A couple of weeks ago, Gabby was going through some of her old books and I noticed a few titles in her donation pile that I was surprised to see, like the very first book that I bought her and a couple of childhood classics. I casually suggested to her that she might want to keep them, (knowing full well that I was the one who didn’t want to see them go.)
The Welfare Queen vs. The Single, Sexy Mom.
There often seem to be only two narrow depictions of single motherhood in this country.
Now, I shouldn’t’ have been totally surprised by this revelation. When Gabby was 3 or 4, my mom bought her a Cabbage Patch Kid for Christmas, named what else? Gabrielle. My daughter was having none of it. In fact, I’m pretty sure she resented the doll for having the same name as her. She NEVER warmed up to her little twin; and I found that doll pushed all the way back under her bed more than once. Come to think of it, she’s never been into baby dolls at all, which is why I personally never bought her one.
All that said, I was a little disappointed to hear her say she doesn’t want kids. I’m also keeping in mind, though, that she’s 10. She may very well change her mind. Either way, it’s her choice. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why she really might feel that way. And I wondered if somewhere in her subconscious she doesn’t want kids because I’m raising her as a single mom. Perhaps the lack of two married parents has negatively colored her perception of parenthood.
Gabby and I have discussed that there are all types of families, and any time she’s ever had a question about how ours came to be, I’ve told her. And I’ve been pretty frank, depending on her age when she asked. But what I haven’t done and won’t do is give her the impression that single motherhood is the new black.
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Don’t get me wrong, I’m a proud single mother, but it’s hard. And I don’t take for granted that my personal experience as a single mom has been far better than that of many other single mothers. And Gabby has it better than some kids who come from two parent homes.
I could easily tell my daughter, “You don’t have to be married to have a baby. You’re a smart, independent thinker, and you can do anything you want. You don’t need a man.” All true, but for now, I’m not going there. Here a few reasons why.
They shoot single mothers, don’t they?
One day, I just Googled single mothers/single motherhood just for the heck of it. It returned a lot of what I expected in terms of stats on the correlation between increased rates of incarceration, poverty, behavioral and emotional problems for children of single mothers. And there were, of course, tons of articles on the increase of single motherhood and growing income inequality.
Single mothers’ lives are way more nuanced than any research or the media can articulate.
What I didn’t expect to find was this whole online community warning men not to date single mothers. It was incredible. And vile. And ridiculous. I mean I’ve heard stereotypes about single mothers being on the “prowl” for some unsuspecting guy to take care of her and her kid, but this was some next level stuff. Articles, blog posts, and comment threads about how single mothers are inherently selfish, consistently make poor life decisions, and would ultimately make terrible wives. Seriously?
Now, I think anybody with an ounce of common sense knows that these are incredibly unfair accusations to hurl at every single mother in America. But you know what else this tells me? There are people who really and truly feel this way.
The Welfare Queen vs. The Single, Sexy Mom
There often seem to be only two narrow depictions of single motherhood in this country. The uneducated welfare queen who is all too happy to continue having babies, all the while collecting government assistance, rather looking for work. I would strongly challenge this stereotype, especially in an economic environment where it often makes more sense for married mothers to stay at home to care for their children as opposed to merely breaking even to cover childcare. But I digress.
And then there’s the sexy, single mom. You know, she’s financially stable, perhaps divorced, or maybe a single woman who’s decided to take control of her fertility or adopt and has a healthy dating life. Oh, and they basically make motherhood look sexy. And there are movies built around this woman. Think Jennifer Lopez in The Back-up Plan.
Well, I happen to think I fall somewhere in the middle, along with a lot of other women. I’m well educated and have a very supportive extended family. I work hard, but I’m not rich. And today, at least, I’d still like to get married someday – to the right person.
And by the way, single mothers’ lives are way more nuanced than any research or the media can articulate.
Yes, I know I said that already, but it bears repeating.
I’m sure you’re wondering, “And how is this supposed to change your daughter’s mind about having kids?” My goal really isn’t to change her mind but to make sure she understands all of her options and not laud single motherhood without also educating her about the realities.
I also want her to know that I wouldn’t trade the experience of being her [single] mother for anything in the world.