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Single fathers and single mothers - viewed differently by the majority of people?

(27 Posts)
CatAssTrophy Thu 30-Jan-14 14:11:17

This might be in the wrong place. Apologies if that's the case.

My granny (early 80s) phoned me last night. We got talking about a new neighbour of hers who has just moved into their village.

He is a single parent with his children living with him. One is 16, the other is 12 and the youngest is 5. Apparently the mother just left and went off with another man.

My gran was going on and on about how much she and her other neighbours admire him. What an amazing man taking on sole responsibilty of his children. Giving up his big 'city' career to be a full time father (i also hate that phrase; aren't all parents still parents full time?), and how they've been taking things like casseroles and dinners round for him.

My cousin - who also lives in the same village as my gran - is a single parent to her 7-year-old. My gran is constantly moaning about her to me. "When is she going to get a job?" "She's just wasting her life." "When is she going to settle down and get a nice boyfriend?"

It's not just my gran, either. I see it a lot. In my experience - although limited - single men with residency of their children are treated far more sympathetically than single women in the same position.

"Single mums" is actually used as a derogatory term in my town. My close friend said she has a 'thing' for single dads. To her, they are all lovely and caring and committed.

I'd be interested to hear your experience/opinion of this. Where you're from, are both treated and viewed in the same way? Or, as in my case, are single fathers considered superior to single mothers?

tribpot Thu 30-Jan-14 14:19:40

I think the pecking order is a bit more complex than that.

Resident parent who is a single dad - miracle worker / magician
Resident parent who is a single mum - may be hard worker or benefit sponge depending on circumstance
Non-resident parent who is a single dad - probably a deadbeat dad
Non-resident parent who is a single mum - evil incarnate.

I know people in the older generations who genuinely believe that men are physically and mentally incapable of looking after their own children. Even my mother, a staunch feminist, couldn't see the irony in telling me that my cousin's husband had had his mum to stay when she was working at the Olympics. This seemed only right to my mum - in reality I suspect he would have been fine but since his mum offered, why wouldn't you say yes? I know I would!

The irony is that this entrenched view of men's limitations is the same entrenched view of women's limitations that my mum has railed against for years.

So because it's relatively unusual and perceived to be outside the usual physical parameters of male behaviour it's a bit like being a female astronaut or deep sea diver. Still noteworthy of comment more than the participants of the opposite sex.

And btw I bloody hate the expression 'full-time father' / 'full-time mother'. We are all full-time parents. Unless you actually are a deadbeat dad/mum.

SauceForTheGander Thu 30-Jan-14 14:24:00

When I was a single mum I felt very judged. I felt the best I could hope for was pity. I felt I was certainly considered responsible for my own downfall. Parents of friends of mine lectured me on my benefits. I wasn't even claiming any but that didn't stop them from assuming.

I think single dads are considered to be a bit more heroic. However I have read some very moving blogs by single dads and they experience a good deal of stereo typing too because of their gender. Mum is often asked for by health professionals and teachers etc and they regularly find themselves in all female settings and treated with suspicion. Also they are assumed to be a bit useless and needing help in a patronising "men can't be primary carer"

So I think it's not so clear cut.

<sits on fence>

Read the comments section.. on just about anything tbh and someone will blame single mothers for it. Economy, social breakdown, everything was the fault of someone woman who left high and dry by a man...^but still the one who decided to raise her children^

Men who are left behind holding baby are seen as about the loveliest thing in the world. It is bizarre. But I agree that people will patronize them and assume they need a bit of help. But If I were going to choose between being thought of as the bane of a country or being brought a few casseroles.. I know what I would choose!

Also when a man leaves the equation he simply ceases to exist in the minds of people. The single mother is the problem. Not the man who isn't raising his children or financially contributing.

When a woman leaves she becomes the most evil hideous creature ever.

Surely they're both dead beat useless parents?

VelvetGecko Fri 31-Jan-14 09:47:14

I think it's pretty universal that single fathers are viewed in a much better light than single mothers. It's just plain old stereotypical sexism and will never change until society sees men and women as equal parents which depressingly is unlikely to happen in my lifetime. <sigh>

SauceForTheGander Fri 31-Jan-14 09:51:38

I don't think single dads are considered bad people in the way single mothers are.

Rooners Fri 31-Jan-14 09:52:40

Yes this is very pervasive attitude.

Single mother? Sort yourself out missus.

Single father? Oh you POOR ANGEL, let me make you some meals

and some of them milk it all the way.

FrigginRexManningDay Fri 31-Jan-14 14:37:16

I do think it is very true. Single mothers are to blame for all societies ills hmm
When I was parenting alone (no father around, he upped and left) I was either viewed with suspicion, pity or blame. A father parenting alone is a hero, isnt he great.

CatAssTrophy Fri 31-Jan-14 17:49:18

it happened again today.

I was sitting with some uni friends in the library at lunchtime. Only myself and another student ( a male) are parents on my course.

One of the ladies i was sitting with was commenting about this man. She was gushing about him. "I don't know how he does it. A student, a father and he has a job! How does he fit it all in?"

I stayed silent, but inside i was a bit confused. She knows that I'm also a student, i have my daughter full time (he has his every other weekend) and i am self employed.

I don't want nor expect praise. But i also was really annoyed that this man got it. Have no idea why!

PlasmaBall Fri 31-Jan-14 18:00:06

Yes sad

At the school I work at there is a very young single father with 2 adorable, well turned out little girls. They are late for school every single day. He himself frankly looks a mess, in need of a good meal and a wash. Everyone has nothing but sympathy for him, people think it's wonderful that he manages as well as he does.

