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Stop ‘othering’ the single mother


Dublin, vigil, Mothers Day 2017victims of Irish mother and baby homes, SPARKWe like to tell ourselves that ‘that was then, and this is now’; but the same mindset still exists.

A vigil for the victims of unmarried mother and baby homes was held in Dublin on 26 March 2017; Mothers’ Day.

Held to remember our sisters and their children and to show solidarity with these women and children, it was hosted by SPARK (Singe Parents Acting for the Rights of Kids)

Activist and author Hazel Katherine Larkin, one of the speakers at the event, said:

We are here today to honour, pay tribute to, and stand in solidarity with, the women and children who suffered and died in ‘mother and baby’ homes.

We like to tell ourselves that ‘that was then, and this is now’; but the truth is that the mindset which took unmarried mothers from their communities, shut them away from society, treated them atrociously, and then took their babies from them – that mindset still exists.

As a society, we still marginalise lone mothers.

SPARK’s own research recently revealed that the burden of stress on lone mothers is unbearable. Our members revealed the damage that poverty and exclusion does to their physical and mental health.

As one mother put it: You know that things are never going to get any better, so there’s nothing to look forward to.

A life with nothing to look forward to – a life devoid of hope – is no life at all.

These testimonies echo how lone mothers and their children were treated in Magdalene Laundries.

We still are vilified, marginalised, treated as second-class citizens, scape-goated to an astonishing level. And so are our children.

We don’t love our children less, we don’t have fewer dreams for them, we don’t have lower expectations for them just because we’re raising them without the love and support of a partner.

Still, Irish society does not embrace lone parent families.

It’s time for Irish society to grow up, to step out from the shadows cast by the Catholic church, cast by a misogynistic mindset, cast by a patriarchal attitude to, and fear of, women and their sexuality.

It is time for Irish society to treat all mothers, and all children, equally and to stop marginalising families where one parent is doing the job of two.

Stop ‘othering’ us.

Stop finding ways to shun us.

Stop treating us – and our precious, beautiful, beloved children – as ‘less’ than.

It’s time for Irish society to grow up, stand up and – in the words of Emmet Kirwanbe in awe of all mná.

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