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Mothers Guilt ‘Single Style’ provided courtesy of the taxpayer!

August 27, 2009

One of the difficulties of being a finite being, in an infinite universe, is the limits of our own perception. How nice it would be to see the future, to know the consequences of the decisions we make. To fully know how the rest of our lives, and those around us, will ripple and change because of the thousands of decisions we make every day . To look at our choices, and have more than a rough idea based of how the infinite possibilities will play out.

I dont know about anyone else, but I went into being a parent, with a very clear idea of how I would be as a mother. I had planned very carefully, to ensure that my child was only conceived when I was in a position where I could afford to support her, she would be in a family with two parents fully committed to her care. I would value education, I wouldn’t ever shout, I would be infinitely patient, and I would make all my decisions according to her best interests.

The problem with these expectations, is that life is too complex for me to plan the future with more than a guesstimate. The secure family I thought we were providing was gone within the first two years of her life. THe infinite patience I had predicted was tested by a year with never more than 2 hours sleep, and I was shocked to find out that the cry which I had longed to hear from my own child, would grate beyond all expectation.

Like anyone with a life that is rapidly changing, I have been reassessing the situation to plan for our future. What has been surprising to me recently, is that now that I dont have the family that we originally planned for our daughter- now that circumstances have changed- there is another factor to consider.

I am now a single parent. A woman on her own with a child. And apparently, that means that no longer should my decisions be made just with consideration of what my daughter needs, and what I need.  I had spent my life thinking that as I would be a member of society for my whole life, my contribution to that society over that lifetime would be assessed on its merit. But apparently, now that I have a child, and I dont have the benefit of another parent in my house, my consideration should not be my daughter, or myself- my contribution is assessed entirely in terms of its effect on the taxpayer. My life is now only evaluated according to whether I am deserving or undeserving of a short interlude where I might not be able to contribute to society financially.

During the two years I worked flat out, in a demanding job, while caring for my daughter-I was subjected to comments about how I was putting my daughter second to my career for working long hours. I was not considering that she needed her mother, as she went to nursery for 4 days a week. Taxi drivers returning me home, at 11pm, after crisis at work, felt free to comment on their suprise that a mother of such a young child would be returning home so late.  Smug mothers at playgroups commented on how few groups they had seen me at, and when I explained I worked four days- impassive looks settled on faces, only seconds previously animated in conversation- as they registered their dissaproval. Patronising comments, about how you really had to take the time to know the words to ‘dingle dangle scarecrows’-but you must be so busy with work- cut to the bone.

At work, the same dissaproval offered, as I justified my ability to balance work and motherhood, and was casually expected to show that I was willing to put work first. Work a full time job in part time hours, to justify the whole 4 months of unpaid maternity leave I took.

Now I have finally given up work, trying to reeastablish my priorities for me and my daughter- trying to plan for her future, I find I am subjected to even more judgement. I had failed to realise  that the judgements of me going out to work, were judgements because I was married. Now that I am single, my choice to stay at home and try to enjoy more of what is left of her early childhood, before I lose her to school next year- is a choice which defines me as scrounger. Friends of mine have informed me that actually, if I am going to live a life subsidised by the state, then I should accept that I am subject to the judgement of people who pay taxes.

I had naiively considered that as I have worked since the age of 13, and as I am likely to work for the majority of my life (its actually likely that I will return to work within weeks anyway)- that the negligible amount of time, I will be at home with my daughter-probably a matter of months- would be factored into my contribution to society. Naiively understood that logic dictated that as people were so outraged by me working when I was married, then the time spent being a mother was seen as a contribution in itself.  Apparently, as soon as your relationship and employment status changes- all other contributions you have made, or might make, become irrelevant- and you are fair game for judgements of people who think they are being reasonable.

The fact that I received more in terms of financial state help WHILE I was working, is of little consequence.  I am to show the decent hardworking taxpayer that I am grateful to them, and don a hair shirt, by placing my daughter in childcare, and slogging my guts out, so that I am too exhausted to be a mother to her, for little financial gain(incidentally costing the taxpayer MORE by doing so). Otherwise I am an affront. Apparently, now that I dont have a man to support me, the fact that any decision I make is not made with the decent hardworking taxpayer as the person most affected, is an insult and evidence of a culture of entitlement.

As I would cost the taxpayer more working, one has to ask what the motivation for this dissaproval is?

This affront certainly appears to be most keenly felt- when misfortune strikes someone. If s0meone hates their job, and is going to it for 40 hours a week- the very fact that I am enjoying being at home with my daughter is an insult. If someones husband has been unemployed for 6 months and his contributions based benefit entitlement ends, that is somehow relevant to my decision to take some time to be a mother first and foremost. Apparently every time a decent hardworking taxpayer, isnt allowed to supplement their 25k a year income with benefits, its an affront that I have made a decision about my life, without the decent hardworking taxpayer being at the forefront of my mind.

It never occurs to people in these conversations, that the rules which make it so difficult for them to get extra financial help- in a household where they are already well above the breadline- are designed to appease people spouting the same arguments as they are levelling at me. Or that staying at home, rather than being a financial life of riley- actually involves financial magic tricks which defy basic mathematics, to ensure there is actual food on the table, and a roof over my head- and that the posessions I own, are getting scarcer and scarcer as they are sold to ensure that I can continue to stay at home and parent my daughter while I decide what to do for the best.

The motherhood that was so valued when I was with a partner, which I was apparently neglecting for my own selfish interests- has no value when I dont have that man standing behind me. And if I should complain about this judgement- I am asked  is this stigma better or worse than the workhouse? (Apparently, when challenged- I was informed this question was actually the persons expression of gratitude for a welfare state).

Oh, I wish I had had the foresight to know that the absence of a male partner supporting me, would mean that to people I was friends with, I was now fair game for their judgement- that my choice to be single would be evidence of my scrounging nature- and my desire to see a little more of my daughters childhood, before it has gone forever-would be clear evidence of complete lack of responsibility.

I now know that a change in your employment status and relationship status, mean that any time people I thought were friends, experience a bit of a knock- they will be looking in my direction for validation of how unfair life is treating them-with the fact I am not only managing to exist, but am enjoying being alive, and being a mother, being clear evidence of how they are being shafted.

God help you if you are not wearing that hair shirt, and showing gratitude to them for their taxes, or ashamed of the fact that for the first time you are actually enjoying being a mother- because every time life gives them a knock- their sense of entitlement means that they will look at you with scorn.

Well I say- fuck em.  I wont make decisions about my life, and my daughters childhood- based on the needs of the taxpayer. Especially considering the taxpayer pays me a damn sight more to be out at work, and have someone else caring for my child- than they do to have me at home. And friends like that, no matter how well they play the victim to themselves- are not friends at all.

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6 comments

  1. I was going to write you a long message in agreement of all the points you mention but you know I think you summed it up…fuck em. For my two p worth I think you made the right choices when those choices were fucking tough.


  2. People always judge no matter what choice you make. A socially ingrained right the minute you ask for help from a system that is meant to help those in times of need.

    I know that look, every time you tell someone ‘no I’m a stay at home mum and then they hear nothing else. So yeah Fuck em’, if you’re happy and enjoying life then good on you!


  3. Hat’s off to you. I have complete respect for your comments. People judge no matter what. People are fickle. For what it’s worth it sounds like you made the best choice for you and your little one!


  4. You deleted me!!!!! How darest thou? I’ll say it again.

    Unfair.

    There. Delete me now, I dares you.


    • Which part?


  5. […] Single mothers […]



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