When I got pregnant, I knew very early on that my child was going to be raised in a single mother household. As most of you may know, statistics show that children raised by single mothers (rich or poor, educated or not) typically have lower grades and are at higher risk of becoming pregnant at an early age, doing drugs, and all of the other things we don’t want our children doing. And mom isn’t much better off either - the wage gap is even greater for single mothers than it is for married mothers, and much greater than it is for single women.
So in an effort to avoid becoming a self-fulfillng prophecy, I decided to deliberately avoid reading anything related to those statistics while I was pregnant and single. I had to, or I think I would have lost my mind.
However, while the personal part of me is a single mom, the professional part of me is a news producer – which makes it virtually impossible to avoid seeing headlines for extended periods of time (or even short periods of time). And its not just reading headlines – it’s hearing commentary and rhetoric around the label “single mother” that is both unavoidable and irritating. But there have been a couple headlines that I have come across recently that, well, really pissed me off.
New York Post: Finally! City To Tackle Un-Wed Mom Epidemic
Now before I get into the reasons why I find these headlines so upsetting, I want to get a few things straight. Do I think it that in most cases, it is preferable to raise children in a two-parent household? Yes. Actually, I think it would be even better to raise children in a four or six parent household.
Raising children is difficult; it truly takes a village, and doing what I do as a single mother every day can be really difficult. No amount of burying my head in the sand will change that fact. Which is why I have done and continue to do everything in my power to build upon my village (and thank those who help me out every chance I get) so that I can plug in the holes left by a missing father.
Oh wait – did we all forget how most moms (referenced in these articles) become single moms? Right, at one point there was a man…and then there wasn’t. But for some reason (which infuriates me), the headlines don’t typically frame the story that way.
And just because women are the ones who physically carry the child, doesn’t mean we are getting pregnant without the active participation of a male. (Yes, I know there are women that decide to deliberately have children on their own – but that is not what these articles or I am talking about.)
I can’t help but think that the way we frame single motherhood, while neglecting to mention the absent fathers, is one of the most extreme forms of gender discrimination that exists today. And because of it, not only is mom typically left to pick up the pieces of the broken home and figure out how to put a life together for herself and her child(ren), the pressure of that is compounded by the extremely negative connotation associated with being a single mother. And, in my opinion, that negativity can be as harmful as poverty and lack of resources.
And because the dialogue about single motherhood is framed in this way – single moms get hit with a triple whammy. Society hands them all of the blame for the situation their families are in, while they shoulder the responsibility of raising these children alone, and at the same time they are cited as a main reasons our society is going to hell in a hand-basket. But very few seem to be focused on the male’s role in all of this. And that needs to change.
Perhaps, if we shifted our focus and held men more accountable for their roles in creating these single mother households, then we would begin to be able to figure out how to prompt a positive change in society. Until then, we are just adding one more thing for the single mother to worry about – seeing herself unfairly demonized in another headline.
Now, I am not saying that women should be dismissed of the responsibility – what I am saying is – if we really want to change the statistics, we need to start talking to the party that is abandoning their responsibilities – not to the party that is doing everything in their power to live up to theirs.