I have a lot of experience with financially insecure families, which are often headed by single moms. These women carry all of the financial, parenting and housekeeping responsibilities. Most of these women never expected to be raising kids on their own. The majority of single moms were married or in a committed relationship when they had children, despite the prevailing myth that most of the children being raised in single-parent families were born outside of marriage to parents who chose to raise children alone. Single moms strive every day to hold their little corner of the world together. I admire them. I was them.
They try their best to be good moms, to keep the home neat, to coordinate the activities of all family members, to be hardworking employees, and sometimes, to get good grades in their college courses. They seldom take adequate care of their own emotional and health needs because, well, who has the time?
And society treats them like shit, blaming them for choices often made when they were teenagers. I mean, teenagers are impulsive and crazy! The whole point of being an adolescent is to learn how to make good decisions for yourself, usually by making a whole lot of bad decisions first. I know I’d hate being judged as an adult for the choices I made when I was 18, but that is what we often do to single mothers. And we don’t just blame them, we kind of approve of their having to work so hard to feed their kids and keep a roof over their heads, seeing it as the consequence of their poor choices, and thus, deserved.
Of course, our society treats women in general, and mothers in particular as inferior, inadequate and emotionally unstable. See if this rings true; it’s part of comedian Michelle Wolf’s take on how mothers are treated in our society.
My friends tell me, Michelle, you can have it all!
Yeah, stop saying that!
All is not good, and even if we do try to have it all, even if a woman out there definitely wants it all, we put too many obstacles in your way to make it possible.
It’s like, oh, congratulations, you’re having a baby? Great, but hey–a couple things–we’re going to need you to get that car accident of a body back to work as soon as possible, because this is America, and we don’t think you need time to recover.
Also, you should breastfeed, because it’s best for the baby, but don’t do it in public, you pig. Do it in the janitor’s closet, next to the brooms with the rest of the breast-feeding trolls. And don’t have to take time off work when your kids are sick, we’ll think you’re not dedicated. Although, why are you such a bad mom, not staying home when your kids need you? By the way, your salary is just enough to cover the cost of child care.
And we know you’re exhausted and don’t really know who you are any more, and you’re trying to balance your old life and your new life, but quick, go and catch your husband! He’s about to leave! He doesn’t understand what you’re going through! Quick! Go now!
And sweetie, SMILE!
I am sick to death of the way society abuses single moms. We are treated as though we should never have to ask for help. We are shamed into believing that if we can’t buy our kids all the crap in the world, are late with the rent sometimes, can’t afford medical insurance and dental care, and don’t have a good-paying job that gives us all kinds of time off, so we can always be there for our children, then it is our fault. Too many of us believe and accept this shaming.
Well, stop it! Stop it right now! The whole point of society, of community, is to take care of each other, and if there is inadequate support for single-parent families, which constitute 26% of all families in America, then your society is failing you, not the other way around. And women have babies, damn it. This is not 1900. Let’s all get over it! And anyway, sometimes it wasn’t our choice to become pregnant; and yes, we have babies we didn’t plan (please don’t get me started on the availability of family planning services for lower-income women). According to a recent government study, nearly 40% of all babies born in the U.S., whether in or out of marriage, are unplanned.
Listen up single moms: You do not deserve the criticism, the disdain, and the status assigned to you by a judgmental, hypocritical society. So I want you to GET UP OFF YOUR KNEES, hold your head high, and the next time someone tries to shame you for being a single mom, rediscover what your middle finger is for! Right now, you are carrying a burden that would daunt most others. Believe that, today, you are enough! No apology or explanation required.