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.
|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.
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