Happy Mother’s Day! Single mothers will now have to provide ‘verification’ of their relationship status in order to claim Centrelink’s Parenting Payment Single. Single mums who leave parenting Payment Single and then return to the payment will also have to send the Human Services Department a photograph of themselves sitting alone crying into their one glass of Aldi wine on a Saturday night.
“From 20 September 2018 new claimants seeking Parenting Payment (Single) or single parents claiming Newstart Allowance will be required to have a third party sign a new form verifying that they are in fact single, then we can tattoo their scrawny necks and microchip them before we release them back into the wild,” the government announced as part of the 2017 Budget this week.
To be rewarded with vast sums from the government’s welfare-bludgers’ prize pool, I will have to find someone whom I don’t want to share the horizontal tango with, to verify that I am in fact raising my children single-handedly. I’m really not sure who I’m going to ask to help me with this. Will it be the merchant banker who picked me up at an art gallery and then took me on an incredibly boring date? The 22-year-old man working at my local servo who thought if he gave me a free juice and a bag of chips, that I’d go on a date with him? The guy who sent me ‘sexy’ pics of himself late at night on Facebook while his wife was asleep? He may be my best choice. Hopefully, he’ll get confused and tell the authorities that he and I have been shacked up for years with my children, his kids from three relationships, our cat and a feral budgie. Apparently, the penalty for making a false declaration is up to 12 months in jail. Which could mean I’m in for a nice break (Wentworth prison here I come) from mothering and working if my dreamy battler beau brags about our imaginary sexy times on social media.
“This is offensive and deeply disturbing,” said Terese Edwards, chief executive of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children.
“Who verifies? Do children get asked? Is there a neighbour watch alert? This is a slippery slope back into the dark days. I’m proud of our single mothers, they are doing a damn good job and don’t need the burden of Government prejudice.”
Terese is right, single mothers are doing a damn fine job, they’re the hardest workers I’ve ever met. But I quite like the neighbourhood watch idea as I’m a bad picker. I could have a panel of people telling me if I’m going out with the wrong dude. My neighbours could shout out to me, “If you bring that guy home, we’ll tell Centrelink,” and I’d be dissuaded from making a bad move on Tinder. Happy Mum’s Day from the Liberal Government. Scott Morrison what a generous man you are, you have saved me from a lifetime of bad relationships. I think I’ll stay home tonight knitting myself an old cat lady chastity belt.
Fights, tears and 210 hours of Monopoly later, I’m in a school holiday daze. I’m the head of my children’s entertainment committee and the acting head of catering but I’m looking forward to retirement from both those roles. Cooking is a chore and shouting, “get off the bloody computer” is becoming dull.
I have run out of low budget activities and if I read one more clean wholesome nutritious paleo educational fun advice for the latter part of the school holidays post on social media, I’ll scream at the smug happily married financially savvy yummy mummies who write them. Sigh. Next week I return to the tyranny of the school run. So much to look forward to in 2016. Today I am turning up the Ackadacka and dreaming of escape.
There are so many parenting books telling us confused time-poor parents how to raise our rugrats that mothers like me get lost in the blur of DIY parenting manuals. As a shortcut, here’s a few parenting strategies I’ve picked up in my 18 year journey through smotherhood:
Sycophantic soft soaping
Bubble wrap parenting
Single mothers take a portion of each one and back off. If we don’t let our children raise themselves we will end up mummy-fied
A is for Attitude. You’ll develop it after years of single motherhood
B is for Breeder’s regret, as in I picked him to be the father of kids? What was I thinking? Breed with a man not a boy
B is also for Bribery, a helpful device in the single mother tool kit
C is for Can I share custody with this man in five years time?
D is for Don’t know how you do it, translation: I don’t want your life, it looks too hard
E is for End of summer, a day celebrated by single mothers whenever children go back to school after months of holidays
F is for Frustration, i.e. speaking to any government department about collecting money for your kids from your children’s father
G is for Glamorous, what single mothers become when their offspring visit their father
H is for Halloween, lots of free lollies for your deprived children
I is for I’m a single mother this week, what coupled up ladies say when their partner is away for more than two days
J is for “Just wait ’til you become a mother.” Frequently said by single mums to their kids
K is for Know It All Children AKA other people’s children
L is for Long ago and far away I used to be young, free and sassy
M is for Mothering Monday, the second Monday in May. Easily the best day to receive bargain flowers, soap and sympathy. Boxes of sweet fancies go cheap on this day.
N is for No money until pay day
O is for Oh My God, tinned spaghetti again?
P is for Perfect families, fictitious people who make children of single mothers envious
Q is for Queen of budgeting
R is for Red Cordial, what you give your kids when they’re going to meet your ex’s new girlfriend for the first time
S is for Sanity, what you lose when you become a single mother
S is also for Schooligan
The little rat in your kid’s class with parents who insist their child is a saint
T is for Teens, the beasts your kids turn into before they become lovely adults who thank you for your sacrifices
U is for Unbelievable, the amount politicians think you can live on
V is for Vinnies, the clothing boutique of choice for most single mothers
W is for Wild side, staying up past 10pm on a school night
W is also for Would, as in I would talk to my ex but I don’t speak moron
X is for Exhausted, permanently
Y is for Y did I choose to live like this?
Z is for Zone Out: what single mums do when married breeders talk about their cleaner
Today I’m celebrating five years of single motherhood. The axe fell on my household on Bastille Day 2008 when we moved out of our family home to start housesitting. Adieu from that day on to an intact family and bonjour solo parenting. I’d been a married single mother before that but I didn’t know then how much the sisterhood would look after me, feed my kids, nourish my soul and build me up when I was down in the years that followed.
My new friends and golden old friends helped. And acquaintances with small doses of kindness; the man in the Indian takeaway who gave me free food to feed my kids; the stranger at a café who paid for my coffee, the neighbour who gave me a couch when we had nothing to sit on. I found more important people to love, especially the lioness mothers at the hospital who laughed with me despite their children’s suffering. I learned people are very kind. Raising children alone is scary but I know even when I fail I’m doing the best I can.
I love my life. My smart, volatile children and our cold house and the pile of fancy dresses begging to be taken to the dry cleaners, but I can’t afford it. I love all the imperfect manifestations of my life. I’m deeply flawed, but the only mummy they have. I’ll never be a calm, well-groomed mother and yet they love me to bits. Crazy children.
Mothers try to be strong, making sure our kids, friends, partners, families, even our goldfish know they’re loved. Sometimes, in the middle of my morning peak hour when chaos reigns, I step back from brushing my daughters’ hair, and laugh, sip my tea, sing along to the Bee Gees with jazz hands in the kitchen and think, ‘You are a problem child, but finally you are in a happy place.” Now I’ve had five years of freedom I seem to be enjoying myself. I know I’m not just going to get by, but live victoriously. Vive le revolution ladies. Here’s to the sisterhood: liberté, égalité, fraternité.
Just when I think single motherhood is too crazy and I want to take them back to the pet shop to get a refund, I get this card from my 7 year old:
My mummy is so nice unique and pretty
Mummy I love you
Mummy I never want you to go away
You are the best mummy in the world
I did not pay her to do this. In the stressed out, overworked world of single motherhood we sometimes forget about the joy of mothering and that all the little tedious tasks of being a mother on your own add up to a lifetime of love and care for your children. So I’d like to pay tribute to all the solo mothers I’ve met, you inspire me with your hard work, dedication and devoted love. You are all yummy mummies.