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The Death of a Deadbeat Father

August 23, 2019

By Rachel O. S. Edmund

For entirety of my childhood I didn’t know my father; not his name, not what he looked like, not his love. I found out his name when I was writing my secondary school entrance exam (back then it was called (Common Entrance). For the most part my father was dead to me in some type of way simply because I didn’t know anything about him as a child.

When I turned seventeen, we met because one of his younger brothers died and he was one of my father’s only relatives with whom my mother kept in touch as they worked for the same company. It was a confusing yet magical time for me because finally I would come to know who this man that was my father truly was.

My father was not a tall man nor was he short; he was a tad taller than I was. All of my father’s relatives when they met me for the first time disclaimed that I was my father’s twin! This caused me some angst as I still was yet to meet him. I wondered if what they were saying was actually true. Somehow I’d imagined music playing like in those movies where the long lost lovers were finally going to meet! I laugh at the thought now, but yeah, that was what I felt in the moment. The reality was that he was just a simple man and there was no music.

My father was built similarly to me or should I say, I was built just like him. When I looked at him I almost wished that what I saw I didn’t see because I saw myself. My body was awash with emotions that I could not process. I felt happy, sad, angry, disappointed, excited, fearful, anxious and so many more emotions all at the same time. I wondered whether he would like me or whether he would reject me.

My mother did not show a lot of affection to me as a child, she didn’t hug me very often and I was a very awkward child in that I didn’t feel as though I fit in anywhere and in that moment I didn’t feel like I did. I felt like a stranger but the weirdest thing happened. My father gazed upon me, said my name and quickly shuffled his feet toward me, arms wide open to hug me in order to plant a big wet sloppy kiss on my cheeks!

I couldn’t respond. It was as though my entire body went into some sort of shock. He grabbed my neck and squeezed so tightly that I couldn’t breathe as my head lay buried in his broad shoulders. He was overjoyed to say the least as his oldest daughter, somewhat of a prodigal, had returned to him. Everything was a blur after that because cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, step mother and a sister all had to be met that day! That day, the deadbeat died.

My father never denied me after our meeting but our interactions were not as often as I would have liked. On the occasions that I would visit him and my siblings, he would be annoyed at me for not calling before I ventured up into the countryside. He would say “Why yuh didn’t call? Ah woulda bring some tings from de garden fuh yuh tuh go back home with!” Country folk would plant gardens and have a variety of roots and tubers that were dietary staples and he was no different, hence his ire whenever I made my way to him without telling him that I was coming.

Although during my formative years I had developed a hatred for my father, during our interactions those feelings seemed lost as my father always made me feel welcomed in his home and so did my siblings and step mother. She, my step mother would rush to get me something to eat or something to drink and she would always be interested in what I was doing and how the children were.

They had a relationship the likes of which I had never seen. They were married for thirty-five years. He had a pet name for her and they bantered all the time and I would find myself snickering in a corner at their discourse. They were hilarious! It seemed as though she knew him inside out and he seemed to know her the same way.

Whenever one of my siblings came around I would look at my father to see their relationship and it was something that I envied because they knew him better than I did. It seemed that they had healthy ties to each other and loved each other dearly, because they truly did. He was a proud man and was proud of his progeny including me.

When my father died two years ago, part of me died too and it hurt me to my very core. It was another time when I became so emotional because I didn’t know what I should feel and I felt so much. It was surreal and I couldn’t believe that it was truly happening. I was in a daze but I tried to hide what I felt deep inside because I was afraid to face it. I was again sad, angry, hurt, depressed, confused and lost. I remember standing at his graveside wishing I’d visited more and secretly hoping for his resurrection.

When I met my father I refused to call him daddy, I would call him by his first name. That seemed somewhat disrespectful to me but the word daddy was foreign to me so I had a hard time saying it. Later, I would use his name and “daddy” interchangeably. The day that he died, my daddy died. I was heartbroken. I wanted to bawl like the little baby that he’d held when I was hungry or in pain all those years ago. I couldn’t contain myself!

Sadness washed over me like nothing I had ever felt before. I wanted him to come back. I wanted him alive and well and chatting with me. I wanted him to tell me he loved me and squeeze me tightly. The pain was so intense that I thought that my heart would burst out of my chest. I thought that I would die too.

Then some truths hit me because I needed to know why I felt what I did in those months after his death. I felt loss and grief because a part of me was no longer, sadness because I loved him and missed him too. When I realized that I loved my father, my heart broke a second time because I recalled him saying to me how much he loved me but my mind couldn’t grasp what he felt. I never told him that I loved him and that hurt me so much.

My father never let that deter him from loving or teaching me. Looking back, I see how much he taught me in the time that we spent together. It didn’t matter to him that he lost my childhood and teens because he lived in the present. My father loved his family and always promoted harmony among all of us. He always said “Yuh issa Walcott! Dis is yuh famalee! I, Beres is yuh fadda, yuh always welcome here cuz yuh is meh daughtah!”

My father was humble but proud of his children. He lived to see weddings and grandchildren. He lived to see me and my sister return to him. He died happy and blessed, knowing that we loved him. As a single mother I comfort myself with the thought that he knew I loved him just as much as I know my children love me.

Love and forgiveness killed the deadbeat but cancer stole my daddy.

Beresford Walcott December 13, 1945 – May 13, 2017 RIP Beres! Love you and miss you! You may be gone but your memory burns and lives on in me!

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What’s It Going To Take?

July 24, 2019

By Rachel O. S. Edmund.

There is an existing narrative that is quite difficult for me to understand and it is one that I absolutely abhor! It is the notion that single mothers only seek out the fathers of their children for one reason only and that is to procure money for her to live a lifestyle she could not otherwise afford rather than to seek the welfare of her offspring. There are quite a few reasons why this notion is completely abhorrent to me but I will delve into those reasons a bit later. First I would like for you to ponder upon some of my thoughts on single motherhood.

Parenting on the whole is a difficult and never ending process. We learn and grow as we go. Single parenthood I would say is by far one of the most difficult things a woman (or man) can undertake. It challenges one’s very sanity whilst offering little to no benefit (if even there were some sort of benefit to be gained from being a parent) except that of the pride one feels seeing little humans who were solely dependent on the parents grow into young independent productive adults.

For those who had enough foresight to choose the very day and time they would allow themselves to become parents there were many factors that were considered before entering into the parenting realm. Factors which included whether or not the individual was in a financially stable enough position to bear the weight of children and all the responsibilities that come with parenthood. This awareness would have led to conscious delays in the event that the prognosis of the financial position was unfavourable.

Others like myself were not as wise as poor planning and bad advice coupled with societal norms and religious beliefs/expectations led to emotionally unsound decisions about parenthood. As such the children that were born were somewhat at a disadvantage from conception. What is absolutely amazing to me is that many men believe that it is not their responsibility to financially care for their children not to mention be emotionally responsible toward them. Of course financial responsibility is not the only responsibility of a father but it is a major one.

The fact of the matter is that many men believe that if they have ended the relationship with the mother the relationship (especially the financial relationship) with the child ends for some reason. Many believe that the financial responsibility is severed and does not provide same for the children he once cared for. I fail to see the logic in such thinking but I digress. The relationship between parent and child ends upon death of one or the other not at the termination of a relationship with the mother or father, therefore the financial and other obligations do not cease at that point.

Where should I begin?

I wonder sometimes how men feel about their emotional, spiritual, physical and financial absence or detachment from their children’s lives. It seems to me a preposterous notion that he would conclude that it was cool to be front and center basking in their children’s accomplishments (toward which they made no substantial contribution). They ensure that they are there for moments which can be captured on film or phones so that they can be quickly uploaded to social media for congratulatory messages from their peers as though they were some sort of model parent yet they don’t employ the same energy to ensure that their children are fed or clothed properly!

I remember when I met my father he took me through the village where he lived to parade me in front of his friends, all of whom I’d never met before that day. He kept saying “this is meh daughter. She have eight CXC passes!” I asked myself what right did he have to share that information and what right did he have to revel in it as he never ensured that hand-me-downs weren’t all that I wore or that I could go play the steelpan or guitar as an extracurricular activity. How could he think in his mind that he had anything to do with what I had accomplished solely through the sacrifices of my mother and myself?

I ask myself today the same questions as it relates to my own children because money was not the only way a contribution could have been made to their lives however it would have been a contribution that would have made it easier for them. That contribution could have afforded them so much more and they could have experienced so much more in their lives. Of course the emotional contribution would have also benefitted them tremendously as I have never attempted to disrupt the relationship between children and father. I believe that attempting to do such is frivolous and counterproductive on any level.

When it comes to seeking the interest of children of a union it is only logical to conclude that a single mother will seek financial support because caring for children is basically synonymous with financial responsibility which is why the existing narrative is absolutely abhorrent to me. No one should have to dictate to an individual what their responsibilities are when it comes to their offspring. It should be something that is understood because every child has needs, not to mention rights!

The sacrifices that are made to ensure that children have what they need is the major reason for my disdain for persons who articulate the tripe that they do when saying things like “child support should be for the children and not for hair and nails!” It is as if we become less than human because we sought the assistance of the court for a deadbeat! Of course the payments should go to the children! YES 100%!! However, many times the payment is late and the money used to pay the children’s bills comes out of the mother’s coffers (which she may have had to do her hair or whatever). So when she finally gets the allocation should she not be allowed to do what she intended to do with the money? Or should she have left those bills unpaid until the child support money came?

She may have had some unforeseen expense like a dental visit due to her not keeping her appointment because little Johnny was ill and his dad refused to send money to cover the medical expense of his illness hence she used her “dentist money”. She still has that broken infected tooth to fix. Should she wait until her next salary or should she be allowed to use the support money? Little Johnny one day was as mischievous as could be and clogged the toilet, now she needs a plumber to fix the clog because she can’t do it herself so she uses money that was allocated for a week of groceries to repair the clog.

What I hear most times when men don’t want to pay support or be there for their children emotionally is that they’ve lost control of the mother and so attempt to do so by dictating what she spends the money on (in some cases continuing to perpetual abuse in another form). I believe in accountability but I also believe that most single mothers are looking after the best interest of their children and should not be bullied by their exes or the court to say what she spends the money on because at the end of the day the bills relative to the children do get paid!

I consider what it would take for men to finally stop running away from their responsibilities as men and I am not sure what it would take really! Taking the law into one’s own hands is illogical and meaningless. Law enforcement and or reformation of archaic law seems to be the only prudent thing a single mother can use to advocate for change or hope for in this dispensation.

Men say they love their children but do they really when they continue to leave their children undone? Do they truly love their children when they accept no financial responsibility for them? Do they love these children that they helped to create when they spite the mother and claim parental alienation? I am inclined to believe that they simply do not!

I ask myself what it would really take for men to truly love their children unconditionally. Sometimes I feel that it is simply wishful thinking on the part of a single mother who longs for the day that her ex would finally step up as a man.

© 2019 TTSMART All Rights Reserved

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How to respond to the choice of absence Pt 2.

January 30, 2019

By Rachel O. S. Edmund

I dealt with the emotions that I felt in the previous article and having identified the key emotions I want to focus on moving forward. Many are stuck in the emotional conundrum of their situations and cannot move forward. Dealing with emotions is never easy and solutions do not come overnight. It is a process and it requires one to be absolutely honest about oneself and one’s emotions. It means to move forward you must look back and you must look deep.

It may seem daunting at first but in order to live your best life you have to sacrifice what you feel and see for what you want to feel and see.

How to move forward

When things seem to normalize sometime later because you’ve grown accustomed to the separation you think that you will be open to co-parent because (for me) the child was the only important thing. I didn’t have a father so I wanted to ensure that my children had that sense of stability in their lives. I tried to remain humble and cordial. I never believed in alienating a father from their child so I never spoke ill of them to my girls though I will admit that I was tempted to on many occasions.

In my case other things became more important for the fathers of my children so they essentially turned their backs on their children. People have asked me how I managed and dealt with that and I often tell them that knowing that God would provide strength and that I was the only one supporting my children was the thing that helped me through the rough days.

For you I think I can give some clarity with this article.

1.Accept the losses

I thought I lost my whole world when I left my marriage and became a single mother but indeed I gained a whole other magnificent one! I thought that I would never find my way in this world because I was so lost in it. I accepted that my marriage was over and there was no returning to that life anytime in the near future. I accepted the choices of my exes and that I couldn’t change them.

I stopped crying over the fact that they didn’t or couldn’t love their children the same way that I loved them. In accepting the losses I looked at what I had gained: my independence, my sanity, my freedom! My children and I are so closely bound that not a day goes by that I feel far from them. I love no other like I do them!

2. Make peace

I made peace with the fact that they just didn’t care. People always have choice in everything that they do. Just as they chose so did I. I chose to be there and do my best with my children. I tried to be there for everything. Yes, I did miss a lot of events because I had to work to provide a meal but I think that my children both knew that I loved them beyond measure.

Peace is something that many seek and rarely find. Once one accepts the loss one can make peace with it and let it go! There is no peace without acceptance.

