Like an episode of “Wife Swap” with feminist underpinnings and adorable accents, an Irish politician plans to swap lives for a week with a single mother of three.
Senator John Gilroy from County Cork in Ireland will live trade lives with Andrea Gagley, an activist with Single Parents Acting For The Rights Of Kids. Gagley works a part-time job and takes a college course while raising her three sons on her own. She issued the challenge to politicians on the Facebook page for Ireland’s Labour Party and Gilroy, a married father of two, took her up on it. He will live on her salary for a week while working at her part-time job and collecting her Lone Parent Allowance and Child Benefit Allowance (which I assume are Irish versions of welfare). ”He is in for a very harsh landing. He may work long hours but he has back-up at home to facilitate that, whereas I have to do everything myself,” Gagley said. The Irish Herald reports that several production companies are seeking to make a documentary about Gilroy and Gagley’s “life swap.”
On one hand I cheer for social experiments like this because single parents, but especially single mothers, get shat on in society. (Particularly I am referring to American society; I don’t know how Irish society treats its single moms.) People seem to think that stigmatizing single moms will punish them or scare young women from becoming single moms … as if single parenthood is a lifestyle choice every single person who goes into it has planned in advance. And yes, it’s single moms who bear the brunt of the single-parent stigma, not the absentee or abusive dads who are not in the picture. I’m thinking, for example, Rick Santorum’s helpful suggestion that single mothers needed, quote, a swift “kick in the butt.” That’ll show ‘em!
Of course, it’s a certain subset of single moms in particular that get shat on: low-income single moms and single moms of color are seen as problems in society, but being a financially well-off woman who adopts or has her own kid(s) on her own can be seen as strong and independent, even noble. Instead we should be focusing on creating scenarios that help all women create families when it is financially prudent for them to do so through comprehensive sex education, access to contraception and abortion services.
So, while this social experiment might help give a male politician more insight and compassion into the struggles of at least this single mother, it doesn’t quite address the root issue of access to family planning services and support. It’s cute to say “oh, he’ll be Mr. Mom for a week and see how hard it is to be a single mom!” but I’d rather all politicians empower women to control their reproductive choices.