I don’t know if it’s all this Welfare Reform or CSA debating that has been going on over the last few days but I have been thinking, as I’m sure we all have, about how it’s likely to effect me personally. I read a brilliant post yesterday by Jo over at 2starsandaswirl.co.uk/ which can be found here. I’ve been thinking about stereotypes and stigmas, in particular the stigma attached to being a single mother.
Now I had a rude awakening to attitudes which I already knew existed, but had never applied to me before when I first started afresh with my Snoo. My next door neighbour is a woman probably in her late sixties or seventies and within a fortnight of me moving in, she began tutting at me and muttering under her breath when she walked past me in the street. Then one day she said as she walked past my sister & I putting Snoo into her car seat “bloody cheek you’ve got…” Grumble grumble grumble.
Ignoring my better judgement, I got out of the car and asked what her what she’d said.
Her response shocked me.
She marched up to me and got right in my face and said bold as anything “I said it’s some bloody cheek you’ve got parking outside my house. You’re a disgrace.”
I was gobsmacked. I had literally no idea what she was talking about and said so.
“You” she said pointing at me, “I said you’re a disgrace. You don’t even deserve a house to live in. Unmarried mother and at your age as well! Disgraceful I say. You don’t deserve a house to live in!”
Now I know that this woman is a different generation to me. But I am 26 not 16 and I had my daughter at the same age my Mum had me, the difference being she was married. But by my reckoning, lets say for arguments sake, this neighbour of mine is 70. Which means she would have been born around 1942. And in 1963 or thereabouts, she would have been 21. I’m sure I don’t have to spell out what I’m getting at there. Unless she hopped straight into a Tardis in 1835 and out onto my road. This woman’s attitude seemed to suggest that my bastard child and I should have been sent straight to the work house for my baby to have been taken from me and raised by Nuns.
But this was not all. Oh no. Now that she had my attention, she was keen to tell me exactly what she thought of me.
“You don’t even own that house. I OWN my house and I have lived here for 40 years, I don’t need the likes of you disgracing my home with your promiscuous ways going on next door.” (She must have seen the steady stream of gentleman callers I was opening my door and my legs to at all hours of the day and night, as of course you do after you’ve been abused sexually by an ex boyfriend.) “You should be ashamed and you should be locked away. Unmarried mother ON BENEFITS!”.
Well. What can you say to that? Especially, if you’ll pardon my saying so but surely this woman is claiming a pension? Surely at her age she receives cold weather payments or similar during the winter? A Bus Pass? I know very little about that side of things but I would be surprised if this woman receives no government help whatsoever. And of course as Jo rightly points out in her blog, as parents, unless you are sending your Child Benefit back every month, you too are in receipt of benefits.
But that wasn’t what got to me. This all happened around early September 2010 and it wasn’t a one off either. One one occasion she shouted at me in the local shopping centre that she had seen the police outside my house the previous evening (asking the neighbours on the other side of me to move their car incidentally, they’d parked on double yellows) and how she KNEW it must have been something to do with me as I bring SHAME on our road. Smashing.
No, what shocked me was that despite everything I have been through, despite working so hard to provide a safe and happy home for my Snoo that some evil old witch could feel the right to judge me on how I lived my life. Yes I am an unmarried mother. But should I have stayed with the monster who threatened to kill me while I was pregnant with his child? Who wrapped his arms around my neck during my 8th month of pregnancy to stop me running out of the house for help? Should I have married him and lived in fear for the rest of my life just because we had a child?
Amongst other things on this journey, one of the things I have learnt is tolerance. I try now, not to judge people who I freely admit I judged before. I come from a good home, I was privately educated, I have a good degree. I know right from wrong. I never saw this life I live now becoming mine. But you can’t control what life deals you. I have learnt to tolerate others and not to judge them on their circumstances.
And watch out what you have to say about others because one day you might find you’ve turned into a bitter old fool bursting at the seams with hatred.
Snoo & Me xxx