3. Let go of the anger

I threw away my anger, bitterness and fear. Anger, bitterness and fear causes us to make poor emotional decisions. I chose indifference to their fathers in terms of their choice to be poor fathers. I chose not to be afraid of making mistakes with my children. We (my children and I) laugh today at some of the mistakes I made as a parent!

Throwing away the anger, bitterness and fear is a gift to your spirit and your soul. The mind, body and spirit literally cannot function optionally with conflicting emotional states. We have to choose what is best for ourselves and holding onto such negatives will eventually destroy us and our relationships not only with our children but with others and God. When we do this we open ourselves to loving ourselves more honestly; we can better love our children and eventually others.

4. Build your self-esteem

I built my self-esteem; I went to counseling although that didn’t help much. You should definitely go to a professional if you feel overwhelmed by your emotions as they offer a myriad of tools to help you cope with those negative emotions. It was another difficult process to endure along my journey but one that was well worth the endurance of any physical or emotional pain it caused. It was unnerving and unsettling but I persevered until I could love myself through my brokenness and in my own skin!

I knew that I could do anything I put my mind to and I started to believe in myself as much as I believed that my children would make me proud of them one day. It was hard work and I wasn’t an overnight success but I took intentional steps toward being present in the moment with my children. I built my children’s self-esteem as well because that was crucial to their development; they needed to know that they were always loved and cherished (though their fathers chose to be absent) and that they could do anything and be anyone that they wanted to be.

5. Forgive

This is the most difficult thing to do but I truly believe that a person cannot move forward without forgiving others of the hurts that they may have inflicted. It was hard for me and it took many years to do. I struggled daily because I simply wanted to knock some heads in! Little by little I began to forgive my ex-husband for the abuse and the abandonment.

The murderous rage I felt whenever I thought of him slowly began to subside because I didn’t want to have such negative emotions inside of me whilst raising a daughter. I didn’t want to project on to her that negative image of her father; I wanted her to grow up and see him through her own eyes that meant that I needed to let go of those feelings so that I wouldn’t colour her vision with mine!

6. Focus

I focused on the positive outcomes that I wanted for my life and that of my children. Sometimes it is easier to be negative but I have learnt to see the glass as half full rather that half empty and life has become so much simpler. It is more comforting to me to believe in what I cannot see than what I actually do. That is called FAITH! I trust God with everything that I have and am. Though this is my last point it should be first but it didn’t come first for me because my faith in God honestly wavered but thankfully I found the light and I’m passing it on to you!

7. Channel

Because I experienced a lot of anxiety it meant that I didn’t sleep very well; insomnia was one of my best friends! Many nights I would lay in my bed simply thinking. I didn’t have a social life and I had few love interests. I fussed as I tried to sleep because of the hectic schedule that awaited me in the few hours ahead. I would think of all the wrongs that people did and consistently think about how much I was failing.

I thought to myself that I should make better use of my time so I started writing again. I started to channel my energy into something that I loved and something that brought me great joy. I lost myself in my marriage but I found a better version as I wrote in my journal. Sometimes I would listen to music because it was always such a sweet escape. I didn’t dwell on the things that made me sad anymore but I talked about my feelings to myself in my journals. You can find something as simple as it may seem to take your mind off of your problems to help you to re-focus and channel your energies differently.

Channeling my energies helped me to understand myself more and helped me to live intentionally by developing the best version of myself. It helped me to develop strategies to get things done for myself easier and faster. It helped me to stop beating myself up and stressing over the things that I couldn’t change. It helped me to face my realities and to be realistic. I was able to set goals and make attempts to achieve them. To date I have achieved every goal set in the time-frame that I’d set!

It is never easy to accept other people’s choices which ultimately affect you but the moment that you do, you can walk lighter and faster because you no longer carry that weight! You have to be intentional about your life and the things that you want out of it!

I hope and I pray that you will be able to come to terms with your own situation so that you can move forward with your children and live a fulfilling life with them with obscene amounts of memories that make you simply smile at the struggle you once faced.

© 2019 TTSMART All Rights Reserved

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How to respond to the choice of absence Pt 1

January 29, 2019

By Rachel O. S. Edmund

This topic gives me pause because I have had to respond to the choice of both of my children’s fathers to be absent fathers to them. First I want to deal with the emotional aspect of this topic. I am simply speaking from experience here; I am by no means a psychologist and I suggest that if you are having trouble reconciling the choices made by your child’s father that you seek professional counselling where ever possible.

I never thought that I would have to raise my children on my own after all I was a married woman! I thought that when I had children they would have the life that I never had; they would have a father that doted on them and cared for them and spoiled them rotten! I hadn’t thought about being a single mother once because I thought I would have a fairytale life topped off with a happy ending!

I wasn’t as fortunate and I found myself divorced with a baby on my own. It was heartbreaking and earth shattering for me because a family in the traditional sense is all that I ever wanted and what I thought I needed. Having been a victim of domestic violence I sought solace outside of my marriage so I ended it to break free from the daily torment.

I didn’t realize the subsequent emotional roller coaster that I would endure after I left the marriage. There was no resource for me to draw strength from and books were a luxury at the time. Still I continued along with my limited education and life experience to make a better life for my daughter and me. Below are some of the things that I experienced and have found in looking at other women much of it to be quite similar. It is not an extensive list but I believe it to be a concise and accurate representation of what I have seen and experienced working with single mothers.

The Whirlwind of Emotions

If you were thrown into single motherhood without warning or due to some type of abuse, there are emotions that you will feel and have to resolve as a result of such. I remember walking away from my three-year marriage not even thinking about my life as a single mother rather thoughts of surviving were at the forefront of my mind. I was broken and I thought that I was in need of desperate repair which indeed I was.

  1. Loss

I felt a loss that was incomparable to anything that I had ever felt. The loss that I felt at the time didn’t compare to the loss I felt when my very first boyfriend was murdered in his home. It was so much greater. I felt as though I lost time, I lost my marriage, I lost love, I lost a huge part of my soul and as though there was no recovering from the loss. I felt alone and unworthy as though I hadn’t tried enough to fix the broken marriage. I thought that no one would ever love me again. I am sure you can identify with some of those feelings. The only thing that I can think of that may be more painful than this is the loss of a child or parent.

2. Depression and Suicide

When I got out of the marriage I was very depressed as I had no job or self-esteem. I however had a solitary thought that I had to care for my four-month old daughter because she couldn’t take care of herself. I resolved that I would care for her no matter what came.

Depression however can render one to feel a depth of despair that is simply unimaginable. You sometimes feel to throw in the towel because everything overwhelms you. I actually have had suicidal thoughts at different phases of my life as a single mother and I am not embarrassed or ashamed to admit that fact. I even attempted suicide… BUT GOD!

3. Insecurity

Insecurity was another emotion that I felt which crippled me further. I couldn’t trust anyone with my heart or body as both had been violated through infidelity and abuse. I was very unsure of myself and thought that I would not be a good mother to my child because I allowed my ex-husband’s negative words to permeate my psyche and take root in my soul. There really was no way of getting around it. I was insecure in relationships as well and I couldn’t fully trust a man and to a great degree I still can’t.

4. Hate

Sometimes when these emotions are left unchecked we can develop a deep seated hatred for the abuser as well as innocent unsuspecting individuals unwittingly. We delude ourselves into thinking that we are alright but we know the truth is that we aren’t. I remember despising my ex for so long that I was consumed by it. I couldn’t bear to even see him. Hate is a very powerful and negative emotion and if the father of your children continues to ignore and neglect his responsibilities to his children, it only fuels the hate inside.

5. Anxiety

As adults we too can experience separation anxiety because of the fact that we would have operated as part of a whole and us being alone causes anxiety. I remember vividly the anxiety attacks that were so debilitating but I couldn’t take time off from work because I had to provide! I remember feeling my insides knotted and my jaw always clenching because I worried about every little thing. I wondered whether I was mothering right, if my food was healthy enough or if I would ever get a better salary to take care of my children properly.

6. Anger

Anger is another big emotion that can be experienced because of the separation/divorce. It is ok to be angry but it unhealthy to hold on to it. Anger has its place and purpose in the grand scheme of things. Looking back I see just how angry the choice of others over children made me become.

I would not lash out at others really but I could be cold, ruthless, uncaring and curt with others because I was hurting for my children on the inside and couldn’t explain what I felt and I also felt that no one cared enough to listen. I was angry at the world, at God, at myself for making such a poor choice of fathers but mostly angry at the choice that they made to be absent when they had a clear and unadulterated access to their children.

7. Fear

I had many fears because fear was the go to response for everything that I knew up till that point in my life. I was abused and was fearful of making mistakes as though my mistakes would literally bruise my skin or land me in a hospital for my stupidity! I feared the loneliness and being the sole breadwinner. I feared being a disciplinarian. I feared being not having a man because I felt safe and protected simply by his presence in the home. Fear crippled me sometimes because I didn’t want to make tough and necessary decisions because of what the fathers might say.

These are the seven things that I have identified as being the key emotions that I think need to be assessed whenever we face being a single mother or are thinking about taking that step. These are the things that I wished someone would have told me to look out for so that I would know what to expect. We will face many of these emotions throughout our journey as single mothers but I think that we can become masters over them if we know what to look for and how to deal with them.

In the next article I will deal with how to move forward from this stage and on to the next!

© 2019 TTSMART All Rights Reserved

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Step children Pt 1

January 21, 2019

By Rachel O. S. Edmund

Step children. What should happen to them? Pt 1.

Today I was part of a lively discussion that left me feeling somewhat angry at the society that I live in and the society that has been created because the village is no longer what it used to be. I am very passionate about children of single parent homes because I have been one and I have children who are. In order to fully discuss my views on the subject I have divided today’s blog into two parts.

The discussion stemmed from a question asked in a group to which I belong. I don’t expect many to agree with me however it is really sad to see the level of selfishness that many mothers are displaying and will continue to display because the self-centered society continues to persist.

The question asked was: A woman has a child whom the father does not support financially and has not been a part of the child’s life from the beginning. She meets and becomes the common law wife of another for whom she bears two children. The pair break up after ten years and the father says that if she takes him to court for support, he will only support the two that are his. She asked if it was possible for the mother to claim for all three of her children for support although one was not his.

This question sparked heated debate amongst the group, many conceding that they will have to warn their children (mostly sons) that they should never date a single mother for fear that she will claim for support of a child that he didn’t help to create. The discussion was endless, and it boggled my mind that people would be so callous in their thinking on this subject. What flabbergasted me most is that many stated that the woman was being vindictive, and one even said that “no good deed goes unpunished” relative to the man’s choice of partner! In essence, his choice of her and her child to be a part of his life was a “good deed” on his part not an actual conscious decision to create a family unit.

I really tried to show them how the law thinks relative to such matters and I also tried to show the impact on the child of not supporting them when it was not a problem for him to provide not only financial support but emotional as well initially. It literally broke my heart as a mother and a single mother at that.

I realized however that many were just grandstanding to put on a show for social media because we all know that life is never black and white. We all know that love and matters of the heart do dictate the way that we think toward someone who claims to love us. I imagine that we all have differing opinions on the subject but to me the one thing that was clearly evident was the fact that people are entering into relationships with a sense of responsibility that is non-existent. People lack love or maybe I am too much of an idealist.

I’ve talked about my upbringing before, coming from a single mother household and in all of the seventeen years that I was with my mother I never had the influence of a man in my life in the capacity of a father. My children, unlike me, know who their fathers are but I have left it to them to decide how much hurt they want to endure from them. I have never apologized for wanting and providing that sense of “where do I come from” and “who is my father” to and for them.

Looking at this situation there are a few things that I believe need to be said clearly.

The stepfather/ stepparent

Saying to the mother (or father if the roles are reversed) that he would only support his children fully understanding that the stepchild was a part of the woman’s life from the beginning of their relationship shows a level of selfishness and immaturity. I have had failed relationships and I understand the associated anger and emotions but being the type of person, I am I would never leave a child that called me mummy undone.

For me he/she is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; he/she is my son/daughter regardless of the fact that the relationship has failed with the father. He may decide that he will leave with his child, but I will assure that son/daughter that my number will not change and ensure that contact remains to communicate, and it may seem bold to some but to me it is what loving someone (and their child[ren]) truly entails.

The thing is whether I married the father or not WE were ALL a family for ten years and simply because the relationship didn’t work (abuse is the only exception here) does not mean that the child means nothing to me. I think that is a heartless way to be and I dare say the love that was forthcoming was conditional and truly not love.

Situation

Daddy comes over to mummy’s home where the children reside. Daddy is there for his first weekend visit since court. Oldest child is excited to see his/her daddy and run out to greet him on the porch. He/she attempts to jump into their arms but daddy is no longer daddy and no longer responsible for him/her. He gives a halfway hug but the child does not understand this. Mummy comes out with the child’s siblings to hand over to daddy for his weekend visit. He says his goodbyes to the child and leaves with his children in tow…

Catch part two of “Step children” in the next installment of the blog.

