Abigail's story

I’m 52, and do not have a maternal bone in my body, never have done. But if you sat a cat or dog in front of me, then the love and protection similar to a maternal instinct will rise in me. I don’t like children, it’s as simple as that. They are noisy and demanding. I always think when I see a child throwing a tantrum you think you’ve got something to complain about now – wait til you grow up, you’ll have something to have a tantrum about then 🙂

I’ve been in the police for 21 years and can’t wait to retire, it can’t come fast enough but that’s another story! 

When I was younger in service and being in uniform I got lumped with the crappy days off because I was single and had no children. I’d lose the holiday raffle when it came to trying to book Christmas off, because favouritism for officers with children would rear its ugly head, no doubt that would be because the person in charge of sorting the staffing was a parent themself. So parents GOT the time off. Sometimes at other times of the year I was lucky but this would depend on where I was working in the organisation and who was on my team.

I wasn’t really interested in Christmas but it was my Mom’s birthday on Christmas Eve, so I wanted the time off to spend the time with her and we would celebrate both our birthdays with a meal she lovingly cooked.  This is something I wanted to do every year with her. 

Also what a crap time of year to have a birthday because suddenly everyone was too busy to celebrate her birthday with her. Yes she had sisters and brothers, but they didn’t exactly throw the love around in her direction. So I wanted to be there for her. She came from a time and a land where you didn’t have much so when it came to Christmas for her, either she would miss out on her birthday or on Christmas. Whereas the other children in her family got both presents. 

So, back to booking the time off, not once did I ever get a thanks from colleagues for giving them the opportunity to have a ‘family’ Christmas and not once was the favour returned for say bank holidays where I did not want to work. It was a very much entitled attitude that shouted out ‘we have kids you don’t, so we should get the time off’ To hear colleagues banging on about not getting time off when their holiday draw didn’t go their way made me sick and angry at times. But someone would envariably offer to cover for them so they could have their ‘family Christmas’. Not me. I started to think of excuses to come up with so I couldn’t cover them. I didn’t see it as my problem. 

What I do want to talk about is one year. Just one year that I wanted to desperately book Christmas Eve off. The one year that I wanted to be allowed to have the time off at Christmas Eve to celebrate my Mom’s 60th Birthday. That special milestone birthday that should be by rights celebrated on the day of the birthday, not weeks later! Well despite me putting in a very early request and explaining the circumstances, my request for Christmas Eve off was refused. 

From that day in 2008 I have refused to work Christmas. Nope not for me anymore. No one stepped in and offered to cover for me on that year so I was going to be just as selfish. I also swore to myself if I didn’t get the time off then I would go sick. That was it, my decision was final. I had lost out on trying to book the Christmas off and accepted it because I was single and had no children. But I actually did myself over by settling for such an archeic way of treating people. I never complained to higher management and I think it was because the force was going all family friendly so my raising this point would have fallen on deaf ears. My rights were just as important, but because they weren’t recognised I would be forced to do something I didn’t want to do. 

From that day onwards I also refused to support the organisation, call up for officers to work an event, nope not me. Unless it was a mandatory request to work it, then I didn’t want to hear about it. It even got to the point where I did not want to work over. Lots of times you had to work over your allocated shift for that day due to a job you were dealing with. So I would pick and choose when I wanted to do this, which wasn’t very often I can tell you. Again why should I put myself out, when I would see parents running off home because of ‘the kids’ and guess who would have to work over and cover, the single childless officers. Nope not me. I’m not doing it. You wouldn’t let me have that special day with my mom. So it’s a big fat Nope! Also come to think about it, I’m not putting a drain on resources. I turn up to work and yet parents phone in because ‘little Johnny was sick’ and it wasn’t once or twice a year. It was a lot of times and therefore a lot of time off taken by them. You always felt you were holding the fort. 

One colleague actually said to me that was the bonus of having a young child. You can take time off work, making out your child is sick when they actually weren’t. I was furious. Is this why you hear from parents that their children are sick all the time. I don’t remember being sick all the time when I was a child. 

Thankfully later in my service I have been fortunate to get the time off for Christmas to be with my Mom and where I am now the ‘family christmas’ isn’t forced down your throat, which is good. I think they changed the booking of leave over the Christmas period which has made it fairer, maybe not for some of those with kids but I don’t think the arrangements for leave on a Christmas period are done by someone well known to the officers to do the favouritism thing anymore and you can’t sneak in time off either, quite a few were known to book Christmas off over a year in advance. There’s a set date to get your leave requests in and a few weeks later you get to see what days off you can get. This benefits the force in having the leave requests going to central places so that they can ensure there is enough cover for the Christmas time and there’s no in fighting over who has got what. Maybe other organisations could adopt that kind of an idea. When authorisation is given by staff members close to those wanting the time off it can be the same people getting the time off and it’s not shared out favourably. Organisations need to stop putting parents first and giving them priority over single childless people. They need to take a closer interest in this issue because it breeds resentment and ill health. 

I lost my Mom to cancer, so I have no reason to take Christmas time off anymore but actually I still will. It was a special time for me to spend with my Mom and now that’s gone it’s a lonely world out there. But I still want to visit her at her resting place to chat to her and let her know what’s been going on. I also have friends that have been kind and offered for me to spend Christmas with them so I’m not alone. I will still request for Christmas time off and I will spend the time with friends remembering my dear Mom!

I dedicate this to my Mom because she was a fighter for what was right and fair. 

*Author’s name changed to protect her identity