Monday, 10 June 2013

Being a single parent ~ The one where I go on the radio

So yesterday I got an email asking me if I'd like to take part in a discussion on the Radio 5 Live, as you do.

The subject of the discussion was about the lack of male role models in many children's lives and asking "Is a mum enough?"  This is ahead of a report out later this week by the Centre for Social Justice which outlines the extent of family breakdown and the rise of single parents families.

I wanted to make sure that it wasn't going to be a confrontational discussion, and also was curious about who else would be taking part. The producer, Charlotte, told me that it would be a friendly 'adult' discussion and they wouldn't be having anyone like mouth-on-a-stick Katie Hopkins who'd been on the show the previous evening. Phew!  I was told it would be me, a single parent dad called Andy and the show's resident psychotherapist Rachel Morris.   I thought it might be worth a try, and I liked the producer so I agreed to do it.

I prepared a few key points that I wanted to make, as advised by @exmoorjane, and kept the notepad close by in case of panic!

The presenter Stephen Nolan started off by introducing everyone, including someone called Sean and I wondered who he was, but he then corrected himself and I realised he meant me, Jean.

The question "Do children really need a man in their lives?" was posed to Rachel, the psychotherapist, who said she thought they did because otherwise children were raised not understanding the man's role or how to interact with men.

I was asked the same question and my reply was something like "Yes, but a male role model doesn't have to be the father, it could be a family friend, uncle, etc. I think children do need some positive role models of both sexes but not necessarily the father, especially if he is a negative influence."

So far so good, I thought.

Unfortunately, the previous discussion had overrun by several minutes and we ran out of time so I didn't get to say anything else (and neither did Andy, the other single parent).  Naturally, I had other amazingly insightful points to make but they were left on the notepad and never aired.

So, just to finish off what I started saying before I was rudely interrupted by the news and sports bulletin, here they are:
  • I would rather my children had no male role model than a bad one;
  • there are many gay couples with children who successfully raise children in same-sex households;
  • the main priority is that children have positive influences in their lives - whoever they are, male or female - and have opportunities to spend time with people who inspire and support them as well as leading by example;
  • I'm dismayed that once again the emphasis is on how single parents (and at the last census, 92% of single parents were female) are somehow failing to bring up children successfully; 
  • Where are the support mechanisms for these so-called failing parents? Suzanne Moore wrote about this more eloquently than I ever could when she asked why single parents are vilified rather than given a leg up;
  • Why don't the Government and the media ask why absent parents aren't doing more for their children? Why are they not held to account? Why, when these errant parents fail to support their children, are they allowed to get off scot free? ;
  • And can we please stop laying the blame at the foot of the parent who is staying with the children and doing the best they can? 
That's what I would have said if I'd have had the chance. What do you think, do all children need men in their lives? 

If you fancy listening to the show yourself, you can listen again for the next 6 days, and the segment in question starts at 1hr 23 minutes in.  And btw, I'm fairly sure I don't sound like that in real life.