Why are we so hard on single mothers?
It seems that so many of society’s ideas and preconceptions about single parents (particularly moms) are built on generalizations and stereotypes. When we think this way, we accept a worldview that fails to take into account the complexities of the issue at hand.
The real single mother statistics, on the other hand, portray a much different trend. With information from the U.S. Census Bureau, we’ve compiled a more accurate portrait of the single mom.
The real data flips all of society’s generalizations upside down. For example, who would’ve guessed that less than half of custodial mothers receive some form of government assistance? And that’s just the beginning.
Fact: custodial parents are typically mothers
The notion that most single parents are mothers is actually true. Only about 1 in 6 custodial parents are fathers, while over 80% are mothers.
Fact: she is divorced or separated
Contrary to societal views, not all single mothers were single from the beginning. They weren’t the hard-partying, promiscuous women we think them to be. In fact, 44% are divorced or separated. Much fewer have never been married.
Fact: she has gainful employment
Another startling urban myth about single moms: they are lazy, unemployed bums with nothing to do but watch over kids. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. 53% of single mothers work full time, year-round; and another 23% work part-time (or seasonally).
Fact: odds are, she doesn’t take “handouts”
The Reagan-era notion of conniving “welfare queens” needs to be thrown out. An alarming number of people are convinced that single mothers are all “taking handouts” in some fashion or another — legally, or cheating the system. According to the real single mom statistics, well below half of single mothers did so — and less than 10% received TANF.
Fact: she is probably only raising one child
Think single moms have a gaggle of children following behind them? Unlikely. 57% of single mothers are raising only one child, contrary to common stereotypes.
And yet, stereotypes still exist
These facts and statistics provide only an overarching view of the issues at hand. They take into account trends, rather than stories; and numbers, rather than generalizations. But they effectively counter the misdirected hostility and unhealthy distrust of single parents across the country.
Our society’s views of single moms seem to stem from a perspective that looks at inherent flaws with the mother as a person – be it sexual promiscuity, taking “handouts,” laziness, or irresponsibility. Most prominently, generalizations of single moms tend to include associations with neglect, immaturity, stress, depression and/or desperation, bad decision making, insecurity, and out of options as far as dating goes.
On the contrary, single fathers are perceived as people facing a challenge or set of challenges. They are seen as agents in an uphill struggle: saddled with child support obligations, picking a daycare, and finding a partner who is fit to be a mothering type. It is a much more emphatic, gentle role ascribed to the male counterparts. No judgment of what mistakes they’ve made or what they do with their spare time. Quite a rift.
So how do we counter these stereotypes? How can you learn more and expand upon your socially conditioned worldview? Take the next opportunity to interact with a single parent – mother or father. You might be surprised that the single parent next door has a lot fewer stereotypical “flaws” than you once thought. You might even relate to them.
So why, then, are we so hard on single mothers? It sounds like we’re ignoring the hard facts.