Worth a listen.  Between ourselves today was a discussion with child Psychologists Laverne Antrobus and Oliver James.  (Oliver James of ‘They F*** you up, your Mum and Dad’ and ‘Affluenza’ fame)

It’s not very often in the mainstream media that you hear people talking sense about parenting and raising children but these two did, I thought.  Oliver James was particularly good.

Up for discussion was:  the importance of attachment, the craziness of institutional childcare and the fact it is BAD for our children, how children considered as ‘evil’ get to be that way via severe abuse, the phenomenon of the Supernanny approach to parenting and the unnecessary-ness of things like the naughty step and time out for all but the most damaged children and most refreshingly – the championing of the Good Enough Parent. 

A shame it was only 1/2 an hour – I could have listened for much longer.  You can ‘Listen Again’ for a while, not sure how long here:


I must get a copy of Affluenza, I’ve had it recommended a few times but not got round to it yet…

 Birth Choices: your birth partner

The mountain of choices and decisions that face a newly pregnant woman can seem insurmountable. So it is not surprising that the choice of who will be there to support the mother during the birth can be overlooked. Many women assume that their partner will be there and is the best choice and give it no further thought. In fact there are lots of choices and the final decision could be one of the most important of the whole birthing process and needs consideration.

A fearful, jittery and unsure birth partner may not make the best advocate or birth supporter. Somebody who is forceful in their opinions and likely to override the birthing mother may also not be ideal. It may help when starting to consider birth partners to talk to other mothers about what they found useful during the birth and the kind of support and help that they needed.

Everyone is different, however, and one woman’s perfect partner is another woman’s nightmare! So maybe the best place to start is with yourself.

What kind of person are you?

Are you strong-minded? Do you value advocacy and support? Are you looking for an objective but knowledgeable voice during your labour? Are you happy to just go along with whatever advice your health professional gives you? Or do you feel more comfortable being left to your own devices? Do you value hands on support or hands off and mind-your-own-business support?

All these questions are valuable when considering your choice of birth partner. Once you have given thought to the kind of support you may want during labour you can then start looking for the perfect match. Sometimes this will be your partner, sometimes it won’t, sometimes it will be another person in addition to your partner. To go into labour assuming you already have the best choice of birth partner may be to overlook a great deal of wonderful people who could make a fantastic difference to your experience of birth.

What will the birth partner do?

Once you have visualised your birth partner and the personal attributes she will ideally have, it is then worth considering what you want her to do. Do you want somebody to come to antenatal appointments with you? Are you thinking that you want somebody with shared values and ideas but only need support at the birth? Do you envisage the supporter being part of your child’s life in some capacity afterwards?

You may think it is vital that your birth partner is experienced in some forms of natural techniques such as massage, aromatherapy, relaxation, hypnotherapy or acupuncture. It may be important to you that your birth partner has given birth naturally herself, or given birth at home, or breastfed her children. You may think it more important that she is an experienced supporter and that you are able to talk to some of the women she has supported. The answers to all these questions and clarification of these points could lead you in the direction of your ideal birth partner.

Place of Birth

This is another important consideration. If you have decided on your place of birth then you need to know the views of your birth partner, and whether they can fully support your birth choice. You may have a friend who is perfect but anti-home birth, or a relative who is not comfortable coming into a hospital with you. If they are not comfortable with this choice (or any others) then you need to know if they can advocate and support you fully during your birth. The very last thing you need is to feel undermined or unsupported.

So, what are your choices?

The father

Most women expect the father to be present during the birth and many fathers feel the same way.

For centuries birth has been ‘women’s business’ and the question of the father being present at birth would not have been entertained. Why has there been such a radical change? Michel Odent says that for the first time in history healthy, pregnant women are now expected to leave their homes and go to a large hospital to be attended by strangers during their births and the extended family has largely been reduced to the nuclear family so there are no female family members to assist or support during birth. Odent tells us that during the 60’s and 70’s theoreticians thought that the participation of fathers during the birth would be positive. It would strengthen ties between couples, reduce divorce rates and make birth easier as the woman would have a familiar face with her. Caesarean rates would drop as a result. I don’t think we need to examine these too closely or dig out any statistics to know that none of these things have come to pass.

