In single parenting, organization is key


I have taken a hiatus from this and my other blog because, quite simply, there wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. I used to be highly organized, and in some parts of our lives, I still am; but that organization fell apart a bit last March and I’ve only just recovered.

In the last month, I renegotiated our tenancy, worked on a few translations and one narration, helped out a friend in her business (although that was unremunerated, for love of friendship), tried to give Darling Daughter a last hurrah for summer vacation (which she has patiently spent tagging along with me as I ran around, looking for support to help us pay some bills, rent, etc. – this has been one heck of a difficult year!), and planned lessons for the two community college courses I was going to be teaching (and which were to be our salvation, at least for the Fall semester) which I only days ago found out were cancelled because of low enrollment. I had been feeling completely unproductive, as though I’d been running around without truly accomplishing anything or even living, but writing down this list of recent accomplishments has helped me to see that I’ve been truly busy…no wonder I feel so tired!

It’s the single parent’s lot, to feel like we are constantly running out of gas, out of energy. However, it wasn’t always like this for me. With a bit of creative organization – and very few deviations from The Master Plan – all of us Maddies can not only feel that we accomplish what we need to do, but also have a little bit of free time, to blog, or take a nice, long bath!

Two parent families do not have it easy nowadays, but, with two adults there is a division of labor that is simply not available to single parent households. Where two parent families can schedule and do things in parallel, a single parent is almost always forced to do the same things sequentially. This implies more time spent driving to and from appointments, more time spent at appointments (even if you have the luxury of scheduling appointments for ALL of your kids on the same day, at the same place), more time spent documenting, planning and scheduling…well, if you’re a Maddie (a Mommy and Daddy in one), you know what I’m talking about; if you’re not a Maddie, well, you get the picture. Essentially, being a single parent means most things take longer than for most two parent families. This is why success in single parenting boils down to one key element: organization.

The next few posts in this blog will be about organizing your life and planning in advance for unpredictable, improbable – but not impossible – situations.

The Stigma of Homelessness


Homelessness carries with it a powerful social stigma. The myth is that life is full of choices, therefore, homeless people must have chosen to be in this condition. Homelessness, then, carries with it the sense among the general population that the adult(s) involved must be reckless and irresponsible people.

While that may be true for some people in this condition, the reality is that most people face homelessness owing to societal and economic factors beyond their control, such as job loss, wage/salary freeze or reduction, general rise in cost of living (in the US, at least, salaries have not increased apace with the cost of living over the last 30 years or so), lack of affordable housing. The reality is that any one of us could find him- or herself facing this condition, and probably sooner rather than later.

So, please, when you walk past a homeless person begging in the streets, do not judge. I’m not asking you to do what I do – share or give away your coffee, water, breakfast or lunch – but, please, have compassion, look him or her in the eye and greet him/her as you would any other human being, with a smile and a “G’day!” And, please, whatever you do, don’t tell him gruffly to “get a job!”

Sad thoughts for today, but I wish you all
Peaceful parenting
The Original Maddie

The Homeless Dilemma


Homelessness in any country is a disgrace, even in these tough economic times, but it is even more of a sin in what are termed “First World” countries, like the US. The statistics on homeless families in my state of Massachusetts alone are frightening: as of October 2008, there were 2,472 homeless families living in emergency shelters funded by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA, more commonly known simply as “welfare”); most of these families are headed by – you guessed it! – a single mother. In terms of individuals, 4,413 of the members of these homeless families are children or youths, and 2,379 of them are under six years of age.  (Horizons for Homeless Children, http://www.horizonsforhomelesschildren.org/Statistics_Massachusetts_Statistics.asp) According to a 2011 article in the Christian Science Monitor (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2011/1213/Homeless-children-at-record-high-in-US.-Can-the-trend-be-reversed), approximately 1.6 million children, most of whom were under age 7,  in the US were (or still are) homeless.

