October

Why does being a single mum have such a stigma?

One of the toughest day of my life was when I became a single mum.  I felt scared, overwhelmed, heartbroken and thought I would be judged for something that I had no control over.  It is important to clarify that on this post I am expressing my personal feelings and experiences as a single mother to a daughter, I am sure it is really different being a single mum to a son.

Over the years being a single mum has become normal and something that I cherish.  It wasn’t always the case, like many before me I never thought or planned that I would be raising my daughter alone.  My daughter was only 18 months when my long-term relationship ended, therefore she doesn’t have any memories of us as a unit, for a long time this made me feel very sad and often I wish she’d experience having a father like I did when I was growing up……

When my daughter first became aware of two parent family units she started to ask questions and felt very sad, it was extremely difficult to deal with her questions and sadness.  Having your three-year-old asking why doesn’t she have a dad and telling you she wants one whilst crying, breaks your heart, I couldn’t help but feel like I was already failing as a mother. Looking back, putting up a front and pretending to be strong really helped me be there for my daughter, I believe that eventually this made her feel that is ok to just be the two of us.

My “fake it till you make it” approach was a life saver for me!  I gradually started to believe that I could raise my daughter like no one else could, I also started to become the best version of me. I’m not sure at what point my mentality started to change but I started to transform my life, make plans and my confidence grew which enabled me to become a better person and mum.  Over the years my daughter’s questions have disappeared, I’m not sure if it is because she has now accepted that we are twosome and feels secure in our setting.

The one thing that I feel has never gone away is people’s perceptions and questions, on occasions I do get comments such as “it must be so tough being a single mum” or “are you coping ok?”.  Recently whilst discussing weekend activities with someone at the gym, I mentioned my daughter- the disbelief on their faces was enough for me to know a comment was coming but I didn’t anticipate the “wow did you start when you were 14” remark (maybe I looked like a young mum to him!).  I just don’t understand why people don’t think before they speak as negative remarks can really impact someone’s morale.  I find such comments upsetting and belittling but I often wonder if I’m being paranoid.

my face when asked silly questions 🙂

I often wonder if where people’s perceptions of single parents come from and statically the odds seem to be against us there are “1.69 million lone mothers with dependent children in the UK” and although 68% of single parents are in work (both male and female) it is believed that single parents are twice as likely to live in poverty and have troublesome children.  That’s not all, people like William Bennett and Charles Murray whom on their book claimed that “single motherhood is harmful” and media articles from papers such as the Daily Mail who often demonise single mothers (parents) puts an unfair stigma on single mothers [parents].

Sure, some of these reports do describe some of the realities that single mothers face for example- higher likelihood of living in poverty because we only have one income and socially there isn’t a framework which supports single parents.  For example, childcare is difficult for all working parents but from a single mum perspective it can make or break your career opportunities.  I remember when my daughter first started school and she’ll used to have a cold all the time and I would have to be off work, I was lucky that I had a boss that was understanding, I often hear of employers who are not supportive.

Single parents face continuous employment challenges such as companies/bosses which are not child friendly, child-care cost and let’s not forget the pressure schools put on us to be perfect.  Let me elaborate on my last comment- when my daughter first started school I made so many mistakes one of them being forgetting to put her knickers on and just putting her tights on (she had spare set of clothes at school), forgetting to pack her PE kit on the right day, forgetting to pack her homework, needless to say the reaction I got from the teacher and TA were enough to make me question my parenting skills for a long time but luckily our children get older and more independent.

I propose that instead of judging single mothers and asking awkward questions people be a more supportive, specially those people whose voices can influence either governments and organisations.  We should all campaign for a better framework, decent wages and work development…. all of which will enable single parents (and everyone) to thrive, become better role models and positively influence our children’s life.

As parents, we have such a tough job, we are in charge of the future of our children, we all have a difficult job and different challenges to face.

The top five challenges I face are:

  1. I am obsessed with having a good child therefore I expect a lot from my daughter.
  2. I am bad cop and good cop
  3. My opinion is the only one that matters
  4. I expect too much of myself
  5. Dating

The top five positives:

  1. Indescribable bond
  2. Maturity
  3. Routine
  4. Team work
  5. Awareness
    • Next parenting blog post I will elaborate on my challenges, how I deal with them and I will explain my positives.

Over the years motherhood has become inspiring and being a single working mum is something that I am proud of.  My daughter motivates and she challenges me every day, as individuals we are on a life journey where mistakes are acceptable and it’s not until recently that I have realised that as a single mother mistakes are also acceptable and I am probably judging myself way more than other people are and besides I don’t understand why I cared so much about peoples opinion.

SO, as a single mum for over seven years- I want to tell you that being a single mummy is tough but being a parent is tough! I’m sure some remarks will always be there but I have learnt to embrace them because I know that my daughter has a mum that loves her, educates her and is giving her the tools for a fair start in life.  For me as a mum she has given the drive and confidence I didn’t have in my youth.

Sources:

https://gingerbread.org.uk/content/365/Statistics

https://www.statista.com/statistics/280535/weekly-cost-of-a-first-child-in-the-uk-by-couple-and-lone-parent/

http://prospect.org/article/consequences-single-motherhood

 

Julie

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