There is lots of discussion about this among midwives who have experienced the difference between a wholly female birth and one with a male, including the father, present Having personally been a supporter during both kinds of birth I can vouch for the fact that the birth room consisting entirely of women seems to be calmer, have less words, be ‘earthier’ in some way and you can almost smell the female hormones in the air. The women, often, seem to be freer to express their needs and are less inhibited.

However, fathers being present is the norm now and many mothers and fathers are reticent to admit their reluctance at this prospect. In the case where both parents want the father to support during the birth, I think it is really worth considering having a second birth partner.


  • You know him well! You know his views and opinions, his strengths and weaknesses.

  • He has an emotional link to you and your baby that nobody else shares.

  • He normally doesn’t charge!

  • Many are happy to learn new skills such as massage and relaxation.

  • It is an amazing shared experience that you will never forget, or tire of discussing.


  • He has an emotional link to you and your baby – this sometimes colours his ability to advocate for you. It is virtually impossible for him to remain objective.

  • Many midwives recognise the presence of the father changes the behaviour of the mother and inhibits her. She can be preoccupied with him.

  • Sometimes, he doesn’t want to be there but feels unable to say no.

  • Usually, the father has never attended a birth before so the whole experience is totally new.

Friend or Relative

Once you clarified the ideal personal attributes you may find a person pops straight into your mind. Or you may not have had to think very hard at all before knowing the ideal person. You may know somebody who fulfils your criteria already.

If you have found the ideal birth partner is a friend or relative, don’t be shy about asking them! In my experience most women who have given birth themselves would jump at the chance to support another woman. They are also often very intuitive during the birthing process.

You may have taken some kind of course during your pregnancy – antenatal classes, pregnancy yoga or hypno-birthing – and found a natural affinity with the practitioner running the course. Most are very happy to be birth supporters for women who have attended their courses, and are used to being asked. If you have no friend or relative who is suitable, but know an ‘acquaintance’ like this who you think might be a good birth partner – then again, don’t be afraid to ask. Most women are flattered to be considered and will take the role very seriously.


  • You already know this person so don’t have to go through the ‘getting to know you’ stage of the relationship

  • This kind of birth support is normally free!

  • You will know the persons views and ethos around birth, and therefore know that they will support you as necessary.

  • They are normally quite happy to learn and practise massage, and endlessly discuss what you want your birth to be like.

  • Often they can play a part in your child’s life afterwards, if that is something you are looking for.


  • Often they have no prior birth support experience, so may not be the best advocate.

  • The mother can sometimes unexpectedly feel inhibited during the birth by the presence of a friend or relative.

  • They could say no, think about how you would feel if they did.


A doula is a ‘professional birth supporter’ who believes in ‘mothering the mother‘. If you know other mothers, ask around for a recommendation. Otherwise, you can find local doulas through Doula UK. Once you have a list of two or three local doulas you can arrange to meet them to discuss your requirements, get an idea of their views and see if they are a good ‘fit’ for you.


  • Most are mothers themselves.

  • A doula will be an experienced birth partner, who has supported women through a variety of different births.

  • They tend to remain calm and unflappable!

  • Many doulas have other useful birth skills such as aromatherapy and massage or hypnotherapy.

  • They are objective and can often advocate well. They are experienced at communicating your needs to health professionals, which means you can focus on birthing and not talking!


  • They cost money. Trainees cost no more than £200 but qualified doulas are usually more. Think in the range of £500 for antenatal visits, birth support and postnatal visits.

  • They won’t play an ongoing role in your child’s life, usually.

  • You won’t know them beforehand, though you do get to know them through antenatal visits.

