This has been cross-posted at Hoyden About Town.
I was so frustrated by this discussion that I ended up writing a whole post instead of a comment in response and it has taken me a while to finish so, you know, it’s totally out of date now anyway and better off as a separate post. Here’s how the post I’m responding to went: the discussion was about the terms we use to describe the father of our child when we’re not in a relationship with the father, and particularly the terms to use when you have children with different fathers. ‘My first ex’ or ‘his father but not hers’ might not quite cover it and ‘baby daddy’ was the proposed hip alternative. I don’t much like ‘baby daddy’ but then I’m not hip anymore and I am, so far, partnered (for many years, but not married) to the father of my child, so, whatever. Of course, some smug married guy had to come along (pretty quickly) to make judgemental comments about single mothers because we all know that single mothers are just women who’ve cottoned on to the amazing gravy train that is having babies for profit when their ‘casual sex luck’ ran out, whereas single fathers are either non-existent or heroic.
Some sensible things were said in response but there was a tendency to defend single mothers from smug attacks by essentially saying to smug married people – well dontcha know nobody is perfect and haven’t you made mistakes before, to which particularly smug married people will inevitably say, no actually, I don’t make mistakes, I’m married remember.
Being a single parent is not about whether you make mistakes or not! Everyone makes mistakes but that is beside the point. So here are 10 things that need to be said to smug married people who are down on single mothers.
- Not that it should matter to you smug married guy, but most single parents were partnered actually when their children were conceived and born. The vast majority of single parents are divorced or seperated. (See also here).
- Most children in the world, whether born to single or partnered parents were conceived unintentionally actually, which doesn’t mean that children are mistakes, just that they happen, and some children were conceived really easily. Even in hospitals in the developed world a third of babies born there will be nominated by their parents as unplanned pregnancies. (Single mothers are probably more honest than partnered mothers about whether their pregnancies were intended or not).
- Unlike lots of other minority groups smug people like to tread on, single parents are one group you could very well enter yourself one day, even if you don’t currently have children.
- Don’t be smug about lifetime relationships because a lifetime is a long time. Sorry to say this but your partner could die, or fall out of love with you, or have an affair causing you to fall out of love with them… or lose their job and get a gambling addiction and fall into depression and debt, and you can’t stand it and the effect it is having on your kids so you leave them, or… you know, just one day your marital partner decides that they find your smugness unattractive.
- Single mothers are not lazy or stupid or uninspired about life, and they’re not all living in poverty either, although being with one income means they are almost always more vulnerable. Single mothers, like partnered mothers are often studying and working, but single parents are often doing it tougher – earning less and owning less. In fact, lone parents (who are women in the vast majority) are more likely than partnered parents to be undertaking study. And… the proportion of lone parents in the labour force increases with the age of the youngest child in the family, as is the case for partnered mothers. Incidentally, when single parents get jobs they have more stable jobs than other groups of people who have experienced unemployment, and this is even though they tend to get jobs with less flexibility and less paid parental leave than the jobs of partnered mothers. (How very unfair).
- Single mothers are not living high on the hog from money they receive in child support or maintenance payments. In fact, in 2003-04, more than half (51%) of one-parent families reported that they did not receive any current weekly income from child support or maintenance payments and a further 12% received less than $10. Around 16% of lone parents received payments of $100 per week or more.
- Single parent families often do it tough financially and are consequently vulnerable. Close to half of lone parents with children under 15 years (46%) reported that their household could not raise $2000 in a week for something important, compared with 13% of couples with children under 15 years. And think about it smug married person, where would you be next year if your partner vanished from your life today? How would you go affording the basics, and the extras, and also saving for the emergencies?
- Just over half of all single mothers are raising one child.. (maybe less children than you, smug married guy) and single mothers are not walking around bewildered about the parentage of a collection of children, saying “who my baby daddy, where my baby daddy at?”. (Ugh, that quote was vile).
- Step-families are on the rise, which means that often times single mothers become partnered mothers again. Smug married guy, be careful who you spout off your ideas to because the married mother or father you’re talking to might once have been a single parent.
- Some single parents conceived their child/ren as single people. Some of these people were on flights of fancy, full of youthful zest, some of them even willfully planned it that way, and some of them thought why the hell not – I’m up for this when it happened unintentionally. And you know what, smug married guy? Risk-taking, a sense of adventure, being open to life’s opportunities, optimism, a willingness to be spontaneous and daring, those traits are just as valuable as being cautious and restrained.
Basically, single mothers are a lot like you – looking after their kids and trying to do the best they can by them – only a lot less smug.