According to a recent Pew Research Center Poll, 69% of Americans “disapprove” of single mothers, believing that women raising children outside of a traditional marriage are not only bad for the kids but for society at large.
I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s something that is thrown at me, a single mother, quite often.
Take my post last week on Chick-Fil-A and Equality. Many of the nastiest emails I received about the post focused not on marriage equality but on my claiming my single motherhood was an anomaly in my neighborhood. I was told I was not “living right,” that I should be deeply concerned about the welfare of my son. I was told that I was a “drain on John Q. Taxpayer.” That of course I couldn’t see value in traditional marriage when I had so ridiculously rejected my own.
The assumption, time and time again, is that single mothers don’t make a living wage, that their children are neglected and struggling. That single mothers are bad parents and a detriment to society at large.
This kind of thinking is not limited to just polls or Internet trolls, of course. Earlier this year, the great state of Wisconsin proposed a bill that would link single parenthood with child abuse. While the bill was politically correct in talking about “single parents”–Moms felt the sting worst here. Which makes sense, as more often than not, Mom generally bears the brunt of responsibility when it comes to raising the kids after a divorce.
So what is it that is so threatening about the idea of a single mother? Why does it raise such ire?
Emma Johnson, a financial journalist, single Mom and founder of the new blog Wealthy Single Mommy, says that she thinks part of this idea comes from the fact we generally equate “single Mom” with “welfare Mom.”
It’s an easy thing to do. But it’s a mistake.
“I see this as a very exciting time for women, moms and single moms to build careers and lives that are fulfilling and lucrative and that incorporate family life in a meaningful way,” she told me. “But we never get that message. It’s always about struggle and failure and messed up kids.” That was one of the reasons she decided to start her blog. She is working hard to build a “wealthy” life for her family. And she defines “wealthy” as something beyond just the financials–she wants her kids to feel happy, full, and, yes, rich in love, too.
I have to say, most of the other single Moms I know (who, for the record, are single for all kinds of different reasons) are working hard to do the same. Successfully, too, I might add.
“I am not the “typical” single mother, but then there is no typical single mother any more than there is a typical mother. It is, in fact, our fantasies and crude stereotypes of this “typical single mother” that get in the way of a more rational, open-minded understanding of the variety and richness of different kinds of families.”
I agree with her wholeheartedly. There is no “typical” mother, single or married. We are all doing the best we can, regardless of our marital status, to raise happy, healthy kids. Single mother does not equal “welfare mother,” any more than married mother equals “stay at home mother” or “mother without other issues that may impede her abilities to parent.” And it’s high time we got rid of this stereotype. Hell, it’s time we got rid of all these Mommy stereotypes altogether.
(And as an aside, I abhor that so much of this is about the Moms. Most single Moms did not get to that state all on their own–why aren’t single fathers facing the same kind of scrutiny?)
I understand that, as a country, we are facing many challenges, both socially and economically. And, of course, we all want the best for our children. But in the end, as a single Mom who can more than provide for her child financially and emotionally, I don’t understand why just the moniker “single Mom” should result in both my family and my opinions being vilified.
Ultimately, having both the experience of raising a child in and outside of a marriage, I have a unique point of view which makes me champion Roiphe’s take on the matter:
“If you think that being married ensures a good life for your children you need only enter a bookstore and open any novel, or go to the theater and watch practically any play, or have dinner with nearly anyone you know. Suffering is everywhere, and married parents, even happily married parents, raise screwed-up or alcoholic or lost children, just as single parents raise strong, healthy ones. What matters most, it should go without saying, is the kind of parent you are, not whom you sleep with, and even that matters only up to a point.”
What do you think?