Are single-mums stigmatised and judged by society?
Last week, the singer Jamelia fronted a programme about Britain's 1.8 million single mums – of whom she is one – and branded it 'the club that no-one wants to join.' She argued that lone mothers are still demonised in the media and stigmatised in the same way 'unmarried mothers' were two generations ago.
Jamelia has two daughters, 10-year-old Teja and five-year-old Tiani, who have different dads. She added that she was herself brought up by a single mum, but had always 'dreamed of having the perfect nuclear family' for her own children.
I was invited on to radio 5 Live to discuss this along with another single mum – a woman with two sons, one who lived with her, the other with his dad. I shared how until very recently I had lived with my ex despite being separated from him, and how difficult I was subsequently finding life as a single parent. I admitted that I did feel judged by other people, and that I was embarrassed by my 'status'. The other lady said she had never felt that way, and thought perhaps it was a 'class issue' – that only the middle classes felt ashamed or stigmatised by single parenthood.
I tried to assure her that this was most definitely not the case in my circumstances, having grown up in a very working class environment – we were just very fortunate that we had no divorces or separations in our family, and so my break-up has been a shock, and indeed a disappointment to my parents. Which I am sure would be the case for any parents/grandparents who were concerned about their children and grandchildren's well-being.
But even outside of my family, I still find people make vast assumptions and judgments when they discover you are raising your child on your own – one of the reactions that always surprises me is that people automatically assume I have more than one child, as if in order to be a 'proper' single parent (or at least live up to the ridiculous stereotypes in their heads), I should have a whole brood, preferably all with different dads, and, even better, filthy and barefoot as our status should befit us.
So I found myself defending Jamelia's documentary wholeheartedly – single mums are still judged and stigmatised as much now as they were 50 years ago.
Jamelia said: "Like any mum I love my children to bits, but now that I'm on my own I feel judged by others and disappointed with myself for not doing it the right way."
Which surely sums it up for most single parents?
What do you think? Are you a single mum who feels judged by society?
(You can hear the radio debate here at 1hr 22 minutes in until 4th September.)