Monday, February 11, 2013

Single Mums have needs

Competing demands and limited resources. If a child is fed, clean, has activity and a safe place to sleep one's job is done. Only it isn't that easy. And as they grow there is more that can be done. Weekend trips to the zoo, historical places, museums, picnics, family commitments and then schooling. Leisure activities and induction into a family life. Probably there are hopes and aspirations for parents of how their children will embrace their adult lives. If everything goes right, the child may not have all the parents wished. Parents don't do it for the recognition at the end. Their pay is .. personal ..

But things don't go right. I once lived near a mum whose husband had been killed in a work accident. She had two children under four years of age and no income as workplace settlement was years away. I was shocked when she suggested a relationship. I had never dated and still had adolescent thoughts about what such relationships were. Religious scruples as well as social ones. But she was desperate and I wouldn't take advantage of that .. or feed it.

The woman that has been raped and bravely decides to raise the child despite so much social pressure to kill babies. She is probably a student or unattached and she has to face her family with a new responsibility. She has schooling or work added to raising the child. Some families can accommodate, with some grandparents raising their grandchild .. or siblings might help. But sometimes they don't help.

I live near a single mum with three children from different dads, most of whom are incarcerated. She is generally cheerful and sometimes a dad is around to help out. But then there are desperate times. A 17yo pot smoking boy who is trouble at school and has rages trashes her place and she boots him out into foster care. But he returns because she is his mum and she is torn. Her 3 yo toddler locks her out of her living complex when she is sitting on the steps sipping tea. She needs to call me, her neighbour, to open the door for her. Toddler is laughing on the other side unaware of quite what he has done. Her 15 yo boy needs help with his math at school. Only he doesn't really. He has that building resentment the 17 yo expresses. One day a dad visits and the police come to arrest him. He goes into her unit telling the police to wait but they view it as an escape attempt and secure him .. hitting her in the process in front of her 15 yo son. She is relying on her son as a witness. I give her a character reference. It isn't her fault, although she made the choices which put her where she is. It isn't the fault of her toddler that she swears at him and yells at him on a daily basis. A gathering of her family and a fight have little to distinguish them for the casual observer.

Thing are impossible when a father is present. It isn't easier for single mums. Two are needed to drive a car and care for kids. Two are needed to clean a place and read to kids. Two are needed to work and earn an income to pay for kids. And sometimes there aren't two doing the heavy lifting.

I have an answer for single mums, and it is the same I have for anyone else. We can't do thing alone. We need God in our lives too. Church communities, as well as cultural groups, are designed to include families in their communities, and they are no stranger to need or aid. But also, God is real. He can make things right that aren't. I have met adults who underwent extraordinary deprivation in childhood .. and they grew strong and prospered. This is no small miracle. There are those who are not equipped theologically to accept that answer.

And then there is the political promise. The hucksterish stance with gleaming gold teeth in a smile. Gillard promised the community she could face down the boat people issue without the Pacific Solution. A promise she made in opposition. In government, it is a promise she could not keep. So too, single mothers have been betrayed by the federal government. It is true that everyone has it difficult under the ALP, except organised crime, but for single mothers it is worse. Rising power bills, fewer resources, smaller wages. They have been betrayed on the issue of child care, student resources, health costs, inflation, work opportunity and more. Turning to an ALP member in the ACT, recently, one single mum raised childcare as an issue .. having to leave children home alone while they worked. Naturally the ALP member said things like abduction and rape doesn't happen in the ACT.

I support conservatives. They don't promise the impossible. And they do a good job at making life easier for the poorest .. without ever getting credit for it. But that is mere politics. I am a Christian. God is my spiritual father. He is there for all. Everyone who was born has been loved by him, although not all know that.
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