Single Mothers: The Scourge of Society?
On The Wright Stuff the other morning they were discussing Ian Duncan-Smith’s latest plan, to cap Child Benefit for people who have more than two children. A lady called in saying that “single mothers are the biggest problem, they have as many children as they like, nobody caps their benefit.” The presenter asked her, why pick on single mums when their Child Benefit is not going to be making a big difference to them, and she responded “that’s not the only benefit they get, is it… they get plenty of other benefits, and they can get anything they need as single parents.”
One of the panellists, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, replied,
“I hope you’re never reduced to the point where you are a single parent, because then you’ll know… I was one, once, and I find it quite offensive that you’re talking in this voice about people who never asked for it, most of them.”
The woman responded that yes, most of them are asking for it, they go out and deliberately have children and live off the state.
Obviously this woman is bonkers and talking from her behind, but she represents what a lot of people think when they see “single mother.”
I was talking to a friend earlier this week, who was telling me about a couple she knew. The boyfriend had a son with an ex partner, who he used to have on weekends, but would usually just drop off at his parents’ house until it was time to take him back to his mother. He no longer sees this child, and doesn’t seem bothered by it. He has a new partner now and they have a daughter together who seems to get about the same amount of attention from her father as her half brother. Both parents seem more interested in going out getting drunk or stoned, and the daughter is palmed off on whichever friends or relatives will have her. And yet, to a large portion of society, a couple with a young child looks better on paper than me, a single mother with a baby.
I am lucky enough to still look fairly young, and when I walk around with S in the pushchair I am sometimes aware that people are giving me that look, that I’m one of those mothers, a pramfaced teenager who’s had a child to avoid work and live off their taxes for the rest of my days. Especially when they see me walking back towards this particular estate, which has always had a bad reputation. They don’t see that my child is clean, well dressed, happy, developing well despite having been born early, and most importantly, safe whilst being cared for by a single mother, in a council flat, receiving benefits. They don’t see that I spend 24 hours a day with her, that she is never left to cry, my money goes on buying things for her or making the house nice so that she has somewhere homely to grow up. They don’t see me spending whole afternoons sitting on my living room floor playing daft games and pulling faces, giving myself a headache from shaking my head so much because I know it makes her laugh. They see the label, they judge, and they carry on with their days.
Why do people have this opinion of single mothers?
Is it really the case that single mothers are any less capable, any more feckless, than a couple who are having children and not bothering to raise them properly? Surely the problem lies with the parent, not the situation, or how many parents are there (or not there) doing a good or bad job? Surely if a woman is a single mother, for whatever reason, we should want our taxes to go toward ensuring she is able to afford to bring her child up well, with clothes on its back and food in its belly?
I am a firm believer that all mothers should have the choice as to whether they go back to work. In my lifetime we seem to have gone from women having to leave their job and never go back if they had a child, to women getting 6 months off and then having to go back to their job, whether they want to or not. Can we not have anything between these two states? If, as a single mother, I choose not to go back to work, am I a scourge on society and a sad indictment of the way the world is going, where my married friends who have not gone back to work are wholesome stay-at-home mums raising well-rounded, happy children behind their white picket fence?
Incidentally, the panellist from the show, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, is my new role model and hero. She responded to that caller with “I am a tax payer, and I don’t mind my taxes going to the poor. I mind them going to the rich.”
I don't really know much about the benefit system so it isn't something I want to comment on, other than to say your points are very persuasive, but I just wanted to say this is a really well written post, I especially like the third paragraph and the image it conjures up of you playing with S.
Well done and thanks for writing this. So well written, Vicky. Thanks for sharing. It's high time society started to hold the other parent accountable instead of blaming the ones who are actually being responsible and looking after the children to the best of their ability. <br /><br /> I'm proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself. We are double parents, not single parents - we
I also do not know much about the benefit system, but as a single mother (for more than 20 years) with a special needs child, I can say that I have often felt as if I had some sort of stamp on my forehead, more so when DC was younger than now. Vickie recently posted...We sure do have some stories, don’t we?
Thank you for this. I was lucky that my employer provided six months of paid leave after my daughter was born. It is a tragedy that all mothers, especially single ones, don't have the same benefit. I feel for moms who want to stay home, but are forced to go straight back to work, leaving a newborn in the care of someone else. I'm not sure if I technically "count" as a single mom; I split custody with my daughter's father. It took a long time stop caring about who was judging me. As a divorced woman who sacrificed seeing half of my daughter's childhood so that she could grow up with her (wonderful...just not for me) father around, it seemed that I had been cast into the very bottom of the parenting barrel. Moms who were doing it all alone thought I had it too easy, and married moms were horrified that I had left a marriage with a young child. I recently remarried after 5 years of single parenthood. After years of feeling like I had the same stamp on my forehead that another reply mentioned, having a ring on my finger magically gave me my credibility back. The moms at my daughter's conservative private school started talking to me again, and when we are all together strangers assume that our child isn't growing up in two different households. The notion that single mothers are any less capable (when perhaps their job is even harder) is ridiculous. Megan Premo recently posted...Ladies: Please Stop Pretending That You Like Camping
Thanks for this Megan, I can't believe the reaction of the mums at the school, that's awful. I think we're all very quick to judge without necessarily thinking about what might have been best for the child. The idea that you should stay in an unhappy marriage just for the sake of your child is reminiscent of the 1960s - and anyone who grew up in a home like that will tell you they would have welcomed a divorce!
HI again! There are so many stigmas against single parents and I've come up against so many of them - but still I persevere. I also wanted to turn you onto a powerful book called Mummy's Still Here -- the sequel to the saga about a mother who loses her son to the person who her son accused of sexual abuse. Intense stuff! It's on Amazon -- http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mummys-Still-Here-Jeanne-DOlivier/dp/1514190729/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433420257&sr=8-1&keywords=mummys+still+here Thanks for your inspiration and I look forward to more posts from you! Nico recently posted...No Hay Lugar Como Hogar
Great post Vicky. I've many single mother friends who contribute much more to society than many "couples I know" Yes there are some deadbeats out that. But let's not tarnish all of them with the same brush. Alan Herbert recently posted...Being a Chosen One