Mums, marriage... and men?

Danielle widdowson with her 20 months - old son Daniel Widdowson.
Danielle widdowson with her 20 months - old son Daniel Widdowson.
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“ME mam and dad had a lovely wedding. I know – I was there.”

No longer the joke it once was in the days of the Wheel Tappers and Shunter’s club, Granada Television’s comic offering in the Seventies, set in a fictional working men’s club in the North of England.

Now motherhood outside of wedlock is common place. Why the reluctance to commit to marriage while entering into the much greater committment of parenthood, was the pertinent point posed this week by Denise Robertson, 78, our very own ITV’s agony aunt?

Surrounded by mams and tots in Penshaw Community Centre, I discovered complex and complicated scenarios of why some have chosen to put the cart before the horse and others for whom, although a single parent by design want marriage above all else and a man who will worship the ground they walk on.

Then there’s others who, although on good terms with the father of their child, have reservations about commitment.

While we all know accidents can and do happen, marriage is no accident. Indeed it’s easier to get pregnant than get married. You don’t get married by accident.

What is also true is that so many girls and women don’t realise before they have a baby the lifelong committment of it all. I’ve met plenty from deprived backgrounds, who all they have wanted in life was to be a mam and have a baby, someone to dress up like a doll. But more than that the unconditional love of someone who is not going to leave them.

Being a single mother, thankfully, holds none of the condemnation it once did. Sadly, the downside to that is the responsibility of motherhood, which has in so many’s book been eroded. And it’s not until they have a baby and are often left holding it that the full realisation of what being a mother really is. It comes as the biggest shock of their life.

To skew life even more, is the knowledge that marriage is no guarantee of living happily ever after. So why bother with it even if you do want to become a mother, when so many you know have gone through a bitter divorce?

The idealised picture of a man and a woman committing for life with roses round the door and babies on the floor, has been blown to smithereens. Not just because women no longer need a man to fend for them and because she can be self sufficient and no longer trapped in a relationship. But, also expectations are so different and so much higher than they were even 30 years ago.

So, is marriage worth the paper it’s written on? The consensus of opinion from mothers wed and unwed at Penshaw Penguins Toddler group was a resounding “yes”, but only if the couple are truly committed. And that’s not on a whim, wooed by having a big party and then waking up to the reality of being a Mrs and next to a man they wonder why they ever married.

So very candid, all the mothers I met had their own compelling stories to tell. Mother of three, Lindsay Milner, 37, of Percy Terrace, Penshaw, told me: “You have to think how committed you are before you have a child because kids do need a mam and a dad.

“It’s not because I don’t think single parents do a good job, because I know those that do.”

She was never in that boat, although she did fall pregnant with her Jasmine, now 17, while engaged to be married. She was 18 months old when she and John, 38, a a mechanic, wed and they also have Holly, 12, and Rosie, 11.

After 16 years of happy marriage she can say: “I don’t think getting married is a bigger committment than having a child. Having a child is the biggest committment you can make. Someone else’s life is in your hands.”

So why is Victoria Moscrop, 26, of Penshaw, with two children by two different fathers still unwed? “I always wanted to be married,” she told me. And she will be on September 28 next year at All Saint’s Church, Penshaw, when she weds Paul Robinson, who she has been with two years and is dad to their Heath, now three months old. The father of her first child, Zane, three, she was engaged to, but it didn’t work out and she left him. Victoria says: “It was a terrible relationship, so flawed. and I wouldn’t have been able to spend the rest of my life with him.”

Unlike Paul, a labourer, who she has known since secondary school. She had resigned herself to being a single parent until they met again and they decided to get engaged and have a baby.

Victoria explains she had always wanted marriage: “I wanted to marry somebody like my dad. He idolises my mam. Paul worships the ground I walk on. He would die for the kids and that’s what I want. It’s amazing. He’s one in a million.”

As for the future: “You get married and it’s for keeps,” says Victoria. “You don’t get married on a whim. Me having his child is the biggest committment I could give to him and for him marrying me is the biggest committment.” There are of course myriad of reasons why some forego marriage and put motherhood first.

It’s not always down to the expense – even if that’s the reason they give. Take Kirsty Wilson, 21, mother to Leona, two, who after two broken engagements to the father of her child, tells me Liam, 23, wants to marry her but, she says: “I don’t know if I will be marrying him.”

Will she or won’t she? That’s the cliff hanger in Kirsty’s life. She lives in her house in Best View, Shiney Row, while Liam lives in his. Why?

“I like my space. He comes every night to see Leona and then he will stop two nights and we are always talking on the phone.”

More than marriage to Liam after a miscarriage at 16, Kirsty wanted to be a mam. She has “Mam and Dad” tattooed on her shoulder and admits hers is a complicated relationship.

Single mother Danielle Widdowson, 23, who works part-time at a Sunderland doctor’s sugery, hadn’t planned to have a baby when Jake, now 20 months, came along.

She was with his dad for five-and-a-half years and left him when she was four months pregnant as they were rowing. He was going out with the lads, didn’t want her to go out and if she did would phone her to find out when she was coming home.

