A word from a single parent – we have no choice!
With the COVID-19 pandemic approaching its peak the government is steadily increasing lockdowns further each day to help stop the spread. As a result, Australian single mums have unwittingly become a target for abuse in supermarkets.
Many Aussie single mums are struggling to keep their kitchen pantry stocked with essentials during the Coronavirus outbreak. They are on a tight budget which demands living day-to-day, and doesn’t allow for stock-piling.
This means frequent trips to the supermarket in an attempt to obtain scarce food staples at the current time – and incurring extra travel costs each day to do so.
Basics such as mince, sausages, pasta, rice and toilet paper are often limited or not available at all, with bare shelves greeting shoppers on every visit, day after day.
Now there is an extra supermarket problem for single mums to deal with – shopper abuse
As part of COVID-19 social isolation measures, Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently stated that children should be either at school or at home . Many Australians believe this implies that children should not be out at all – including the one trip most single mums can’t avoid – food shopping.
In Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, IGA and even Kmart, many single mums are experiencing having to contend with dirty looks and even open abuse whilst they shop with their children – simply because they have no alternative but to bring their kids with them.
Australian schools are shut due to COVID-19
Compounding the problem, many childcare centres and schools have already closed, or are enforcing pupil-free days up until the school holidays.
The government directive on children staying at home has many Australian single mums asking – what are we supposed to do with our children when we are supermarket shopping and have no child minding options?
It seems the Australian government has not considered, or even acknowledged that not all Australian parents have a partner, family or fellow household member to mind their children whilst they shop.
Supermarket home delivery is currently suspended or restricted
The possible solution of Supermarket home delivery and Click and Collect services have also been suspended from general use, and are now only available to the disabled, elderly or self isolated during the COVID19 Pandemic period.
Woolworths Priority Assistance home delivery
Several single mums have reported success with being accepted for Woolworths Priority Assistance home delivery service – apply here
**UPDATE 29 MARCH 2020 – Since publishing our article Woolworths have change their terminology of this service and removed the words “pension card”. We still encourage you to apply in the hopes that commonsense and compassion will prevail with Woolworths**
Single parents under pressure
The removal of normal child minding outlets and supports, plus supermarket pick up services and home delivery options are all contributing towards the increasing pressure on Aussie single parents to take their children with them to do the essential family food shopping.
However thanks to public perception and fear of abuse, some single mums are being intimidated out of food shopping altogether, whilst others feel they are being forced to endanger their children in order to buy the food required to feed them.
Leaving a child in the car or home alone is against the law
Leaving kids outside in the car, or at home alone is child neglect. In states such as Queensland, leaving a child under the age of 12 at home alone is a crime.
However some single mums are now resorting to leaving their kids in the car or home alone in an attempt to keep their kids safe whilst getting the essential food to feed them.
Smart phone face-timing with children left at home
Other single parents are face-timing with young children left at home alone whilst they are at the supermarket, in an attempt to keep an eye on them from afar.
Older siblings caring for younger children
Many single mums are leaving their younger kids in the care of older siblings – some of which are not old enough to be at home alone themselves.
Supermarket shoppers can be hostile to single parents
The parents who do take their kids to the supermarket with them risk having to run a gauntlet of angry shoppers, mistakenly believing that they are deliberately and irresponsibly putting fellow shoppers at risk by bringing their children with them as a choice, and not a necessity.
This single mum fear and frustration is spilling out in our Facebook Australian Single Mum Support Group.
Here is one single mum post that struck a chord with so many of our Australian single mum members
“FOR THE LADY WHO ABUSED ME THIS MORNING at Woolworths in Kippa – Ring (QLD) and was wearing a Blue Care uniform:
(in regards to the priority hour shopping)
1. It just isnt for elderly people – it is also for disabled / vulnerable people
2. You yourself did not look to be over 60yrs of age
3. I actually qualify for online priority delivery but couldnt get what I needed online so had no choice but to go out into public to get it
4. I hold a disability concession card and was entitled to be in woolies before 8am this morning
5. I am immune compromised AND severe asthmatic – as is my 2year old
6. I had children with me because I am a SINGLE PARENT NO SUPPORT – and it is ILLEGAL to leave children under the age of 12 home alone in QLD. (Also cannot leave them home alone due to a stalking abusive ex / domestic violence situation).
7. It is actually none of your business what I am or am not entitled to – and your opinion does NOT matter
8. I had been trying for 4 weeks to get essentials to feed my children with no luck – we have gone without milk, bread etc. I WILL NOT LET MY CHILDREN STARVE because people like you make me feel sh*t for going out and trying to get supplies that we are entitled to.
9. It is rude people like you making this pandemic hell with your selfishness and lack of compassion for others
PLEASE BE KIND AND COMPASSIONATE – NOT ALL DISABILITIES ARE VISIBLE – THE MAJORITY OF US ARE VULNERABLE AND GOING WITHOUT FOOD ETC TO FEED OUR CHILDREN – SO INSTEAD OF BEING SELFISH – TRY USING YOUR BRAIN AND MINDING YOUR OWN BUSINESS.”
By Anonymous – a single mum, and member of the Australian Single Mum Support Facebook Group.
(The author of this post has chosen to suppress her name on our website, but is a current member of our single mum group, and has approved our publishing her post)
Single parents have the right to shop in the Supermarket with their children
If you have no adult-supervised childcare options available to you, and no grocery home delivery options, DO shop with your children – there is no law against it and leaving kids alone in the car or at home is illegal and dangerous.
How to shop with your children during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Firstly, keep up to date with the daily news and social distancing recommendations.
Before your shopping trip, explain social distancing to children old enough to understand. Teach your child that from the moment you leave the house until you return, the family must stay closely together as a group.
Give babies and toddlers something from home to occupy their hands and distract them from picking up items in the supermarket.
Before leaving the house, ensure that everyone goes to the toilet (to avoid using public toilets) and washes their hands with soap and water.
Apply hand sanitiser to everyone if you have some. Take along hand wipes, or a damp face washer in a zip-lock bag. If you have medical face masks and disposable gloves, you may also wish to use these as a further measure.
Whilst you are out, closely supervise your children at all times. When in the supermarket, don’t let your children leave your side and do not leave your children alone with the trolley whilst you retrieve items.
Be sure you observe all recommended public hygiene and social distancing instructions for the current restrictions in place, and for the store you are in. These are changing rapidly, so be flexible. Supermarkets will guide you via staff and signs.
Standard social distancing measurements are currently maintaining one and a half metres – or one supermarket trolley distance- between you and other shoppers or staff – and this goes for both you and your children.
Upon leaving, hand out wet wipes for hands, or use your damp face washer. Pay special attention to babies and toddlers hands after you’ve wiped your own.
When you have returned home, get everyone to thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water again.
Continue to wash your hands after handling any packaged goods from your shopping trip– some current recommendations include removing packets and discarding the boxes. The surface life of coronavirus on objects is a contentious issue of somewhere between five hours and three days.
Don’t leave your child alone to food shop
It is your right to obtain food to feed your family with your children present. If you encounter abuse, and feel unsafe report it to supermarket staff immediately.
Singlemum.com.au believes the Australian government should raise awareness publicly that there are situations where children accompanying parents or guardians on essential outings may be necessary, and is acceptable.
Single mums should not have to feel intimidated by engaging in essential family outings such as food shopping at this already stressful time.
Single Mum staff writer
Have you experienced supermarket abuse as a single parent? Or perhaps just been made to feel uncomfortable? Comment your thoughts down below…