Imagine this. You’re a single Mum. You don’t have a good relationship with your ex-partner. Most of the financial responsibility for your children’s shelter, food, education is on your shoulders. Of course you worry about their psychological health and well-being too; are they getting enough time with you? What about your children’s relationship with their father, your ex-partner…what are they witnessing between the two of you, will it affect them down the track? What if that relationship is toxic or violent, how can you protect your kids from that? How can you protect yourself from that?
Then there are various medical worries we all have at one time or another. Maybe your child has special needs, or learning difficulties. And then there are worries about socialisation- are your children fitting in well at school, are they making friends, are they bullying anyone or being bullied themselves? You have to balance all this worry and guilt with the demands of a full-time job. You might have to make terrible, overwhelming decisions like whether you can afford food or heating. Your oldest child who is not quite old enough to shoulder this sort of responsibility may have to look after your younger children after school. Because you have to work and there isn’t money to sort out an alternative.
Can you imagine?
You may be at the mercy of unscrupulous land-lords, venal banks or just greedy investors making real-estate moves when it comes to your long-term housing. And what if you have no help? No grandparents or siblings or friends nearby. What if it’s all just down to you and how well you can cope? Maybe you got pregnant at a young age, maybe you married young – you thought that was what you wanted; you forewent higher education and training and now you’re in a traditionally female job sector.
A job sector like early childhood education and care, or administration, or shift-work, retail, hair-dressing. These job sectors are notoriously underpaid. Caring, whether for the elderly or pre-school children, involves near super-human levels of dedication, patience and commitment. The hours are invariably long and it is vital and necessary work. Or else it’s shift-work, which is proven to be unhealthy in the long-term and how the fuck do you organise looking after children around that? Or around retail, or hair-dressing? Administration is often a catch-all term in a corporation for the essential busy-work nobody else wants to deal with. It’s possible to achieve promotion in this sort of role, but you have to compete with graduates and people, usually men, who aren’t coping with the domestic demands that you are.
It’s all on you.
Or maybe you somehow miraculously found the time to devote yourself to learning a profession, whilst doing all the caring and worrying mentioned above. Maybe now you are a teacher, or working at a high level corporate job. Again, you are still having to compete for pay-rises and promotions with people who don’t have anywhere near half the extra domestic stress that you have to deal with.
Maybe you’ve met a new fella. You like him but now you have to somehow find the time to incorporate that new relationship into your life. Everyone deserves love. Everyone feels lonely and frightened sometimes. We all deserve to be cherished and to have the chance to devote ourselves to loving a partner. But you have so much going on – it’s impossible to make the relationship work. It’s much easier to make new love work when you are care-free. So you’re alone again. It’s still all on your shoulders.
Finding a community.
And where is your community? What if you find it online? You notice a trend; women sharing their stories and supporting each another. Admitting that being a parent is brilliant but it’s also hard. How comforting is it to find a community? I don’t care if you are married, gay, straight, single – it’s a joyous thing to find. And as a mother to be told “Hey, it’s ok, relax, none of us are perfect, most of us are just trying our best. We’re all failing and succeeding. You are more than just your roles as mother, or wife, or ex-wife”.
If anyone comes along and tries to take a shit on that…I just don’t get it. You must have some real, deep insecurities about your status and your privilege if you want to call a fellow woman a slummy mummy. Or a bogan mummy. She could easily be dealing with what I’ve described above, or some variation of it. The worst, the absolute worst insult you can chuck at mothers is that they don’t love their kids well enough. To fall back on tired old tropes about women without much money being more likely to drink to excess or being slack parents…that’s vicious. It’s classist. And it’s also just plain nonsense.
We see each other.
It’s an attempt to pull away from that community, I get it, but it takes the low road to get there. However, that community is not going anywhere. The internet has arrived to connect (all the) lonely people (surreptitious Beatles shoutout) who need each other. I’m one of them. I am married with children but we have our struggles with money. I like to drink wine sometimes. And I fuck up when it comes to my kids all the time. Just to be given permission to take even a small break from the mother-guilt? It’s the best.
It’s good to try to walk in each other’s shoes every now and then. And it’s good to have empathy. Can we retire the terms bogan and slummy? (Or chav for my UK friends). It’s such a contemptuous bullshit way of categorising people so you can feel superior. If you have more money, or more security, or more love in your life than someone else, chances are luck played a huge role in that. It isn’t evidence that you’re somehow intrinsically better. There is always someone better off than you, there’s always someone worse off too. It’s good to be grateful for good fortune. It’s good and right to empathise with and champion those who don’t enjoy that good fortune.
This blog is only 2 months old, but I started it to talk to all the women (and some of the men). I am interested in all of you, in all your stories. And to the women who deal with the kind of situation I mentioned above? Fucking legends, every last one of you. Actual, living celebrities just walking around amongst us. I see you! Lots of us see you.
P.S See here http://www.bigsteps.org.au for a campaign for wage equality for those working in Early Childhood Education and Care.