Independent midwives

It may seem strange to mention independent midwives in an article about birth supporters, but some women do opt to hire one while continuing with NHS care. In this case the midwife becomes more of a doula, but an incredibly experienced and knowledgeable one. A woman opting for a home birth may opt out of NHS care with an independent midwife and not feel the need for any other birth supporter.


  • Experienced midwives who have attended lots of births.

  • All of the positives associated with a doula.


  • Expensive option, if you just want a doula. They tend to charge in the region of £2,500+ per birth.

  • Can be difficult to find. Thanks to overbearing government regulation, independent midwifery is a dying breed.

  • All of the cons of doulas.

Is it really important?

Choosing a friend or doula need not take away the role from the father. Women can have two birth partners in all hospitals and birth centres, and of course are free to have any number of people in their home. So you may decide to hire a doula who will advocate and look after both parents which then releases the father from the responsibility of advocacy in a field he may have limited knowledge about. This usually reduces his anxiety levels (and the mothers!) and allows him to spend his time looking after the mother. The mother won’t be left alone while he nips to the toilet, to get something to eat or make a phone call – all of these things which couples often haven’t thought about.

If the couple decide that the father won’t be present at the birth he can still support. He can be nearby, keep family informed of progress, fetch and carry, look after siblings, make sure there is enough food, fill up and empty birth pools and come straight in to meet the new baby and share this wonderful new experience and first precious moments.

Something I have learned during five years of teaching antenatal classes is that the vast majority of women don’t consider the importance of the choice of birth partner before they are in labour. The birth partner is such a vital part of the birth process that this decision deserves a great deal of thought.

A positive, supportive, intuitive and experienced birth supporter can make a huge difference to the process of labour. A woman will never regret spending time and energy finding the ideal birth partner.


Further Information:

Doula UK 0871 433 3103 http://www.doula.org.uk

Independent midwives 0845 4600 105 http://www.independentmidwives.org.uk

Zero waste baby.

If you have a minute please check out my article on the My Zero Waste website.  It’s all about having a ‘Zero Waste Baby’.

We all know that labour is painful, that birth hurts and that we all scream all the way through it in a terrified daze.  Don’t we?

This seems to be the given wisdom at the moment.  Where does that wisdom come from?

Current view of birth.

Well, lets step back a little bit.  Traditionally, by the time a woman had reached child-bearing age she would have assisted at many other labours and births.  She would consider birth a normal part of life and there would be no great mystery surrounding it.  Most women would have been present during births and known that for most women it is manageable, normal and everything turns out well.  They would also have seen that sometimes it doesn’t turn out well, and that would also be considered as a normal variation.

Now, the typical western woman reaches child-bearing age having never attended, assisted or even seen another woman give birth.  Many woman have rarely even held a newborn baby, and babies and children tend to be at the peripheral of their life.  Bearing this in mind, is it any wonder that the average woman in the UK approaches her first birth unsure of what is going to happen, what the experience is like or how she will cope?  Birth is no longer a normal part of life for women, it is shrouded in mystery.

So, the experience of birth is no longer present.  What has replaced this?  Sadly, it is probably media depictions of birth.  We all know how these look.  A screaming woman, a hapless partner, a general air of panic.  Don’t worry though, they are normally saved by the hero health professional on his/her white charger.  Birth is now an agony that women need saving from.  This view of birth is all that most little girls ever know, and this continues through puberty into adulthood.  By the time that most women are pregnant the only thing they think they know about birth is that it will be really painful.  It must be, look how strong the pain relief is!

Of course, this is not helped by the fact that the second the little blue line pops up a whole plethora of women suddenly appear with their ‘horror’ stories.  And boy, do they make sure the newly pregnant woman get’s the ‘no holds barred’ version of the story!  I wish women would consider a little more carefully about this, and that women with positive and fantastic stories told them more.

Why is birth painful?

Why would something as necessary to human survival as birth be so painful that we couldn’t cope with it?  Does that make any sense at all?  Just ponder that question for a second.  It just doesn’t make sense.  So, why do so many women experience birth as too difficult to cope with?  Let’s look at the factors that impact on labour and birth.


