Single Mother Stigma

This evening as I scrolled mindlessly through my personal Facebook account I read a post by a fellow single parent I know. She was tired from working full time and raising her kiddies, and obviously something had triggered her. So she posted about it. A blurty, raw post seemingly born from frustration and anger towards the three fathers of her children who, according to her, had all abandoned their responsibility and in turn left her at the helm of a boat. With a crew of one. That’ll be her, then, Captain.
img_7277At a moment when she was clearly needing to vent and, in turn, looking for her network to scoop her up in the comforting hold of kind words (presumably to make herself feel a little less alone) someone made the following blinder of a comment: “3 dads…you probably need to take a look at yourself”.

Wow. Mind blown. Mind still blown. Mind still blowing hard.

The particularly delightful member of the male species who gifted that insightful comment (more of an insight into him tbh, than her, but that wisdom would be lost on him, I would imagine) then felt the need to impart some unsolicited wisdom her way. Something along the lines of learning from her mistakes. Unbelievable. What a prize bell end.
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That got me thinking: when exactly did having kids become a societal judgement of failure? Oh, yeah, that’s right, when you’re a single mum. And heaven forbid you may have an additional kid, or two, and become single again. Your off-spring then equate to an unwritten list of doomed relationships. A tally chart of ‘wrong’uns’ but with the assumption that the woman has somehow invited this on herself. Maternal slut shaming, if you will. A judgement. A lesson to be learnt about choosing ‘better’ next time. And let’s not pretend society doesn’t judge the single mum with children to more than one father…Ulrika Jonsson, anyone? Otherwise delightfully referred to in the media as ‘4 by 4’. Hmmm. Sadly, Mr Bell End of Facebook showed that a decade or so later not much has changed in the attitudes of some people. Sadly.

There’s also assumptions made about single mums with mixed race children and I imagine this is compounded further for those mums who may have multiple children of differing ethnicities from each other (it was no accident that EastEnders cast ‘gobby’, single mum, Bianca, with her ‘brood’ of mixed race and white children). I have one child and she is mixed race (black/white). I’m white and so we are already visually different as we are ethnically diverse. Tick number one for being considered ‘different’ in a society in which the 2.4 white, middle class family is the default. The normal. Still.

Tick number two goes to the particular ethnic mix we are. In our case being white and black. Heck, there is a good reason why Harry Enfield scripted Wayne and Waynetta Slob to adopt a “braaaahn baby” so they would be like “every other mum on the estate”:  it’s called ‘stereotype’. And it sucks. Being a single mother is challenging enough without ‘jokes’ being made about birthing the ‘United Nations’ should you dare have children ethnically diverse from each other. I mean, how very bloody rude of you, Bianca, to be so brazen as to show ‘in living colour’ that your children’s fathers don’t match. We can’t gloss over that now as that’s very much in our faces. How very dare you! Slag.

That is the reality of societal judgement on us single mums. Not dads particularly. Mainly mums. And just because people may not overtly be rude, let’s not assume it does not happen. Even in the lesser form of inferences, it does happen and it’s harmful.  Society doesn’t value us much in the first place. Let alone us evidencing that not only have we become single mums once but – heaven forbid – we’ve only gone and bloody done it again. And possibly again. And maybe even again after that (alright Ulrika, babe? We stand beside you).

Depressing much??

Well no, it would seem there is room to go with some people! This particular dude – who is nothing if not all heart – then posted a link to a You Tube video about single mums. And like an idiot, I clicked on it. And then, like an even bigger idiot, I read the comments (I’ve included a few of the comments below. Scroll past if you do not wish to read them) . Oh Jesus wept. Honestly it was like a million Donald Trumps on their period. With women issues. And just a smudging of hatred towards the single mum in particular. And feminism. Obvs. Fuuuuuuuxxxxxxking hell. So, there we have it. I witnessed a whole new depth of hatred towards us reading that. Fabulous. Just what my self-esteem needed.

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Now I accept that the video was made by some extreme right wing dude. So he’s naturally going to attract those people with a mind so narrow only their penis would squeeze in. But it was depressing all the same. The crux of it though was that they were not actually bemoaning the ‘stereotype’ of the single mum. What?? Really?? But people in comment sections love to slag off the lazy, benefit-claiming single mum with her #councilhousegoals, don’t they? Nah, not this time. This particular video was actually slamming an article written by a woman who celebrated being a proud, successful single mum, and who was basically told by this man to shut the fxxk up (he’s seeming more the catch by the minute!).

Honestly, we can’t bloody win! When the stats – such as that of a 2018 study released by UK-based, single-parent charity, Gingerbread – mention that nearly half of single parents in the UK live in poverty, you would think we were being held accountable for the global financial crisis upon making an application for Universal Credit. Or responsible somehow for that hole in the ozone. Or those riots in the UK (c’mon, you know that inference was made and that’s me being kind ‘cos actually I’m pretty sure the connection to single motherhood was pretty overt actually). But heaven forbid we make a success of our lives and suddenly we must be neglectful parents or single handedly bringing about the end of the institution that is marriage. Which will, of course, now prompt Armageddon and the end of the world. Obvs.

Whilst I can brush off the majority of what this man bleated on about as the ramblings of the malcontent (because let’s face it, happy people don’t hate) I can’t say that the collective stereotyping by the media, society etc. doesn’t somehow become internalised. On some level. I can’t deny that the stigma hasn’t somehow shaped me and some of the decisions I’ve made over the years, because it has. And it’s an uncomfortable fit at times. It’s why Emily Morris, who I follow on Instagram, wrote in an article on this very subject that when her bump appeared she walked around feeling as if her shame were now strapped to her front. Interestingly, she talks about how she herself became her harshest judge and that is something I strongly identify with. I am certain that I became my own worst critic in part due to an innate desire to avoid fulfilling the role of ‘stereotype’ even if that meant sacrificing a whole heap of stuff that I likely never would have done if I was in the old 2.4 set up. That sucks.

I think this is probably true for a lot of single mums. The key thing is, that whilst the experience may shape us, we shouldn’t let it define us. Irrespective of what Mr Knob Jockey of Facebook, or Mr Right Wanker Wing YouTuber, say, or think, or feel. That’s their bag, and their negativity to carry. We are not bringing down the institution of bloody marriage. We are merely an alternative. Different, but of no more or less value. Some of us are here by choice and some of us have been royally fxxked over. And the rest are somewhere in between. We have individual journeys and experiences and our children shouldn’t be viewed as tangible evidence of where such experiences may not have ‘worked out’. They don’t need the emotional burden of being a statistic in waiting. They just need to be children. And we just need to be parents. And so I will be proud, Mr Dick Splat of Facebook  that I am a single parent because my child is something to be celebrated. She is not a mistake. Or a failing on my part. And it’s not for people like me – single mums – to change how we are viewed by the masses but for them to catch up with what we already know: that we are parents, first and foremost, doing the absolute best for our children. And doing it well.

So peace out super woman. And screw you, Man of Facebook, you absolute, blistering twat.

img_6018SoM xx

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