© 2019 TTSMART All Rights Reserved

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Step children Pt 2

January 22, 2019

By Rachel O. S. Edmund

Step children. What should happen to them? Pt 2

I talked about the step father (or step mother) in the last installment of the blog so today I will continue with my thoughts on the other dynamics of the relationship. I left the article with a situation which I have inserted below:

“Daddy comes over to mummy’s home where the children reside. Daddy is there for his first weekend visit since court. Oldest child is excited to see his/her daddy and run out to greet him on the porch. He/she attempts to jump into their arms but daddy is no longer daddy and no longer responsible for him/her. He gives a halfway hug but the child does not understand this. Mummy comes out with the child’s siblings to hand over to daddy for his weekend visit. He says his goodbyes to the child and leaves with his children in tow…”

Three questions come to mind here:

  1. How does the child feel? Answer: CONFUSED AND SAD.
  2. How does the father feel? Answer: INDIFFERENT MAYBE SAD.
  3. How does the mother feel? Answer: HEARTBROKEN FOR HER CHILD.
  4. This is a bonus question. How do the siblings feel? Are they too young to recognize the difference in treatment?

The child

Relative to the child I will say that they would not fully understand the change that is taking place and things like an alternative weekend arrangement for the younger siblings will negatively impact on his sense of self. He/she will feel unloved by “daddy” whom he/she has called daddy since he/she could speak. He/she will begin to fight an unnecessary internal battle not understanding why or the genesis to which he/she may begin to act out at school and the like.

When a person begins to feel unloved, somehow hate begins to enter the cavity this lack has created. It becomes a two-edged sword wielded in the hands of a twelve-year old child in this case! The child begins to hate him/herself because doubt and feelings of unworthiness begin to set in. He/she begins to think that something is wrong with them as they see “daddy” treating them differently to his/her siblings.

The child wanting to make sense of it all at such a critical life stage begins to question his/her worth as well as the mother and in many cases it is usually here when the child learns (if it was not disclosed before) that his/her “father” is not even a biological relative. This can be difficult for children to process and can be the impetus for very negative behavior because now the child’s sense of belonging has been displaced; his/her sense of who they are becomes somewhat of an untruth. No one wins in such a situation and why should anyone? The well-being of children is not about winning or losing!

I asked the question as to if the child’s father were either dead or incarcerated who should shoulder the responsibility then and the responses came in (expectedly) as none other than: THE GOVERNMENT and that means YOU AND I (taxpaying citizens) who were nowhere in the picture when this child would have been conceived, the very argument that they made as to why this man should be absolved from his responsibility toward this child.

How did I come up with you and I as the benefactors? Government is a representation of the people instituted to do things for the people which will be undertaken by the people therefore YOU AND I. So we were not there but it is fair to us to accept the responsibility toward this child! Please understand that I am fully cognizant of the responsibilities of the government however that is not the issue that I am attempting to dissect here.

During that discussion many women posited that the mother should in such a case let the man be and simply seek support for the children that are his. She should always have maintained her independence from the man. To this I vehemently disagree and here is why. Yes, this child he did not help to create but this child knows only him as “daddy” and daddy duties only end upon daddy’s death. Yes, the couple were never married but they were a family cohabitating for over ten years so upon dissolution of the relationship they become a different type of family but family all the same!

The Courts

When a matter is fully ventilated in a court of law when it comes to children their view can be completely myopic but focused on the issue of the child. In a case such as this the court, even if the mother acceded to the father’s insidious statements the magistrate will wonder and ask why she is only seeking the support of only two of her children. It will seem odd to them and they will begin to inquire as to the grounds for having the stepfather continue to support all three rather than just the two that are his.

Legally, the entitlements for step children are the same as biological children in terms of support. Legally, the father has put himself in the position of giving the mother and the child a better life and the court would want to maintain same and more importantly the relationship between father and child hence the provision for support to step children and visitation/ custody rights to stepparents. As I stated in one of my responses, if this were not seen as an issue there would be no legislation making provisions for same.

Many antagonists were mothers themselves which is why I couldn’t understand the lack of empathy displayed toward the non-biological child stating only concern and empathy for the stepfather who no longer wished it to be so. Parenting comes with a particular code and once you sign up for the course you have to expect and prepare for many uncertainties. As a parent the concern should not be for your biological children but for all the children of the home.

The discussion even veered into the area of men dating single mothers; many women were of the view that they would warn their children whether boys or girls of the dangers because they believe that it is “entrapment” by single mothers. I think that this is such a cop out for parents because rather than teach their children valuable life lessons about the intricacies of dating a single parent they would rather teach them to discriminate against them. Instead of teaching their children how to navigate such a potential relationship successfully they would rather teach them ostracism.

Single parenting is very difficult to navigate as adult women as there are so many obstacles to overcome singlehandedly. Why add to the already mounting pressures that we already face? The notion that women should simply “suck it up and move on with their lives” really irritates me. Why do men get to go along their merry way whilst we are the ones left with the struggle of raising these children and keeping on the straight and narrow path? The society, as it is now, in many ways blame us the women for the indisciplined and unproductive children and adults that they encounter.

Another thing that irritates me to my core is this: as single mothers if we are in receipt of child support from the father of our children we are required to declare same when filing our income tax as additional income. For the fathers (mostly) they are able to claim the child as a dependent as well as if they pay alimony. As a married individual one is not able to claim the child as a dependent so my question is two-fold a) why is this perpetuated for divorced individuals and b) who is actually shouldering the burden of financially supporting the child?

I will answer the second question because the first is something that I intend to have changed by the hook or the crook! The government or taxpaying citizens and the mothers are the ones who shoulder the financial burden of children of single parent homes. So once again men are ranting about the payment of child support when in fact they actually do not have anything to complain about and once again they are misinformed about who really takes care of the child.

Many are misinformed as to the laws of the land and feel that it is unjust and unfair for a man to shoulder the financial burden of a child that does not carry his DNA but I say to them that DNA alone does not make one family. The real injustice to such a child is allowing a man that has been there for him/her for all of his/her life to renege on his commitment to them and walk out of his/her life on a whim without consequence simply because the relationship with the mother was terminated.

This topic has been a learning experience and I was hope that I was able to fully ventilate this issue of stepchildren and who should be financially responsible for them after the dissolution of the parents’ relationship. I hope that I have indeed provided a view that is able to cause you to think about this in an objective manner. The important thing to remember is that all decisions should be made in the best interest of the child or children of the home. Emotions and feelings simply do not matter when it comes to such!

© 2019 TTSMART All Rights Reserved

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Letting Them Go

January 17th, 2019

By: Rachel O.S. Edmund

Today I digress from what I was actually supposed to write about because being a mother does not stop for you to take a break or get yourself together. It doesn’t wait on you to be perfect. That being said I want to share a little about my older daughter.

She is a beautiful girl and at nineteen she always tells me that I was so clueless at her age. It’s a running joke! She is consistently in my thoughts as any child would be but she is more so now because she is in another country studying on scholarship.

Two years ago when we got the news at her graduation ceremony, feelings of jubilation and vindication overwhelmed me as a single mother for I thought that finally I had gotten something right in my life. I never had any thought about how she was going to make it to school, I just knew (because I prayed) that she was going to be alright and the money that I didn’t have would come by God’s provision.

There is no parenting school that teaches you about the feelings that would inevitably overtake you as a parent during such a time. I watched my daughter in a matter of mere months become more independent of me and display a level of independence and tenacity that I could not fathom. I was scared for her and I still am.

I remember when I finished high school that I didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to do with myself or my life. At seventeen my daughter said that she wanted to take a year off from school because she needed that break and she was right to do that because till then she had never missed a day of school really. I supported her decision and allowed her to have her own thoughts and feelings about HER life.

My daughter is a first in our family; she is the first girl and the first member to attend university on scholarship! Even my genius brother didn’t get a scholarship! She says that she wants to be Prime Minister one day and I have no doubt in my mind that she will be. I am supportive of her choices no matter what because for a long time that was the only thing that I could give to her and I was all that she had to rely on.

I thought to myself as I stood in the airport, tears filling my eyes, that life and time waits on no man. The day that I had waited for when she would finally leave the nest came too soon for me. I wished that I had had more time. Simultaneously, as she took her first steps toward the rest of what I believe would be a wonderful journey, I felt so proud of her not only because of what she had accomplished but also because of her courage to leave when she did.

At that age I thought that I would be too homesick to leave the island shores that was my home and to date I have never left. As I watched her waving goodbye my heart sank into my shoes because it hit me that my baby is now grown enough to face this life on her own. I can’t save her from heartbreak or heartache; I won’t be there if she gets sick and needs a doctor-mummy! The tears were all there in my heart but I couldn’t let my younger see because she is so emotionally sensitive and she was already in tears as she hugged her sister goodbye.

I love my girls to the moon and back but as a mother the choice to let go and allow my child to find and make her own way was both easy and difficult. It was easy because I always taught her to be independent and self-sufficient but even if I didn’t teach her those lessons it was something that was innate in her anyway so she would have figured it out one way or the other. I remember that when she was just approaching a year and in daycare she had already been able to dress herself and would get mad at me if and when I attempted to help her. She was not having it one bit!

It was difficult for me to let go as well because I am a mother and you always want to protect your children from the bad in the world especially when you’ve experienced a fair amount of bad yourself. The feelings do not go away and sometimes I do wish that she had opted for university right here but then how would she gain a world view if she stayed on the tiny island that we call home? Prime ministership requires a world view and international experience!

I do feel blessed that I live in this time rather than in the time of my grandparents as now I have internet access and I can see her lovely smile on Skype or WhatsApp. I couldn’t do the snail mail thing! I think I would have had to move to where ever she was!

The days don’t get easier because you’ve grown so accustomed to being there and your children taking up so much of your time. Some days I feel really happy with a hint of sadness but I am comforted that she is pursuing HER dream and not mine.

She came home for Christmas break and my Lord! I was so happy to see her! I was so glad she made it back in one piece. We talked and she shared a lot of things and my heart was filled with such joy. Words cannot describe the immense pleasure it was just to be in the same room as her; just to look at her and see her bloom and flourish! She told me of her plans for the year which of course did not include me! She said that she wanted to spend her summer break in England with her uncle (on her dad’s side) so she wouldn’t be home then. The next time that I will see her in the flesh is for Christmas!

I felt so sad yet I felt so happy because of two things: 1. My girl is traveling the world as she sees fit (and I don’t have to spend the money for her to do it); pursuing her dreams of world travel. I’m glad someone else is footing the bill for once to help her create memories of a life well spent. 2. I now have my own reason to travel now because I’m not going to have her birthday go by and not at least try to be there with her!

This letting go thing isn’t so bad after all! Your children will always be your children but I don’t believe in living vicariously through them… well maybe in a couple of ways. For me I would live through them and see the world through their eyes as long as they were doing what they loved and not what I wanted them to do.

Today someone liked a picture (one of the few that I had of her when she was little) on Facebook and waves of nostalgia washed over my every sense. I literally teared up when I saw it, then she sent me a picture that we took as we ate ice-cream at Haagen Daz just before she left. I just had to do a side by side comparison just to make the reality tangible! I miss my daughter very much; every single day but my love for her has transcended space and time. I want her to be happy and to have every success and for her to have that I have to let go of the little girl in bubbles, clips and ponytails with the cute socks and shoes and the matching dress!

To you parents that may be experiencing the same thing I think that you should remember this one thing that was brought to my thoughts a few minutes ago. You can’t embrace life and live it to the fullest with a closed fist or holding on to the past.

We nurture our children for these very moments in life; the moments when they will learn who they essentially are and who they will eventually become. We didn’t nurture them to remain with us forever but so that they could go out into the world and make their mark; so that they could succeed in the things that they loved; so that they could live the lives that we couldn’t for whatever reason.

It is a difficult journey but it gets easier when you focus on the lessons that you taught them to become the persons that they are today: confident, loving, compassionate, self-sufficient, independent, productive members of society.

Just seeing this picture brought tears to my eyes as I recognized just how far we’d come: how far I’d come as a single mother and how far she’d come as the product of the same. She is my pride and joy!

© 2019 TTSMART All Rights Reserved

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From Married Woman to Single Mother


January 13, 2019
By Rachel O.S. Edmund

I got married at the tender age of eighteen and to date when I tell people this they say “hmm yuh marrid real young!” Be that as it may, most people say that to mean that the marriage was hell bound from the get go because of my age. However, I maintain that had it not been for my ex-husband’s lack of care and his need for total control over my life I would have still been married today clocking twenty-three years.

I remember dates very well and November 3rd, 1996 is one of those dates. It was the date that every girl dreams about. It was the day that I got married to the man that I considered to be “the one”. My mother didn’t want me to get married but what could she do about it since she was the impetus for the marriage anyway? When I got married on that day I had no family members there for support. I did however meet my older brother (my father’s son) at the church for the first time in my life. I’ve probably seen him twice since that day.

The wedding day was over and married life began. I thought to myself that I was in fact a woman since I’d gotten married and the respect that I craved from my mother would be something that would come but it didn’t because she thought that I had gone against her wishes. We became estranged and when I had my daughter three years later she didn’t want to have anything to do with me. It was a harsh reality that I didn’t know how to face. This was a lesson that I would have to learn on my own: How to deal with loved ones who turn their backs on you because they don’t agree with your choices.

