I had an interesting conversation (read: argument) the other day with a friend about her use of the term “single mum”. Single parents are not a new phenomenon but they are on the increase globally. I saw a statistic the other day that said “15% of children around the world live in single parent households”. Here in South Africa (SA), only about 30% of children live with both their parents. Of the over 1.1 million births registered by the SA government in 2014, 64% of said registrations had no information regarding the fathers.
There are numerous reasons why single parent households are on the increase but that’s a conversation for another time. Today I just want to scribble about the term “single mother”. I can’t help but think some mothers are misappropriating (for lack of a better word) the term. Now, I agree you don’t live with the father of your child, but is that enough to be categorised as a “single mother?” What if the child’s father is present and active in the child’s life? Are you still a single mother then? My sister and cousin are fitting examples of this:
My sister is a single mother. She takes care of her daughter’s every need. We last saw my niece’s father about 8 years ago. He doesn’t contribute anything to his daughter’s wellbeing. He doesn’t call her, doesn’t send Christmas cards, hell, he doesn’t even know what school she goes to. In fact, he’s pretty much dead to us…till he decides to pop up out of nowhere when his daughter’s all grown up and employed…the absent father’s ultimate party trick.
On the other hand, my cousin’s baby daddy is present in their son’s life. He pays the boy’s school fees, buys him clothes, takes him on holiday with his other kids, and takes him on alternating weekends. He attends most of the boy’s school events and has been there for all his birthdays to date. The only difference between their setup and a “traditional household” is they do not live together. They are married to and live with other people. So can my cousin call herself a single mother? Personally, I don’t think so. Co-parent? Yes! Single mother? No!
And yet, so many women in my cousin’s situation still throw around the term “single mother”. Question is: is that fair to an active father? I play my part in the welfare of our child and you, his mother, continue to label yourself a single mother? Seems a tad unfair don’t you think? More than taking away from an active father, I think it takes away from actual single mothers because, God knows, “real” single mothers have their work cut out for them. It’s even worse when they don’t have a supportive family or adequate finances to get help.
Ultimately, whether you’re a single parent, co-parent, or parent in a “traditional household”, you hold a precious life/lives in your hands as parents. So do everything you possibly can (and more) to ensure your child becomes everything they can be. And remember, unless one parent has died, there really shouldn’t be any single parents out there. If you played your part in creating a life, play your part in raising that life.
**** Just scribbling my parental thoughts ****
Ps: Shout out to the single fathers out there. Rare as they may be, they are there; single handedly raising their kids. We see you too.