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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - February 22, 1975, Lethbridge, Alberta "You can't be both a father and a mother' accommodation in unsavory neigh- borhoods. While she is not married to her roommate, they are good friends and her son has the advantage of having a male around him most of the time. Until recently, this was adequate but Janice says her son is now subject to peer-group pressure. "They all want to know why he hasn't a daddy and that's got him upset. But while I think my son needs male company, I don't worry that much about his lack of a central male figure. I think that need is overemphasized. "Without a doubt the money thing is the hardest part of raising a child alone. There's never enough. I pay all the bills when the cheque arrives but I always run out two weeks later and have to borrow, then pay it back but of next month's cheque.- And day-care is a nightmare. I've been lucky and found good places but they've always run out of funds and had to close. The government is constantly stopping their grants and it's a terrible cat-and- mouse game if s playing with innocent children. It's like living on borrowed time. You never know when you're going to have to find another place to provide decent care for your child while you go to school so that even- tually you'll get a decent job and get off that damned welfare." Janice is obviously in control of her situation. But other men and women are not so lucky and they can feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task they face. Many, especially the newly separated and divorced, are besieged with feelings of anger and guilt and it can get in the way of the process of rebuilding their lives and those of their children. Janet Elder and Margaret Leslie, who run discussion groups for single parents at the Family Education Institute in Montreal, say a mourning period follows a divorce, just as surely as it follows the death of a spouse. "In our groups we try to help them to get rid of their anger and look says Elder. "Some people do it in a matter of weeks. But I've also seen men and women who still feel the same bitterness after five years. There's a great need to talk about it. Your own best friends can be sym- pathetic only so long, then they want you to listen to their problems. That's why a group such as ours can be helpful." A 37-year-old Edmonton woman, who was widowed three years ago and left with llnee childen, was astonished and ashamed of the anger she felt towards her dead husband. "At first I just couldn't believe he was gone. [He was killed in a highway accident driving home from a business trip.l Once that fact had sunk in I felt incredibly angry at him for leaving us in this terrible mess. I used to lie awake at night and hate him for doing it to me. I couldn't raise those chil- dren alone. I kept thinking he should have done something to prevent the accident. Why hadn't he considered us? And then the guilt and remorse I felt was unbelievable. I'd loved him and he was dead. The children and I were still alive. We'd have Christmas nicer dad wouldn't have left us.' Others worry that if they're nice to a mother's boyfriend they're being disloyal to their father. Leslie counsels separated parents to level with their children and resist the temptation to get back at the other parent through the children: "Ifs a natural temptation but it can destroy the child." The fear that haunts so many single parents that their children will suffer emotionally with only one fefvlw: tW 0 5mj nicotine. King: 13mg "tor" OSat nratine. and summer and puppies and gradu- ations and he never would again. And there I was mad at him! It was the blackest period of my life. I stuck it for six months God knows how the children got through that time. I sure wasn't any help to them. Then I joined a group of widows and I discovered that it was quite normal to feel the way I did. And gradually things took on a different perspective." Children too can suffer guilt feel- ings after a parent has died or even separated. Margaret Leslie says such a child will often feel, 'If I had been parent is wrong, Michael Kenny says. His children never exceeded 65 percent in school examinations when he and his wife were together. Last year they both averaged in the 90s. "My children are more responsible Kenny says. "My daughter gets supper every night and my son washes up. We have a beautiful relationship with each other. We ski together, we swim together, we holiday together. Last summer-we went to Myrtle Beach. One evening we went to a restaurant for dinner. At the of the meal the waiter said he had never seen two more beautifully mannered teenagers before. It was a very proud moment for me. x "I haven't seen my wife in four years but my kids visit her and I let her provide the female influence in their lives. Some single parents try to be both father and mother to their children. And that's impossible. You can't be both." At 26, Judy, a Winnipeg teacher, has been divorced and widowed and has one child from each marriage. She says raising the children alone has certainly complicated her life but they've also given her happiness through some very bleak periods. And she does not think the boys, now 4 and 7, have really missed much in their sole-parent upbringing. "I know two-parent families where the father never sees the she says. "One mother I know rushes the kids to bed by six so she and her husband can have the evening to themselves. I've knocked myself out to spend time with the boys." It has meant a hermit existence much of the time. There were those two years when Judy went back to university to complete arts and edu- cation degrees. She never went out. Any time away from studying was -spent with the children and "they were as glad to see the end of the books as I was." Providing her sons with adequate male companionship worried Judy a lot. Now they are older they can par- ticipate in many activities where men are present such as cubs and swimming lessons. But the boys are open about their desire for a father, an honesty which can be embarrassing at times. One time Bobby greeted a first date at the door with "Are you going to be our new Like most single parents, Judy's friends have tended to be other single parents, met through the children's activities. Because she teaches chil- dren all day and returns to her own at night, she craves adult company. "I get the feeling I only know one- syllable words unless I get out and meet people. But since I have been on my own I have developed an out- goingness with people that I never had before. I guess I had to." Developing a new social life takes time. Everyone handles it differently. Some succeed admirably. Others never really try. A 50-year-old Fredericton man raising an 11-year-old son has been separated for four years and says his social life is almost non-existent: 'The friends you have as a normal couple are married couples. When you sepa- rate from your wife you separate from your friends, too. I really haven't made any new friends. My little guy is very attached to me and he likes me to stay home as much as possible. I rarely go out. I would like to remarry but I don't know any women that really interest me. And I always feel I've got to keep my son's happiness in mind. He had a bad time before my 10 Weekend MMtiine. Feb. tt, vm ;