During the three-year marriage I became a shell of the bright, bubbly eighteen-year-old that I was. There were many things that I didn’t understand because those were not lessons that were taught to me by my mother, school or church. It wasn’t even something that was seen on television.

The verbal abuse began almost the second we got married but I was oblivious to it because of the newness of the marriage. I thought that was the way husbands spoke to their wives. I didn’t have any model of such but it was foolishly what I thought. I had just gotten out of secondary school and didn’t have a job or anything for that matter and so I depended on my husband’s income for support.

I tried to be a good wife the best way that I knew how based on the models I had seen at church. I tried to cater to all of my husband’s needs and because I was unemployed for a bit I thought that I had to in order for him to be happy. He would however use words like “useless”, “fool”, “dumb” to describe me to me. At that point even though my self-esteem was not very high I didn’t think that I was any of those things. Those words however made me reconsider how I really felt about who I was and even why I was alive.

Soon enough words penetrated my psyche and caused me to become hateful toward him and toward myself. I thought I was the worst wife ever for how could I hate someone that I vowed to love unconditionally? For him I could do nothing right! His words pierced my heart and cut deep into my soul even more than his fists would pound my body but what could I do but try to be better? I wasn’t getting better at being a good wife mentally but financially I got to do better. I found a job and was doing really well at it but his narcissistic behavior caught up with me yet again.

Words would soon turn into violent attacks which left me broken and physically scarred. I never spoke of the incidents of abuse because I thought that no one would believe me. I thought that no one cared enough anyway and by that time he had already managed to isolate me from everyone that I loved and was close to. I kept myself hidden and stopped going to church as often. I remember having to abort my first child because he thought that we were still too young and unprepared for parenthood. He was my husband and I had little say in such matters. To date I remain numb to this cold hard fact.

I started working and becoming less dependent on him but the abuse became unbearable. His infidelity he thought was hidden from me but that was only for a time. I always inadvertently found things out but kept them to myself. He came to my workplace one day like a raving lunatic because he thought that I was being unfaithful to him; needless to say I was unemployed at the end of my probation. Unemployed once again I was broken to the point where I just had enough. I wanted more out of life than to be an abused and unloved wife.

I counted the days that I was alive and thought how good it would be to be dead. My days were filled with terror as I waited for him to come home to rape and beat me just because he could. My opposition to his treatment only rewarded me with crueler and unusual treatment. I didn’t think about getting out then because I thought that I was at fault and that I needed to love him more than I did; I needed to be the saving grace for my marriage. I saw a light at the end of the tunnel in August 1999 when my daughter was born. I dreamt of the new life that would save me and save us.

I was sadly mistaken and I was heartbroken when things didn’t change. Quickly suicidal thought became my dearest friend but I could never bring myself to complete the act. Silent whispers I would hear somewhere in the distance and I would fold under the mounting pressure into a smoldering heap of distress on my kitchen floor. I couldn’t even get that right! There was no one to talk to and what would a police report do for me? I couldn’t even bring myself to face my reality and I never made any reports to the police because I was so ashamed of what I thought was my own doing.

Two days short of my daughter’s fourth month of life, I held her in my arms on a rainy December night fighting to stay alive as he bashed my head in punching my life out of me. I screamed in pain as she cried not understanding what was happening. I became a single mother that night as I could no longer bear the weight of it all. I chose to endure no more abuse at the hands of someone that was supposed to be my protector.

The wounds of torment have never fully healed but I have come to that place of forgiveness nineteen years later. I rarely ever spoke of the torment and the pain that I endured mostly because I couldn’t and partly because I felt that people would say that I made it all up. The fact is that I didn’t make it all up and it was never a figment of my imagination. It is my story; it is my pain. Thankfully I was able to move on with my life but it has been a journey. I have found solace in the arms of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ whom I thought couldn’t save me then. Truthfully, I was so far away from Him that I never even asked for His help because I simply didn’t know how to.

I moved on from being a married woman to a single mother in the space of three long years. I have grown so much since and I have learnt many lessons from my children. I have been single for so many years that I really don’t have a clue as to what marriage looks like anymore. I tried at relationships but soon tired of them when I realized that some of the men that took interest in me possessed similar if not the same character flaws as my ex-husband.

We do not always get to choose how a story would end but we can choose the roles that we may play in that story. I chose to love my children no matter the cost to me. I chose to be responsible for them in every way that I could. I have no regrets about being a single mother because at least it is the one thing that brought me joy and peace and knowing that they get to have the best of me brings me hope for a better tomorrow. It is the one thing that to me that I have gotten right!

I am no longer haunted by fear or guilt and I am not angry that I chose an individual to marry who would not or could not love me the way that I deserved. Without him I would not have experienced what I did, I would not have had my daughter and I would not be here reaching out to help someone else. I hope that for some this article would bring a level of understanding that was never had before. I pray to God that it will bring light to the soul that continues to live in the darkness thinking that they are unworthy because they made a mistake or had a lapse in judgment.

Single motherhood is difficult especially when there is a lack of support from close family or relatives but the fruit of success as a parent lies in the work that you choose to do today and the mindset that you choose to adopt. It is not easy and things do get rough but there is always a light to guide you on your way if we only CHOOSE to see it.

© 2019 TTSMART All Rights Reserved

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Marching to the beat of my own drum

January 12, 2019

By Rachel O. S. Edmund

Many people have nasty things to say about single mothers without even attempting to understand her journey. From employers to family members, the scathing comments and judgmental eyes are hurtful and oh so real!

I never thought that I would be a single mother because it wasn’t something that I saw in my future as a nineteen-year-old married woman. Coming from a Seventh Day Adventist background it was something that I didn’t really understand. At church a single woman with children was usually a widow and the church would take pity on such a woman as the protector and provider had gone to meet the Lord. Compassion for her was boundless as people could somehow understand and pity her loss.

A single woman who had children but was divorced was not something that I saw because divorce was not encouraged or even spoken about at church. Over the years I have realized that a lot of people in the church look at divorced single mothers or single mothers in general are looked upon differently to widowed single mothers. In my mind I never even cared about such a distinction because to me a single mother is a single mother regardless of how she came to be one. I have realized that through my work with single mothers that there are different classifications of single mothers which I will speak on in a subsequent post.

Coming back to single mothers in general, people look at them differently. It is such a shame because it is as though they think that we are fragile, broken, lacking some integral characteristic and so many more negatives. We are stigmatized for no real reason really.

I have heard employers say that they won’t hire a mother, worse yet a single mother because she would need to take too much time off from work. To myself I asked, is that mother even qualified for the job? I’m sure she would be given that she applied for the position! Of course practicing such is against the law because it is a discriminatory practice however it being a discriminatory practice does not mean that it isn’t practiced or happening.

I have heard that single mothers are lazy and don’t want to get up and work to provide for their children and rely so heavily on child support for their daily sustenance. Whilst this may be true for some single mothers it does not represent the truth for all single mothers.

It has been said that this generation is the product of single mothers and to be honest I think so too however being from the old school and coming from a Caribbean island, I think a bit differently to many of my compeers. I still believe that it takes a village to raise children and the village has failed the single mother and her family hence what we see in this generation. Everyone seems to believe that life is or would be better if they minded their own business but when I was a child Miss Mary down the hill would give my single mother a heads up about whatever I did (or she would discipline me herself!) and my mother would discipline me at once!

We no longer have the village watching over the children of the family and today dysfunction is the order of the day. The village preference of whispering has taken hold leaving an already tenuous situation hanging in the balance; leaving the burden of responsibility for raising these children solely on her shoulders! It is her fault the children and ultimately the society is the way it is but I ask where are the fathers? Where are the aunties and grandparents? As a society we have a collective responsibility towards children as such we are all equally to blame for the outcomes we see today.

People have said to me personally that a single mother isn’t reliable so they wouldn’t call her to hang out with them because they know that she would say no to going out. It is the same with even dating them for men. To this I say that quite the opposite is true for most single mothers. She is a superhero when it comes to reliability because having children to maintain and handle alone earns a single mother her stripes because most step up to the challenge and do it well.

What people fail to understand is the circumstances surrounding her singleness as a mother and this is where I go back to my point about there being different classifications of single mothers. Not everyone chooses to be a single mother in the sense that she never set out to be so. Her situation may have forced her to become one and so she as any responsible adult rolls with the punches. She makes lemonade from the lemons!

A woman may have been married, co-habitating or even living apart from the father of her child(ren). He may have been a responsible adult and was doing right by his children but life happened. He probably was in the armed forces and was deployed to a war-torn country and died in the line of duty. Or he could have been on his way home from a long day at work and was carjacked and died or had an accident. The outcomes are all the same for her and the child; the death of a father and single motherhood bestowed on the mother.

Women exit abusive and toxic relationships every day and this is another reason that she has been forced to become a single mother. In this scenario however she may not receive assistance to help with the maintenance of the child(ren) because the father may have been incarcerated because of his violence towards her or because he chooses not to because his ego wouldn’t let him.

I alluded to choice a few paragraphs prior and this is another reason that women become single mothers. Some have had relationships with men that they feel they don’t need to return to because in their minds all men are the same. Her biological clock however ticks loudly in her ear and she chooses a partner to bear a child with or in more sophisticated westernized cultures she seeks medical treatment to have artificial insemination done after having chosen a viable specimen from a sperm bank.

No one knows the exact circumstances that led to a woman becoming a single mother in every case yet mouths open quickly to pass judgment on her as though she were some whore that chose this way of life for the “riches” that it would bring to her. Oh yes! Children are her meal ticket so she should have ten more!

For me as an individual caring about other people’s opinions of me left me when I lost my virginity. That was many moons ago! As a single mother I could care less about an opinion that does not add value to my life or my children’s nor pays any bill that I may have. They can say what they want and deny me what should be mine but it does not matter to me.

I have learned to march to the beat of my own drum; my heartbeat! What my heart tells me to do, say or think is my business and I listen to it. Other people’s opinions have no value to me unless I place value in them. The happiness of my children and their well being is all that matters to me. What I do for them and how I make them feel is what is important to me.

Single mothers are strong women who would give anything for their children’s happiness and survival. She would work three jobs just to put food on that table. If she thought that she could finish her education in order to provide a better life for her children, she would do that no matter the personal cost.

Single mothers are out here in this world grinding just so that people wouldn’t have to wash their mouths on her or her children but they still do. I have shut mouths a few times but I think that generally speaking people should not focus on the negatives so much that it breaks the single mother’s spirit but focus on the positives to help to build her and her children up. They are already in a vulnerable and disadvantaged situation so why not?

What’s it going to take from you to help her rather than see everything that is negative about her or her children? What is it going to take to change things so that we can have a more productive society? I’ll tell you what it would take. It would take nothing short of a miracle but I believe in miracles. We have to become ‘we’ again and we have to own up to all our shortcomings when it comes to single parents more so single mothers!

© 2019 TTSMART All Rights Reserved

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Broken Home

January 11, 2019

by Rachel O. S. Edmund.

I hate the term “broken home”. It makes me cringe and want to sock the person who uses it in a sentence!

Dictionary.com defines such as: a family in which one parent is absent, usually due to divorce or desertion.

If that is the actual definition of a broken home, then what is a home that has suffered the loss of a parent called? What about a home that was created because a woman chose to have a child without having the complicated input and responsibility of a co-habitational or marital relationship?

The connotation of brokenness to me leads to actual brokenness in that if you think that you are broken or that something is wrong with you, you will probably end up just that way! In the two scenarios that I mentioned a parent is absent yes but the home isn’t “broken”!

Brokenness implies that something needs to be repaired or there is some sort of dysfunction. How does one repair death or conscious choice? How do we make an already functional or operational unit “functional”? Divorce, incarceration and desertion as the definition juxtaposes causes broken homes but the reality is that they actually cause single parent homes.

I am a connoisseur of sorts when it comes to words and the English language; I am very attuned to words. I believe that the words “broken home” is suggestive of so many negatives and people just don’t understand how much I think in many cases of single parenthood that the home is quite stable and lacks very little because within that home can be found traditional moral values, discipline, kindness, a whole lot of love and care. In most of the homes that I know of that are run by single mothers the children are well rounded and well educated, they are healthy and have a sense of purpose and drive like I’ve never seen in children!

I came from a single parent home; a single mother home with one brother and one sister. I was the middle child. Though we didn’t have all the luxuries of the day we had food that was always hot and ready for us. I do not remember a time when I had to go without a meal. We had access to free education until secondary school and my mother ensured that we had a good education. Like I said before we didn’t have a lot of extras, in fact we never got an allowance, only money to travel to and from school or bus tickets which she gave to us every morning before school!

As a single parent you have to know and understand that there are things that must be prioritized. I never thought that I would follow in my mother’s footsteps with my own children but here I am. My children did go without many things but they didn’t go without an education. In fact, I am the proud mother two wonderful, well rounded and well-adjusted girls. My older who is now nineteen, was a model student and the winner of a scholarship to study at university and my younger who is twelve aced her Secondary Entrance Exam and was a top 200 student (following in her sister’s footsteps)!