How do birth hormones work?  There are three main hormones at play during a labour.  They work together to make the birth as efficient as possible.  They are:

  1. Oxytocin.  The ‘hormone of love’.  This is the real driving force behind labour.  The more oxytocin that is produced the more effective the contractions are, the more efficient the uterus is.  Oxytocin is inhibited when Adrenalin is produced.
  2. Adrenalin.  If the womans body produces adrenalin during the first stage of labour it will stop or reduce the production of oxytocin which will mean she will have a ‘stop and start’ labour and labour may be slow and long.  It’s vital during second stage though.
  3. Endorphines.  These are the body’s own natural pain relief.  Endorphines build up and up through labour so that at the point of birth the woman has huge levels in her body.  This, combined with huge levels of oxytocin, ensure the mother is ready to meet and fall in love with her baby.  They also act as a memory suppressant postnatally.

Oxytocin is produced in large quantities when love-making.  The same environment that will allow a woman to orgasm during sex is the same environment that will be conducive to an efficient birth.  There are not too many women who could orgasm in a brightly lit, sterile room with a number of people watching and monitoring progress and a whole ward able to hear her.

Adrenalin is produced when a woman feels observed, when people talk to her, when she meets someone new, when she is in an unfamiliar environment, when she can hear other labouring women and knows they can hear her.  Adrenalin is normally produced at the start of 2nd stage to give the mother the energy she needs to push the baby out.  Before that, it cripples the progress of labour.

Endorphines build up gradually so that at each point in labour the mothers body is ‘just about’ coping with labour.  If the mum starts to worry about coping and becomes stuck in the pain-tension-fear cycle (see below) then this can inhibit the production and effectiveness of the endorphines.  A woman is more likely to worry about future coping ability if the labour seems long and the contractions are ineffective which is why the interplay between oxytocin and adrenalin is so important.

Unfortunately, as you can see, the environment the majority of women are placed in to give birth is not going to assist the delicate hormonal balance necessary for a quick and ‘copeable’ labour.  In fact, I would go so far as to say the environment actively hampers the possibility of a normal and easy to cope with labour.

Why can’t we afford the same respect and birthing environment to a human labouring woman as we recognise as vital for any other mammal?

Pain – Fear – Tension Cycle

If something feels painful this is often followed by fear.  The natural reaction to fear is to tense up, which unfortunately heightens the experience of pain.  This can then become cyclical, and develop into a downward spiral where the fear and tension actually make the pain worse and inhibits the endorphines which can lead to the pain being too difficult to manage.

If a mother is tense because she has just had a 20 minute bumpy car drive through traffic to go to a large birth unit where she doesn’t know anybody then she is likely to be tense.  This will mean that any contractions she has will feel more painful and difficult to cope with.  Combined with the effect of adrenalin on the oxytocin production, this can mean that a mother arrives at the birth unit already overwhelmed with pain and asking for pain relief before she is even through the door.

Already she is in the cycle, and her hormonal balance has been disrupted.  Often this continues right through to the birth, where the hormones haven’t been able to work as normal and the mother then needs further assistance to birth her baby.  No wonder we all think birth is so difficult!

Make a positive change: allow yourself the optimal birth experience.

Thinking about all of the above, I hope it becomes clear that birth is not too painful to cope with unless we make it too painful to cope with.

So, how can you turn things around and allow yourself to birth normally without intervention or the necessity of pain relief?

Firstly, try to find women who have birthed normally and found birth easy to cope with.  Maybe attend home birth groups or just find friends who have found birth manageable, exhilarating and awesome.  Wallow in their stories.  Read positive birth stories online.  Go to pregnancy yoga, aquanatal, antenatal relaxation classes.  Download positive pregnancy relaxations and visualisations and make it your business to listen to them every single day.  Ignore the negative and allow the positive, coping, strong woman to come to the fore.  Indulge her.  Over the 9 months allow yourself to believe to your very core that your body is capable – more than capable! – of birthing your baby.

