard their whoops and screams whilst freewheeling down the hills, and laughs when puddles got bigger and deeper - I had a little cry. This, I thought, is what being a family is about.

But British Cycling, the people who put the rules in place for this sort of event, don't make it easy for families like us to take part. In fact, because of their rules, we had to go in covertly, 'under the radar'. Because they have a one adult to one child rule, a 1:1 ratio which meant that, really, we shouldn't have entered.

I understand about Health and Safety, and that we live in a litigious society, but my Teen is a highly competent cyclist. He is not a seven year old who will cycle into the canal at the earliest opportunity. He slows down for dogs and old people. He rings his bell before bridges and corners. And more importantly, he loves cycling.

And yet he had to 'ghost ride' the course with us. When we crossed the finish line, an extremely loud voice came across the tannoy, "Well done Lottie and Tween and ...um... someone who doesn't seem to be on my screen." Which of course made Teen, who has enough teenage angst to last him a lifetime already, curl up into a ball.

Which takes some skill to do when you're riding a bike.

I'm not having a go at British Cycling. My point is a wider one, really. You often see the 'two adults, two children' family discount (Odeon cinemas, please note) which is ironic, because it is single parents, often with more than one child to look after, who could really do with those valuable discounts. They would make such a huge difference.

Booking a holiday is source of frustration and despair. Little seems to have changed since this article was published in The Independent in 1996, certainly amongst the large tour operators. I got excited initially when I looked at Thompson's website, seemingly offering single parent discounts, but the phrase "Single parents offers are available on selected holidays, for a child sharing with one full-fair-paying adult" seems to imply that, if you've got two kids, you're stuffed. Also, it tells you to call them to find out more. At 10p a minute.

No thanks.

There are some holiday companies now offering exclusively single parent holidays, but the thought of this makes me heave. A sort of combined holiday come week-long-blind-date. *shudder*  I appreciate what they're doing, but I'd rather spend a week in Fargo.

The one light in the darkness is the organisation that I put above all others. The jewel in the crown. The cherry on the cake.  The cat's whiskers.

The National Trust. Oh, I know. I bang on and on about them. But they offer a single parent membership, because - well, basically, because they are extremely lovely. And perhaps they realise that kids from single parent families could really do with a run around in beautiful, wind-swept surroundings. Rolling down hills and getting grass in their hair. Poking about in mansions and castles and caves and beaches. Getting muddy.

So well done to The National Trust. And others, particularly holiday companies - please take note. Society is changing apace.  You'll need to find new ways of offering us what we need, or you may find yourselves caught out.

12 comments:

  1. You know so many single household families will be grateful for your post today! It's not fair to expect all families to be 1:1 child ratio. Not to mention what if you had more than 2 children as an intact family? Who would miss out on the bike race?

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    1. You're right, Lisa! In fact, a family with three children did the route last year - they're all mad keen cyclists - and this rule meant, supposedly, that they're unable to all do it this year. The irony is that the kids have been used in the poster campaign for the event this year!

      Thanks so much for your comment - means a huge amount :-) x

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  2. Great post. Things like this bug me as a mummy to two year old twins. Thanks for linking up to the #binkylinky

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Emily! Yes, it's an issue with all families who don't quite fit the nuclear mould, isn't it? :-( Need to start a campaign!

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  3. Great post, very eye opening. I didn't realise that this went on. Must be so frustrating for you and your family. Hope more companies pick up on the issue! X #binkylinky

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    1. Thanks so much Sarah - really appreciate your comment!

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  4. I just tried to comment and something messed up so apologies if this is a double post.
    I basically wanted to tell you that although I'm not a single parent I feel your annoyance at this. We have five children and activities like swimming, or like your cycle event, just don't cater for families not fitting the 2.4 mold.

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    1. I cannot even begin to comprehend how you manage to organise your family life - I take my hat off to you! How old are your children, Katie?

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  5. National Trust are always nice. And the membership is really worth it! Might be doing the single parent thing in the future. #binkylinky

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  6. I love Bath. I have distant relatives there. LOL wouldn't it be funny if we were related?? Anywho...totally get you on the single parent thing. Like you're only allowed to be a single mom if you only have one kid. Silly really!

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    1. I could be your third cousin four times removed (or something!). Come and visit :-) xx

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    2. I wish. It's been over 10 years since I visited. When my Plan B lottery ticket win comes through I'm gonna live there a few months. We'll be best friends and spend a ton of time in the spa. ;)

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