As one who was the child of a single parent family and have survived unscathed, I find among commentators, politicians and some of the general public, a level of ignorance and misunderstanding which can malign both the parent and the child
In the past, with extended families and no artificial insemination, there was a smaller percentage of unsupported mothers – and single parent fathers were few. Today, with housing provision for single mothers, the lack of the extended family, the increase in promiscuity, and the strange phenomenon of single women choosing to become single parents by insemination, the subject has moved to the top of the agenda.
With personal experience and observation I believe most single mothers are caring, but are overwhelmed by the basic logistics of being the breadwinner and a mother. In my case the result was that from a very early age, 8 or 9, the single child, or the older child becomes the purchaser, the quasi-housemaid, the short-order cook, and if there were more than one child, the baby sitter. If the parent, through stress becomes an intermittent invalid, then the child was nurse, and comforter. Pre-WW2 there were few homes with fridges; the perishables were hoarded in a cool place in a ‘safe’ a wooden cupboard with a perforated-zinc-covered door. Food needed cooked if it was not to be lost, and as economy was paramount, the child soon had to learn to make most meals.
The parent had to work and the child go to school, but these activities never jelled, with the result the child might have lunch at school or with a relative, but in the afternoon and early evening he or she was alone for long periods. From leaving school until the friends had to go home, the child had some company, but from that point was alone until the harassed and tired parent returned. In a small flat, up flights of stairs, it is easier and more attractive to wander than return home, but wandering only underlines the loneliness.
Today the children don’t have to learn to cook, with pre-prepared meals. They have no need to wander because there is the TV and the computer, but their world has shrunk even further and I am sure they are just as lonely, – assuming they are not part of a gang made up of other single parent children. With the expanding single parent phenomenon, exercise and stimulation beyond the electronic screen is needed both summer and winter in an irresistible form, but who is to provide it, , and fund it – more to the point stop it being a seven day wonder? Am I right in thinking that if something isn’t achieved soon, the gangs will grow?