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© Albund | Dreamstime.com - Tie The Knot Gay Marriage Photo

© Albund | Dreamstime.com – Tie The Knot Gay Marriage Photo

On May 22 the Irish people will be invited to come forward and vote on a possible amendment to the constitution.

If a yes vote is achieved the following 17 words will then be inserted into the constitution ‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex’.

Nowhere does it mention anything about children in that sentence so why are they being dragged into this debate?

I cannot tell you as a single mother how grateful I am that James cannot read yet, especially when I see posters that read ‘Children deserve a mother and father’.

This does not reflect the reality for a lot of children in Ireland.

Over the past few weeks I have received many emails from concerned parents whose young children can read and are very upset. One mother told me how her 11-year-old son, who had only recently lost his father to cancer, burst into tears after reading a poster. He asked what he’d done wrong, what he’d done to deserve losing his dad.

How have we allowed this debate to hurt our children — the most vulnerable, impressionable and precious people in our society? Ireland is already very damaged through years of secrecy and clerical abuse. We will be cleaning up that mess for a long time to come.

As the parents of future generations surely it is our job to teach children about all the different types of families out there, encourage acceptance and practice kindness towards one another. Now that might sound all new age and frou-frou but the power it holds for the future well- being of our society is immense.

With bullying and mental health issues at an all-time high I believe such alienating messages do nothing but encourage young people to become judgemental of each other.

Another poster reads ‘She needs her mother for life, not just for nine months’. My heart goes out to the countless children who have lost their mothers in child- birth or children who are adopted or in foster care or from broken relationships when they see that.

I am going to keep this argument simple because, like so many things in life, we tend to make things very complicated when there’s really no need. I am single but if I did meet someone I have the option to marry them. However, if one of my gay friends — parent or not — meets the love of their life they don’t have that option. There are many things in this world that cause damage to our societies, cultures and indeed   families but show me one example where true love has caused any real harm.

What is being asked for here is equality, dignity and respect for everyone in Ireland and this question should be discussed in a respectful way. We are all born equal. We all come into this world the same way and we will all leave the same way too.

I’m disappointed and angry that we couldn’t as a nation debate this issue without, however inadvertently, attacking those not in the traditional family set up.

I just hope we won’t be left reeling from this increasingly bad- tempered debate.

Keith Mills, the spokesman for the group Mothers and Fathers Matter recently stated: ‘not only will the referendum redefine marriage, it will redefine the family.’

I hope he’s right, I hope it does because families changed a long time ago Keith and we have all got to start playing catch up.

So I’m asking the widowers, my fellow single parents, same sex couples, unmarried couples, carers, foster parents, adoptive parents and traditional families to come together and show that we support each other and that we cherish all families and the children in them equally.

I left my au pair at the airport today and cried all the way home. This actually took me by surprise and when I rang my mum I cried even more leading me to hang up quickly as I had to get myself together before my next meeting. This is how most of us live our lives these days, putting on a brave face even when we don’t feel up to it.

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photo (63)Education and information are in my opinion the two most powerful tools we need to survive these days. Put both of these key ingredients together in a mixing bowl and we are creating a recipe for prevention. But I wonder if for some reason we don’t want to give people this power. All around me I watch all parents (single, married, same sex couples etc) struggle in a world that has become busy, demanding and completely exhausting at times. There are extra bills and extra pressures that simply didn’t exist before.

Life has changed but we most certainly have not changed with it. Our support structures within our own family units have changed and quite often parents are isolated. As the old African proverb teaches us “it takes a village to raise a child”, but our communities are simply not what they used to be. The community spirit where we all looked out for each other is difficult to come by. Most people today don’t even know their neighbours. These days we fear everything including our kid’s safety when they’re playing outside and indeed our own safety in our own homes at night.

 

We dream of a better future for our kids especially after the recession we have endured but in reality we are faced with fewer services, a severe lack of information and a chronic problem where our parents feel isolated and alone leading to so many problems including mental health issues. One of the biggest issues parents are facing in Ireland is a difficulty in finding childcare that suits us and that we can afford. More often that not its not even worth going back to work for some people as the cost of childcare is greater than your income and if you have more than one child this doubles. If you are a single parent this can be really tough and very stressful.

