Hello. This blog is dormant, but today I am resurrecting it because it is International Women’s Day and I tried to tweet about what I want to say but 140 characters just wasn’t enough.
We still have a problem with the phrases “single mum” and “single mothers” because they still come loaded with negative connotations.
When was the last time you saw a crime headline telling you what an absent father had done wrong? You know, Absent Dad Commits Benefit Fraud or Absent Dad Assaulted Someone, that sort of thing.
Hang on, is ‘absent dad’ even a phrase that’s in our vocabulary? I mean, are there websites telling us that horny absent dads are desperate for no-strings sex? Because there are ones that say that about single mums.
I’m not talking about the dads who desperately want to see and love their children (and this is the bit I couldn’t fit on Twitter), because I know there are many like that. I’m talking about the ones who act irresponsibly and then act even more irresponsibly and are total cowards and just do a runner. Because there are also lots like that.
What those absent dads leave behind is a single mum and all she can do is her very best. In most cases, she goes out to work, juggling shifts with parenting and having to miss stuff like school plays and sports day. She teaches her child(ren) about the world, the bad stuff as well as the good stuff, and helps them navigate it. She cleans up sick, removes nits, scrubs dog shit from between the ridges of tiny shoes. She hosts birthday parties with scores of screaming, sugar-high, snotty kids. She finds herself surrounded by married, wealthy women who say things like, “my hubby’s away until Monday – I’m a single parent all weekend!” She buys birthday presents, she often gets very little sleep, she helps with bloody difficult homework. She sticks surreal paintings and achievement certificates and reminders about milk money to the fridge door. And at the end of every tiring day, there is no one to talk to about how hard / magnificent / both it was.
Of course, there are single dads, but the nature of the beast means they’re rarer, and society (and the right-wing press) has them down as heroes. I mean, they are, obviously, but no more so than the women. Oh but hang on – a woman’s job is to change nappies and clean up bodily fluids, so hurray for the blokes who’ve got a strong enough stomach to do that!
Single mums are still vilified, objectified and worse. This government charges them to try to get the maintenance they need to feed their family and then takes a cut, when in many cases, the mums would much rather they could have an amicable arrangement with the father and that he’d actually want to meet his child. Single mums are often single mums because someone legged it, but if the father in the scenario chooses to be absent, he’s invisible, which is very convenient.
On International Women’s Day, remember that single mums aren’t criminals, benefits sponges or horny sex objects looking for no-strings fun. They’re cracking on with a difficult job and doing their very best. Single mums are selfless, loving and badass.