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by Kate Shannon
09 May 2018
Happy and safe?

Family: Picture credit - Fotolia

Happy and safe?

One of the most annoying things to be told when you’re a new mum is to enjoy every minute because time goes so quickly.

Generally, you’re surviving in a sleep-deprived, milk-sodden zombie state of terror, desperately trying to learn how to care for a tiny baby and the idea you are meant to be enjoying it is laughable.

However, as we celebrate our Holyrood baby’s second birthday, I can’t help but think it’s true.

My own daughter is just six months older than Kirsty so I’ve felt real worry and a palpable sense of concern about our fictional toddler’s welfare.

The idea of a little one growing up at the same time as my child but having such different life chances is terrifying.

All anyone wants is the best for their children and Caley, Kirsty’s mum, will be no different. For me, the only questions that matter are about my daughter. We ask: ‘Is she happy? Is she safe?’ and if the answer to both questions is ‘yes’, then everything is OK. 

But Kirsty isn’t necessarily going to be happy or safe, and it’s not because she isn’t cared for or loved, but because she was born into poverty. 

Kirsty will die earlier than her more privileged peers, she will most probably have a low income and suffer health problems all her life. She is unlikely to do well at school and faces a real struggle to make ends meets. Her mum is more likely to be isolated and to have mental health issues. 

And none of these problems are going away. Politicians have often claimed that Scotland is the best place in the world to grow up, but for Kirsty, this won’t necessarily be the case. 

I read recently someone describing having kids as having your heart outside your body, and while it sounds a bit mushy, I honestly can’t think of another way to describe it.

These little people appear in your life, turn everything upside down and become the centre of your world.

The picture-perfect Instagram world of parenting that some like to portray on social media is rarely true and there are times when even if you are living a privileged life, being a mum is so tough that you’re forced to retreat into the bathroom for five minutes peace. How much worse must this be if you are living in poverty?

And yet, while no one expects to be in calm waters all their life and having children is no exception, for every difficult moment there are several of pure joy.

To celebrate Kirsty’s second birthday, we asked a number of MSPs what their advice would be for her mum. Most said that she should hang on in there and be confident she’s doing a good job.

I completely agree and she’s most likely doing her best to ensure her daughter is as happy, loved and safe as possible.

However, until we tackle the root causes of poverty in Scotland and help to raise children like Kirsty out of deprivation, sadly, it won’t be enough.

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