Prime Minister Freundel Stuart today challenged the concept of “single mothers”, saying it was “an excuse” often used by women to let delinquent fathers off the hook.
“I think there is a very dangerous current taking shape in society where an increasing number of what are erroneously called ‘single mothers,’” Stuart told the opening of national consultation on the family here this morning.
“I usually have to challenge them when they tell me that they are single mothers because . . . there is always a father somewhere who is not pulling his weight,” he said, adding that “it is amazing how often excuses are made for delinquent fathers and these ‘single mothers’ are preparing to assume full responsibility for the raring of their children.
Stuart, whose father died tragically when he was nine years old, said he was raised “by a genuine single mother”.
“So I understand the narrative and I understand the challenges, but I am saying that today people who call themselves single parents really are not. It is really an excuse for not putting the kind of pressure on the father that needs to be put so that the burdens of family life can be shared, and that is another problem we have to deal with,” the Prime Minister explained.
“So the strength of the family, the stability of the family, the safety of the family and of course the other issue that is of great concern are standards in the family,” he told the consultation, put on by the Diocese of Barbados under the theme Restoring Our Barbadian Family.
Though not providing statistics, the island’s leader also pointed out that he recently had a discussion “at the level of Cabinet” regarding the increasing number of young women with children who were being “put out” by their mothers.
“The explanation given, and we have been hearing quite a bit of those stories recently, that their mothers say they can’t put up with anymore noise in their ears, they want some peace, and so on,” Stuart said.
“Now, we used to know a Barbados that was different, when a grandparent didn’t mind the parent leaving, as long as the parent was going to leave the grandchildren. Nowadays it seems, from what we have been picking up, that that current is changing as well. We cannot allow that current to gain any strength,” he said.
However, Stuart quickly acknowledged that given the advanced health and education sectors, in many instances grandparents were “spending more time in the work place than would have been the case in the 1960s and 1950s” and therefore more time away from home.
“So you have a different kind of grandparent today from the ones we used to know, and we are now in a situation where while it used to be true to say that our local communities raised our children, that is no longer the case.
“That is why choice of school in Barbados nowadays is not linked to where you live but linked to where your parents are working, because at a certain time of day parents have to come and get the children because they cannot afford, given how our communities have changed, to let the children go home to the community because our communities are not as highly personalized as they used to be in the Barbados of yesteryear,” he explained.
Those challenges, Stuart said, have contributed to “the undermining of the strength of our families and that too is an issue which we have to confront”, adding that Government was willing and ready to assist the Church in addressing them.