Lisa seeks strength amid the lows


LONELY is how Lisa* best describes her current situation in Canberra ahead of Mother’s Day this year.

“I am sure this is the same for single mothers everywhere,” the 22 year-old Catholic woman said.

“The challenges of living in Canberra as a single mother definitely focus around financial stress [and] not being able to experience the freedoms that many people take for granted such as having a car.

Lisa has lived in the ACT for the past five years and is the main carer of her two-year old son Joey*.

“I just adore him, he is the greatest gift,” she said.

“Having children is the greatest joy one can experience, however raising children by yourself can be incredibly isolating.”

She laments not being able to share the highs and lows of daily life but says she draws incredible amounts of strength from her Catholicism.

Typically each Sunday she attends the 11am Mass at St Christopher’s Cathedral.

“I have always considered myself Catholic but never realised how vital is was to my life until my separation,” she said.

“My mother and my maternal grandmother are strong Catholics and I will be forever grateful to them for the faith and values they have instilled in me.

“I read recently ‘If God gives you the burden, he will give you the strength’ and I think about that a lot in my daily life.

“My Patron Saint is Mary, and I think of her often is times of duress.”

The mother-of-one knows a thing or two about endurance and duress.

She recently completed 39 kilometres of a 42km marathon and is open about drawing strength from the Mother of God when she feels she has used her own.

“Tempers can often run short as I’m sure anyone who has raised a toddler will understand,” she said.

“Then I think of Mary, in all her greatness, and you can never imagine her losing her temper and scolding Jesus.”

Originally from a small city in rural New South Wales, Lisa confides that she finds the demographic of Canberra difficult in that not many people seem to understand the difficulties of surviving on a pension as a single mother.

For more than a year she was on a single parent payment from Centrelink with the addition of a few other smaller benefits totalling around $1100 a fortnight.

All this whilst paying almost $1800 a month in rent.

“Attempting to make progress in that financial situation is a constant burden on the mind,” she said.

“After living costs, bills, groceries and nappies etc; there is very little for savings let alone for activities such as travel.”

Lisa* says on more than one occasion that she has tried to associate with other mothers with children of the same age as her son.

“We cannot relate to each other,” she said.

“It almost becomes a competition in who can spend the most on their child, a competition in which I have no interest in participating in.”

Despite the hardships, Lisa* insists that her family continue to provide excellent support alongside that of other Catholic women whom she is in regular contact with.

“Both my mother and older sister have been single mothers and they understand the pressures that can arise,” she said.

“However they do not live in the state so having support that is physically present is hard to come by as are mothers groups with good values that are focused on the moral upbringing of their children and not just their material provisions.”

She speaks highly of her maternal grandmother’s loving gentleness.

“Everything from plants to children, seem to thrive in her presence,” she said.

“I wish to replicate that in my own life.”

Apart from the support of her family, Lisa* says she finds plenty encouragement through Catholic Mothers pages online.

“They often have anecdotes and useful information along with a worldwide prayer platform,” she said.

“Facebook can be helpful at times as people from all walks of life have access and can provide a vast array of opinions on all things mothering.”

Amidst the optimistic outlook however, for Lisa the reality is often stark.

“Even the happiest of days can feel sad when you don’t have a companion to share those moments with,” she says.

“And when there are tough days, as there always will be, it can be completely defeating as there is no one close by to pick you up when you fall.”

*Not their real names.