Over the Easter weekend, I saw a meme doing the rounds on Facebook regarding unemployed people and bank holidays. It was a picture of Mark Wahlberg looking confused with the caption: “That face you pull when an unemployed person gets excited because it’s a Bank Holiday.”
I try to take everything I see on Facebook with a pinch of salt, but being the kind of person I am, I do tend to ruminate on certain things I see. This meme was no exception.
I appreciate that it was just a bit of a joke, but it’s things like this that perpetuate the stigma towards unemployed people, particularly those of us who are long-term sick and/or disabled.
Here are a few reasons why it’s OK for unemployed people to enjoy their long weekends…
1. Being unemployed is not a holiday.
I honestly wish it was! It is a full-time job in itself. I’m thankfully in a position where I don’t have to actively seek work as I am deemed unfit; however, that doesn’t mean I get to be a lady of leisure. I still have to pay bills, find ways to pay said bills, fill out endless forms, send off evidence and do day-to-day general life administration. Trying to do all these things is hard work, particularly when, on some days, I can barely make it to the loo and back.
2. I deserve a break as much as you do.
I spend a lot of time in bed. To people who work full-time, I know you’re thinking, “Wow! You’re so lucky!” Nope. Nope, I am not. I am constantly tired and in pain. I am missing out on so much life. I want to be out in the sunshine with friends, I want to be doing the things I’m good at – putting my skills into something constructive and having financial security so I’m not constantly worrying if I’m going to be able to pay my rent this month or not. Even when I’m in bed, I’m constantly working on making myself better. Weekdays are filled with answering calls and letters, sorting out doc appointments, getting myself to my therapy group, trying to set goals to get myself back to normal, budgeting and figuring out my finances. Weekends are precious to me as well. And a four-day weekend? Even better! I get to relax and enjoy some time off too. Even if the pain is bad, I can go back to bed guilt-free knowing I don’t have to return an important phone call or worry about an unexpected bill coming out of my bank account.
3. I get to see my family and friends.
If I’m feeling up to it, people I want to spend time with are around because they aren’t at work. Even if I’m not feeling too great, I have somebody around to help and support me. I get cups of tea made for me, I get fed properly and I have someone to chat with. Plus, social interaction does wonders for my well-being.
4. Bank Holidays are often because of a celebration.
Easter and Christmas are really important to me, so I always look forward to them. I felt very sad that I was too ill to go to church on Easter Sunday, but I still used the time as a period of reflection and prayer. Plus, I got some little treats and gifts, which always make me feel a bit better!
5. I miss the four-day-weekend feeling.
Even though long weekends can be enjoyable for us “great unwashed,” I do miss the feeling of coming out of work on a Thursday evening and seeing a lovely, long and fun weekend ahead of me. I used to have the money and energy to go and do all sorts of things with my time off. Now I feel guilty if I do anything fun because a) I spend money I don’t have, b) I will get an epic “payback” day and c) I’m worried people will see me and think, “Oh, she can’t be that ill if she’s out enjoying herself!”
Being unemployed isn’t fun and frolics. It’s a period of time for people, like myself, to try and get their lives together in a way they wouldn’t be able to do if they were in work. I know of those who have been desperately trying to get back to work, but it’s just not happening for them or others who have had to quit work due to ill health, and they would do anything to be back in a job. I appreciate there may be some benefit claimants who are living the life of Riley and know exactly how to play the system, but a majority of us aren’t like that.
We’re just working hard in a different way and still need a break once in a while.
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Thinkstock photo via Mima88.