Secondly, take action.  The biggest intervention you will make into your birth is choosing where you give birth and who will be your birth attendant.  These two choices will make the biggest difference to your birth than anything else put together.  Ask yourself why you are considering going into hospital.  Find out about home birth.  Home birth is normal and is safer than a hospital birth for every ‘low-risk’ pregnancy, and most ‘high risk’ women.  Talk to women who have given birth at home, read up on it and allow it to become normal in your mind.

If you are unable to birth at home, consider a birth centre instead.  Birthing in a stand alone birth centre is going to create the nearest chances of a normal birth to home, a birth centre in a hospital is the next best choice.  The option that is least likely to produce a normal, manageable birth is one that takes place in a consultant unit.  This should be the last choice, only to be used when medically necessary.

I have to go to a consultant unit!  How can I have a normal birth?

If you weigh up all the information and decide to go to a consultant unit, or have medical reasons for choosing a this option then don’t despair.  You can still maximise your chances of a normal and healthy birth.  You can do everything you can to ensure you are part of the minority of women who give birth normally in this environment.

How?  There are lots of ideas.  Keep in your mind the ideal environment for birth (or sex if that’s easier to envisage!) and create that environment in your birth room.  Your birth room is yours.  You can move furniture around, put on music, bring any equipment or special items and food and clothing or whatever you need to help to create the ideal birth environment for you.

Ask for your midwife to keep her voice low, and keep at a discreet distance.  Write a good birth plan that outlines what you need to birth well, get your birth partner on board and up to speed so that they can be your advocate which will leave you freed up to birth.

Some women have even put a blanket over their head to keep the ‘outside world’ out, or used headphones with relaxations or music to ‘zone out’.  Close your eyes and you can be in your own little world.

Perhaps most important, be aware of the impact that the journey to your birth unit and settling in will have on the birth.  It may start to feel difficult to cope with, the labour could stop or contractions get less frequent.  Set up your birth room, settle down and allow yourself to relax and feel at home.  It could take a couple of hours before your body feels safe and ready to start birthing effectively again.  Don’t worry about this.  It’s a normal physiological response to moving into a strange place during birth.

Visualisations and relaxations are perhaps even more important when you are birthing away from a familiar environment.  If you know you are going to a birth centre or hospital then practise doing your relaxations and visualisations all the way through the pregnancy so that when you arrive you are able to immediately counter the pain-fear-tension cycle and allow yourself to start labouring again more quickly.

Pain and Labour

I am hoping that this will provide you with a new perspective on pain and labour.  A new understanding of how the labouring body works, and why we have to help rather than hinder.

If we can understand how everything works and respect the environment that any labouring mammal needs to feel safe and birth easily then we can maybe banish the myth that human labour and birth is too painful for us to cope with.

Did anybody catch the new TV series ‘Out of My Depth’?  It featured Amanda Holden ‘training’ to be a midwife and was another programme that needed lots of cushions thrown at it.

The basic premise is this:

Amanda Holden trains with student midwives. After a month of intensive on-the-job training, her mentor must decide if Amanda has learnt enough to join the delivery room team.

Oh, well… five whole weeks?  That’s Ok then.  Who knew you could be trained to be a midwife in only five weeks?  Probably only if you have a camera crew trailing along. 

A pregnant woman actually volunteered to have Amanda as her ‘lead’ (haha) midwife.  I can only assume that the side effects of this decision were not laid out clearly.  (the side effects unfolded for us all to see)

How did her birth go?  Cue image of woman lying on the bed screaming in agony, cut to midwife outside in the corridor “she’s asked for an epidural, which I think is the best decision.  She’s lost control and this will help her gain back that control”.  Next, image of Amanda Holden zooming to hospital in her chauffer-driven Merc fresh from an overnight flight back from ‘work commitments’ in the US.

