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'Fallen woman' and other single mother stigmatisms

(91 Posts)
SnoopyLovesYou Sun 05-May-13 13:58:43

Hi everyone I'm new on here. I know I shouldn't care less what idiots think but now that I'm single and happen to also be a mother, I haven't been able to help but notice just how stigmatised the role of 'single mother' is. I'm having a little difficulty with it. I know it's just blatant sexism and all and that I can't change how society is but loaded questions like 'You're a single mum aren't you?' (which felt in the context more like I was being asked if I spend all my day on the sofa, shouting at my kids and eating crisps in front of Jeremy Kyle- in which case I'm definitely NOT a m'single mum!) and automatically being thought of as inferior because of this DRIVES ME BATTY!
Anybody have a similar experience?

SnoopyLovesYou Mon 06-May-13 20:59:26

I kind of like 'scarlet woman' as its just asking for jokes galore... I read The Scarlet Letter in school.

As for fallen women I like that less- yeah we've fallen. That's right fallen in love in my case. But we can get back up again once we've finally got rid of the assholes!

xTillyx Tue 07-May-13 23:42:29

I'm 25 but look a lot younger, been a single parent from day one. I remember being at the job centre once,and the guy was nice but going through qualifications etc,he said to me something like "you've got qualifications, why did you have a baby so young?" ( I was actually 20 so hardly shocking)

Felt like saying well I didn't expect my partner to die on me and make me another hopeless mum on your list, sorry!

I didn't though, just smiled and told him to check my records smile

SnoopyLovesYou Wed 08-May-13 09:36:11

So amazingly rude & unprofessional of him to pass remark on your personal choices Tilly!

Seth Wed 08-May-13 10:20:28

I can't believe some of the comments some people have had the cheek to come out with! I do think it is partly geographical as it doesn't seem to be thought of as a big deal where I am ( South East London) . Dd has 6 girls in her class who live with only one parent and the single parents seem to be treated the same as the married ones as far as I can see..though I note that the single parents all work almost full time and there are lots of SAHMs amongst the married ones so stick that up your wotsit Daily Mail!

What I would say though is that..

I do think how you take the comments depends on your frame of mind ( apart from the really ridiculous ones) . 'It's amazing how you cope with 2 under 5 and work full time ' -I take that as a compliment as what they are saying is 'I think it's amazing and I couldn't do it' ( although of course they would if they had to-it just looks very scary from we here they are sitting) The 'you have done an amazing job with the kids' - I think 'thanks-yes I have.. It's been a shit 3 years and thankfully they seem very happy, healthy and unscathed' . I did used to take offence to these comments but now I can see so many positives about my situation that I take them as compliments.

I would also say that I have never got the sense that people try and keep me away from their husbands or assume I'm going to steal them.

What I would say is that I have without doubt been excluded from cosy Saturday night dinner parties and family Sundays together. What I do tend to do is invite friends to stay for the weekend , with or without kids depending if mine are around and we have a great weekend or night together and they love escaping from their husbands so we all win.

I like lots on I suspect have toughened up over the last few years and simply don't care what people think anymore in a way that I did when I was in my 'comfortable , happy marriage' (!) and it's so liberating . Took me a while to get there mind.

xTillyx Wed 08-May-13 10:44:09

I know, it was so rude and I felt like I was back at school or something!

Seth I think you have a good attitude. I used to over think comments from people or take offence. Never had any problems at DD's school,its a city school so there's a mixture of families.

xTillyx Wed 08-May-13 10:46:45

I know, it was so rude and I felt like I was back at school or something!

Seth I think you have a good attitude. I used to over think comments from people or take offence. Never had any problems at DD's school,its a city school so there's a mixture of families.

Wallison Wed 08-May-13 11:04:51

I think what gets me even more than the outright prejudice are all the questions that people who barely know me ask. Like, "Does he see/support his son?" etc. I would never dream of quizzing someone I don't know very well on the state of their marriage, whether their husband does his share of housework or is an engaged father and so on, partly because these are personal matters and partly because to be honest I'm not that much interested. But people seem very interested in me and the minutiae of mine and my ex's lives!

xTillyx Wed 08-May-13 11:25:27

So rude when people quiz you. None of their business! I don't mind people asking me questions about partner dying as it is out the ordinary but it annoys me when people say "were you together at the time" or "were you together long?" Because I feel like does it matter, a person has died and a child is left without a father. Maybe they ask because I have stopped saying "my boyfriend" and say "X's Dad" when referring to him.

Also at the time because he was my 'boyfriend' and not married, I felt I wasn't treated the same as a widow. Was told by a professional when feeling suicidal that I will move on with life and in a couple of years be fine. I asked him how he would feel if it happened to him and he said its different because its his wife and they've been together a long time!

