Being a single mom is one of the hardest things I've ever done. Not only did I have to do everything on my own, but I had to do it while people constantly judged me. I mean, people said the rudest things to my face. Folks told me I was completely screwing up my kids, and a landlord told me they didn't want to rent to a single mom because "I deserved to struggle." I know I'm not the only mother to endure such vile treatment, so I asked other single moms to share the rude comments they received as a single parent and, well, it's clear that society still have some work to do when it comes to how it views and treats single moms.
Most of the moms I spoke with heard rude comments about leaving their partners (even when it was the right thing to do), having to take time off from work when they didn't have child care, and even having the audacity to take time away from their kids to do something for themselves. Often the comments would just imply that something must wrong with them if they couldn't "keep a man." According to United States Census Bureau, 23 percent of American children live at home with a single mother. So why are we still treated like social pariahs? It is the year 2017, right?
To make matters worse, it seems like other people think they know how hard it is to be a single mom. Many of the single moms I spoke with were frustrated by the fact that married or partnered moms would claim to understand their struggles, all because their husband or partner went away for a weekend or a work trip. While that's hard, too, it's not the same. Like, at all.
Hearing their stories was kind of reassuring, but I must admit that it kind of made me lose a little faith in humanity. Being a parent is hard enough without having to face constant judgment, and single moms deserve way more than what society often dishes out. You can't fix what you don't know is broken, though, which is why I think it's important that we all listen to single mothers when they share their stories. Listen, reflect, then do better.
"I had my first child when I was quite young. Birth control failed me. I was in high school, had a job, lived on my own, but I had my own mother try to convince me to give [my daughter] up for adoption when she was nearly 2-years-old. She said I was clearly not cut out for being a mother, and others would have more time for her. It crushed me. It still crushes me. I've also had people assume she's my little sister, saying, 'What a nice big sister you are, to take her to dance class.' Even when I respond, 'Oh, no, I'm her mom, I pay for the classes,' I hear, ''A good big sister, indeed!'
'No... I said... never mind.'"
"When mildly venting (meaning casually mentioning) that it's hard to raise my kids without any family living nearby to help, I was told that leaving their dad was my choice, and so was being alone. I've been told by a family member that they feel sorry for my kids because I don't do enough for them, even though this person only sees us a few times a year. I was also told that I'm selfish for playing roller derby because the kids are with a babysitter a few nights per week."
"From a random lady at Target: 'All little girls need a daddy. Shame on you for not giving her that.' My husband had died when I was five months pregnant."
"I was regularly told I'd never find someone willing to take on another man's child or love my child the same as their other future children. Where I am from, women with children are definitely treated as though they lack quality or value. It was seen as though if I ever had another partner, they would be a martyr or a hero among men and deserve accolades for lowering the bar to date a single mother.
There were also a lot of gold digging comments about how that must be what I was looking for specifically or how I'd 'better snatch me a rich one' to take care of us, even though I was independently successful and had no need for financial partnership."
"I was 18 and pregnant. The cashier — a middle aged woman — at the dollar store told me, 'I haven't had sex in two years. If I can wait two years, you can wait, too.' I wanted to respond, 'Gee, thanks for the great advice, considering I'm just about to pop.'"
"Things about child support he pays and whether I am really spending it all on her. You know, because I get my hair done every two months. My child is well taken care of, and I splurge on her far more than I ever do for myself. I actually haven't spent a penny of child support, yet."
"It's more insulting to me, because I'm a widow, but people asking if I'm worried about my son not having a strong male influence."
"I hate when people say, 'Oh, my partner is gone on a work trip for a week, so I totally get it. It's so hard to be a single mom!' No. No you do not. You do not get it in the least. Until you are managing all the duties of a household, both physically and emotionally, and also paying for everything in your household, for months and years at a time, nope. You don't get it. Did your kid cry tonight because they missed their other parent? Mine do. But you got to say, 'Daddy will be back soon.' I get to say, 'Sorry about the fact that you'll never have us live together again, and you'll always be missing one of us, no matter who you're with.' Nope. Not the same."
"He was a good dad? Then you should stay together."
"I hope you're with one of the fathers."
"When I got pregnant with my second kid, the father broke up with me before I even finished telling him I was pregnant. A few months later, one of his awful friends actually said to me that I was having a 'keep-a-[man] baby.'"
"People: 'Why isn't he around?'
Me: 'He's in prison.'
And then immediate judgement of me, based on his charges even though he is the only guilty party. We may have been married, but his actions were his own."
"A co-worker asked me to come in on the weekend and help with a training. I said I couldn't because I didn't have child care. She responded, 'All of us have things we'd rather be doing. Just because you are a single mom doesn't mean you should get special treatment. You can't play the single mom card at work.' I had no idea what to say."
"I recently moved. The state has refused our family Medicaid coverage, because I don't know who my child's father is. They sent me a questionnaire with all sorts of invasive questions about my sex life, and when I couldn't fill it out the phone calls started. My daughter turns 5 in December and there has never been a father involved. I can get a passport, no questions asked, and take her out of the country, but the state of Utah doesn't want to accept that I can't tell them who the father is. Bottom line is money, of course, because if someone else could pay for her care then the government doesn't have to do it."