Liverpool is no men desert – A piece for The Guardian | Scouse Bird Problems

Remember that time I got The Guardian to publish “gobshite” – originally published here

The Centre for Social Justice has announced a report that appears to accuse single-parent families of being the cause of all social ills. As with so many of these studies, Liverpool finds itself the target for a swath of generalisations. It’s bad enough that the rest of the country thinks we’re all walking round with eyebrows like Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street without them painting us as a city of women who have taken up popping out sprogs as a career choice. As ever we’re the butt of jokes. It’s so passé. What’s that saying? Ninety-two per cent of statistics are made up on the spot anyway.

The popular consensus is that children are better off being raised in a traditional family set-up, with a mother and a father. Does this automatically guarantee that children in a single-parent family will go on to commit crimes or become pregnant in their teens as the report suggests? I don’t think so. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that not all criminals, drug abusers and pregnant teens come from lone-parent families.

Perhaps there isn’t enough support from society to raise children in general. Rather than the government putting pressure on couples to remain in unhappy relationships, which in itself is setting a poor example to an impressionable youngster, we should have parental support groups where people can get together and discuss the challenges they face raising a child. Support is better than blame. Too many people stumble into parenthood blind and that’s not their fault. In Liverpool we have a strong community spirit and we have plenty of people we can rely on for support. Maybe the single mother figures are higher here because women are less likely to put up with stupid and incompetent (read gobshite) behaviour from our partners. We know we’ve got the strength and support to go it alone, thanks very much.

The report will talk of “men deserts”. The only men desert here is in town on Saturday night, honest to god, where are all the eligible fit men? But to be serious for a moment – many children, the report says, now live in an environment where they have no male role models whatsoever. I’m sure there are some children for whom this is the case and that’s very sad, but they are, without doubt, rare. Even in the absence of a father, there are often uncles and older siblings to turn to if they ever needed a male perspective.

If we’re talking role models, there is nothing in our city that a young boy enjoys more than football. Take Jamie Carragher, one of our own who has served out practically his entire career at Liverpool FC and even played for his country. He’s a family man who keeps himself to himself and, despite his occupation being a magnet for scandal, he has remained smear-free. Even if someone hasn’t got a father figure close to them, how amazing a role model is he? His achievements are accessible for all to see and admire. Then there’s John Bishop. OK, so he grew up in Runcorn and is therefore a bit of a wool, but he was born here. He’s turned his cheeky Scouse sense of humour into a lucrative career and he hasn’t had to rob any cars to get there.

Since 2002 same-sex couples have had the right to adopt in the UK. Does this mean that their children will be hooligans simply because there is an absence of a role model of one or other gender in the household? Of course not. Any issues stem from the abilities of the parents doing the raising. Side note: I’d rather have learned dress sense from some gay couples I know than your average dad.

The breakdown of a relationship can be an extremely emotional and tense time where you spend long periods of time fantasising about bumping your ex off and that’s without bringing children into it.

It’s a messy business and I’m not sure we’ll ever achieve complete clarity on it. But most couples eventually manage to sort out an arrangement whereby both parties have some contact and input into their children’s lives. There’s always a way of working things out, of getting by. That’s what we do in Liverpool. Men desert or not, it’s a place where if you’re ever in trouble, you’ve got some kind of family to lean on – whether you’re related to them or not.


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