It's time dad looked after the kids

Good sharing: Looking after children should be taken seriously by both parents.
NICOLE GOURLEY/The Southland Times
Good sharing: Looking after children should be taken seriously by both parents.

AN INTERESTING and disturbing piece on the domestic purposes benefit appeared in this newspaper on Wednesday.

It looked at the big increase in the number of solo fathers raising children on welfare, 13,879 as of June this year, according to official figures.

That is up 40 per cent on four years earlier and shows that traditional gender divides around child rearing and parenting are breaking down, as are gender gaps in other areas of society. The story also highlighted the case of a 63-year-old Paraparaumu solo father raising three children aged 10 and under on a $700 a week benefit, after the breakup of his relationship with a woman 25 years his junior.

It was a breakup he saw coming because of the age difference. After an amicable discussion, he and his ex decided he would get custody and she could, I presume, go on her merry way.

Dad then gave up his weed-spraying business to concentrate on the children.

Before I go any further with this, let me say the three children looked terrific. They deserve the love and support of at least one of their parents and in a country as blessed as this should be well fed, clothed, housed and educated.

They are in no way responsible for the circumstances in which they were born and should suffer no disadvantage as a result.

I also believe that, for some, the domestic purposes benefit is a vital ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

But Dad himself admitted many view those on welfare negatively and said, "For me, if I didn't have it, I would have been in big trouble".

Well sorry, Dad, I am one of those who view you, but not your kids, negatively and I view your young ex pretty negatively as well.

It riles me that you and she sat down and presumably negotiated which one of you would live off the state and take care of the kids while the other buggered off to start a new life. Of course, your breakup was amicable: neither of you was actually being asked to make any sacrifice or take any responsibility for the decisions you made 10, nine and seven years ago to bring your children into the world.

I don't know if your ex is paying any maintenance or a liable parent contribution, but I do hope so. At least then neither of you will have entirely abandoned your roles as providers and parents.

Now, I don't think I pay too much tax. I don't mind the tax I pay being spent on schools, doctors, even food and clothing for your children. I'd even pay for their dental care if Jim Anderton's excellent idea ever gets some traction.

But I do get annoyed that my taxes give you an opt-out and you would rather stay at home showing your children it is better to live off the state than keep running your business and receive a lower welfare payment.

It might be that, at 63, you think you'll be able to get the pension in a couple of years anyway, so why bother?

We can only speculate what your ex is doing now.

I would hate to think she has hooked up with someone else and is having more children she can ask me and other taxpayers to look after.

Still you are far from alone. Working for Families encourages most parents to lean on the state one way or another.

Who can forget the television publicity around its introduction, showing a teenage daughter chatting on a cellphone as her beneficiary parents unload the shopping in their middle- class home?

The very fact that Wednesday's article talked about the rise in the number of fathers being "granted" day- to-day care of their children shows how wrong our attitudes to parenting are.

Caring for your children is not a duty that an agency of the state should have to approve or support. It is the most fundamental and universal responsibility anyone who has begat another can ever have. Even for wealthy parents, it can involve sacrifice, heartache and, yes, expenditure.

It is a national tragedy that more men are choosing not to make that sacrifice and are instead making their children, via the benefit system, the breadwinners of their families.

The Dominion Post