One need not be glued to the evening news, social media, or the water cooler these days to remain aware that there will always be a few people who hold some intensely hateful views about other people.
Any and every group has its own set of critics, and I find myself taken aback by how mean-spirited and uninformed some of their opinions can be. However, all in all, I believe that most people want to get along and accept others.
I recently had a discussion with a colleague about the stereotypes and misinformation that exists within, and about, the divorce community. I am aware of this because I participate in, and closely follow, discussions in a variety of divorce groups to keep myself informed about issues affecting this population. I have been shocked to discover that society has some harsh criticism for single moms.
Whether it comes from men or other women, I have heard some terrible statements about single moms that I just can’t believe to be true. As with any other group of people, we simply cannot make sweeping and dangerous generalizations about “all of these people” engaging in the same behaviors. There are always good and bad individuals within any group.
Single mom stigma is alive and well; but, who is today’s single mom, and are the perceptions of who she is accurate?
Prepare to trash your single mother stereotypes, because there’s much more to this remarkable woman than may meet the eye, and certainly more than she is often given credit for.
Stereotype: Single moms are promiscuous and immoral because they’re not married.
Reality: Say what you will about unmarried moms, but views about marriage are changing drastically as a society, and this is not just a “single mom issue.” Only 46% of children born in 2015 were welcomed by married parents, and 57% of babies born to millennials are to unmarried parents. Rates of marriage, on the whole, are in decline. A reported 7% of the population is marrying, while the majority now favors delaying marriage and cohabitation, meaning that less homes will have both a mother and a father in residence.
It’s not the “old school” family way; but, it’s the reality of today. Men and women are making the choice to raise children outside of marriage for a variety of reasons that go far beyond accidental pregnancy or promiscuity. Many opinions of marriage are based on witnessing the peak of failed marriages, and divorce, from our own parents' and grandparents' marriages.
Single moms are no more sexually active than other groups, yet they are more likely to be condemned for an interest in sex. It is common to look down on females who have sex outside of marriage, more so than males in the same situations. The reality is, after running around behind children all day and working one or more jobs, many single moms are simply too tired to go out and party and have one night stands, as the stereotypes would suggest.
Though one can find immoral people in any group, a single mom is actually more likely to be selective about who she dates, has sex with, and brings around her children. She knows firsthand how difficult it is to raise a child by herself; so, she is more careful than other unmarried adults because she has more to protect.
Stereotype: Single moms are uneducated and unemployed.
Reality: 75% of single moms are employed outside the home, a greater percentage than married moms. Many may be surprised to learn that 58% of single mothers have at least a bachelor’s degree. While it's true that households led by single moms have a lower income than married or single dad-led homes (single moms average $34,000), this is an overall reminder that women, in general, make 79 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Many single mothers are setting the world on fire with their talent and education. Brilliant and innovative moms are CEOs, inventors, and leaders, making millions, and paving the way for other remarkable women to do amazing things.
Stereotype: Single moms leech off the system.
Reality: Single moms are just one of many demographics that benefit from welfare (cash assistance, food assistance, Medicaid, and others). Although 45% of single mothers claim government assistance for their families (compared to approximately 35% each for both married homes and homes of single dads), these mothers claim less money in benefits (an average of $337 per month) than married or single father counterparts.
Before we condemn single moms for accepting help, perhaps we should first scrutinize the fact that 41% of these moms are owed child support, necessitating the need to seek outside assistance.
Stereotype: Children of single moms fare worse overall.
Reality: What do former presidents Barack Obama, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Bill Clinton, cyclist Lance Armstrong, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, and entertainers Leonardo DiCaprio, Halle Berry, Jay-Z, Angelia Jolie, and Jon Stewart have in common? They were all raised by single mothers. Few would argue the success of these talented, intelligent, and productive members of society. Annie Leibovitz, Sandra Bullock, J.K. Rowling, Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon, and Erykah Badu are just a few of many very successful single moms who prove that marital status has nothing to do with achieving success or being a good parent!
A 2017 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that a child raised by a single mom has no less of a chance of completing high school, or otherwise becoming an independent adult. The study concluded that the outcome for each child relies much more on attitudes, parenting, and other factors in the home—factors that can be present in anyone’s home and impact any child. While poverty and education are a disadvantage to long-term development, they are not predictors of failure.
Single moms have long been blamed for producing the children who will become future criminals; however, recent studies even dispel those myths, showing that the numbers of single-parent homes in Washington D.C., for instance, remained nearly the same for decades, yet crime rates dropped significantly. Single moms may have received a bad rap because of coincidental correlations to neighborhoods and activities known to incubate crime; yet, no proof of causation of criminal behavior exists.
Let’s face it; whatever negatives one might have to say about single moms is likely unfounded. Generalizations about what type of people, or parents, single moms are—let alone who their children will become—are as dangerous and ill-informed as racism, homophobia, ageism, or any other discriminatory views.
Moms are moms, no matter their relationship status; and, all moms are nothing short of amazing. Motherhood is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences that any woman can embark upon. Childrearing provides enough for mothers to worry about without society (and even other mothers) perpetuating mean-spirited stereotypes.