15 January 2014
Julie Boyd 15 January 2014
Open letter to Cory Bernardi and Paul Sheehan from a single mother
Julie Boyd 15 January 2014, 10:30am
DEAR CORY BERNARDI AND PAUL SHEEHAN,
Both of you have seen fit to pass public judgement on single mothers as a genus over the past few weeks. As a single mum I'd like to explain how it's blokes like you who caused us to be single in the first place.
My own, very much loved kids were born in wedlock. That would have pleased you, I imagine.
When my daughter was one year old, my husband hit me. He was drunk and, I guess, I should be grateful it wasn't a king hit!
Now, according to you I should have stayed and put up with it. I didn't. I left, taking two toddlers with me to the safe haven of a friend's house.
At the time I was still on leave without pay from my job in education. I had no superannuation, and in the 'property settlement', as they were back then, my ex's superannuation was considered his and untouchable. I saw none of it. I also received no child support.
Many of my peers who went through the same experience are now finding themselves older, poorer and unemployable, although they have buckets of experience and expertise.
As I had to support my kids I went back to work. I made careful preparations with three other families to share our childcare. I am eternally grateful that my kids grew up with three other sets of parental role-models who all played pivotal roles in their development.
With no thanks to anyone for funding me, I found a very progressive young bank manager who broke the mould and allowed me to sign for a loan without needing a husband or father to co-sign.
I've been eternally grateful to that young man for helping me buy my first house and for the pastoral interest he took in its renovation. He used it as a case study in changing bank policy. He gave me a start to my investments, including a series of family homes for my own kids and, sometimes, foster kids to grow and flourish in.
I raised my kids entirely on my own.
There were times when money was so short I had to borrow the kids' pocket money back on short-term loan, so I could buy food. They never objected, and have grown up as excellent money managers. Between them, they now have an average of three degrees, including multiple Masters. They have excellent, responsible jobs where they are able to demonstrate skills in their chosen fields.
I also have two foster sons.
One was left on my doorstep when he was fourteen by his single mum. She was dying and had nowhere else for him to go. His biological father had been violent so she had left him. She had remarried, but his stepdad did not want him and treated the boy appallingly. The stepdad was only interested in his own son, a half-brother, who grew up to be an Olympic gold medallist. At the time I was working as a psychologist and, though she didn't know me, his mum thought that must have made me trustworthy. She died the next year. He is now completing his PhD in constitutional law.
Another foster son was actually 'inherited' when his mum, at the time my closest friend, died of an horrific abdominal tumour. Yes, she was a single mum too. It's quite possible she's sitting with your god, looking down proudly at her son, who is now working as a Professor at Harvard and is an acclaimed expert in medical research.
All of us knew that raising kids on your own, being the family's only bread winner and disciplinarian, and all the other roles that parenting requires, was incredibly hard work. We knew that it would be better for kids to grow up with more than one parent who loved them.
But we didn't believe in fairy tales. We believed our job was to protect, nurture and support our kids to become wonderful, caring, contributing citizens.
Just recently I've spoken to many single mums who have been forced back to work by a government policy, who are experiencing exactly the same thing as I did all those years ago.
One of them was taken on as a 'trainee manager in hospitality' by a bloke I know. He's about your age. His answer to her dilemma was to 'give her a chance'. He pays her eight dollars an hour to do the work of two people. Each week he takes off for a couple of days and leaves her in charge. That means she mans the office of an apartment complex, manages all clients who happen to be there at the time, including unruly schoolies. She also recently had to deal with a fire in the complex at 2am. The manager was 'on holidays' and instructed her not to call an electrician until 9am to save costs. She didn't get paid for that as it was 'outside work hours'. He pays her $8 an hour and charges owners at the complex $65 per hour for her work. So he can afford holidays, and investment properties. She struggles to both find time to study, and to pay for the course she is trying to do. She often can't put food on the table for her kids. That's how we have what are called 'working poor'.
Yes, I've met some young girls who had babies as they wanted someone to love them, or they wanted the baby bonus so they could swan around and shout their mates out to lunch so they would 'look respectable'. Those kids are now growing up and our teachers are trying their best to deal with the fallout.
As a psychologist, I saw horrific treatment of kids by 'respectable married couples', including parents who saw their children as expendable. They abused their kids until the kids were finally removed by family services, then simply had another lot to make sure they still got their family benefits.
Your view of the world is funnel-shaped, insular and protected by your Anglo-Saxon religious beliefs.
The reason kids turn out the way you ascribe to single mums is because of poverty and lack of community, or a lack of love and advocacy, and nothing to do with having a pair of married parents.
In the end, single mothers are only single because of blokes that either disappeared, or were impossible to live with.
Blokes who look pretty much like you.