A MUM-of-four says she feels "ashamed" as she faces telling her kids Santa isn't real to explain why she can't buy them Christmas presents.
Rachel McNair, 30, says she is stuck playing "bill roulette" as her family struggles amid the cost-of-living crisis.
The mum, from Scotland, used to be a manager for Samsung, but had to give up the job she "loved" after unexpectedly falling pregnant with her fourth child.
With childcare costs at an all-time high, Rachel says her Universal Credit payments can't cover her soaring bills as they only cover a maximum of two children.
The 30-year-old, who has four children under 10, now says she feels "physically ill" at the thought of affording Christmas.
The stay-at-home mum fears that the looming festivities could mean she will have to break the bad news about Santa if her kids don't wake up to presents on Christmas day.
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She said: "It's horrific leading up to Christmas, it makes me physically ill.
"My daughter has her birthday just before Christmas as well so I’m essentially Christmas shopping for four and birthday shopping as well which then feels like I'm shopping for five.
"I've never bought my husband a gift and he hasn't for me, not even chocolate, everything goes to the kids!
“We’re fighting an impossible battle."
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The mum said her financial struggles have left her feeling "ashamed," but she can't afford to go back to work while her kids are so young.
She added: "If I had family to help me I’d go back to work. People say I'm sitting on my backside all day, but I’ve been a working mum and now I’m a stay at home mum and feel like I'm doing the job of ten people.
"At least being at work I’d be able to have a cup of tea and a sit down.
"I used to be a manager for Samsung when I’d had my son, who’s now eight, and worked up the ladder so could afford nursery fees and have a living wage.
"But then I got pregnant with my daughter whose now five, and I had every intention of going back, as I loved my job.
"When I started looking at nursery places and the cost of nursery and after school care for two, it was costing around £1,800 which understandably ruined my salary.
"I could work 50 hours a week and be lucky to have £50 a month left, or I could be a stay-at-home and be the one to raise my kids rather than someone else, whilst in the same financial position."
If people lived my life, I’d love them to tell me where you can fit a job in?
The mum said despite her situation, she continues to be inundated with messages from trolls slamming her for "sitting around" all day.
She continued: "People assume I don’t want to work but I would love to! No one in their right mind would work 50 hours a week for nothing.
“I feel trapped because my youngest is 19 months old, so he isn't close to starting school yet."
She says her and her husband both have one child each from previous relationships, while their two children both came unexpectedly while she was on contraception.
“It's not like we hadn't tried to not have any more… I hate the assumption people have telling me I shouldn't have popped out kids I can’t afford," she added.
Now stuck in a vicious cycle of financial struggles, Rachel said her family are just focused on "surviving".
She said: "We play roulette with our direct debits, whoever comes to us first can have the money. Will it be the gas and electric or the car finance?"
The mum now lives her life constantly focusing on cutting her costs, including scouring Facebook marketplace and charity shops for deals.
“My husband and I have even taken out phone contracts and sold the phone for extra money, but will still be paying off the phone," she said.
"When I'm doing a food shop, I try to buy one thing each week so instead of having chicken we will have sausages and that takes £3 off the food shop, or instead of buying so many snacks, I’ll reduce it and then save £5.
“What do I do when the kids get older and want more expensive clothes as their friends are wearing it?
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“If no one speaks out, nothing will change and people will feel alone.
“I know I’m not the only one in this situation, and I know there are people who are in worse positions, but I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy."
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