According to data released recently by the national center for health statistics there has been a jump in out of wedlock births of more than 25% from five years ago. Many of the unwed mothers do have either romantic or live-in relationships for with the biological father. Are mothers only “truly single” when, as Paula England, Stanford University sociology professor says, “the fathers “high tail it out of the picture?” England found that 80% of the birth fathers stuck around. What then defines a “single mother?”
According to Single Parenting Expert, Bette Freedson, a single mother is typically a woman parenting without the biological father in residence. Divorce, death, abandonment and a choice to parent alone make the single mother category clear, but in certain circumstances the single mom identity may be defined by holding the fort when bio-dad is unavailable because of illness, emotional unavailability or geographic distance, such as deployment. Many virtual “single mothers” have boyfriends or live-in partners, yet continue to have pressures similar to “truly” single mothers who are fully on their own without a Dad or his equivalent.
For example, the woman whose husband, or out-of -wedlock co-parent, is serving a tour of duty in Iraq is mothering by herself. If a woman gives birth out of wedlock but does not live with the father; if a woman co-parents reasonably well with the biological ex. (a good thing!) if a woman has a romantic alignment with the bio dad, but he lives separately; if the dad is starting a business in another state, then the kids are usually hers to plan for the daily running around. If she does their shopping, plans their meals, runs their social calendars, organizes their day care and play dates; if they are all hers at night when they are upset, sick, or struggling with homework, that woman qualifies for single mother, if not saint, status!
Because of their circumstances, many single mothers face financial stress, but it is a fallacy that all single mothers are poor and problematic. Single motherhood cuts across class, race and economic lines. Freedson herself brought up two daughters successfully as a single mother, and has interviewed many single mothers from diverse socio-cultural and economic circumstances. Unfortunately for many years single motherhood has been unfairly stigmatized by existing cultural norms. Only recently have these old myths and distorted beliefs about single moms begun to fall away. As these misperceptions have receded, single mothers have been able to emerge from the shadows and be seen as contributing members of society from all races, religions, ethnicities and all walks of life.
Sadlythere has been a recent negative focus on single mothers as the result of a popular book that attributes societies ills to single mothers. Reality is quite opposite. It is often the marginalization of single mothers in society, as well as their difficulties accessing housing, medical and mental health services, financial stability, and childcare that lead to problems. Single motherhood may be entwined with identified social issues, but the single moms did not cause them. Often, they are the victims of them instead.
Despite the many hurdles to overcome, an a single mother raise emotionally and psychologically healthy children? The simple answer is a resounding Yes! There are many success stories from all areas of life demonstrating that single mothers are raising healthy and contributing young people, even supreme court justices and presidents.
That being said. bringing up children alone is not an easy job. There are risks when the moms are over worked and over stressed. In many cases they do not have the financial, physical or emotional supports they need to deal with financial vulnerability, and the 24/7 workload. Freedson believes society has a responsibility to create programs and resources that support these hardworking women. Doing so will require a paradigm shift in our culture. Now that single mothers are “out,” we must stop defining their families as “broken.” Seeing families this way leads to the erroneous assumptions the women and their children are “broken” too. A family headed by a single mother is a real and intact family unit.
It is essential that society shift away from this type of “blaming the victim,” attitude, and help single moms succeed in their vital and important roles. Single mothers must not to be marginalized, stigmatized, or isolated. They need to be respected for the heroines they are. These women are doing an amazing job of keeping families together, often in the face of great odds. Often these moms are too stretched to able to attend the self-help programs they so badly need. Single mothers do it all, and need programs that offer support and help. Single mothers need access to grants, scholarships and childcare so they can work or go back to school. Single moms need to be recognized as contributing members of communities and societies. We can best help these strong and courageous mothers–and grandmothers–by viewing them as worthy of our respect. When we respect them, we respect ourselves. Recognition of the tireless efforts of single mothers will drive attitudes and policies that will build greater foundations of hope and success for single mothers and their children.