So, what is being done to help? For certain, as mentioned above, my state, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has a program called HomeBase, run through the Department of Transitional Assistance. Other states and the Federal government also offer help. However, I’ve recently discovered that the eligibility criteria are scandalous. Why scandalous? Well, for example, in order to be eligible for a homelessness prevention program – that is, monies to perhaps help pay for arrears in rent (something that is occurring all too frequently with the record job losses owing to the economic downturn) – families must first prove that they are being evicted, and have gone through the entire eviction process down to the 48-hour notice to vacate premises, and landlords must agree to stay the proceedings and keep the tenants. This is scandalous because, if the landlord does not agree then the tenant has an eviction for non-payment of rent on record; what other landlord on Earth would want to rent to such a tenant? What impact does that eviction for non-payment have on an individual’s credit record – something that now many potential employers are consulting to determine whether a job  candidate is responsible enough? Where is the prevention here?! Emergency shelters have been maxed out; so where do these families go? This leads to a vicious cycle of constant loss, a downward spiral…one in which an individual head of household loses his or her job (and economic stability), loses creditworthiness, loses the family’s shelter, becomes stigmatized as “irresponsible,” and loses the opportunity to regain full employment (and, therefore, to regain self-esteem, let alone his/her family’s ability to return to their previous position of stability). And the children? They, too, lose self-esteem, many lose their health and, perhaps most important for school-aged children, their friends.

This topic has always been important to me. (Indeed, if there are enough sales of my first (and, thus far, only) e-book for children, Bedtime Myths for Children of All Ages/Solar Stories, 20% of all profits will go to a local organization that helps homeless children in Massachusetts, Horizons for Homeless Children (referenced above).) But never in a million years would I have thought my daughter and I would be in danger of becoming homeless…and that is the position I find myself in today. Someone I met recently at the DTA office said to me, “I’ve always helped everybody. When I need help, because my house burned down last night, there is no one who can help.” I truly felt for him as he was in a worse position than even I find myself in…but I could relate; I’ve always been the first to volunteer, the first to lend a helping hand even if that meant putting my own needs last, and, now, when I actually need help, the doors are closed.

Next post: The stigma attached to homelessness, especially in the US

The Maddie Files Are on Facebook!


Hello all!

I’m proud to say that The Maddie Files finally have their own Facebook page! Would you pop over to the page and give us a “Like,” please? The address is: http://www.facebook.com/themaddiefiles.

And, please, don’t hesitate to tell your “Friends” about us; we’d love their “Likes,” too…and their friends’ “likes”…and their friends’ “likes”….and so on…and so on…and so on!

Wishing you all

Peaceful Parenting,

The Original Maddie!

PS Did I mention The Maddie Files are also on Twitter? @maddiefiles – feel free to follow! 😉

“Mummy? Can You Make Me a Little Brother?”


Hmmm. How do you explain to a three year old that in order to make a little brother you need a man around? Especially when you’re too tired from working full-time and being a full-time Maddie and trying to be a decent daughter yourself and a good friend to the few friends who are still in your hectic life to actually, I don’t know, date?

DD (Darling Daughter) sprung this question on me, as per usual, just when I thought she had finally fallen asleep and was slipping out of her bed to go wash dishes and correct homework. I went back to her in the dark, wrapped her in my arms, and very simply answered, “I’d love to ciccina, but, I can’t.” I didn’t expect it, but I should have…the inevitable “Why?”

So, I took a deep breath and tried to explain the facts of life matter-of-factly, succinctly, and sensitively. “Well, ciccina, I can’t because, as you know, my husband left before you were born. And I cannot make a baby alone. It takes two – a mommy and a daddy – to actually make a baby.  So, you see, I really can’t make you a baby brother.”

Silence for what seemed like hours, but was probably only thirty seconds. And, then, her considered response:

“O’kay, then; I’ll take a baby sister.”

Peaceful parenting,

The Original Maddie

Welcome to the Maddie Files: All About Single Parenting


Hello! Welcome to the “Maddie” Files – posts about the adventures, challenges, and rewards of single parenting, whether by circumstance or by choice.  I’ve been a single parent since my child was in utero, by circumstance, but ultimately…well, doesn’t life always really boil down to choices?

Sometimes we think that we are victims of circumstances beyond our control, but there is always a choice to be made (and NOT making a choice also boils down to choosing not to decide, doesn’t it?)…and single parents have it hardest.

We are the ultimate Do-It-Yourselfers, planning, thinking, imagining, re-imagining. Sometimes we have our little pity parties, wishing for a “better half” to help us out emotionally, financially, romantically; we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t sometimes wish we could do things differently and have some “in-house” support – even if we have a great external support network of family and friends. But we also get to reap the rich rewards life as a single parent can give us…and we don’t have to share the limelight! 🙂

This blog is about sharing the past, present, and future. I hope many more will contribute their experiences, advice, suggestions, corrections and support to these Maddie Files so that we can make this a living space!

Peaceful Parenting,

The Original Maddie!

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