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The Reason I Was On BBC 5 Live on Monday…

According to the Centre for Social Justice this week, one million children in Britain grow up with no contact from their father. They are, apparently, living in “men deserts,” with no male role models.

Oh good, another stick with which to beat the single mothers – because the social stigma and benefit cuts are not enough for us to be going on with. We are, after all, the root of all society’s ills.

I understand the need to address the issue of young children growing up without a male role model, but this report, and the headlines it is generating, are really not helpful.

Single Mothers CSJ report happy baby
Does this child look miserable, disadvantaged and
destined for a life of crime to you?

This report seems to be suggesting that single mothers are in some way responsible for delinquent behaviour. But there is no proof of cause and effect here. Do single mothers cause delinquent behaviour, or does the disadvantage and stigma inflicted upon us cause a situation we are helpless to improve? It sounds to me like the people who compiled the report need to learn the difference between causation and correlation.

According to the CSJ Director, Christian Guy, there is a “tsunami” of family breakdown “battering” the country. Sensationalist statements like this are just not helpful. Would it not be more beneficial to look into the reasons people end up raising children alone, and ways the government can support them in doing so?

Perhaps the absent father has left, and is just not interested in the child. In that case, does the mother who has been left behind, struggling to do her best for her child, really need to be told that her efforts are in vain, and her child will still grow up to be horribly disadvantaged?

Perhaps the absent father is really not a good role model for the child. Perhaps he has had a string of girlfriends since he left, is in and out of prison, maybe he’s addicted to drugs or alcohol, or only turns up at Christmas. Is the CSJ suggesting that any role model is better than none?

We cannot go back to the 1950s; these days families are not a man, his wife, two point four children and a white picket fence. More than half the people I know have step-siblings, half-siblings, and any number of weird and wonderful family set-ups. The family is evolving, and the government seem hell-bent on resisting it by punishing those of us who don’t fit into their neatly outlined ideal.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a woman in an abusive relationship. Perhaps your partner beats you, rapes you, calls you names, doesn’t let you out of the house. But you have children with him. He is their father and they love him. You have stayed with him and put up with it for so long, “for the children,” because you don’t want them to suffer. But now, you have a black eye and bruised ribs, and you really want to take your children and go and live somewhere safe. And now, the media is telling you that if you don’t stay with this abusive man, your children will fail to make friends at school. They’ll be likely to engage in crime as a teenager, to become pregnant as a teenager, and generally live a disadvantaged, miserable life.

Is it not hard enough for women to leave abusive relationships as it is, with all the cuts to funding for charities who help in these situations? With the changes to Legal Aid entitlement? Now the women who are trying to leave in order to give their children a better life are being brow-beaten into staying, with their children’s welfare being used as the stick.

Single mothers are already battling benefit cuts, proposed cuts to free school meals, childcare costs, returning to work on reduced hours and woefully low wages. This government already treats us with utter contempt; we are already at the lowest possible point on the social scale, being battered from all angles. Please, CSJ, do not give the right-wing media something else to throw at us!

Rather than demand the government promote family stability, why not demand they provide single parents with more support to raise happy, well-rounded children?

If it’s such a problem for one million children to be growing up in a single parent household, why not help us to make a single parent household a better place to grow up?

Why not petition the government to encourage male teachers into primary schools instead of blaming single mothers for their children not having male role models?

Oh, wait. I know why you won’t do those things. Because you were set up by Iain Duncan Smith, who has already shown his utter contempt for anyone less well-off than himself.

I guarantee you that my child, as the product of a single parent family, with no contact from her father, will grow up ten times happier and more well rounded than if I had stayed with him. Surely it is better for a child to have one good role model, of whichever sex, than two bad ones?

I spoke briefly about this on Five Live on Monday morning; I’m glad I had that opportunity, as this is something I feel very strongly about.
If you liked this post, you may also enjoy Single Mothers: The Scourge of Society?
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Vicky is a mother, a blogger, a podcaster and a social media trainer. She writes about life as a single mother, parenting and lifestyle type things.

17 Comments
  • Angel Murdoch

      REPLY

    Love reading what you write. I take my hat off to you and although I don&#39;t see what you do on a day to day basis you do a fantastic job. <br />S doesn&#39;t need anyone else in her life all she needs is you. To her you are her world and for all of the things you do as a single mum I salute you. :) xx

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Thanks for your comment Angel. I&#39;m glad you enjoy the blog! I do worry all the time about S not having a dad, but that doesn&#39;t mean that any man is better than no man! Your comment has really touched me, thank you xx

  • Tatty Di

      REPLY

    Hear hear! What a really well written article. Sharing x

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Thanks Tara, you&#39;re a legend you are x

  • mel mcgovern

      REPLY

    This is all very true. In this country the law is rigid in allowing father&#39;s access. It does not look at what poor influence or damage this will have on the child

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      The government seem to have the opinion that any man is better than no man, and that the ability to produce a sperm should mean automatic rights to influence that child&#39;s life. I know a lot of men are good fathers and kept away unfairly, but there are also a lot of incidences where that really is not the case!

  • mel mcgovern

      REPLY

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Laura Huggins

      REPLY

    Loved reading this. This whole thing has made me so mad. What about girls living with their single parent Dad&#39;s. This does happen as well. But they seem to forget about that. <br /><br />My Mum raised me on her own and I did perfectly fine. I benefited more from it being just Mum and I would have if my Mum and Dad had just stayed together. <br /><br />So many other things I could say about

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      thanks for your comment Laura. I think there&#39;s a lot to be said for single mothers that nobody in government or government-backed think tanks seems to be prepared to say!

  • Bod for tea

      REPLY

    This was really interesting to read as I have literally just read another post by someone who was on Leicester radio talking about the same subject. You make some really important points here - a bad role model can&#39;t possibly be good for a child, and who&#39;s to say that a good male role model has to be the child&#39;s father anyway? Children do need role models but it&#39;s our job as

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Hi, thanks for your comment and sorry for the dealyed response. Are you able to post a link to your friend&#39;s post please? Would love to read...

  • Anonymous

      REPLY

    The Centre for Social Justice &quot;research&quot; has been shown to be completely false and untrue - there are no &quot;man deserts&quot;<br /><br />Here is a detailed rebuttal of the evidence CSJ produced for Bristol which shows that rather then being a &quot;man desert&quot; the area referred to has less than 5% of households being run by single mums and most of them were holding down a job as

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Thank you for this. I&#39;m really cross about how much media coverage the report got!

  • Victoriaaa

      REPLY

    Great post..my neices dad isnt around, or has ever been and shes the happiest little girl i know! Its about time they gave credit to the singke mums who do a damn brilliant job. As for rolemodels the male figure sjouldnt just have to be the dad.<br /><br /><a href="http://walkingtalkingpollypocket.blogspot.com" rel="nofollow">WTPP - The little lady with a baby!</a>

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Thank you for your comment! you&#39;re absolutely right - being the father doesn&#39;t automatically mean they are the best role model.

  • me3andfree

      REPLY

    Fab post! Brilliant reading! As a single mum also, I took my girls away from their abusive and mentally ill father. I do not know what the future holds for us but my eldest (7) is doing fine at school, in fact she is in top group for most things and my youngest two arent doing too bad either. They don&#39;t see their father at the mo (thanks to social services and the courts) and that is better

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Thank you for your comment! From the sounds of it you&#39;ve done the best for your children and I&#39;m sure they will thank you when they are older. I resent being tarred with the &quot;irresponsible, feckless single mother&quot; brush when realistically what you and I have done is the most responsible and safe choice for our children.

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