 

To help combat this it appears that our government amongst other brilliant plans are going to take the lone parent payment off all lone parents with children over the age of seven next July and switch them onto job seekers benefit. Sure isn’t that a great idea as all lone parents are just lazy idle individuals who have clearly no interest in working so this will give them a wake up call. Eh maybe a wake up call is needed for our government as the reason most lone parents can’t get back into the workplace is because of the high cost of childcare. Yet this is the key issue yet to be addressed by the government. I could go out and do a simple survey of 10 single parents and turn it into fancy statistics but I bet my summary would go something like this. I’m a single parent, I want to work and give my child a good life and if I’m given the appropriate support needed to get back into the workplace I have the potential to become very successful which in turn means the government and economy just might actually benefit from the minority of people like me.

 

I am most definitely blessed to have received a great education and I’m also blessed to have a great support structure of friends and family around me. Even with this support and education I needed lone parents allowance when I was living with my mum during the first year of James life to get back on my feet. I would not have been able to do it alone and I have fought for absolutely everything I have since then. When I lost my lone parents I struggled greatly and again was very lucky that my family helped me out and lent me the money I needed when I was building my career back up and also offered childcare for free and let me tell you if they hadn’t I would still be at home. I’m a fighter, always have been and believe it or not I’m a glass half full person but it has been incredibly hard at times. I have fought depression, continually fight stress like everyone else and yes sometimes I just cry but the most important thing in my life is the most beautiful smiling face of a little boy full of hope, smiling at me and that’s what drives me forward every. I rely very heavily on my friends for support right now but I know one day I will return the favour.

 

One thing I also know is that if I didn’t have the support I have I would never have been able to get back on my feet. There are many single parents out there like me who just need a chance and a hand to get back on their feet. Prevention and support are the two key areas that money needs to be pumped into, not cleaning up the mess after it happens.

Myself and James

AS PRINTED IN THE DAILY MAIL

Q: Has James asked about his dad?  My child’s father doesn’t see her, I don’t know how I’ll explain this when she asks

It’s probably the most heartbreaking and difficult question that I’ve had to deal with. I remember when James was a tiny baby, looking into his blue eyes and thinking to myself, ‘I hope this situation works itself out as I really don’t know what to say to this little angel.’

Then I figured I had a couple of years, at least, before the question would come up and — surely — by that stage I’d have it all figured out.

James makes every day worthwhile and never fails to make me laugh. He gives the best hugs and has changed my life in positive ways that I never thought possible. I often feel sad that his dad has missed watching this amazing little person sit, crawl, walk and talk.

I’m lucky to have great friends and  family — and indeed a counsellor — who have all talked me through the bad days when I feel guilty and sad that his dad isn’t around.

One thing I’m very sure of is that I’m happier than I’ve ever been and I have a very happy little boy who smiles from morning until night.

However, children go to pre-school and then they go to school and it’s around this time that those tough questions start to be asked.

James is nearly four years old and the only child in his pre-school that doesn’t have a dad at home however, we have spoken about how much his dad loves him but that he lives far away for work. James did ask me why he didn’t want to meet him but I reassured him that of course he does and hopefully will one day soon.

I felt that was appropriate for now and my sister Laura also spoke to him at length about all the
amazing people in his life that love him and how lucky he is to have such a big family. He seemed delighted and for days kept talking about — and listing off — all the people that love him. He kept telling me the list was so long and that he kept forgetting people.

But recently, we went to Wexford for two days and had an incredible time building sandcastles at the beach. After we returned, his teacher Rosie — who is his idol — asked to speak to me because James had told his class that he had been away with his dad.

My heart sank. I know he only said it because everyone else in the class was saying that, but it doesn’t make it any easier. My advice is to be as age-appropriate and honest as you can. If you’re finding it hard to communicate, ask for help. But remember: love, stability and security are what a child needs and if you’re providing those, then you’re doing a great job.

One thing I would love to see is all parents talking to their kids about the different types of families that exist nowadays. I didn’t give single parents a second thought before I had James. I know that some parents don’t feel it’s their responsibility because they’re happily married, with perfectly adjusted children (yes, this was actually said to me) but times are changing. Whether you agree with how people live or not, teaching kids to be accepting and non-judgmental can only be a good thing for them and our communities.

AS ALWAYS I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU SO PLEASE COMMENT BELOW XX