Kiwis need to show more empathy towards solo mothers

Not all of us are sitting around with our hands out, abusing our children and taking drugs.

Not all of us are sitting around with our hands out, abusing our children and taking drugs.

I will never understand the stigma associated with being a solo parent.

I became pregnant at 31 after being told at 18 the likelihood of naturally conceiving was pretty much zero. So there was never a doubt in my mind about having my son.

Why is that so hard for a large portion of the New Zealand population to understand?

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I had been living and working in Australia and decided to move back here to be closer to family. That meant I gave up all my entitlements to paid maternity leave in Australia and I didn't qualify in New Zealand. My other option once my savings ran out was to go on the sole parent benefit.

* Treated like a criminal for being on the benefit
* I felt like a failure of a mother
Avoiding abuse meant no benefit
Joining the queue at Work and Income

Until the day comes when you have to go into Work and Income and put your hand out, I don't think you can have an opinion on how humiliating it is.

When you are an educated woman, who has worked and provided for herself since the age of 16, asking for help does not sit well. But we have a social welfare system for a reason, so why shouldn't solo parents be allowed to access it?

My son was not even born and I had re-enrolled at university to finish a science degree, which I did over the first 18 months of his life. I also went back to work part-time when he was 10 months old. So, I was studying and working part time - "contributing to society" - and only used the benefit as a stop gap for those first few months.

Then I got a brain tumour. I had to stop driving. Stop working. I managed to finish my last two university papers while receiving treatment, but I once again found myself having to put my hand out.

To all those people out there who think solo mothers are irresponsible and do not deserve assistance, I would like to know how your opinion on that would change if someone in your family was dealt the hand I was?

As soon as I was well enough to return to the workforce, I did. I didn't once ask for any additional assistance from Work and Income. No food grants in the entire time I received assistance, until the last week when I was coming off the benefit and my case worker offered me one because she couldn't believe I had never had one, so I took it.

I survived on the absolute bare minimum and did what I had to for the sake of my child.

Being both the mum and dad to a child was never in my life plan, but it happened and he is the best thing to ever happen to me. I believe he was there to give me a reason to fight when I got sick. I would love to see New Zealanders show a little more empathy to single mothers.

Not all of us are sitting around with our hands out, abusing our children and taking drugs. Some of us are actually trying to make our worlds better, and for a short period of time need a little help with that.

 - Stuff Nation


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