For all that would she consider marriage? “It all depends if Mr Right comes along,” she replies.

Marriage is much more than a bit of paper. Marriage may indeed make a couple stronger, but only if they are right for one another, otherwise it’s a write off.

Keep refurb of train station on track

IT’s like a scene from Dante’s inferno – Sunderland Station so disgusting and embarrassing that for so long this city has been cursed with yet more that is second rate.

Not before time that it is hopefully in-line for a £10million makeover. Let’s hope these plans stay on track.

What do those arriving from the splendour of King’s Cross think when they alight in Sunderland for the first time? What a dump.

And that’s before they set foot in the town centre.

First impressions count. So the sooner it’s knocked down the better.

This 46-year-old building is a disgrace as the main rail gateway to a city.

It’s drab and depressing. And the £7million spent by Nexus two years ago in the modernisation of platforms, used by more than two million Metro, Northern Rail and Grand Central intercity passengers a year, by no means brought it into the 21st century.

Will £10million bring the wow factor?

A report to the city council’s cabinet said the above-ground buildings and concourse, built in 1966, are of “a poor appearance” and do not present as an attractive introduction to the city for new visitors. It stated: “The station does not compare favourably with those in other cities of a similar size, and has lacked investment for many years.

“There is a strong case for the council to actively progress the redevelopment of the station as part of a comprehensive approach to the ongoing regeneration of the city centre.”

If we are lucky it will be 2014 before anything happens here. Just hoping it doesn’t get derailed and there’s money for major improvements under as well as above ground.

Don’t panic... but this is an urgent message

SOME of you have never have heard of them, but those of us who remember the radio SOS messages at the end of Radio 4’s news bulletin will recall how hearts stood still when the messages were broadcast on someone’s drama, and for a split second hoped it wasn’t ours.

“Would Mr and Mrs John Smith believed to be travelling around Cumbria in an Austin Maxi, please contact the hospital in Winchester where Mrs Ethel Smith is dangerously ill”.

A telephone number would be read out, and that was it.

I was reminded of all this recently by broadcaster Eddie Mair, writing in the Radio Times of how we were all left to wonder, while the pips played and the news began, whether Mr and Mrs Smith ever made it to that far-off bedside.

Would poor Ethel die alone? Perhaps she pulled through and would go on to die in a freak accident 40 years later, run over by a car driver distracted by an SOS message on the radio?

We were never told.

As Eddie said: “ SOS messages were the most intense, personal moments in broadcasting.

“ They used the power of radio and its ability to reach millions instantly to reach out to one or two individuals to tell them something that mattered only to them.

“But what happened to those people, we never knew.”

Which is why Eddie asked Radio Times readers for their experiences.

There was a big reaction and one from a Sunderland woman, Linda Miller.

And Linda, if you are listening, I would love to hear from you.

As a young girl I know you fell very ill and an appeal was made for your parents to return home.

It was 1958 and six-year-old Linda was staying with her aunt while her parents went off on holiday to London. Linda became very ill with what was initially suspected to be polio.

It turned out to be a bone infection. She was taken into hospital in Sunderland, while an SOS message was broadcast in the hope of finding her parents.

They never heard it. But thankfully a cyclist by the name of Mr Clampit did.

As unforgettable a name as the message.

He remembered the details of their number plate from the broadcast and tapped on the car window when he spotted the vehicle in a car park.

As a result, mam and dad made it to young Linda’s bedside.

After several months of treatment, she was released from hospital.

Where are you today Linda?

Apparently the SOS system dated back to the earliest days of the British Broadcasting Company in the 1920s.

While the initial broadcasts could include missing persons and pets, the system was honed to target only those who were dangerously ill.

Messages could be broadcast only once. No exceptions.

The BBC judged that it would be wrong to broadcast any follow-up to an SOS message, which is why we remained in the dark about what happened next.

Those who recall them may be pondering when you last heard an SOS message.

Not in the past decade, certainly, but exactly when we don’t know.

There is no certainty about when or why they stopped.

It’s a sign of the times that a combination of mobile phones and technology has overtaken the need for those chilling broadcasts which you too may have played a part in.

If so, do get in touch.

For all WAG wannabees

WEEK-LONG lessons on how to look like a WAG – is the latest college course for girls desperate to bag a footballer.

Wannabees will be taught the beauty tricks of Abbey Clancy, 26, and the fashion wiles of Victoria Beckham, 38, at West Cheshire College in Ellesmere Port.

Could this I wonder be the prelude to a MFB course – manager’s fancy bits?

I bet plenty women of a certain age would be flocking in their droves to bag a place.

The Axe: The Colling hit list

LET the axe fall on this rip-off.

Bottoms up at the Roker Hotel, as presumably, in other hostelries serving a pint of Coca Cola or Pepsi, means a glass filled with one third of ice. I understand everywhere bar staff who are trained by the two big-name brands are instructed in this technique when serving their products.

The trick is to say “No ice” and then ask for a separate glass with some cubes. Better still if it came ready chilled. That would be much cooler for the customer.