My children never went without my love and support. My children had issues yes, as any normal child navigating this world will but they passed through the phases with the understanding that they were loved and treasured.

So whenever I hear the term broken home I still cringe because I don’t think that my family was broken in the least especially since I believe in God. The bible says that He is father to the fatherless and has a special place in His heart for the widow and the orphan. There is only wholeness in God. My family was simply missing a parent.

I understand the roles each parent should play and the responsibilities of each in a child’s life but I’m not dealing with that in this article; I’m dealing with the term which I cannot stand in the least!

© 2019 TTSMART All Rights Reserved

Love Languages

mage: Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

Navigating love can be challenging, and in spite of ourselves, we often mess up with the ones we love the most, sometimes irrevocably so.

Author of the book  The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, Dr. Gary Chapman advocates that all of us have a particular love language, and that understanding what our loved one’s language is can make for improved and happier relationships. This blog seeks to explore the merit of this theory, not just as it relates to romantic love, but also regarding how we love our children and other important people in our lives. If we get better at loving and understanding one another, perhaps our relationships would be happier, easier and subject to less conflict.

So what is a love language? Essentially, it is the various ways we express or receive love in the relationship. Five love languages have been defined by Chapman, and while a few may resonate, just one of the five love languages typically emerges as our most dominant one.

Here is a quick overview for you to decipher which may be yours:

  1. Words of Affirmation Do you need others to validate the things you do, to be acknowledged or to be told of your value to others with compliments or praise?
  2. Gifts – Do you need tokens or gestures as a demonstration of others’ appreciation for you? Is it important that loved ones remember significant events such as birthdays, anniversaries and celebrate you with a present or special activity?
  3. Acts of Service – Do you feel loved when someone does something thoughtful or kind for you, like providing unsolicited support or helping out just because?
  4. Quality Time – Is it important that your significant other always prioritise you and carves out dedicated time to spend with you on your favourite or joint activities?
  5. Physical Touch – Do physical touches like hugs, kisses, intimacy or public displays of affection like holding hands make you feel loved?

If we are honest, it is the littlest and silliest things that cause angst in our relationships.

Find out more about the 5lovelanguages. Whether you are navigating single parenting or contemplating a relationship with someone new, knowing your love language and that of your loved one(s) could foster more understanding, compassionate and appropriate emotional responses, enabling us to be more mindful and considerate in our interactions. Quizzes have been formulated to test love languages for individuals, children, teenagers and couples. So take the quiz and be a step closer to understanding your loved ones. You have nothing to lose and maybe more happiness to gain.

If we are honest, it is the littlest and silliest things that cause angst in our relationships. For example, if your young child craves being hugged yet you often shrug him/her off or reproach them for being too clingy or needy, the child may not feel loved, could act out and start a chain reaction of events that probably won’t end well. What if your “silent” teenager secretly craves words of affirmation and to be told that he or she is smart or did a good job, or is handsome or pretty, but you constantly berate him/her for not getting better grades or disparage their “unique” sense of personal style? The child will probably shut down further, may become self-deprecating or suffer from low self-esteem. Maybe as a hardworking single parent, the kids simply doing their chores (without having to be told) or providing unsolicited extra help once in a while would make you feel more loved and appreciated, as those acts of service or support would ease the struggle of carrying it all.

As much as we do for and give to our children, it may surprise you that in spite of your best efforts, they could still grow up feeling like victims who do not feel loved. This concept is explored by parenting expert Sherry LefKoe, in her article What Your Child Really Believes About Your Love Will Surprise You, in which she explores how to raise confident and self-sufficient children who absolutely know and totally feel that they are unconditionally loved.

Modern-day relationships are struggling, as evidenced by high divorce rates, break-ups, cheating, child abuse/neglect, behavioural issues with children, suicide, broken friendships and a host of other issues. We could decide that we are done with all of it and shut down, or we could approach relationships more consciously, deliberately and discerningly by taking our time to know the other person, asking questions, investing time, being observant and trusting our gut. People will show you who they are, and you must have the courage to act on what they reveal.

Just as your garden needs water, your car engine needs oil, love needs nurturing and tending.

The challenge is loving and caring enough to invest in the other person’s happiness and well-being and recognising that quite often, the very thing they are seeking to give to you may actually be what they want or need from you to feel loved.

Why not do a monthly check-in and ask your loved ones how they are feeling about the relationship, what is working and what is not, with a view to making things better? It is a fallacy that relationships do not require work. Just as your garden needs water, your car engine needs oil, love needs nurturing and tending. By investing in truly understanding those you care for, your relationships have a better chance of thriving, and you just may achieve greater trust, more authentic connections and enduring happiness.

Communication is the key, and love is the language.

Navigating the Pandemic

Image: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-wearing-face-mask-crying-3991312/

They say that “God has a great sense of humour”, but to be honest, these days, I am starting to feel like I don’t get the joke!! For single parents who were already under fire with the challenges of daily life, things have gotten exponentially more difficult, and the light at the end of this tunnel is not yet in sight!

The unexpected and profound impact that Covid-19 has had on the lives and livelihoods of people throughout the world has been quite catastrophic. Sadly, with new strains, second and third waves, the slow rollout of and high demand for vaccinations, this new norm will be with us for the foreseeable future. For the single mother who now has to consider homeschooling, loss of income, parenting 24/7 with minimal to no personal interaction or support, life has become all the more challenging.

So how, against the backdrop of so many challenges, do we navigate the pandemic, stay positive and hopeful for a brighter future?

Focus on the good

Choose gratitude. According to an article in Psychology Today, gratitude “is the expression of appreciation for what one has.” Developing a practice of focusing on the good rather than the bad, what is wrong or missing from our lives, gives us the capacity to feel better about our situation. There will always be those with more than you have, but there are probably many who would wish to be in your shoes. It is estimated that 2% of the world’s population, or over 150 million people are homeless. Globally, 1 in 9 or an estimated 850 million people go to bed hungry. So if you have a home and can eat every day, you are already well ahead of many.

You could also try journaling or coming up with a mantra (a statement/intention said repeatedly) to keep your focus on the positive. Examples are “this too shall pass” or “everything is always working out for me“. Yours can be anything that grounds you and refocuses you when the walls seem to be caving in.

Pivot and shake things up

The pandemic has cost both lives and livelihoods, and many people have had to resort to “pivoting” or reinventing themselves to stay afloat. The inability to lime, work, or go out creates time to explore learning or other new things. The internet has a wealth of free information and resources on how to do virtually everything under the sun; so, even if finances are tight, it is not always necessary to spend money to learn how to do something new. If the kids are bored, get them involved. Start a small home garden and grow your own food. There are a host of foods that you can grow from scraps to get you started. Cook at home more, and learn how to make your family’s favourites. You would be surprised at the skills you can develop and possibly even monetise! You will save money, spend quality time with the kids, and teach them about resilience.

Protect and take care of yourself

While we are all craving to go maskless, drop our guards and live a little, the pandemic is unforgiving, opportunistic and potentially life-threatening. So continue to observe the protocols, as frustrating as they may be. Also, try to improve your health through exercise and making better food choices, as Covid-19 is hitting those with comorbidities the hardest. Diabetes and hypertension are two of the most common diseases in Trinidad and Tobago, both of which are largely attributed to lifestyle. So take a walk, go outside and play with the children, walk the dog or do an online workout. Whatever you choose to do, some fresh air and getting your body moving will make you feel better.

Limit your consumption of news media

Sadly, bad news sells, and social media, the internet and 24/7 news channels can supply an endless feed of news and information about all the many ills of the world. Bad things have always happened, but technology has just created many vehicles that can inundate us with bad news. While we can’t be ignorant to what is happening around us, we don’t need to feed at the trough of bad news on TV, in the press, on Facebook, Twitter and the internet for the entire day, especially before bedtime. Commit to feeding yourself with some positivity by reading a good book, watching an uplifting movie, listening to happy music or a motivational podcast.

In the span of our lives, the pandemic will be just a blip, so try to keep your focus, motivation and hope in the knowledge that life will be good again. Living through and past the pandemic will be a blessing that the millions who have succumbed to it will never have.

Four Tips for When Parenting Gets Tough

https://www.pexels.com/photo/tired-ethnic-working-mother-at-home-with-playing-kids-4474029/

No one tells you this, but parenthood, when done right, is no walk in the park. The position is permanent, full time, unpaid, and gives no vacation or sick days; it requires a multifaceted skill set including care-taking, cooking, cleaning, educating, mentoring, protecting, entertaining, nurturing, disciplining, and overseeing the emotional and physical development of other human beings! Phew! Tall order?? Absolutely! It will undoubtedly be the most challenging job of your life. There is no operating manual or a school of parenting; we all just try to do the best we can.

Even with a partner, raising a family can be full on, but when your circumstances are such that you have to go it alone, the job becomes exponentially more challenging. Over the course of raising your child(ren) alone, there may be times that you become overwhelmed. Parental burnout is real, and experiencing it does not make you less of a person or an inadequate parent; it makes you human.

In a recent article published in the Times, Moira Mikolajczak, a professor of psychology at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, defined parental burnout as ‘an exhaustion syndrome, characterised by feeling physically and mentally overwhelmed by their role as a parent’. Being locked down for months has drastically exacerbated the situation.

Natalie Cornish’s article Everything You Need To Know About Parental Burnout , explores the condition and the warning signs that you may be experiencing it. These include feeling overwhelmed and/or exhausted, emotionally detached from the kids, lost joy in parenting and shame about how you feel.

So how do you cope when the going gets tough?

  1. Don’t beat yourself up or waste energy swimming in feelings of guilt. PsychCentral article Guilt: The Crippling Emotion provides strategies for understanding and coping with guilt, and explains that while it is a natural emotion, dwelling in that space serves no purpose and changes nothing.
  2. Don’t invalidate but rather acknowledge your feelings. A BBC Teach article 5 Reasons why Recognising your Emotions is Important, states that “Recognising your emotions and learning to manage them is one of the most important skills you can have.” If you are unable to realise that you are in trouble, the consequences for you and your children could be very serious.
  3. Get support. While we all try to be strong, independent and reluctant to impose on others, those close to and those who care about us will lend a helping hand, but we have to reach out and ask for help. There is no shame in burnout; we have all been there. So, if you find yourself at your wit’s end, call a friend, your parents, your ex or a neighbour and ask them if they can watch the kids for an afternoon or a weekend to give you a much-needed chance to exhale and regroup. If you feel as though you do not have a network that is able to support you, reach out to The Children’s Authority‘s Support to Children and Families Unit. This unit is geared towards assisting families with financial, social, emotional or parenting challenges, which may lead to the breakdown of the family.
  4. Create ways in which to take a time out. As mothers, we take it all on; we want to fix and solve every problem and be there for every want and need of our children, but realistically, it is not sustainable. If you can’t get a break from the kids, then create avenues for you to take a time out while still in the home environment. The Nurture and Thrive Blog explores the benefits of creating quiet time for your children. This could take the form of them watching a movie, building a puzzle or reading a book, while you take time out to meditate, listen to music, put your feet up, or simply enjoy some time alone with a cup of coffee. Encouraging quiet time also teaches your children to be independent, more self-sufficient and thereby less demanding on you.

When you are happy, you will be a better mother, and your children will notice the difference. Nobody wants a cranky mother, and being burnt out and frustrated will transcend everything you do.

It is true that your kids did not ask to be here and that having brought them into this world, you have a duty and responsibility to nurture and take care of them, but sometimes that means self-care first.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

https://www.pexels.com/photo/tired-ethnic-working-mother-at-home-with-playing-kids-4474029/

Raising Boys; Then and Now:-

In the heart of a boy there’s a lion and given a chance he roars effortlessly

J.W Njoroge- Founder, LeadGlobal Impact

(*This is the first of a series of articles that will address the subject: Raising Boys. )

In Kenya, a beautiful country in East Africa, society places a high premium on the boy child. This is reflective of how much being a boy or a man means to society and the individual. The society holds men to such a high standard that it cannot allow them to be anything less than what they claim to be: men. What does that mean?

Traditional society placed a lot of responsibility on the boy child from an early age. The traditional society perceived boys of modern-day school-going age; 8-10 years to be ‘men in the making’. Society expected boys to contribute to providing basic needs in the household. For instance, young boys would go hunting in bands or go hunting with adult male hunting parties. Traditional norms and beliefs socialized the boys to believe they were ‘men’ at an early age. They participated in decision-making in family matters. They also took part in the provision of basic household needs. These may seem like slim shoulders upon which to place such huge responsibilities. Yet, society had in place mechanisms to ease boys at every milestone, into their next role with ease. What guided the success of this? The existence of strong, structured socialization systems for the male gender. These systems included age-set systems, totems, and other societal norms and values.

Societal Norms and Values

Age grades

Traditional society graduated into age sets or age groups. Age sets served to schoolboys to take up their responsibilities as men when the time was right. A boy would graduate from one age set to the next through rites of passage. A boy would then take up new roles as befitted his age set. Among the Maasai, one graduated to become a junior warrior or Moran upon killing a lion. The Il Moran age set constituted the tribal defense system or army. Upon graduation from the warrior age group, a boy became a senior warrior. He was fit to marry and take up administrative duties in society. So, there were strong support systems that served as guides for the boys. They helped them not feel overwhelmed by what society expected of them.

