STORY: London school teacher Lucy Preston will miss her son's fourth birthday on Thursday (February 2) because she has to work a second job.
She does evening shifts as a private tutor to help her cover childcare and mortgage costs - something she can't do with her teaching job alone.
A day earlier the single mother of two will join more than 120,000 other teachers on a picket line.
She is hoping to secure a pay rise that will give her stretched household budget some relilef.
"It's so sad for me that I will have to get home from work at 6:00, collect them as I do every day on the way home from work and bring them home and then immediately leave to go and tutor a child who is in a private school instead of spending the evening with my son. You know, that's utterly heartbreaking for me."
"Before I even got to the first of the month, I am below. And, you know, the stress that causes is absolutely unbelievable. You know, I just think, where is it going to come from? And every single month it is a struggle."
Teachers across England and Wales are striking on Wednesday (February 1) after a decade of meager earnings.
The strain on the UK's state-funded school system has seen many take up second jobs or leave the profession.
Preston works as an English teacher three days a week, then looks after her children on the other two days as she cannot afford daily childcare.
"I'm a working professional. I always have been. I've worked every day of my adult life and it's just really - it's kind of quite demoralizing to be in a position where I am desperate, desperate to find money."
Preston says mortgage payments eat into two-thirds of her $2,230 salary, forcing her to make many compromises.
She has had to rent out a room in her house to a lodger, and buy cheaper, frozen food instead of fresh produce.
And teachers aren't alone in their frustrations over finances.
Hundreds of thousands of other workers will also walk out on Wednesday - from rail staff to civil servants.
It's set to be Britain's biggest day of strikes in several decades when measured by the range of industries it will cover.
The organizers of the teachers' strike, the National Education Union, or NEU, has planned seven days of strikes in total.
It's asked for an above-inflation pay award funded fully by the government in the hope of helping schools cover other costs too, like stationery and textbooks.
With inflation reaching double digits last year, the union says teachers have seen a 23% real-terms pay cut since 2010.
The government, which has held unsuccessful talks with the NEU, has called its one-year, 5% pay award for teachers the highest "in a generation" and says it is investing 4 billion pounds in schools over the next two years.