Oh, how could anything possibly go wrong, you may be wondering.  What a fantastic, supportive, empowering set up.  Surely this is a normal birth waiting to happen.

Despite screaming in agony without a single helpful idea from the midwife for managing her labour (i.e. stand up, move around, have a bath, have a massage, relax, GET RID OF THE FECKING CAMERA CREW!!!) the woman did get to 8cm dilated before Amanda Holden got on the scene.

Then she was given her epidural and the baby’s heart rate dropped and didn’t recover.  Amanda Holden and camera crew then took up full-time residence in the birth room (as opposed to intermittant filming of screaming) and what on earth do you think happened then?

The woman’s very clever body sussed out that all was not right.  There were strange people in the room and thousands, if not millions, of people were watching.  She stopped dilating.  Totally understandable reaction to 1. an epidural and 2. a celebrity and camera crew suddenly appearing.

What happened?  Did her midwife act as her advocate?  Boot out the camera crew and Amanda?  Close the blinds, start massage and put on some soothing music?  Of course not!  She was wheeled off to theatre and given a very graphic ventouse – all captured on film (of course).

Why oh why do we think it’s Ok to mess with birth like this?  What an experience for that woman, what a lesson to learn for all pregnant or young women watching, what a welcome for that baby.

Sometimes…. I despair.


Isn’t this a crazy idea?  That a child can be too attached to his or her parent.  Just the thought that anyone could think that makes me react in two ways: slightly-too-hysterical laughter and deep resounding sadness.

I have come across two examples of this within the last week.  One was a friend whose mother thought that her grandchild was too attached.  The ‘warning’ signals apparently included clingy behaviour and that the child was still waking regularly at night. 

Why do people think that a baby preferring to be with her mother is an abnormal state of affairs?  Why might we have evolved as a species to be like this?  Why can’t we accept that this is actually totally normal behaviour for a baby or young child?  Why do women, especially, have such an issue with other women allowing their children to have a natural attachment?  I can hazard a guess but genuinely, answers on a postcard please.

Similarly, why do we consider a baby waking in the night to be unusual, strange or a problem that needs to be fixed?  It is common.  So common to be considered normal I would even put forward.  It’s been documented that the vast majority of one-year-olds still wake regularly at night.  So why are we so focussed on the sleep patterns of babies?  Why is this biological disposition attributed the deciding factor of whether a child is ‘good’ (shudder)?

The second was while waiting in a queue at the post office.  A woman with a girl of around two-and-a-half was in the queue with her sister-in-law.  The sister-in-law was talking to a family friend.  The conversation went something like this:

“Yes, this is my niece Mia” gesticulating at child.  “She’s driving me mad today” (Annoying Aunt – or AA)

“oh” (embarrassed friend)

The friend tried to bend down to say hello to this child whom she clearly didn’t know, the child hid behind her mum’s legs.

This prompted AA to launch a tirade of aggressive ‘advice’ against the poor mother.  Was Mia always like this?  Answer, no she’s fine at home and with people she knows.  Well she needs to get out!  She needs to socialise.  She needs to go to nursery.  Her mother is stifling her development.  She can’t stay home all the time, clearly she can’t cope in the real world.  She needs to mix with other people without her mother…. etc. etc.  And on and on. 

Clearly AA had no children.  She was young, and yes, clearly an idiot.  But by no means is this an isolated incident.  I’m sure we all hear and meet people like this all the time.  But where has it come from?  This strange and consuming idea that young children need to socialise away from their primary carers in order to develop properly. 

Just a few minutes of thought would render the very idea ridiculous and unworthy of any more consideration.  And if a few minutes of thought are not available then the stack of evidence that ‘socialising away from a primary carer’ is harmful to young children should stamp out this loony theory for once and for all.  Yet, it is so incredibly persistant.  Everyone continues with this theory as if it’s sensible and obvious … why?  What do ‘we’ get out of it?  Obviously it frees up women to go into the labour market, and further provides lots of jobs to other – mainly – women.  Oh and lots and lots of opportunities for nursery owners to make a lot of money.  But surely this can’t be the only reason for ignoring facts, evidence and instinct.  Can it?