See the source image
Maasai warriors -The Il Moran (photo-leopards of the Mara triangle)

Children in Society

A child’s proper upbringing was everyone’s responsibility. A child belonged to society and had to listen to and follow guidelines given by adults. Any adult would correct and guide a wayward child. The adult would do so without the requisition of parental consent.

Totems

May be an image of big cat, nature and text that says 'Paras Pars Chandaria OTOGRAPH'
The Leopard famed for its bravery, beauty and speed was a totem among the Luhya.
Photo courtesy of Leopards of the Mara..

Different clans, sub-tribes, and tribes identified themselves using totems. This was a symbol of what the tribe stood for. Among the Luhya tribe of western Kenya, the Leopard ( Ingwe in Luhya languages) was the tribal totem. Boys and men mimicked and upheld the image of the leopard. Clansmen would model themselves after an essential attribute of the leopard. The attributes were bravery, courage, speed and dependability, wisdom. A totem reflected an individual’s attributes. Society inculcated these in boys as they grew. Boys internalized these and understood what their roles were in society. Many showed appreciation of their totems by addressing each other with praise names. Totems had scientific significance too. They served as a guide in marriage by guarding against incest. They ensured the continuation of society. This meant that courtship and marriage were subject to the approval of society. Totems also served a role in teaching the responsibility of protecting the environment.

The Essence of Bridewealth

Marriage is pivotal in African societies. The marriage gift or bridewealth lies at the center of all that marriage encompasses. It is symbolic in that it legitimizes a marriage. it establishes and cements a smooth relation between the family of the bride and that of the groom. It also serves as a token of gratitude by the groom’s family. The woman’s family and clan entrust her well-being to them. Legitimization of marriage confers a social relation on the children born of it. Social fatherhood is usually determined by marriage. Every community cherishes children. Through them, families, lineages, communities, and tribes continue to exist. Children also help keep memories of those gone b into the afterlife alive. So they must have a place in society. This is possible through their being born into a legitimate union. Thus, the recognition of a union between a man and a woman by society is of profound significance. A married woman is more than a wife to her husband. His clansmen refer to her as ‘their wife’. This is symbolic in that the clan will protect the woman’s legitimate position as the wife of their kin. They will hold a man accountable for the failure of his marriage. they will call him out for the perceived misery of his family. it was a crime for a man to live with a woman, whose family had not received the marriage gift from him. Only the clan can break this union. This it does upon the death of the woman. The clan receives a gift; symbolic of returning the bride’s wealth. The man or widower can then remarry again if he so wishes. All these measures were in place to uphold the sanctity of marriage. As a result, divorce, illegitimacy, and abandonment of children were almost unheard of.

Giving and acceptance of the bridewealth happened after necessary inquiries by families. This was to ensure both partners were suitable or legit. Giving and accepting of it meant a formal betrothal. It legitimized a marriage. This elevated the man to the position of husband. It also elevated the woman to the prestigious position of a wife. Formal authority over the bride by her father shifted to the bridegroom. This ensured a safe position for the man as a husband. The legitimization in turn conferred upon both spouses, conjugal rights, including sexual rights. Traditions encouraged married women to be sexually assertive. This right ensured sexual satisfaction for both partners. Only after the giving and accepting of the bridal wealth could a partner claim redress for abuse. These included the abuse of conjugal rights. In this case, that the bridal wealth set standards and established rights for both men and women.

Also, responsibility and bridal wealth were interwoven. Bridewealth ‘compensated’ for the disruption of the bride’s kinship lineage. It would replace the daughter. How so? It would be the gift given for obtaining a wife for a member of the family, usually a brother of the bride. ‘This restored the temporary imbalance in the bride’s family. Boys understood the significance of bridewealth. The practice of giving the bridewealth instilled responsibility in men. A man understood his responsibility as a groom and husband.

Polygamy

Polygamy was widespread in the African traditional setting. Still, the rules that governed it were very strict. The polygamous home setting recognized the man‘s position and authority. Also, he was accountable for the wellbeing and unity of his home. Unity in a polygamous setting is intricate and of a delicate balance. For this reason, there were mechanisms to ensure cohesion in the home. Consider the plan of the polygamous homestead among the Luo of western Kenya. Everything about the homestead was within the context of a rich culture. Beliefs and customs influenced house construction. The circular shapes of the homestead and huts and their location were for identity. They also were for openness, transparency, cohesion, and peace. . The man’s hut at the centre of the homestead, with the granaries and livestock, sheds to his right. This signified his position and responsibility as the custodian of family wealth. The first wife’s house was the main hut. It faced the gate. The location of the main hut defined the location and stature of every other family member. In a polygamous homestead, the second wife’s hut was to the right of the first wife’s hut. If there was a third wife, her hut was to the left of the first wife’s hut. The fourth wife’s hut was to the right of the second wife’s hut, and so on. There was a pattern to the construction of these huts of the wives and those of their sons. All the wives recognized the first wife as the mother or queen mother of all. They respected her and sought her counsel and guidance. At mealtime, all the wives presented a meal to the man’s house, which he shared with all his children. So all the children ate with the father, usually in the evenings when the men were back from their duties. Mealtimes was also a time for bonding, counsel, conversation, and education. Boys bonded with their father. They learned to model their fathers through such interaction.

Children understood the position of their mothers as their father’s wives. \They respect as such. This taught respect as well as responsibility to the children. Boys grew up learning to respect, care for and protect women and children. They grew up knowing that the welfare of the home was a man’s responsibility. It was unacceptable that a man should neglect his wife and children. Any man who neglected his family became the subject of folklore. He served as a lesson to all young men who purposed to marry. A man who neglected his family also became the laughing stock of the community.

Religion:

Traditional religion served to shape a society to uphold good morals and values.

Thus, society’s role was nurturing and raising boys to become men of substance. Culture elevated men to such high status in society. Girls were often the overlooked ones.

Shifting paradigms

Today, society has shifted towards individualism. Many adults will watch a wayward boy and do nothing about it. Even those in authority, including teachers, do not take action on their own.

Family

No photo description available.

The family is the nurturing place of a child. All children learn from modeling what they live and see. Today, the family unit is an endangered entity. The absence of family denies a child the basic foundation upon which he should develop. The absence of a father denies boys a role model. Any level of violence or abuse in a family affects the way a child views human relationships. When boys lack role models, they seek affirmation outside the family. They seek it in substance abuse and violence.

 Failing Roles

Religion is no longer Centerfold in teaching morals and values. Thus, society has a deficit of basic foundations for raising responsible children. Religion is no longer the bedrock of morality in society. Religion in some cases is a tool of abuse and radicalization of the youth.

The Socialization of Men:

Statistics show that men are likely to commit suicide 3.5 times more than women. Evidence shows that men lack the kind of support systems that women have. There seems to be an assumption that men don’t need them, but women do. A man going through a divorce, for instance, may have few or no friends who walk with him. Women have a kaleidoscope of support systems, including the church and women’s groups. Women are adept at creating social support systems. These systems address every issue that concerns them. Society socializes men to believe that they are alright. It grooms them to believe that they can and should deal with their problems as individuals. Society has socialized men to believe that it is wrong to display their emotions. Real men don’t cry is a common adage. In crises, society is more accepting of women’s narratives than men’s. Generally, there seems to be less support for boys than girls. Who then speaks for the boys? Who will speak for the men? What happens to the boy or man that needs a platform for offloading his emotions? “We cry inside,’ one man says. When crying inside can no longer stem the pain, a man explodes. Hence the proliferation of cases of SGBV, homicides, and suicides today.

What Ails the Boy- Child?

Culture is not static. The symbolic meaning of cultural practices that guided society still manifest in new forms. For instance, many communities uphold bride wealth and circumcision as a rite of passage in varied forms. Yet, it is the consensus the world over, that the boy child lags. Boys have fallen back in the gender equality agenda. At the same time, statistics point to men as the greater perpetrators of SGBV. Something is not right. Overnight it seems, the male race has morphed. They no longer are providers and protectors. Instead, they wage war against their own. Where did society go wrong? As a mother of sons, how can you ensure that your sons do not fall into the same trap that so many youths fall into? What can we do to save our boys and raise them into the men of substance that society expects them to be? Future articles will address these and other questions.

Real perspective and insight.

Before I begin articulating my thoughts on this subject I would like to indicate to the readers that are unfamiliar with who I am and what I stand for that I do not condone or support any type of abuse in any form. I am an advocate against domestic violence and I do not subscribe to violence at all.

I usually don’t comment on stories that I see in the local newspapers, in fact I have altogether stopped reading local news since poorly written, salaciously abhorrent and non click-worthy articles abound in the local media. I usually get my news online and it did not surprise me when I saw the headline below on the Sunday Express dated April 4th, 2021. It did what it was meant to do, grab attention. Thus I followed the link to read the perspective of the writer. It does not surprise me that the author was male and perhaps quite inept in his understanding of the topic he attempted to broach with his article. Now the article did not single out single mothers per se however as a single mother, a mother and purely a woman I must say that I was quite annoyed by the content of this cringeworthy, poorly written article.

Let me start with the headline on the front page. Red background with white lettered capitalized font and the word MOMSTERS written to describe whom? The quote just above it is purported statistics or a statement from the Children’s Authority as if intended to indicate a direct quote from the Authority singling out mothers and referencing them in a derogatory manner. I wish I were writing an article on Facebook because I would most certainly insert disgusted emoji here!

On to the sub-headline on page 3. It stated that “mothers are the main offenders of child abuse” and that “over 27,000 cases have been reported since 2015 to the C.A.” Now both statements from the subsequent exposition are accurate however it is also untrue and by the deliberate construction of the sentences I am led to believe that the author’s intent was to mislead the public.

The author reported that a total caseload of 27,437 cases reflected that of reported abuse to the C.A. over a six-year period (2015-2021). This means that the author attempted to (or perhaps not) create a link in the number of cases reported as 27,000 being the actual number of cases of child abuse perpetrated by mothers when this is an actual figure of the number of cases handled by the Authority.

The author states in his fifth sentence that 40.5% (11,112 cases) of abuse offenders against children are “relatives or people known to the child victims” contradicting his initial statement that “mothers are the main offenders of child abuse”. As far as my application of mathematical principles go, I know that 40 is more than 35 (35% – 9713 of offenders against children were their mothers) which means that the MAIN OFFENDERS of child abuse are relatives or people known to the child victims (and strangers, 24.1% which totals 64.6%) unlike what the author purports his narrative to be. Maybe I need a chart illustration…I have questions…

The author went further to list the types of abuse perpetrated with the corresponding proportions of the pie that each type occupied. He also noted that 15,282 (55.9%) victims were female whilst 11,551 (42.1%) were male. I have taken the liberty to restate them here:

  • 9301 cases – 33.9% > child neglect
  • 6365 cases – 23.2% > sexual abuse
  • 4236 cases – 15.4% > physical abuse
  • 2963 cases – 10.8% > emotional abuse
  • 1619 cases – 5.9% > child in need of supervision
  • 1043 cases – 3.8% > child in mortal danger
  • 905 cases – 3.3% > child in conflict with the law
  • 1005 cases – 3.1% > lost child/child begging alms/child at risk

Some of the questions that I have based on the statistics relayed include: Of the 35.4% of mothers found to be abusers what is the breakdown of this figure in terms of the types of abuse perpetrated? Was it that mothers were found to neglect, physically abuse or put their children in danger more than sexually or emotionally abuse them? What is the percentage of male abusers and what sort of abuse did they perpetrate? Why would I ask these questions? Well the answer is simple. If we know what sort of abuse is perpetrated by mothers then we can know how to help and support these parents and if we know who is perpetrating what type of abuse we can understand how to help the victims in terms of what the public can do to prevent same.

In my experience as a single mother and the President of the Global Network for the Advancement of Single Mothers (an NGO that supports single mothers) I understand the many challenges that are faced by women who have found themselves in the difficult position of raising children alone and without adequate support. As such, many other factors including malicious reporting by former partners and even family members must also be considered.

The article goes on to recall an interview with the director of the Children’s Authority, Nichola Harvey, and her statements regarding the recent escape and deaths of two children that were in their care which really is unrelated to the title of the article and has no bearings on the statistics quoted. It begs the following questions therefore: Why was this article written? Why was it so poorly contextualized and what outcome did the author wish to see?

“Single parents constituted 11.39% of the Trinidad and Tobago population (ibid), and despite not being disaggregated by sex, it is generally assumed, as a result of gendered roles, that women would be the head of household for the majority of single parent families. Perusal of CSO census data over the last two decades reveals relative stability in the numbers of single parents at approximately 11 % of the population. However, according to the National Census Report 2000 for Trinidad and Tobago, the percentage of female-headed households was approximately 30% and increased to 33% in 2010 (CSO, 2011).” National Draft Parenting Policy 2015.

Though these are 11 year old statistics and based on the fact that divorce rates have increased over the years to 1 in 2 marriages resulting in divorce as well as population growth trends it is not beyond assumption that those figures have more than likely increased. (I await the next census data to provide more information).

