November 4, 2019
All things come to an end (sort of) so this is my last post (I think) for this blog.
excerpt from an article on single parenting
by Tanya Lester
Isolation, overwork and other obstacles
Of course, the isolation and overwork is something coupled parents experience, too. For single parents, the difference is its severity and the consequences.
John Young became a sole parent of a five and a two-year-old at the age of 20 and after his partner was no longer able due to chemical dependency. For the next five years, until his mother offered to take the children on Saturdays, Young’s social life was non-existent. He was determined to give his children the emotional attention he felt he had not received growing up in a single-parent family. At the same time, he working as a laborer in a farm machinery factory. To cope with “constantly being tired,” Young took speed in the mornings and valium in the evenings. He had to seek treatment eventually.
And, if it is not one government department or institution, it is another. When I applied for an income supplement from the Manitoba government, I discovered applicants are required to spend time, bus fare and postage stamps to round up income tax returns even when we are also required to sign a statement allowing provincial government officials to do so. On top of that, recipients are obligated to make a new application each year in order to continue to receive the $30 per month from CRISP (Child Related Income Supplement Plan.) A small return investment in the time and money expended by a societal group that already has so little of both.
One woman I interviewed decided to become a single parent after she graduated from university as a pharmacist. Financially, she was set but she thought there should be more to life that “just making money.” After she had her daughter, however, the man who ‘fathered’ the child decided to sue for joint custody.
When the woman sought help from legal aid, she was told selling her house would allow her to qualify. Attempting to avoid a costly legal battle (she was working only part time,) she agreed to enter mediation. The mediator, who was a social worker, assumed that the woman’s case should be treated like any other custody battle even though the former boyfriend had never lived with the mother and daughter, had never contributed money and chose to cut off contact when the child became seriously ill. In the end, a judge did award the woman full custody but with a considerable financial setback to her because of the legal costs.
…..When Pat Rawson worked as financial editor at HERizons magazine, her two children often accompanied her to the office. They participated in the work instead of being separated from their mother’s place of employment. Two years later, Rawson says her 10 and her 12-year-old still miss no longer being able to help with the mailout.
Rawson could count on her co-workers to help, for example, to take her children to the bus stop if she was not available to do so.
The kind of cooperation the Rawson family enjoyed in the workplace must be extended into our home life. For Rawson, it is. Her children’s “second home” is a two-paented family with four children where they are welcome to drop in any time. The same is true of a women’s bookstore where Rawson’s friends work.
Catherine Maria and her seven children have recently moved into a housing cooperative. (The Manitoba government began to encourage cooperative housing under the Pawley NDP government.) She found sitting on the planning board buil her self-esteem and reduced her isolation as cooperative living encourages socializing with her neighbors.
Unversity of Winnipeg student Chris Kolba has been making some headway in organizing a housing cooperative for single parents. She attends that university. Kolba can envision the cooperative as having separate suites for individual families with a common space where parents can, for instance, take turns preparing supper for all the children while freeing others to attend evening classes or social events. A small paind staff could provide continuity and ensure an adequate child care centre and family room.
Kolba believes both parents and children would benefit from this type of living environment for several reasons. The parents would have more support and, for that reason, would be less frustrated/ The children would have more adult role models with varied lifestyles and philosophies. There would be more safety from family violence because of reduced isolation. Men could be involved in cooperative living but single mother would not feel the traditional pressure to ‘wait on them’ in a communal atmosphere.
Kolba thinks maintaining communication between co-op members is vital to success. This in addition to provincial and federal government funding which she is optimistic they will receive. Society has to start supporting lifestyles like Rawson’s and Maria’s as well as ideas like Kolba’s. Although we do not want to project a Chatelaine magazine image ( as Rawson puts it) of parenting, we single parents enjoy participating in the development of our children although it takes strength and endurance. We have a lot to share in exchange for a reduction in isolation, overwork and poverty.