Why My 11th-Hour Tax Return Made Me Realise I’m At The Bottom Of The Family Pile

31st January is a date I’ve dreaded for the past couple of years. It’s the deadline for online tax self assessment which means that I have to actually be a grown-up with various paperwork to hand and some sort of clue as to what all the tax jargon means. Usually there’s a vital piece of paper that’s missing. And as I’m intrinsically an 11th-hour sort of person I inevitably leave it all to the very last moment to sort out.

I had been pretty good this year. Despite a dead laptop taking a load of timesheets to beyond the grave with its demise, the combination of my diaries and bank statements allowed me to piece everything back together. Phew. But due to toddler demands and a drop in nap times these things happened very very slowly, so until this afternoon I hadn’t actually done so much as check that my login details still worked.

The plan was to file my form last night. Unfortunately an absent Husband and an badly-timed nap for Noodles meant that I was still child-wrangling alone until nearly midnight. I started to get nervous. I started to regret my procrastination tactics earlier in the week…but my bedroom IS a lot more sorted now. Unless there’s a worse task looming it never happens otherwise.

But it meant it everything had to be done today. Husband had returned from his football jolly and immediately commandeered the computer desk. His own looming work deadline not only meant that I wouldn’t get a look-in, but also that is have to keep the house subdued until 4pm.

I prayed to the WiFi gods to hold out until my form was done. Usually when Husband is ‘working from home’ (ie has his work laptop logged into work stuff, but mostly sitting on Facebook) the WiFi dies. Over Christmas S came back from uni, spent one day on Facebook and that was the last we saw of the internet for most of the festive period. Having Husband home was going to be a risk.

And then, with the laptop being unavailable to me there was the battle that is getting to use my Kindle for more than five minutes without Noodles pinching it from my hands. He’s a complete techie for one and also hates that it distracts me from him. The Kindle is only ever truly mine when he’s unconscious and knocking him out seemed a bit drastic, even with the deadline less than 12 hours away. Mercifully the toddler equivalent of the Duracell bunny has a mild cold and mercifully had a lunchtime nap. Frantically filling in all of the important numbers that would prove to the government that their policies are truly working as I am skint and if they want any more from me it will have be in the form of blood or body organs I still only got 9% of the way through the form before the bunny emerged from his slumber fully charged.

And worse, I was clearly getting his cold! Sneezing, eyes stinging, that horrible feeling of tingliness that makes your skin crawl, I just wanted to go back to bed. Not that anyone would give me a break that would allow me to finish my form and get some sleep. Even with a nose that would put Rudolph to shame. ‘You seem to have a comedy cold there,’ Husband remarked as i embarked on a sneezing fit. ‘Except it’s really not funny,’ i replied, acidic snot burning my nose as I blew into the tissue.

And there were still errands to run, chores to complete, the school run to do, people to feed and games to play. Once he’d finished his work Husband cooked himself and Grandy steak and chips (‘well there was food for the rest of you already, so I thought we could have steak’) and sat at the laptop catching up with Facebook with his headphones on so he could tune out from any familial responsibility.

I wasn’t to get a chance to return to my form until Boo’s bedtime. I sat in her room, reasoned I could escape for long enough to finish the thing off whilst multi-tasking her bedtime routine whilst Husband looked after Noodles. I turned on the Kindle. No internet connection!!!

Besides which, Husband HAD to watch Mastermind without interruption so no more than 5 minutes after taking Boo up to bed I had both of the small children under my feet.

How grateful I am for smartphones and 3G though. It’s all comparable with wizardry to me, but without it I would have been lying on the floor weeping. With Boo and Noodles distracted by Disney I completed the last page. Yay! I hit ‘Next’ and the web page helpfully informed me that I couldn’t save my entry as I was simultaneously logged on elsewhere. Yes, on my devoid-of-internet Kindle. At which point Boo wanted cereal and Noodles wanted a feed. I wanted to cry.

Every second was a second closer to the deadline, a second closer to a £100 fine. I still had 3 hours in theory, but it had already taken me 9 hours to get nowhere. Downstairs Husband sat and watched a fascinating documentary on Blondie whilst failing to lend a domestic hand.

Boo settled down to sleep, but Noodles decided he wanted to carry a Sylvannian Family ice cream van up and down the stairs. The cat demanded to be let out. Even she has to make lazy demands of me, meowing to be let out the back door rather than using her cat flap. Who says cats are independent? Ours is like a demanding old lady who just moans about everything!

Another check of the Kindle. Mercies! The internet was back! I snuck off hoping they’d think I’d gone to the loo (although not even that need earn me a few minutes’ peace – I frequently get visitors whilst using the facilities). This time it sent – and with just over 2 hours to go! The relief was palpable, even through the fug of my cold.

I vowed to do my next one in April, as soon as I get the chance. I’m sure I said the same thing last year though.

And the thing is, because he cooked himself and my dad some food, Husband thinks he’s been the epitome of domestic help this evening. Even though he didn’t even clear away after himself. Or switch the fire alarm off as the billows of smoke from the kitchen had it persistently wailing as he cooked. It’s as though he lives in a soundproof, visually restricted booth, aware only if his own needs. Mentally he’s still stuck in the 50s. Life is good as long as his world is in order, even if everything else around him is falling apart.

So despite my tax return being done on time, rather than feeling satisfied that I managed to pull off being a grown-up again and juggle that extra ball whilst also slowed down with the cold, I’m also annoyed that no one thought that I could do with a hand. I was still the go-to person for requests and demands. And unless it’s convenient and there’s something in it for them no one’s willing to lighten my load, even for a moment. Which is why my 11th-hour tax return revealed just how very far down my needs rank in the family pecking order. And I don’t like where I fall.

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