My thoughts relative to this subject matter always come from a place of understanding the plight of mothers, especially single mothers. It has been for quite some time now that society blames mothers for many ills we see rampant in our society. Whilst I do not negate the fact that abuse does occur at the hands of ill equipped women in our communities and society at large blame cannot be ascribed to or placed squarely on the shoulders of (single) mothers. We have to see the larger issue(s) that also contribute to the family structure’s disintegration, the biggest contributor to which is the absence of fathers and strong male role models in the home.

Why are fathers increasingly absent and unsupportive in the lives of the children they helped to create? Why is there little to no support for single mothers to access? What services are accessible to the general public relative to creating safer spaces for women and children alike? One may ask why am I asking about women and the general public having access to safe spaces and the answer is that everything is interrelated. Without safe spaces people generally feel unsafe and unprotected even in their homes and we know criminal activity abounds in our twin island republic.

In homes where there is a violent adult male offender who abuses his family, there is very little protection from the law for the family in fact abuse tends to increase in severity and frequency when there is a report made and even attempts to dissolve the relationship and in many cases other violent acts are perpetrated such as stalking and eventually murder. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that abuse begets abuse in many cases so that it is not farfetched to see the effects of neglect and further abuse perpetuated by mothers on to their children. What about drug abuse and mental illness? Were/are they considered in presenting such data?

In cases of perhaps “neglect” for example if the woman is a single mother without adequate support she usually has to choose between providing for the children in her care and working. Most employers do not have any type of assistance for single mothers and they are not required to but them working long hours at a security firm for example presents the issue of how much time is spent with children and how much time they may be unsupervised because their job simply may not provide the required finance for child care services. I can see data here as being representative of a large portion of the 11% single mother population but what percentage of cases reported actually resulted from single parent households as opposed to traditional nuclear families?

Neither the article nor the statistics presented consider(ed) these as factors that can affect the data but it is always easy to simply point a finger and pontificate that women/mothers are the problem completely absolving men of their responsibilities and culpability. So again I ask, what was the reason this article was presented so callously? What was the expected outcome? Did the author hope to positively contribute to the conversations surrounding abuse of children and abuse in general or did he just want to shine a light on his abject ineptitude? If the author wished to present a societal problem to the public why did he not present his proposed solutions?

Going back to the inclusion of the irrelevant statements of the C.A’s director concerning the absconded teenagers, I recall that in an interview with one children’s mother that it was reported that she was a single mother who utilized the services of the C.A. to help her child access mental health counselling and other services provided by the C.A. since he seemed to be headed down the wrong path of having potential conflict with the law. It is also important to note that there have been several allegations of abuse levied against the facilities run by the C.A. by the absconded teenagers and many others before them. The author didn’t mention those things in his biased and unbalanced article.

To ask for a more professional and unbiased approach to reporting in Trinidad and Tobago is what I call a pipe dream since I do not envision that as happening anytime soon since papers need to be sold and a “journalist” needs to eat! I however am committed to finding solutions to the issues that single mothers face and our organization wishes to inform the general public that we are here to offer our support since the article never mentioned anything about support services provided by government or any other entity with programs geared toward ensuring that the vulnerable in our society are protected and supported. I remain committed to stemming the scourge of abuse perpetrated against women and children in particular and all forms of violence in our society. I hope the writer would really consider his motives when writing articles in the future and I honestly believe that as a nation if we do the work we can in fact become a better and more mature society.

The Right Pets

Living with and caring for a pet as a child can be an incredible learning experience and can help a child form many positive personality traits—I know this from personal experience. When I was 13, I found a sick and crying pup on an empty lot next to our house, and nursing that puppy to health and then raising her definitely helped me foster a sense of responsibility and practice patience and compassion. Those are just some of the traits that a child can learn to develop through taking care of a pet. But not every pet is suitable for every child! There are a lot of things to consider before deciding to bring a live animal into your home. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before heading to the pet shop or animal shelter.

Do I want to be responsible for a pet?
Let us be realistic, when getting a pet for your child (particularly if they are under the age of 13), you are most likely going to be the primary caregiver. Ask yourself, am I able and willing to feed, clean up after, and supervise this animal to the extent that it needs? Even if your child helps with feeding, grooming, cleaning tanks, or other duties, it is unlikely that they will be able to do those things entirely on their own. Consider your ability to be a pet owner from the angle of wanting to be fair to both yourself and to the animal you are bringing into your home.

Can I afford a pet?
“Afford” can mean many things. Financially speaking, consider whether you can pay for vet expenses (vaccinations, spaying/neutering, emergency visits), proper housing and accessories (hutches, bowls, leashes, etc.) and appropriate food and nutrition. Think about your time as well, whether you can afford to spend the time regularly taking a dog for walks, cleaning a fish tank or, very importantly, supervising your child’s playtime with their pet. Also, consider what space in your house you can afford to use to accommodate cages, tanks, play areas, etc.

What kind of pet is right for my child’s age?
As was said earlier, not just any pet is right for just any age. Let us examine some appropriate pets for different ages:

0 – 5: Pets are not largely recommended for children around this age since they may not yet be able to tell the difference between a toy and a living, breathing animal. Improper handling could lead to the pet’s injury or death, or lead to your child getting sick or bitten. If you do want to have your child experience an animal at this age, a fish they can help feed and watch from a safe distance could be your best bet.

6 – 10: Parakeets, hamsters, reptiles (turtles, etc.) are ideal for this age range, as they are fairly low-maintenance and solitary animals. Children at this age are more understanding of the need to be gentle with animals and can also take on more care responsibilities.

11+: Most children at this age, when they are starting secondary school, are at a stage where they are beginning to understand responsibility and can take on pets that require more involved care, such as dogs, cats and rabbits. They should absolutely still be supervised when interacting with their pets though!

Would my child be a good pet owner?
The answer to this question would vary from child to child. Consider your child’s personality, likes and dislikes, and health requirements. Consider: are they the type to lose interest in a pet after a month? Would their responsibilities of care outweigh their enjoyment of the animal’s company? Do they have any allergies that an animal would aggravate? If possible, visit a friend or relative with a pet your child is interested in and let them have a sense of what living with and caring for that animal is like. Fostering a dog or cat would also allow them a “trial run” experience. If you want an experience without getting animals involved, you could talk with your child about animal care and do some research together, so they begin to understand what is involved in a life with a pet.

Growing up with a pet can be a fun, educational, and formative experience. Children can learn and develop lots of positive traits by taking care of another living thing, and those benefits are best gained by ensuring that your child wants a pet and is willing to take part in their care for the duration of the animal’s life. When it comes to dogs and cats, adopt instead of buying if you can! Shelters like the Trinidad and Tobago Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA) house many animals, which are ready for homes, and the staff are happy to help you find your new furry friend. Overall, when considering getting a new animal companion, doing your research and communicating with your child will make sure that you get the right pet to suit your budget, your home, and your child.

Sources:

https://www.petmd.com/dog/pet-lover/these-are-best-pets-kids-each-age

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Before-Choosing-a-Pet.aspx#:~:text=If%20you%20are%20getting%20a,bite%20through%20teasing%20or%20mistreatment.

https://www.care.com/c/stories/6100/best-pets-for-kids-at-every-age-and-stage/

https://www.healthline.com/health/best-pets-for-kids#reptiles

5 Frequently Asked Questions by Newly Single Mums

Raising a child or children on your own can become very stressful. Furthermore, if you’re a newly single parent, it may be increasingly challenging as you’re propelled into managing the boundaries of a different kind of relationship with your previous partner and possibly, your kids too. Here are 5 questions frequently asked by newly single mums.

  • How do I talk to my child about separation or divorce?

Be as honest as you can with your kids about what you all will be experiencing as a result of the break-up. Speak to them about your new family dynamic and encourage them to express their feelings about the changes. Answer all of their questions with honesty and avoid unnecessary information or painting their father in a negative light.

Reassure the children that they did not cause the divorce or separation, and that you will always love and cherish them. You should consider hiring a counsellor for the kids if they express that they feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts with an external party; however, clear communication between you and your kids should be the goal.

  • When is it safe for me to start dating or finding a new partner as a single parent?

Dating could be fun, but also challenging in itself, especially after separation or divorce. Therefore, before throwing yourself back out there, ensure that you’re ready to handle all of the consequences of dating, such as possible rejection or ghosting.

Ensure that you’re in a great mental space with yourself and have fully worked through the emotions of your past relationship, as being vulnerable with someone new may require some mental fortitude.

According to Lucy Good, founder of Beanstalk, an online community for single mothers, Don’t do it until both you and your children are in a peaceful place.

  • Am I being too lenient (or too strict) with my children as a single parent?

One of the luxuries that two-parent households enjoy when compared to single-parent households is that they almost have an immediate platform to consult each other about their children; whether it’s dealing with a spontaneous disciplinary matter pertaining to the children or if one of the kids falls suddenly ill.

As a single parent, co-parenting may be difficult due to the new boundaries of your relationship. However, for the most part, when your kids are in your care, you are 100% responsible for them. There is no one to back you up; therefore, you have to do whatever is required to ensure that the children are healthy and happy in your care.  

Set parenting goals and consult with other parents on matters you feel are getting out of your control.

  • Am I being too generous (or too strict) with my ex?

Now that you are a single parent, terms such as ‘visitation’ or ‘custody’ may be a regular part of your life. Therefore, you need to set some boundaries. Firstly, consider whether the end of your previous relationship was bitter or amicable, and then determine what sort of relationship you would like to continue with your kids’ father.

If shared custody is in play, where are safe pick-up or drop-off locations for you? Will you be flexible with visitation times? What are you committed to doing to ensure that your kids have a healthy relationship with their dad?

You may feel guilty for some of the answers you come up with, but your kids and your peace of mind should be at the centre of decisions regarding the relationship you have with their dad – especially in the case of co-parenting.

  • Is taking time for myself selfish?

No! That’s the long and short answer. Carving out time for yourself as a single parent is difficult enough, so don’t you dare feel guilty about it. If you are not in a healthy frame of mind, you will not be able to foster a healthy home or environment for your kids to thrive.

The funny thing is time away from your kids or time spent alone actually makes you a better parent. Don’t take my word for it. Check out this article.

What are some other questions you may have had as a newly single mum? Share them with us in the comments below.

Citation

Single Moms and Dating: Exactly What to Know. (2021). Retrieved 22 February 2021, from https://www.oprahmag.com/life/relationships-love/a28843699/dating-a-single-mom/#:~:text=Don’t%20start%20until%20you’re%20ready.&text=So%20before%20you%20post%20a,online%20community%20for%20single%20mothers.

4 Tips for Dating as a Single Mother

Photo by Vanessa Garcia on Pexels.com

Your relationship ended, you have healed, rebalanced your life, and settled into parenting solo. While you may be ready emotionally and psychologically to move on, the rules of the game have changed—you now have your children to consider. The dating scene is complicated, and meeting people is all the more difficult in a Covid-19 world.

Start by asking yourself the following question?

What do I want from a relationship?

Are you interested in companionship, intimacy, or a life partner? It is important to determine this before you move forward. If you are seeking companionship with no strings attached, then choose someone with whom you feel safe, who treats you with respect and who understands your current boundaries. If you decide to have an intimate/sexual relationship, protect yourself from both the risk of any number of sexually transmitted diseases as well as the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy. Getting pregnant and having a child provides no guarantee that a man will stand by you or take on any of the responsibility. Remember that you are already carrying an enormous amount of responsibility, and you don’t need additional complications.

A featured article in Oprah’s O Magazine, Single Moms and Dating: Exactly What to Know, provides a wonderfully balanced perspective on the subject of dating as a single mom and also addresses important issues such as guilt, shaming, and judgement that often accompany it.

“Kids need a healthy relationship role model. There’s pressure for moms to be born-again virgins, and sacrifice everything for their children. While this might sound noble, children learn a lot by observation, and it doesn’t teach kids what a good relationship—or dating life—looks like.” – Lara Lillibridge.

If you are looking for a life partner, it is critical that your potential mate be willing to invest in both you AND your children. The subject of your children should be raised relatively early in your dating life, and you should assess your prospective partner’s desire to be a part of your children’s lives. If he/she tells you they have no interest in children, spare yourself a lot of grief, hoping that he/she will change, before you develop a strong emotional connection. A long-term relationship with someone who does not care for your children will be heart-wrenching, as you will always be caught between your personal relationship and what is best for your children. When someone shows you or tells you who they are, believe them. While your needs also matter, ultimately, you have to put the children first. By choosing the right person, you may just be able to have it all. That said, while you are finding your prince, do not introduce your children to all of the frogs that you meet. A passing parade of failed relationships will not provide a positive experience or relationship model for your children.

When you believe you have found someone who is good to you and who is willing to try to embrace your children, here are four tips to navigate the way forward.