Reading this back, I think I just have bad luck and seem to be given twats to deal

Wallison Wed 08-May-13 12:10:09

Yes, maybe that is why they ask but they are still being bloody nosey. Tbh part of the reason I find those questions difficult to deal with is because they make me feel like such a stupid cow for loving and having a child with someone who turned his back on us - it's a hurtful and demoralising thing which shouldn't be the subject of playground pick-up chat!

I am appalled at the attitude of that professional towards you - there are no rules for grief.

SnoopyLovesYou Wed 08-May-13 15:22:29

Yes that's right Tilly. 'Were you together long????' The response should have been 'So sorry to hear that. That's dreadful. Poor you.' Full stop. End of story. Respect.

The comments from that professional must have been so hurtful! Sometimes married people make me sick. They think they're superior. They're just as likely to have an 'unsuccessful' relationship (for whatever reason) as anyone else. Why the hierarchy?

SnoopyLovesYou Wed 08-May-13 15:24:46

Wallison you make a very good point about the nosey questions.

When telling people about my break up for the first time, people OFTEN ask 'does he see them much?' To which I often reply with a kind of half response. I would of course like to tell them not to be so intrusive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SnoopyLovesYou Wed 08-May-13 15:30:27

(Sorry had to get that out. Feel better now.)

equinox Sat 11-May-13 13:09:59

Well I have been raising my 8 year old son alone since he was 5 months and I have lived both London and up in the East Midlands.

Social stigma is everywhere and people's hang ups will always be there if you ask me. Not nice feeling part of a minority.

I have occasionally encountered people, usually the odd bitter male, who has presumed I had actually planned and engineered the whole thing about becoming a single parent!

Also for some reason the smug wives feel we must be terribly lonely and also that we can't keep a man whereas that simply isn't true I actually threw my ex out when he became rather abusive.

So yes there will always be theories about us I am afraid and opinions also and then there is the theory that we must be somewhat lacking in qualifications too and/or living in a council house, not that there is anything wrong per se with living in a council property I have no hang up myself but luckily I am a home owner.

Oh well that's people for you!!

SnoopyLovesYou Sat 11-May-13 13:47:21

You are right. It is all about social stigma. I am very well educated and possess lots of qualities not 'typical' haha of single mothers. Yawn! It's the same with black people where I live. I have some African friends here but they are otherwise very isolated. I know that people presume that they are an uneducated family and stupid because they come from Africa. I know this because of the shocked look on people's faces when they hear a little bit more about who they actually are. Some people just can't get past the colour of their skin, are probably frightened of them being 'different' and will just make idiotic judgements based on no fact whatsoever. It's the same with the single mother thing. Ah well- I think I'm slowly getting over it ;-D Ignorant people are just ignorant people. There's no changing them and I can't change the world

Scrazy Sat 11-May-13 14:02:39

I brought DD up alone from day 1. She is 18 now and I can honestly say I didn't encounter much negativity. I was in my early 30's and a home owner and I worked, so most people knew this, friends, work colleagues etc.

One or two strangers might have assumed I was in a council flat and not working but most strangers I met were on holiday abroad or whilst I was out on my own for the night, so I cannot remember anyone making assumptions to any extent.

The only thing I remember being slightly embarrassed about was that people assumed there was a divorce and there was but not with the father of my child and I had to explain that I was aware that I would be a single mum from conception.

BranchingOut Sat 11-May-13 14:11:07

I think that any parent should remember that they may effectively become single at any time, whether that is through a relationship breakdown, death or serious illness of their partner.

Those who can live in blissful ignorance of this should be a bit more sensitive.

I am married btw, but my relationship has been going through difficulties and single parenthood is one picture of how my life might turn out.

DoingItForMyself Sat 11-May-13 14:22:41

I separated from sybxh a year ago and have never had any negativity from anyone about it. If anything, I get a lot of people who seem envious of my single life, that I get nights on my own, I have a new DP who is super sexy and my 3 DCs are all happy and well adjusted. My married friends have all been really supportive and make sure that I'm never left out (although the offers to babysit rarely coincide with the days I actually need them!)

I would say that it is mainly in your head OP, or perhaps it is an attitude of older people (I generally only encounter other people with school age DCs so perhaps its more commonly accepted at our age?)

SnoopyLovesYou Sun 12-May-13 15:47:09

'Doing it for myself' listen... You can just f%&! right off

All in my head????? Is that what you think?????

Well done on your new partner but really I don't need a man to define myself. I am well aware that single mothers are 'redeemed' by society when they find a 'decent man.' Nice that you have good support and unjudgemental friends. Some of us don't.

