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What do we mean when we say 'complex situations welcome'?


By petra - Posted on 27 August 2012

What do we mean when we say 'complex situations welcome' or “we specialize in working with families who live in 'complicated situations'”?

Most people who live in a 'complicated situation' know exactly how 'complex' things can get! And most people who don't, have absolutely no freaking clue. So here it is, the Young Parents Support Network perspective on what it means to have a complicated (or complex) life.

Let's start with poverty.

Some researchers in the United States did a big old study on poverty and they discovered that "poverty is often associated with family violence, chemical dependency, physical and sexual abuse, inadequate nutrition, and personal feelings of anger, despair, and alienation". Really? "Yes", they said, "these are some of the 'complications' of poverty."

But what does that mean exactly? Well, we know that it means that if you were raised in poverty, chances are your adult(s) were preoccupied with anger, despair and alienation, rather than providing a safe & nourishing environment for you. And even if you were their highest priority every day, the shittiness that is poverty was seeping in and fighting against their good intentions every day too. Not enough to eat or too much crap food; no money for counselling when you all were needing it; racism, maybe; unreliable housing; lack of information, family or resources to help turn turn a bad day, week, or month into something better. So if you were raised in poverty you started with a disadvantage. No news there.

Then you became a parent. Perhaps when you were still really a kid yourself. Truth is, most teen parents were raised in poverty. There are all kinds of reasons for that, and many of them good ones. And almost all young parents, unless they were raised in some kind of privelege and have family to support them (and sometimes even then) end up living in poverty. So, all the 'complications' of poverty have the opportunity to repeat in another generation.

And so what's the difference, really? Between raising kids in poverty and raising kids without the 'complexity' that poverty brings? Poor people know it, but in case you aren't one of them:

  • It's the difference between getting in your warm, dry car & taking your kids out for pizza when you've had a bad day & don't feel like cooking & doing dishes; compared with waiting at a bus stop in the rain to get to the grocery store & then home with your hungry, whining kids when you only have $19 including bus fare until the end of the month, & then the bus drives by without stopping because you have a stroller.

  • It's complaining because your mother buys your kids stuff they already have; compared with letting your mum stay on your couch & feeding her as well as your kids on that $19, because she bailed on detox again and has nowhere else to go.

  • It's having morning sickness so your husband has to pitch in more around the house; compared with being too stressed about not being able to pay your rent & feed your kids to get prenatal care.

  • It's getting 1/2 of everything plus child support when you leave your cheating husband; compared with still having sex with your abusive boyfriend so he'll still buy your kids groceries (the sex trade is alive & well!)

  • And then repeat, all day, every day, for years, and you start to have some 'complexity'.

So what do we do about it?

First thing to know is that in our experience, young parents who live in poverty (that's who we serve!) are some of the most hard-working, determined, amazing people we have ever met and that's why we do what we do.

Second thing is that most young parents are capable of exceeding everyone's expectations (including their own) if they get the support they need when they need it. That's the reason Young Parents Support Network exists on this planet, to be that resource.

Third thing is, and this is going to get theoretical so bear with me, things can become less complex & they can even become less complicated. What's the difference? Michael Quinn Patton says "a situation is complicated when there is either a high degree of uncertainty or a high degree of disagreement. If there is both high uncertainty and high disagreement... we have moved into the arena of complexity". Okay, we don't really even need to make a distinction between what's complicated & what's complex, what is useful about this is that according to this theory, the two things that create complexity are uncertainty & disagreement.

Hmmm, so therefore if we can reduce uncertainty (by, say, having a plan) and disagreement (by finding ways to live in community with each other & ways to help each other be the best we each can be) then we can reduce the complexity.

So what do we mean by "complex situations welcome" or “we specialize in working with families who live in 'complicated situations'”?

We mean that if your boyfriend is in jail, or you have so much anxiety that you can't leave the house, or you think you are pregnant but other things are at the top of your list right now, or you have three kids but they are all in foster care but you would like to get regular visits with them, or you live on reserve and you are coming to Victoria to have your baby, we'd love to hear from you. And we'd love to hear from you even if things aren't so complex, but maybe just complicated, like maybe you don't know what your going do with your life or you are feeling isolated. We offer Pre & Post Natal support and Family Support on an outreach basis. That means we come to you. Wherever you are. At the whale wall, Timmy's, or your place. Or ours. We have great coffee. And a free store.

Your 'complex situation' is welcome here!