In this blog I wanted to talk a little about the many misconceptions out there on single/lone parenting. The truth is we don’t live in the dark ages anymore and families come in all shapes and sizes – every woman (and man) has their own experience of single parenthood and this should be embraced and celebrated. So my question is why can’t we start bucking these old stereotypes?
So let’s get the statistics out of the way. Single parent families make up around a quarter of families with children in the UK. They are largely women in their 30s. Single parent families tend to be smaller than couple families with children – most have just one or two children. So in summary I fit nicely into this single parent stereotype.
It amazes me how we’re in the year 2019 and single/lone parents are still often misunderstood and face so many obstacles. Many of those obstacles are no different to those obstacles faced by couple families but statistics paint a very one-sided, numbers only view of women who for one reason or another are raising their children on their own. Here are some of the misconceptions out there that I want to challenge/ address:
Single mums are under prepared
Being unprepared for single-motherhood does not mean you’re failing at life. Nor does it does not mean you will leach off the welfare system.
Single mums are raising criminals
This is a perfect example of a larger problem being blamed on women. There are so many factors at play- access to good schools, household income, drug abuse, sexual abuse. To rest the entirety of the country’s crime on the shoulders of single mothers is spineless and completely incorrect. Crime is almost exclusively linked to poverty, not household structure.
Single mums are all on benefits
It’s easy to create an imagine of thirsty, goalless women, all living off benefits and doing anything to avoid a hard day’s work. If you have never had to stand in line, in a crowded waiting from of the job centre/benefits office, you shouldn’t be able to comment on the process. Let’s try to understand that for the majority of people, it’s something they will only do when they are completely and utterly choiceless. Let’s also try to remember that living on benefits is barely enough to sustain life. Most single parents are out at work, holding down a career and the fort and struggling through as best they can.
Single mums are loose women
This my favourite one. Whether is’t tongue in-cheek sarcasm or a rant about how single mums are ruining an entire generation of men, the bottom line is that single mums are apparently having too much sex. We ended up in an unplanned pregnancies because we weren’t thinking ahead, didn’t care about the consequences, and just wanted to get laid, or worse trap a man. Regardless of the reason for wanting to have sex, until further notice let’s consider this: The act requires two willing parties of the opposite sex to create a baby. There are real and valid reasons why some men are absent from their children’s lives. However, the main culprit for single mothers is not sex — it’s missing fathers. Somehow, the men seem to be left out of these conversations most of the time. It’s women who are the sex-crazed, baby-hungry offenders, absent fathers are just a byproduct.
Single mums need to get it together
The world seems to forget that it is possible to have a family and then, because life is a journey, also lose a spouse or partner. It’s possible to be a woman who has chosen to have children without partners. A single mother is not an accident. She’s a woman who chose to keep her child despite other options. She may be struggling to get from day to day. But she is not simply a societal mishap.
Coupled parents have it just as hard as single parents
With respect this is completely untrue. To claim that it’s just as hard to raise a child in a couple than it is to raise a child alone is ludicrous. I am not denying that no one has it easy, and everyone’s circumstances are different. You may have a partner who works long hours, or works away during the week, but the fundamental difference is there’s two of you raising that child/ those children together. You have someone to make decisions with, you have someone to tag team with, you often have two incomes, you share household chores and discipline, you a have another person in the picture that has equal responsibility for that child. Single/lone parents don’t have that other person who is fully obligated.
Whether it’s getting a helping hand from the government, a boss who offers flexible working hours, or a family friend/neighbour willing to watch your child while you run errands, what single mothers really need is support. What is at play in single-mother homes is not a failure in parenting, but a failure in society to better support families of all shapes and sizes. Keeping up with your children’s education, balancing a tight budget, pleasing employers and providing disciplined structure at home is no easy task when going it alone.
Never mind self-care, mental health, rest, and proper nutrition so you can also thrive and be active for your children and yourself. Things absolutely slip through the cracks at times, whether you are a single parent or a partnered parent (I’ve recently had a harsh lesson when it comes to this). The world doesn’t slow down or ease up for single-parent households. Being a single mother in this country often feels like missing a tyre and still being expected to win the race.
So, in summary, what I want more than anything is for us as a society to talk less about how single mothers are raising their children badly, and talk more about how society can raise up single mums.
If you’re a single parent family I would recommend visiting Gingerbread website – it’s a charity dedicated to single parents and offers a wide range of resources, tips and advice.