ONE brutal reality of being a single mother is wondering if you will ever find love again.
Now there is more than just you to love, finding someone who will also care for and treat your children with love makes the equation a little more complex.
I enjoyed witty rapport with a man on Tinder some time ago. He asked to come to my house but I had children curled asleep in their beds. Inviting someone I’d only conversed online with for a matter of days didn’t feel right. I explained this as tactfully as possible and he responded by sending a picture of his penis. Our conversation ended there.
Australia was shocked recently by the horrific story of Mason Parker. Baby Mason was just 16 months old when his mother’s boyfriend beat him to death.
The abuse on his tiny body had gone on for months, allegedly unbeknown to his mother, Cindy Sandeman, until one day the abuse was too much and the little one’s life was stolen.
Most parents fear strangers lurking in dank toilet blocks and dark alleys, or driving by in cars, stopping to offer sweets and stealing innocence. However, the most likely perpetrator of abuse will be people living under the same roof as your kids.
“Most sexual abuse of children is perpetrated by people who are known and trusted by parents and children,” says chief executive officer of ChildWise, Katherine Levi.
“Only a small percentage of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by strangers. Abuse by strangers, a child abducted from a shopping centre is sensationalised in the media. It is indeed frightening and abhorrent but it occurs in less than 10 per cent of cases of sexual abuse. Approximately 90 per cent of victims know the perpetrator.”
For argument’s sake, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that a small percentage of perpetrators of abuse are mothers. These abominations of women do exist but then the vast majority of sexual and physical abuse is at the hands of men. I’m sorry about this statement because I’m a longtime fan of men and I know many truly sensational ones who also find this appalling.
Traditionally, the man living in the family home was the biological father of the children. These days with approximately one in three marriages ending in divorce the family unit can be opened up to a new, and often unknown, man — mum’s new boyfriend.
A 2010 study from the US found that children whose single parent had a partner in the home were 20 times more likely to be sexually abused than those in a two-biological-parent family.
In fairness, the statistics on fathers being at fault are also shocking. Another US study conducted by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation assessed data from 200,000 child abuse cases that went through the courts. They ascertained that 51 percent of child abuse, be it neglect, physical or sexual abuse was at the hands of the father with a lesser 24% of abusers being boyfriends, stepdads and adoptive dads.
Being a solo parent can be relentlessly tough, I can verify that as someone whose marriage came to an end when my youngest was just two. Finding “alone time” to propagate or nurture a new relationship without children in the home can be problematic, particularly for the many women with little or no family or community support.
Solo parenting can also be desperately lonely business. Consenting adults are most certainly permitted to find comfort in the arms of whomever they choose, however, sometimes women are taking risks that could have catastrophic consequences.
Online dating and dating apps are allowing us to meet more people, but a certain care should be taken with how and where we meet our potential new loves.
It’s an awkward conversation, and a rightly offensive subject to a huge portion of the male population, however just because someone has sparkling eyes and a kind smile in their Tinder profile or a dazzling way with words on RSVP does not mean they should be invited into the family home within minutes, days or even weeks of meeting them.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting we should never trust our new partners with our children. New partners, and indeed stepfathers, sometimes flourish into more meaningful and lasting relationships than the “real” thing.
I myself have a new partner, with whom I do not yet cohabit, but whom I trust implicitly with my children.
Your children are your most precious treasure, and although finding new love, support and meaningful connection is also important we must not prioritise this over the safety of our kids.
Take your time when introducing someone you don’t know well to your kids, and be aware of not blindly trusting someone you barely know. Be vigilant and watch for behaviour that may indicate something is amiss and never dismiss anything as trivial.