Assigning babies, toddlers and young children the ‘problem’ of being too attached to their parents or too clingy seems to be a national pastime.  I just can’t help wondering why? 

It seems as clear as day to me that a baby and/ or young child needs to be raised by one primary carer.  This person is his or her rock.  They provide safety and security – a soft place to land.  The child knows this person and is utterly confident in their love.  They know that they are always safe when this primary carer is around.  And if this person suddenly disappears then surely a normal reaction is anxiety until they reappear?  Until such time as the child knows that this person will always reappear.  

Surely anyone knows in their heart that this is right and good.  Compare to a young baby or child who is left with a wide variety of people and has no strong attachment to anybody.  Yes, aren’t they ‘good’.  They can be left anywhere, with anyone.  They never cry.  This child never feels safe, they don’t have a soft place to land.  We know from scientific studies that these children have abnormally high levels of cortisol in their bodies which set the ‘normal’ level for the rest of their lives at a level that is too high.  This causes them difficulties for life which include attention-seeking behaviour, risk-seeking behaviour and relationship problems.  (Check out my shop for the Margot Sunderland book which contains all the evidence and scientific data that proves this pretty convincingly.)

Would anyone honestly choose an unattached childhood for their child if they knew the lifelong consequences?  Would anyone actually think that a child could be too attached or that a normal attachment could damage a baby?  I hope not, but I fear so.  Such is the crazy world we appear to inhabit.

This is something I have been pondering for quite a while.  Obviously life is full of contradictions but there are two that really get my goat.  Namely:

  1. Single fathers are considered to be heroic, while single mothers are treated as if they and they alone are the cause of all of the problems of society.
  2. Everyone who is half intelligent recognises the importance of mothers to young children and the value for a baby/toddler/child of being raised by his or her mother.  However a lot of these people draw the line at single mothers for some reason, and think that these women should get ‘back to work’ for the sake of their children. 

These two points baffle me totally.  Firstly, there are hardly any single fathers who are the full time carers of their children.  Those that do are in the lucky position of being looked upon with admiration and sympathy for all the sacrifices and difficulties that they must face.  I don’t take issue with this at all, but wish that this could be extended to the millions of single mothers who face equal difficulties and make exactly the same sacrifices.  Why are they not afforded the same admiration and sympathy?

There seems to be some strange assumption among aspects of the press and the public that a single mother is somehow to blame for the situation she is in. 

Whether it is the stereotype of the teenage mum trying to get a council flat (for goodness sake, how out of touch are these people?) or the woman with 5 children by different dads or whatever.  Most of the single mums I know are not so by choice, but through unfortunate circumstances.  Whether that be a violent father, a lazy father, a cheating father or an absentee father: in most cases the cause seems to be the father not the mother left holding the baby and trying to make the best life for her family.

Secondly, the single mother who chooses to listen to her instinct and/or the overwhelming evidence concerning the best care for young children (their mother) faces criticisms ranging from laziness to an inability to be a good role model.   Why is it that an arrangement that best suits the wellbeing of the child and, therefore, benefits society in the long term is almost universally ignored if the family in question consists of a mother only? 

Everywhere you turn there are ‘welfare to work’ programmes, nursery places for younger and younger children targetted at low income or lone parents and legislation cutting benefits to those who need them most if they dare take full responsibility for the raising of their children.

It drives me absolutely crazy and goes against common sense and reason.  I don’t know how single mums handle this so well, they are so maligned by society while doing such a difficult and amazing job single handedly. 

I would love to see any political party actually extending the hand of reason to single mothers, but as far as I can see all women get a rough deal but none harsher than the women who heads her family alone.

*I have used the term ‘single parent’ as opposed to ‘lone parent’ to account for the fact that many of the fathers are around and able, if not willing, to fulfil the other parental role.  No offence is intended.