Tue, May 08, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Group focuses on moms

EXHAUSTING ROLE A survey by the Children's Welfare League Foundation found 25 percent of middle class mothers are depressed, with some considering suicide

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Be they too old, ragged or big, a single mother of two who identified herself only by her surname Chen never throws out second-hand clothes given to her for her boys.

She needs all she can get to keep her family afloat.

"I don't want my children to become a burden on society," she said, fighting back tears at yesterday's press conference, which was held by the Children's Welfare League Foundation to focus on the hardships mothers face.

Chen, 50, recounted her woes and heartache in raising two adolescent boys on her own for reporters and foundation members.

One of her boys is deaf and the other quick to scuffle at school, she said.

Chen has battled depression and won, she said, while her children have turned a corner at school thanks to help from the foundation.

"As long as I can stand up for myself, I will fight," Chen said.

A non-profit organization dedicated to improving children's welfare, the foundation is trying to focus greater attention on mothers such as Chen ahead of Mother's Day.

A survey conducted by the foundation shows that mothers nationwide -- and not just those who struggle financially -- are demoralized or depressed in a society whose demands on them are often overwhelming.

"On this holiday [Mother's Day], children seek out ways to thank their mothers for all their hard work. But do you really understand just how tough mothers in Taiwan have it in this day and age?" a foundation press release asks.

According to 1,492 questionnaires filled out by mothers in 25 cities and counties, the answer is that most of them have it pretty tough.

The foundation's survey, conducted from March to last month, shows that 25 percent of middle-class mothers nationwide are "often depressed," with another 7 percent having at one time considered committing suicide.

Their emotional battles, foundation director Alicia Wang (王育敏) said, stem from society's demands that they not only rear a family but also earn a salary.

Such pressures have led to a quarter of middle-class mothers viewing themselves as "bad mothers," too often exhausted by work to invest adequate emotional and physical energy into motherhood, Wang said.

Nearly 60 percent of mothers are "overloaded," the survey shows, defining the term as "needing emotional support and help with household chores."

"One might expect fathers' roles to become more progressive as time goes on," Wang said.

"Unfortunately, husbands and fathers are helping out less and less with household chores and parental duties, our survey finds," she said.

In low-income families, mothers find their situation even bleaker -- in a separate survey of the 254 "high-risk" families that the foundation helps, a third of the mothers were found to be suicidal, and they are among the 75 percent of such families whose expenses often exceed their incomes.

Most high-risk families are led by a single parent, Wang said.

The pressure of holding down a job and caring for a family have led to about 70 percent of such mothers becoming "severely overloaded," which the foundation defines as "needing social intervention."

Chen, however, is pulling back from an emotional and financial meltdown step by step. She volunteers at a local school, reading and studying along with her boys to help them with their schoolwork while accepting social services.

"Financially, I'm poor," she said. "Spiritually, though, I'm rich."

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