I, Mother of Bastards….

Skindeep, by Catherine Barry
A special article by guest writer and Mother of a small army of Bastards, novelist Catherine Barry…

A topical debate about ‘lone parents’ sparked off by Professor Ed Walsh seems to have invited a flurry of poison-pen articles. These ‘self appointed’ armchair psychiatrists seem to have it all wrapped up, and want to impart their words of wisdom and teach me a thing or two about how I should live my life. I don’t like naming names, but I will mention one and it is only because I take considerable offence to having my beautiful children referred to as ‘bastards’.
They are not.
Kevin Myers, (‘If I had a brain, I’d be dangerous’) author of this insult and others, ought to think first before they wilfully hurt Irish children who are educated enough to read this appalling and inaccurate ‘lone parent bashing’.
These people seem to have us Lone Parents sussed…. Some suggest that we planned it all.
That a social welfare payment of €180 a week (for the mere task of raising a human being to adulthood) has acted as an ‘incentive’ into our communal descent into the ‘moral free loader’ category which these people purport we belong to.
So look closely.
No closer…
Can you see it now?
My hand is up.
I’m waving it frantically before your very eyes!
It’s all true…
I give in.
I do belong to that obscenely and grotesquely opulent brat pack.
You know…
(Lone Parent Social Welfare Lifters Inc.)
There’s no point in playing ostrich arse up. I am as guilty as a certain politician, who robbed us of much more, (but we won’t go there).

It was a cold, calculated premeditated plot to unburden society of their hard earned cash, a whopping €180 euros a week…
We all planned it.
Right down to the psychotic partners who beat us senseless, or the addicts who left us starving or the unfaithful ones who ran off with someone else… or simply abandoned us… and their children.
Those visits to St. Vincent De Paul? They really had you fooled, eh? They were deliberate diversions: we made them up. We didn’t really need to go there to get our kids clothes. The sad itemized shopping lists that we took to the cheapest supermarket every week? Yeah… that was all for show too. Opening the oven door in the kitchen to get some heat? Yep, you guessed it, that too was all to foster sympathy for the ‘poor lone parent’ image.
Why, I even bought a shambles of a property in a not too popular part of Dublin North city, thinking it would enhance the overall ‘poverty’ vibe, make it all look a bit more authentic you know?
You see, I was walking down the street one day and saw a girl coming out of the dole office pushing a battered buggy, and balancing three bags of shopping on it while her baby screamed blue murder because he wanted an ice-pop and she couldn’t afford it. It was there and then I felt my first ‘rush’ of ‘social toxism’.
It dawned on me, like a thunder bolt out of the blue.
That’s what I want!
That’s what I want out of life!
I ran home overwhelmed with excitement and fired with enthusiasm about my newly found vocation…being a pimple on the arsehole of humanity.
Oh the joy!

I would experience such thrills! Like a distinct lack of social life and good job prospects, I would simply reel with the ecstasy of sacrificing all and sundry for my wee ones (including a sex life/freedom/clothes/holidays/) and there was the unbridled euphoria of being a 24 hour nurse to look forward to, not to mention the emotionally/mentally and physically rewarding drudgery of being the sole responsibility to my children.
Being sick and having no-one to mind you, that really appealed to me also but if I was pushed, I would have to say; it was the extreme poverty that attracted me the most.
I could hardly contain my happiness…
I would drop babies by the nanosecond, at least six.
I would immediately adapt a completely irresponsible moral code.
I would team up with the ‘Condoms? Never heard of them… any chance of a ride anyway?’ brigade.
I wouldn’t do ‘employment’. What is it anyway?
But how exactly was I going to crack this plot?
Why it all came to me in a flash of intense ESP of course. Obviously, I hadn’t been consciously aware of my dormant psychic gift at the time, but I guess that’s what MUST have happened. How else could I have predicted our future economy? The rise and fall in house prices, social welfare rates, medical cards, rent allowances, tax dodges, training schemes, the desperate depression of the drastic 80’s… and roughly 22 financial budgets?
You tell me.

I have worked full time all my life as a ‘lone parent’ and handed it all out again to a babysitter. What’s that babysitter thingy? It’s a thing you have to get to mind your kids, that takes all the money you have gone out to earn so people won’t label you ‘a mooch’. It’s also an issue that this government refuses to address despite the fact that all other countries have incorporated ‘childcare’ into their agendas to give incentive to women to go out and work.
Where’s that ‘incentive’ please?
Damn… Must have missed it… probably while I was out breaking my back working a 12 hour day… and as for the six kids bit, all the lone parents I know have one child. I hadn’t time for sex after the first two… Another point worth remembering is that most Lone Parents do not own a home and the chances of it happening are slim, why? Because the majority of us are separated/divorced and will never have the €150,000 (or whatever) to purchase our half of the house from our significant other, and em no… we don’t have it stashed away in social welfare cheques somewhere in the Cayman Islands…
It has also been suggested recently that offspring of Lone Parent will become drug dealing murdering rapist pimps, due to a distinct missing presence of a father figure. This has me VERY concerned.
My son is a very gifted talented guitar player, has a green belt in Tae-kwon Do, got four honours in his Junior Cert, doesn’t do drugs, hates cigarettes, has a moderate drink now and then and is very anti-war, unlike some children of two parent families who think kicking someone to death is acceptable. My daughter has two grades in violin, has a talent for art and music, is tops in her class at reading and writing and displays impeccable manners. She’s fair, trusting and compassionate.

Double damn… I obviously missed something there too. They’re perfect. And it’s all my fault. I am so ashamed… and I apologize profusely for letting you all down.
Well it has to be someone’s fault right?
Well, we now know, it’s not a lack of education that manufactures ‘lone parents’; children are now taught sex education (which includes relationships) in school.
It’s not a lack of availability of contraception. We can nip around to the garage or pub and get that now. And it’s not that we are hormone smitten teenagers who can’t keep their pants on.
Most of us on lone parents are grown adults.
So what is it?
I say it is life…
It’s life Jim… but not as we know it.
Because we can’t seem to be human anymore and make mistakes.
Catherine Barry is a single working mother, living on the Northside of Dublin. When not raising her great satanic brood of Bastard Spawn, she works for The One Parent Exchange Network* and writes novels. Her third novel ‘Skin deep’ will be published in March 2005.
Buy Skin Deep by Catherine Barry
* = the opinions expressed in this piece are not reflective of any policy of the One Parent Exchange Network.

Damien DeBarra was born in the late 20th century and grew up in Dublin, Ireland. He now lives in London, England where he shares a house with four laptops, three bikes and a large collection of chairs.


  1. Great Stuff!
    Read, ‘The House that Jack Built’
    also by the author.
    This lady has earned her opinion!

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