Monday, May 28, 2007

Single Mother Abuse

Yesterday I had a workshop to attend on behalf of some volunteer stuff I do. When it was requested of me I had much inner negotiation over whether I should go, as it meant 4 hours where V would have to look after 'Salina. Now, I don't have any doubts about the fact that they would be fine without me, its just that I don't want to be "dumping" my child on my boyfriend too much - he is not a babysitter and I have been the solo mother for so long that I see her as my sole responsibility and it is a very hard habit to break.

It took them about .5 seconds to both say "fine".

So I head out to this workshop - 3 1/2 hours of looking for signs of abuse, legal responsibilities in reporting abuse and working on scenarios about abuse - all fun stuff.

In the room there were about 20 people - mainly Guide leaders and a few volunteers - and with a brief scan I would say all upright, church going, civicly responsible women.

During the first session, the trainer used as an example "a single mother with a drug addiction". Inwardly I cringed - bad call, as it can be any type of parent who has addiction issues that impact on a child in 1000 ways - but it was an isolated incident so didn't hop on my high horse (always saddled nearby).

In the second session we broke into groups of 4 to work on scenarios. Ours was to do with "a depressed, suicidal child of a single mother who is constantly berating and criticising her daughter about ruining her life, wishing she had adopted her out and blaming her for the dearth of boyfriends".

When asked about what issues would cause alarm I had to bite my tongue from sarcastically commenting "she has a single mother" - but I bit down hard.

Of the 9 scenarios used, 3 did not mention families, 3 did not mention family dynamics - and the others were the above, single mother's boyfriend and inebriated stepmother. Am I being oversensitive in thinking there was a bit of a bias here?

(How ironic that my child of a single mother was being babysat by my boyfriend while I was at a workshop highlighting the potential abuse of the situation of a single mother's boyfriend.)

I spoke with the trainer about it after the session - tried very had to hold back from personal attack or feeling personally attacked - but explained to her that they were all very stereotypical scenarios that reinforced a view of "non-nuclear" families that wasn't necessarily a true indication of all such families.

I also mentioned that many of the good women inside would already have on board a fair prejudice about such families and be keeping a hawk's eye on any charge that came in from such a fold - however, they may not notice indicators of abuse from those who came from "normal" families.

I admit that the trainer took that all rather well and I am very glad that I didn't go harridan on her!

Then I went home to my own little blended family - and found that the abuse handed out was that V had done a very smelly fart when reading on the couch! As my mother said, I need not worry too much, as 'Salina would report ANYTHING untoward.

As it was a rainy afternoon, we then watched a DVD - 'Salina's choice was "Miracle on 34th Street" - a favourite (and classic story starting with the main character Single Mother's daughter is watching the parade from the Single Male Neighbour's apartment window...)

I then abused her with some lice treatment (ongoing - I think I will just have to do it as long as she is at school!) and administered a little self abuse - so have given myself (as I did her) lots of medusa plaits...

Was I oversensitive? Is this only noticed by single mothers? I am not saying all single mother's are as pure as the driven snow - but I know many, many single mothers, and we aren't monsters either.


Jaycee said...

I think you noticed it more because you are a single mother but I applaud you for pointing out the bias to the trainer as it did sound a bit biased.

I've had some chats with the school about my son's behaviour and of course I was asked about the family situation. I inwardly cringe when I have to say I'm a single parent because I know what they are probably thinking.

Now, I must go and buy a bottle of bourbon, drink it all before my son gets home from school so I can roll around drunk in front of him while he's cooking his own dinner.

Tracey said...

I agree with jaycee.. you noticed it because you are a single mother, but I don't blame you for a nanosecond for noticing!! Good for you for handling it so well.. If it had been me I probably would have brought it up during the workshop, because the over-generalisation would have made me so furious, I would have wanted to make the other parents aware, right NOW dammit.

I'm glad you talk about this sort of stuff... while I consider myself to be "above" those sort of stereotypes, I would quite possible have missed the bias in that situation, so it's good to get the reminder to think about others as well as myself. It is just normal for people to pick up on what is relevant to them. Just see my ears prick up (and watch me bristle) when there are any generalisations made about 'stay-at-home' mothers. Or mothers who drive their kids to after school activities! ETC!!

I know many single mothers too, and I firmly believe that statistically they do as good a job as mothers in your traditional nuclear families... with the same spectrum of "parenting abilities" shall we say....

strauss said...

I agree with jaycee too, you noticed it because you ar aq single mother, but I also agree with you, that stereotypes might highlight a supposed risk group, but they also tend to shadow harm occuring in "normal" families. Well done for approachign teh instrustor and highlighting that point, I think it is important.