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Archive for the ‘single parenthood’ Category

It is another common assumption that a single mother is a woman who puts her sex life ahead of her social responsibility. Manipulative or sexual, she exhibits either too much self-control or not enough (what is never mentioned in relation to teenage pregnancies is the possibility of child abuse and rape). Behind the idea of maternal virtue, therefore, another demand and/or reproach. A mother is a woman whose sexual being must be invisible. She must save the world from her desire – a further projection that allows the world to conceal from itself the unmanageable nature of all human sexuality, and its own voraciousness. Even in the years leading up to the 1960s, when there was more sympathy for the predicament of single mothers, the basic assumption was there. ‘Innocent’ girls could get into trouble and deserved understanding ‘provided that they did not flaunt their transgressions’. Nor is the childless woman immune from sexual taint. ‘Surely,’ one journalist said recently, expressing a common attitude to the declining birth rate in 21st-century France, ‘a woman who refuses to be a mother enjoys lovemaking rather too much?’

In this context, ancient Greece and Rome are again refreshing. Cleopatra, deemed the most desirable of women, was the mother of four children, one, she claimed, by Julius Caesar and the three youngest by Mark Antony, something most representations of Cleopatra conspire not to remember or talk about (no one I have mentioned this to had the faintest idea she was a mother).

From this amazing essay, “Mothers” in the London Review of Books by Jacqueline Rose.

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Last year, my previous employer threw a very thoughtful, generous appreciation dinner for our creative leadership team. The dinner was scheduled for 6:30pm on a weeknight. I’m a single mom living in downtown Boston, which meant that I’d have to arrange for a sitter from about 6pm-midnight at $20/hour. Add in some Tasty Burger for my son and the sitter, her tip and Uber home, and this appreciation dinner was going to end up costing me about $200.

So when I received the invite, I couldn’t just check my calendar and accept or decline: I had to have an internal debate with myself about the pros and cons of going and what this dinner would cost me.

Was this dinner worth $200?

I relate to this so much from my days as a single mother. Dawn Bavasso’s “Expense policies are a woman’s problem” in the Medium. 

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It was impossible, I said in response to his question, to give the reasons why the marriage had ended: among other things a marriage is a system of belief a story, and though it manifests itself in things that are real enough, the impulse that drives it is ultimately mysterious. What was real, in the end, was the loss of the house, which had become the geographical location for things that had gone absent and which represented, I supposed, the hope that they might one day return. To move from the house was to declare, in a way, that we had stopped waiting; we could no longer be found at the usual number, the usual address.

And

“I kept waiting for the children to ask to go home,” he said, “but in fact it was I who wanted to go home: I began to realise, in the car, that as far as they were concerned they were home, at least partly, because they were with me.”

That, he said, was the loneliest of realisations…

And

I thought often of the chapter in Wuthering Heights where Heathcliff and Cathy stare from the dark garden through the windows of the Lintons’ drawing room and watch the brightly lit family scene inside. What is fatal in that vision is subjectivity: looking through the window the two of them see different things, Heathcliff what he fears and hates and Cathy what she desires and feels deprived of. But neither of them can see things as they really are. And likewise I was beginning to see my own fears and desires manifested outside myself, was beginning to see in other people’s lives a commentary on my own. When I looked at the family on the boat, I saw a vision of what I no longer had: I saw something, in other words, that wasn’t there. Those people were living in their moment, and though I could see it I could no more return to that moment than I could walk across the water that separated us. And of those two ways of living – living in the moment and living outside it – which was the more real?

From Rachel Cusk’s brilliant novel, Outline. 

 

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Lovely photo series in The Atlantic on Iceland’s single mothers.

Annie Ling spent two months photographing these mothers in the Nordic country, documenting their daily lives and struggles. “A lack of social stigma and a relaxed attitude towards marriage and sexual morality makes raising a family as a single parent in Iceland more feasible,” Ling said.

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Here.

Even now, safely past all that, I am apprehensive about remembering just how exhausted and vulnerable I was. I can describe it no better than this: When you are a single parent, the home you build sits atop stilts and if the structure gets more than the smallest of shakes it begins to wobble in such a way as to pick up its own rocking momentum. A dangerously gyroscopic effect. In this way, even relatively moderate upsets can lead to a collapse in the entire thing.

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Here is my latest article for Daily Life:

And dependence is a funny word to use for older women.

By the time they are claiming the aged pension, paltry as it is, a lot of older women will have raised children, coddled a husband through his working life (that might seem harsh but, honestly, what would you call the fact that she, alone, washed and ironed all their work clothes, cooked the dinners and made him those daily cups of tea), maintained at least one deteriorating elderly parent, and had a hand in also caring for grandchildren.

These women have known some dependency, but you can see it was not all their own. The economy is built upon the toil of unpaid care, largely undertaken by women. That the provision of this essential care work leaves women financially depleted is evidenced by their eventual over-representation in numbers on the age pension, which the Treasurer has so sympathetically observed.

He notes the government pays for these women’s public healthcare, saying it as though governments did not raise revenue from their taxes. Which is interesting, because older women are contributing the fastest growing incomes to the gender income ratio. If women are to eventually catch up to men in terms of income and employment, it may be older women who get us there.

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