Joanne Gallacher
By Joanne Gallacher

Mud sticks when you’re single parent children

Single parent children

When I was a child I spent most of my childhood growing up in a single parent household.  I had one dad and my two sisters had another.  Both men had left my Mum to bring up families of their own.

However, my Mum was lucky that she had a good support network around her and extended family she could call when times got hard.  But my distant memory of being single parent children wasn’t easy.

Single parent children

It wasn’t just that money was tight (really tight), it was the stigma that was attached to being from this type of family and from what I can see nearly 20 years on, sadly nothing has changed.
I never blamed my mother for being a single parent.  Relationships break down, some perhaps could be worked at, but people make mistakes and while we should learn from them and face up to the consequences, what kind of country are we to turn our backs on people when they need it the most.  What is wrong with giving people a helping hand, a second chance, free of judgement and scorn?  Nobody is perfect; are all the mistakes you’ve ever made free of consequences for other people?

After my stepfather left when I was 13, my family’s life changed.  We were middle class, had a nice house, went to a good school and I had never had to worry about money.  Suddenly I was in a queue for free school dinners with people I had always looked down my nose at, I was wearing trainers from the market and a second hand school uniform and was told we could no longer afford for me to go on school trips.
By the time I was in my final year at school, I was in a well established single parent family and it was no secret.  I had many discussions with people in my sociology and psychology classes about being on benefits.  People weren’t shy about how disgusted they were at having to pay their taxes to make sure (me) and (my) family got to eat. But was this the views of children or the views of their parents?

The general belief was that “your mum chose to have children, she should pay for them”.  And she did. She worked, but on a minimum wage and with a baby to look after it still wasn’t enough to support a family of four.  It was my Mum’s choice to have three children by two different men, but she was married, was comfortable, and sadly perhaps a bad judge of character and no crystal ball (that I know of).

She didn’t choose to be left by her husbands, looking after young children.  Of course this isn’t the only way to become thrust into the world of single parenthood.
And this is what makes me angry the most.  The assumption by some people (not all) is that their taxes are going to single mums just so they can have babies, stay at home and watch Jeremy Kyle.

The view is that these women have seen the pound signs (those benefits are like winning the lottery don’t you know!) and thought, “I know I’m going to choose to have a baby, by myself (one of the hardest things anyone can do by the way) and make everyone else pay”.  This just isn’t reality.  The huge majority of single parents (I am talking about Dads too) are a victim of circumstance, a mistake, a consequence.

And who is to say they are bad decisions!  I am so thankful that my mum and step-dad split up, they made a terrible couple, they would have made each other and us miserable, but hey, at least we wouldn’t have been sponging off the taxpayer!

The recent win in the House of Lords is a cause for celebration for women everywhere, but just a small one. The story which was originally featured on the BBC was about Ministers suffering a defeat in parliament as the lords voted (270 to 128) to reject the government proposal to charge parents for using the CSA (Child Support Agency). It had been seen as a way of discouraging single parents from using the agency to collect maintenance from their estranged partners.

Speaking on behalf of the government, minister Lord De Mauley said: “We don’t want to return to the days when the state is encouraging parents to blame each other.” 

Now, in the words of what MP’s say in the house of commons when they’re in agreement - HERE, HERE!

This post was written by guest blogger and proud mummy Anastasia Jenkins.

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