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Solo parenthood is no joke.

The world has a soft spot for mothers. Unfortunately, it hasn't always been kind or compassionate towards single mothers.

It's ironic that in a month dedicated to mothers, all hell broke loose on social media last week after an inappropriate, crass joke reverberated in the Senate hall.

The good thing that has come out of this experience is that, suddenly, a thousand and one stories came out of the woodwork, highlighting and praising the difficult journey that is single motherhood or solo parenthood.

There were children coming to their mother's defense, mothers talking about the challenges and difficulties of raising a child alone. Single motherhood or solo parenthood, after all, is not a path that many women voluntarily choose.

When is a woman considered a solo parent? Republic Act 1872, known as the Solo Parents' Welfare Act of 2000, gives 10 very clear instances:

(1) A woman who gives birth as a result of rape and other crimes against chastity even without a final conviction of the offender: Provided, That the mother keeps and raises the child;

(2) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to death of spouse;

(3) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood while the spouse is detained or is serving sentence for a criminal conviction for at least one year;

Incapacity of spouse

(4) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to physical and/or mental incapacity of spouse as certified by a public medical practitioner;

(5) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to legal separation or de facto separation from spouse for at least one year, as long as he/she is entrusted with the custody of the children;

(6) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage as decreed by a court or by a church as long as he/she is entrusted with the custody of the children;

(7) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to abandonment of spouse for at least one year;

(8) Unmarried mother/father who has preferred to keep and rear her/his child/children instead of having others care for them or give them up to a welfare institution;

(9) Any other person who solely provides parental care and support to a child

or children;

(10) Any family member who assumes the responsibility of head of family as a result of the death, abandonment, disappearance or prolonged absence of the parents or solo parent.

Clearly, none of these circumstances are easy, and even more important, the experience of solo parenthood or single motherhood is not a joking matter.

Perhaps the legislator was trying to be glib. I really don't know what was going through his head at that moment. But he earned the ire of every Filipino woman in the country who is a single mother, and every Filipino who has been raised or cared for by a single mother or a solo parent.

It's true that anything can be asked of anyone in a Commission on Appointments hearing, but what significance did that joke or comment have on the subject's competency to run an agency dedicated to the welfare of the poor? If at all, someone who has walked the path of solo parenthood would know so well the economic difficulties often faced by a single mother or a solo parent.

In the end, after putting her on the spot, he praised her and gave her his 100 percent support. To praise her and recognize her strengths should have been enough, Mr. Senator. Next time around, I hope you will be more circumspect with your choice of words and with your humor.

It's 2017, and the world has changed so much. Most of the jokes that made us laugh three decades ago now make us cringe. The face of the Filipino family is very different from that in the early 1980s, when you, your brother and your cohorts could leave us in stitches with the jokes you would crack on TV, delivered from a makeshift classroom where everyone was fair game.

That world no longer exists. The reality today is that single mothers and solo parents abound. Sometimes we don't even need to look beyond our own families to find one. They are our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, and our dear friends-women we admire for their courage and tenacity, women we hold close to our hearts, who deserve our respect and our support. Let's be kinder and more respectful next time, shall we?
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:May 7, 2017
Words:859
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