The women in the same position are thought of completely differently. Judged for thier appearance and the fact that they can't/won't get out of bed to get DC to school on time.

PlasmaBall Fri 31-Jan-14 18:04:02

Actually my dad remarked on something similar while ago. He used to childmind for me when DS1 was a baby.

If he was out with the pram he would often be told by perfect strangers what a wonderful grandfather he was and how lucky his daughter was to have him etc. Mum never got the same treatment.

phoolani Fri 31-Jan-14 21:01:21

You see it all the time, in everything. A father gets points for just showing up. A mother just gets points taken away for not showing up. Drives me bonkers.

LemongrassGinger Fri 31-Jan-14 21:06:24

Oh totally!

Single fathers are heroes for doing 10% of the parenting!

LemongrassGinger Fri 31-Jan-14 21:12:05

People feel the urge to help single fathers as well. Any rescue fantasies they might have, they're right in there with lasagnes and shepherds pies, offers of childminding, cup of tea & sympathy!! Ive never had a shepherd's pie from strangers! All I had was enquiries as to when I was back at work, and from some people, insuations that i was selfish to have ended marriage from people who knew nothing about it

tribpot Fri 31-Jan-14 21:12:44

CatAssTrophy, I'm surprised you didn't just challenge this with "well how do you think I manage it?" in a light-hearted way. Being very generous, she may feel that as you're self-employed you can pick your hours more than an employee can, but I would lay odds she hadn't even given it that much thought.

ShitOnAStick Fri 31-Jan-14 21:18:05

I agree, I also think though that single fathers whilst being seen as heroic are also often seen a less capable and in need of more help. They're not judged as harshly as single mothers but it must be a bit shit to have people thinking you can't look after your kids properly because you're a bloke. Not as shit as the judgements single mothers get though.
It's something that happens all the time, not just single dads.
I was once in a supermarket with dh and kids, he was pushing the trolley with our two sons, one a baby, the other a toddler. I was in the same aisle grabbing stuff off shelves a few metres away, an old bloke came up to Dh and was amazed he was pushing his own kids in the trolley. He then came up to me, not knowing I was with DH and said "that man deserves a medal!".
If it was me pushing the trolley he wouldn't have given me a second glance. Men are praised for doing the bare minimum when it comes to kids and housework and also offered more help.

MavisGrind Fri 31-Jan-14 21:19:15

Another one here who totally agrees. I'm a LP to 2 dcs and although I have a relatively good relationship with their father and they have lots of access to him I know that I've had to work harder to be an "acceptable" LP (I've retrained and got a good job).

However, it's the same ingrained attitude that marks the difference between the terms 'bachelor' and 'spinster'.

We can't win.

rosabud Fri 31-Jan-14 21:20:06

I am a single Mum. Completely agree with all of the above. I think it is exacerbated if the single father is the father of a daughter (as is the case with a good friend of mine). Other friends often comment on how difficult it will be for him to prepare her for adolesence whereas noone, to my knowledge, has ever thought that I may have difficulties preparing my sons for adolesence.

Also, I have had some incredibly insensitive married friends tell me that I am lucky because at least I don't have a husband to look after too. I don't think anyone has ever told my friend that he is lucky that at least he doesn't have a wife to look after too. hmm

HowardTJMoon Fri 31-Jan-14 21:33:06

Single fathers get patronised or overlooked. Single mothers get denigrated or taken for granted. It's crap either way.

KaseyM Fri 31-Jan-14 23:09:23

Totally agree. As a single mum also you have to be prepared for all sorts of people giving you advice on how you should bring up your DC.

It's a shame that on the flip side of the coin women haven't received the same kind of welcome and encouragement when entering into male-dominated areas.

DonkeySkin Sat 01-Feb-14 16:51:58


I remember a woman I worked with telling another group of women about her son - he had sole custody of his baby son, because the child's mother was a heroin addict. She and her husband were currently financially supporting their son, so he could look after the baby full time. The women all cooed about how wonderful he was, how proud she must be to have such a brave son, etc.

Imagine a woman in the same situation - single mum of a baby, whose father is a heroin addict, being supported by her parents. People wouldn't think she was a daughter to be proud of. She'd be viewed as a stupid bitch who got herself knocked up by a junkie and was now sponging off her parents.

LineRunner Mon 03-Feb-14 01:10:38

I am a full time lone parent (2 teenagers) and, perhaps somewhat unusually, my OH is also a full time lone parent (he has 4 teenagers!)

I think his DC's schools treat him like crap, actually.

newbieman1978 Wed 05-Feb-14 21:41:54

If I can come in on this...... was a single dad.

I used to get really pissed off with people who said things like "oh aren't you brilliant" "not many blokes would do it"

I'm a father I made my child, I'll look after my child, that is my duty, I'll do it alone if I have to no problem.

I still get pissed that people assume that as I'm split from my sons mother how could I possibly be the main carer. You get things like "oooh aren't you good having him that amount of time" even my own nan says things like "you have him alot don't you, isn't his mum good letting you do that"

Yes single mums are treated worse by the media and some people and that saddens me. But us dads don't expect any medals (well I don't)

I'm a feminist if that's ok to say on here. I want equality for men and women in every aspect of life. Lets start by respecting parents regardles of their sex.

Theoldhag Fri 07-Feb-14 00:19:52

' I want equality for men and women in every aspect of life. Lets start by respecting parents regardles of their sex.' Agree 1978

Humans must stop treating women like poisonous vessels, pouring all the crappy bits of themselves they don't want to acknowledge into half the world population.

Women need to stand united against such things, but they don't, it gets enabled and the patten continues. Bloody insidious it is and so very deep rooted

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