Just don't be so rude.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Sun 12-May-13 16:10:32

I think people like to have a little story in their head so they 'get it', something I understand but also find bloody annoying and rude!

I find people want to know WHY I'm a single mum, which is actually hugely intrusive and inappropriate alot of the time, but it's like their need to 'get it' over rides social sensitivity.

I think it's about the need to decode 'friend or foe', and think of it in terms of archetypes... The idea that everyone can be seen as one or more universal archetypes which make it easy for social interactions and stories to be created ie the innocent, the sage, the king/queen, the lover, the jester, the actor, the 'Everyman/ everywoman', the hero, the villian, etc.

My attitude has become 'give them what they need and move on' as i can't stand the questioning and faffing. Doesn't mean to say I like it (or them) though! By giving them a quick and easy way to understand 'who' I am I am stopping them from giving me their own label... Hate labels but think its a strong motivation for all the rudeness so if I can't bear them I might as well join them!

I am a disabled single working mother... My husband left me and our newborn baby when I became ill, we d been married 9 years so no I could not have predicted it. I now have carers to help me and yes, me & Ds are better off this way. Yes life is bloody hard. Thank you and go away!

I particularly hate the 'how long were you married question, like I'm absolved of any guilt she to length of marriage, & people are visibly surprised that it wasn't a shorter time!

So I guess I am embracing the idea of being a survivor in the face of adversity... With h painted as the evil villian. The trith is of course more complicated than that, but is essentially true & makes me socially understandable & unthreatening... Not a scarlet woman or the irresponsible flyby night (although they both sound more fun tbh!).

It's sad that I'd rather be labelled than stand up to it, but I find the questioning and assumptions really upsetting. Wish I was strong enough to not do this!

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Sun 12-May-13 16:16:29

I live in west London and have never net another single mum here! It's all smug married and I don't get invited to any evening or weekend things. I am also too ill so I don't feel the lack of it so much but if I ever get better it will hurt. Can't wait til Ds goes to school as I'm sure there are other single mums lurking around somewhere!

I have had people say 'oh your Ds is a really bad sleeper because he must be so upset that you & h are splitting up'... Errr, so the silent reflux had nothing to do with it then???? And the same with clinginess / slow to speak etc.

Blatant rudeness and blaming... My Ds is now a highly eloquent, polite and gorgeous 3 yr old and they can all f off as far as concerned!

SnoopyLovesYou Sun 12-May-13 18:46:33

Thanks for posting 'DoubleLife.'
Your post made for some very interesting reading indeed!!!! You are absolutely right!!!! I think that maybe my problems come from the fact that I have been very secretive about the whole break up to a LOT of ppl. I reckon I just thought it was none of anyone's business!!! Was kind of my way of shutting off and grieving the loss of the family unit. It was me who wanted to separate due to certain behaviours of my ex and I'm quite a strong person now but I did suffer emotional abuse when living w my ex and one threat of violence and I bet ppl have cast ME as the 'bad villain' as I know my ex has been doing the whole 'poor victim' act and telling a lot of lies. I suppose it isn't helping my reputation that I haven't been standing up for myself very well I just hate these situations!

SnoopyLovesYou Sun 12-May-13 18:52:42

Ps. Yeah but if you're painting yourself as the 'survivor in face of adversity' do you not get a load of 'pitying' faces from ppl? I get some of those- I just want to tell them to take their charity somewhere else! ;-)

peachypips Sun 12-May-13 18:59:44

I am not a lone parent but I do think lone parents are stigmatised. I also think they are not always catered for.
I was thinking about this yesterday as my husband works away a lot and it always makes me aware of people who have no OH all the time.
I was at a small theme park thing with my kids on my own and DS1 wanted to go on a paddle boat. He was too short to go on his own, but they wouldn't allow me to go in a three with DS1 and 2. Therefore, we couldn't go on.
This made me think that a line parent wouldn't ever be able to go on!

Fairygen Sun 12-May-13 19:34:49

Woman walks away and leaves man to raise children- he's a saint
Man walks away and leaves woman to raise children- she's a tart, slapper, bad parent, scrounger, looked down on, stigmatised, alienated etc

Something not right there!!

SnoopyLovesYou Sun 12-May-13 20:00:11

You're right there fairygen but that's also one of the stereotypes- he MUST have left her. Poor thing and now she's a mess and can't cope. Then when as in my case I start looking better, happier and LESS of a mess people can't compute that. I think it makes them uncomfortable in their own relationships but also means they're uncomfortable around me and I become isolated at a time when I don't need to be.

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