Monday, May 7, 2012

7 is too young... so is 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12

In the recent past Ireland has proved herself to be a dangerous place for young children, particularly those who had connection with the Catholic Church and some of her deviant priests.  Although the said church still seems to have a problem grasping the extent and seriousness of this issue, most of us would agree that the country is now clearly a much safer environment in which to bring up our children. 

And yet, in the last budget, the only senior women in the cabinet presided over the proposal to cut lone parent benefit once their youngest child reaches 7 years of age.  The rationale behind this savage cut is that by then the child would be in school and the lone parent (usually a mother) should be back to work. 

Reality, as we know is that not only are there no jobs but there is little or no affordable childcare.  The same minister has said that she will not enforce this strategy if there isn’t such childcare available... although one would then wonder why she is still insisting on a cart before horse approach. 

But I sense something else going on in Ireland 2012.. something which I had hoped we might have gotten rid of... and that is a cavalier attitude towards single mothers (yes I am deliberately saying mothers) and their children. 

I became a single mother in 1987 and back then, 25 years ago, Ireland still legally called my child ‘illegitimate’.  Things have clearly improved hugely, but I am sensing that there is still a low level judgmental attitude towards single mothers.  At the very least they must be seen as an easy target for this bullying approach by Government. I hope that the effective triumvirate of OPEN, Barnardos and The National Women’s Council and their campaign ‘7 Is Too Young’ is successful in drawing attention to this very unfair cut which ultimately will hurt children.

This undercurrent of discrimination against single mothers was also laid bare by the recent story of the young student in Munster who was refused a place in a secondary school because she was pregnant.  As far as I can remember the principal said that the school did not accept “those kinds of girls” and that his school would not “become a dumping ground for those rejected elsewhere”.  Enlightened times, indeed.  One wonders where the father of this child was.  Did his school have the pass judgement on him before allowing him to be a student?  Of course not. 

But back to the removal of the lone parent allowance when a child reaches 7 years of age which raises another issue... and possibly an even more controversial one.  Should a Government have the right to force a parent of a primary school child out to work or should a parent (mother or father) have the right to stay at home and parent their child if they wish? 

As a stay at home mother for ten years I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to do so.. but I also feel (brace yourself – here’s the controversial bit) that parents should be supported if they chose that one of them will stay at home to be with their children.  I am not passing judgement on any parent’s choice.  I also worked when my eldest was young and only stopped when my youngest was born.  I have used crèches.  I know all about the juggling that working mothers have to be brilliant at.  But for me being at home with my children for ten years was the most important work I have ever done. 

Why should not all parents have the opportunity to do likewise?  I know there will be shouting about ‘who on earth is going to pay for that’ and yeah I don’t know.. But up to now we have all been content enough to allow lone parents claim a state allowance and for now, to leave that alone would be enough. 

In the future, when we rebuild this country, morally, economically and practically I hope that we may have politicians and opinion makers who will value the work that parents who stay at home to care for our youngest citizens do.  


  1. A well ranted rant!

    Children, their welfare, their emotional and physical security is about as important as it gets in my book.

    I wonder was the old 'give me the child till 7....' used as a measure for this new policy, if so it's a wrong call.

    I agree it may be hard to find money but lets see some creativity from politicians, after all they're very creative finding it for advisors salaries or their own reward structure!.

    Barbara, you say being at home with your children was your most important work done, I believe many would agree with that and choose the same, including many if not most children.

  2. Absolutely agree. Well written and hope it will light a few fires where they will do some good.

  3. Very well said B, I full agree, my late Swedish friend Katarina Noren spent her life campaigning for the rights of parents to stay at home with their kids, in a society where childcare was a given. Her influence caused me to take my three and a half month old baby out of a creche after 3 days and stay at home with her. It was a great privilege and I was very lucky to be able to afford to do that. I agree as a society it should be a choice for all families, how we pay for that could be worked out. I am also fully supportive of paying a generous allowance to genuine lone parents and the reason this is being cut is, because the politicians will not take on the people who take the piss out of the system. My baby is now just turning 8 and I can see that it is outrageous to expect a lone parent to manage alone without any allowance. And don't forget this austerity is all to pay back bondholders and financial speculators. The mandarins, our political masters, screwed up the country and the citizens of Ireland pay through cuts in benefits and massive increases in taxation. Worst of all our children are paying the price, it makes me so angry.

  4. Hi Barbara, thanks for your very welcome support for our Seven is too young campaign. The wider issue you're raising is one we would love to see our whole society debating. It's long overdue. Then we could discuss our values about child rearing, caring & the investment we'd need to achieve the best outcomes for children. We're delighted at OPEN that you're raising these issues. Thanks again, Frances (@fraffieb) & everyone at OPEN.

  5. I don't like being a SAHC and lone parent, but the idea that I could be forced back to work into an unsuitable job, that could mean less time, less money and perhaps neglect of my children's needs is really worrying. Glad you're supporting the cause Barbara!

  6. thanks all for your comments... I am still waiting to be murdered for suggesting parents should be allowed to parent their own kids and should be supported in doing so.. but so far no one has come after me... good.

    Chris your viewpoint is fascinating.. thanks for sharing

  7. I agree I am a single parent. With no outside support and the idea been forced to work is unreal.I got offered an internship after doin four years n college and social would not allow me to take it as lone parent ate not allowed but yet want me do a Job were I struggle and would have no satisfaction in is just horrible. I agree should be the patents choice and if happens cam see aload kids left home alone.which is sad am sure there are plenty ways save money.x

  8. I don't believe you should be waiting for a backlash for this... We should "have a choice" about whether we want to work in or outside the home or indeed there are alternatives to this which should be discussed completely and fully. I for example (as a single parent) needed to work outside the home but wanted one individual to mind my children, I did not want a creche. It does not matter who should pay, children and parents deserve to have all options available to assist and support the care of children and be empower to access further skills or education and have an independent income. I do not know anyone that wants to live off the state and even if it were true - it is a misconception because you only give others 'with power' (the state) the power to control you. All of the current structures (or lack of them)are built around the assumption that women will provide the care in one way or another 'free' to the state saving untold money in childcare, this includes other caring duties which women automatically either inherit or are expected to do. I don't believe there should be any backlash to the suggestions of what will it cost and who will pay, it should be turned around to ask why the assumed role of women, why are women paying and how much does it cost women when they take on this assumed role without question.. children belong to communities and communities need to be nurtured and cared for.

  9. I love being a single parent of 21 years standing and I love working. I also love my extended family because without them, neither would be possible to do properly.

    The fact is there is precious little support for working parents, single or otherwise, but once a recession kicks in single parents are ALWAYS the first to be criticised and marginalised. Harrumph !! is all I can say.

    Actually, no, there's one other thing I want to say. Fair play to you for writing this piece Barbara.


I love feedback!