  1. Introduce them to your kids. Once you are reasonably sure (there are no guarantees) that the relationship is moving along positively, you should talk to your children about meeting your new companion. While you don’t need their permission, their “buy in” would make life a lot easier and help things go more smoothly. Here are some tips for introducing your children to a new partner.
  2. Always put the children first. Parenting is demanding, and finding time for work, other commitments, and a new relationship will be a tall order. Sometimes, something will have to give, and it can’t always be your children. Once they believe that they are not competing for your attention, they are more likely to accept and allow someone else to be on the scene.
  3. Agree on boundaries regarding disciplining your children. Be clear on your parenting rules and the extent to which your new partner will correct or discipline the children. What may be acceptable behaviour to you, may be challenging for him/her. Children always resent a non-parent telling them what to do, but over time, they will grow to appreciate another loving and caring adult in their lives. Click here for the do’s and don’ts of stepparent discipline.
  4. Listen to what your kids have to say. Children are extremely perceptive, and if they seem unduly uncomfortable around your companion, don’t dismiss it as just a case of them not wanting mummy to have a new friend. Do not assume that your child(ren) is/are safe or being treated properly just because it is what your partner tells you or wants you to believe. Many children are verbally, emotionally, sexually, and or physically abused by the people we assume can be trusted with them. Get up to speed on the warning signs in children and adults that your child may be the victim of abuse.

While life may have thrown you a curve ball, there is nothing wrong with wanting to find love and happiness again—we all deserve that. By taking your time and being selective, it is possible to meet someone new to start over. Be patient and wait for a suitable candidate to come along. The main takeaway is that you take your children’s happiness, well-being and safety into consideration and that they remain your priority.

Romantic involvements may come and go, but the bond you create with your children is forever—make it as strong, nurturing, safe, and happy as you can.

My wish is that you can successfully have it all.

5 Reasons Why Taking a Break Can Make You a Better Parent

Some mums talk about the guilt they feel when they leave their kids. Whether it’s for them to go to work or to do something for themselves, they just feel guilty because their kids are not with them 24/7. However, it is important for mums to spend some time apart from their kids to reflect, refresh, and realign their thoughts to navigate single-parenthood.

Here are five reasons why taking a break can make you a more effective parent:

  1. Maintains your individuality – Before your kids were even in the picture, you were an individual with dreams and goals of your own. Of course, when your kids entered your life, they became your number one priority—as they should—however, you’re still an individual with your personal dreams and goals. Taking a break from your kids to pursue a passion of yours can actually empower them as they’ll be able to appreciate the importance of individuality. It may also equip them with valuable skills, such as time management. Pursuing a passion of yours doesn’t have to mean flying off to a foreign country without your kids; it could simply mean setting aside one hour of your day to do an online course that you always wanted to take.
  1. Avoids parent burnout – Parent burnout can cause feelings of detachment and even make you think that you’re a bad parent overall. According to a parenting expert, Ann Douglas, by taking breaks, you’ll be able to come back to the job of parenting feeling refreshed and energized, which will help you to avoid burnout (Dubé, 2017).  Learn more about parent burnout and how you can avoid it here.
  1. Gives you peace of mind – Having a sound mind gives you the clarity you need to determine when you need a break, how often you need one and also helps you to identify the various factors that warrant the need for a break. Accepting that you need a break is the first step, however, being completely self-aware should be the goal. You will gain peace of mind and should take solace in the fact that the breaks aren’t for you alone, but they will mentally prepare you to be a better mum to your kids.
  1.  Makes children feel loved & supported – According to Bryant (n.d.) children who witness their parents having fun, laughing and enjoying life learn valuable lessons about life. Spending time together as a family provides children with feelings of love, support and safety, which are key components for thriving in today’s uncertainties. Therefore, it is beneficial for your kids to see you maintain a balance between family time and personal time.
  1. Boosts your energy –  Although breaks are great for your mental well-being, it’s also good for your physical health. Keeping up with very energetic kids all day long can take a toll on the body. Therefore, scheduling some power naps throughout the day may give your body some time to recover and the energy needed to complete all your parental tasks efficiently.

Taking breaks from your parental role is beneficial to you and your kids. Breaks can help you maintain your individuality, avoid burnout, give you peace of mind, and boost your energy. They also allow your kids to see a healthy distinction between personal time and family time, which equips them with valuable skills such as time management. Taking a break doesn’t necessarily mean staying away from your kids for an extended period; however, it could mean taking quick rests throughout the day or scheduling in some time to pursue a passion of yours. Ultimately, taking breaks is essential for you to parent in a more efficient manner.

My advice: take a break before you break, mum.

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Citations

Bryant, S. (n.d.). Take Time to Take Vacation: Five Facts about the Benefits of Taking a Break. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://advantagebehavioral.org/wellness.php?nId=27

Dube, D. (2017, November 21). Avoid parenting burnout: Why it’s important for parents to take time for themselves. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://globalnews.ca/news/3871017/avoid-parenting-burnout-why-its-important-for-parents-to-take-time-for-themselves/

Debunking Stepmother Myths

With mothers historically being seen across many cultures as the source of familial warmth, it is probably not that surprising that a negative stereotype has emerged about the next woman who steps in after “the real mother” has left the family. Numerous studies have been conducted on the effects of this transition on a first-time stepmother. They have shown that there is undue stress placed on these women brought on by numerous factors, not the least of which is battling this unflattering, long-running stereotype. This stereotype is rooted in numerous myths about what it means to be a stepmother, and how her presence will affect the family she is joining. Let us try to dispel some of those myths and give some much-needed ease to any anxious present or future stepmothers out there.

  1. The Disney Villainess: Hundreds of stories have been written with evil stepmothers playing the role of the villain. They are the forces that crush the protagonist’s dreams, the characters who abuse them and create discord within the once-loving family. This, of course, is far from reality. The majority of stepmothers are not villainous disciplinarians who are tough on their new stepchildren. In fact, a lot of new stepmothers try to overcompensate by being overly sweet and accommodating to their stepchildren, which, in turn, can lead to hazy boundaries and lack of respect. Therefore, a new stepmother should take care to learn the unique dynamics of her new stepfamily, to understand how to create a fair set of ground rules to build healthy relationships, which encourage trust and respect. It could also be helpful to have a support system ready, whether that be friends and family or therapy, to help transition into this difficult role.

2. Love at First Sight: No relationship is instant, and just because the stepmom and father are in love and get along well, does not mean that the children will instantly love their father’s new partner. Children are individuals with distinct thoughts and experiences, and building a connection will take time. Every relationship is different, and sometimes, a deep love never forms at all between a stepmom and stepchildren, and that is okay! What is important is fostering the nurturing, supportive and caring environment that a family is there for. So, rather than panicking when the children are not running into her arms days after joining their family, it would be beneficial to the stepmom to manage her expectations of what a relationship with stepchildren could look like. Being ready to work with any one of a variety of relationship outcomes can make life a little easier for a stepmother.

3. Mom: Version 2.0: A stepmother is not there to replace the mother who is no longer part of the family unit, nor is she trying to become an exact copy of the person the mother was. There is plenty of love to go around, and it is possible for children to love their biological mother and stepmother without conflict, though it will naturally take time for the adjustment to happen. And while the stepmom will most likely perform a lot of the duties that the biological mother played in the household, she is a different woman with her own personality and will make the “mothering” role her own.

4. You’re Not a “Real” Family…:There are many different types of families. An adopted child is no less than a child born to two parents. A common-law couple is capable of parenting just as well as a couple with a marriage certificate. A grandmother caring for her orphaned grandchildren is still a family unit. In the same way that all of these combinations of people are families, a stepfamily is just as legitimate. As stated before, what is important is the willingness and ability to create a caring environment and to provide for each other’s needs.

Stepmoms are not wicked intruders demanding love from their stepchildren, despite what fiction says. It is no easy task to become a stepmother, and there is no one way to do it right. A stepmom is likely to receive the brunt of hostility and resistance from her stepchildren, while she is already managing her expectations and feelings from adjusting to her newfound family. To make this adjustment smoother, the father should do his best to be involved in paving the way for healthy relationships to form and give support to his new wife. If possible, it may also help the children adjust better to the change if their mother (and probably her own new family) can safely be present in their lives. With support and time, stepmothers prove themselves to be immensely valuable and loving members of a family.

Sources:

6 Myths About Stepmoms (And One Truth)

10 Stepmonster Myths We Need to Bust Now

The Wicked Stepmother Myth

Common Stepfamily Myths

5 Easy-To-Follow Budgeting Tips for Single Mums

Single parenthood comes with tremendous financial obligations that pop up quickly and need urgent attention. A relatable example that comes to mind is, of course, the pandemic, which required a lot of parents to purchase devices to ensure that their kids had access to virtual learning. These spur-of-the-moment financial responsibilities are undoubtedly stressful; however, that does not automatically mean that as a single parent, you can’t have a healthy relationship with money. 

As with any life process, it will not be easy; however, the same recipe applies here. Self-discipline, diligence, and sacrifice will get you the money you need to place your family in a healthy financial space. Here are five easy-to-follow budgeting tips for single mums. 

  1.  Read Finance Books: On your quest to financial freedom, you must learn from those who have gained some measure of financial success. Finance books tend to have different tips and tricks, which you can use to train your mind to handle money in a more responsible way. Essentially, they teach you how to make your money work for you, instead of you being caught up in the process of working for money, i.e. living pay cheque to pay cheque. For a list of personal finance books you can read, click here.
  1. Budget for Your New Reality: This means that you constantly have to re-evaluate where you are in life. If you are a newly single mum, then this may mean you now have to refocus the goals you may have planned on achieving in a two-income household, to now one income only. For those mums who have been single for a while, you can create a monthly budget considering your expenses. Firstly you must consider your day-to-day expenses. Yes, adding to your savings account may be great, but it may not be feasible based on your immediate expenses, such as bills and groceries. How much money does it take to run your household on a daily basis? When you gain such clarity with your finances, then you can focus on adding to your savings account. Save all of your receipts to monitor your spending habits and see where you can cut back on spending, if possible. 
  1. File Your Taxes on Time: For single mums who are business owners, you should definitely consider filing your quarterly income taxes on time. You never know when you may be entitled to a tax refund, which may come in handy. Quarterly taxes are due on March 31st, June 30th, September 30th and December 31st, so keep those dates in mind. For single mums who are employed, ensure that your Payroll Department has all of your information so when you have to file taxes, it will be an easier process for you both.
  1. Pay Off Debts:  This is one of those statements that is one hundred per cent easier said than done. However, holding on to debt means that a portion of your income is already spoken for before you even have it! Debt is a barrier to financial freedom, and you can make your money work for you, the faster you get it out of your way. If you have several debts to pay simultaneously, I suggest consolidating them into one monthly payment. That may be easier to manage than having several ‘OVERDUE’ reminders throughout the month.
  1. Do a Savings Challenge: If savings is a realistic goal for you, a realistic means of achieving it is participating in a savings challenge. And I’m not talking about a pyramid scheme or even a regular sou-sou. Saving requires self-discipline, so it’s best you do it on your own. You can start small and work your way up to larger savings goals.  Savings Challenges include a calendar with applicable monetary figures that you should set aside periodically, which add up to an overall figure. For example, Clark.com has a ‘Save $2,021 in 2021’ savings challenge that follows the same system. Download it here.

With your finances in check, single parenthood will be easier to manage. At the very least, it may be one less thing you have to worry about. 

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Citation

Clark.com. (2021). Save $2,021 in 2021. Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://clark.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Save-2021-in-2021-chart.pdf

Mudda Struck

I longed for perfection in walls that looked like tragedy

Forgotten pieces of happiness sink to the bottom of a pool of dreams.

I am my father’s worst nightmare.

He had another one

A daughter he believes cannot love him the way he wants her to.



She clings to her mother faithfully, 

Hands held like secrets whispered in the dark

Her mother is her shield…

He calls to me, berates me, smirks. 

My mother steps in  between us like a dancer

Gracefully taking the stage to her performance, 

Yuh too mudda struck he says

Then his words fall mute.

I loved him, but my love was always killing me

A poison I had grown accustomed to

No one could save us, mother did try.

Yuh mudda struck!

He laughs like it’s a bad thing

Like I stepped in shit

Like I came out wrong and it was

Him that could make me right again.



He says these words to me daily

They were the worst things he could declare,

Bad words, curse words

That were supposed to leave me wincing in pain

Leave me gasping, surprised, or full of guilt.

It was like I was carrying around a scar only he could see.



If he only knew how badly  I longed for him– a father. 

I longed to love him if he let me

Believing a daughter needed her father too

But he never let himself become one.

He stood apart from me,

Instead of knowing how to love, chased us away.

Still not grasping what my mother was doing.



MUDDA STRUCK I was and he would spew

While she shielded me from his poison.

Because If anyone would know its lethality, it would be her.

Never letting me simmer in it knowing what he was capable of

Wanting his child and yet denying her, lambasting her, chastising her. 

Father spelled with confusion and emotional wreckage

I am the result.

But just imagine how much worse it would have been.


I would walk the rooms of our house listening to the echoes of his words

Wishing I was father struck instead

So he could love me the way he was supposed to…

On the day they lower him to sleep for the last time,

I thought of nothing else.

If only he understood his wreckage now.


Angela V. St. Pierre- Maynard
December 2020

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