Amid the Mothers’ Day hype what was bugging me last week was not just the commercialisation but the treatment of women deemed by some as unworthy of or inappropriate for motherhood. And discrimination against mothers always leads to discrimination against their children.
It seems we always need someone to demonise and some mothers must constantly battle disapproval and struggle for acceptance and legitimacy. Foremost among these are lesbian couples and hard-up single mothers.
Two women in a loving long-term relationship, raising their own or adopted children, may tick all the ‘good mother’ boxes, but they still have to contend with disapproval, suspicion, and abuse, all of it grounded in ignorance and prejudice. And it’s fuelled too by the political hypocrisy and cowardice of politicians and church leaders. This failure of political and religious leadership that denies legitimacy to same sex couples and parents is a cancer at the heart of what claims to be a civil society. After all the abuse visited on children and then excused or covered up by the churches the audacity of their leaders in making judgements about who can be a family and who is appropriate as a mother is deeply offensive. Equally offensive is the hypocrisy of a Prime Minister who exercises her own rights to eschew tradition and belief, but lacks the political courage to grant those rights to others.
Celebrity single mothers are viewed as brave and independent because they are rich and famous. But single mothers struggling on low incomes or welfare are always in the wrong. They face constant judgements about their character and morals. If they stay home with the kids they are bludgers, if they go out to work they are accused of neglecting their children. Whether or not they are doing a good job as mothers is irrelevant, they just have to be punished for being single and poor. Governments of both persuasions that extol the importance of working families, of battlers and the saintly state of motherhood then proceed to crush battling single mothers with schemes that cut welfare and drive them back to work, and to work longer, harder and frequently in demeaning, and poorly paid jobs. We love mothers unless our taxes are used to help support them and their children.
It seems that there is always some ignorant, narrow minded, ill-informed person who is ready to pass on a tale of a single mother abusing her kids, or bludging the system, and another who will nod judiciously and whisper totally unfounded tales of the deviance of lesbian mothers.
So it seems to me that the rest of us need to speak up for those mothers. To start spreading true, moving and inspiring stories of struggling single mums, who are doing a great job, and women in a same sex relationships who are raising healthy, well balanced children. After all we need only look around us, read the papers, and watch TV to see the multitude of instances of married and de facto heterosexual couples whose parenting is cruel, abusive, neglectful and frequently criminal.