At the second half of the Breaking Stigma Event we were talking Solo Mum by Choice, Middle-class stereotypes and religious expectations…
We kicked off the second part with Ruth, known by her blogging name as Ellamental Mama she began by explaining to the room what a Solo Mum by Choice (SMBC) is.
She herself has experienced life as both a Single Mother, following a relationship breakdown and also a Solo Mum by Choice having had her second child by donor conception.
She was the perfect person to highlight the differences when it comes to perceptions of both terms.
We started off by addressing the often unspoken categories you are expected to fall into, in order to earn the title of Solo mum by choice and also the differences in the way you are potentially perceived depending on how you came into your circumstances.
It’s fair to say the SMBC community seems to be quite a tight and supportive group but can be quite selective about who qualifies.
That said, they have a different set of stigmatised connotations to contend with, for example the thought that they may have put a career over family life, being left with donor conception as their last route into motherhood.
We touched on the financial aspects of being a Single Mother in comparison to a SMBC with regards to the opportunities that couples benefit from.
It seems that regardless of what term you go by, equality when it comes to the right to have a child hasn’t quite caught up if you are choosing to go at it alone.
There are many of us that would like to have more children but justifying it when you are not in a relationship, let alone being given the same treatment is not a decision receiving the correct support.
Thanks to Ruth we all got a lesson into the different routes into donor conception, some less certified than others, which gave us all a good laugh. DIY home kits provide a different experience to the more expensive ‘proper’ avenues, but hopefully providing the same outcome. As Ruth concluded, in her opinion, there is still a stigma for Solo Mums by Choice but it’s very different and often stigma relates to money.
Solo Mothers that are seen to have prioritised their career vs single mothers estranged from a partner and on benefits are both two assumptions on opposite ends of the spectrum yet if you fall near either category you will be placed in a different line of stigmatised fire.
Everyone had at some point had been made to feel belittled or looked down upon.
We all seemed to relate when the head tilt and sympathetic tones are the most common responses that we are met with when discussing life as a single mum.
It’s seen as a temporary fixture whilst we await a ‘real family’ or man to come along and fix us. When in actual fact, yes, we all agree it’s an incredibly challenging role to manage, but the alternatives on offer are far less appealing to the lifestyle we live, where we are in control of our own day to day life and routine.
To have actively chosen to walk away from the family set-up and into a co-parenting arrangement for the sake of both parties and ultimately the child’s wellbeing too, is something I went on to discuss with Jude (@glueingcheese).
Jude actively writes in her blog about her experiences as a Single Mother, which are relatable to those who have been brought up in a small community or an affluent neighbourhood.
It’s not the ‘done thing’ to walk away from the ‘perfect family’ set-up in a Stepford housewives bubble of ladies, who meet for brunch and shop in small boutiques and then head home for the weekly Ocado delivery.
Jude felt uncomfortable even leaving the house without her wedding ring on and sitting at drop-ins where Mums discussed those typically frustrating topics like waiting for their husbands to come home from work so he can take over with the kids or family holiday plans.
One day she thought to herself “F them! You don’t know me and if you’re going to judge me on what 90’s pop culture thought of us then you’re not worth having in my life.”
She’s now proud to fly the flag for Independent Mothers and bravely wore her Single and proud t.shirt to the playgroup drop in to make her own personal stand against the stigma she felt.
Owning your circumstances and facing up to those that judge is something my final guest knew and felt only too well. Naomi (@mumanoloply) was brought up in a strict Jehovah Christian family where she was under strict household rules and not permitted to socialise with people outside of the religion. She courageously told us her story of meeting her boyfriend which she had to keep secret for a number of years before they decided to get married.
She was disowned from the church and her family because her husband was not in the religion and had no family attend the biggest day of her life, her wedding.
She was sure that this was all worth it for the love and relationship she had left it all for.
You can only imagine the shock and utter sense of betrayal to find out her husband was cheating on her during her second pregnancy.
She was left with a broken marriage, 2 children and fighting the pain of the heartbreak. Instead of dwelling on the circumstances that were out of her control she decided to use this as a way of connecting with other people to inspire and support them.
It was such a powerful way to end the event and show the incredible fight and determination that Independent Mothers, Single Mothers, Solo Mothers, whatever terms you wish to be known by, are making the best of their situation.
To learn more from these inspiring Mums follow their blogs or access them via their social media handles; @ellamental_mama @glueingcheese @mummanolopy
I summed up the session by expressing my thoughts on what we’d discussed.
I felt and continue to believe that it’s only by telling these stories and making our voices heard not just to other Mothers, but to friends, family and colleagues that stigma can be broken.
If we are openly talking about being a Single Mother in a positive way then others will gain a new perspective.
At the very least we won’t be met with the head tilt and sympathetic look or viewed in a way that makes it seem like we’re making the best of a bad situation.
I personally think we can help break the sigma ourselves in a number of ways.
I feel that it comes firstly from within ourselves.
I know given my own situation that I was made to feel ashamed to be a Single Mother. Up until a year before the day of the event, I didn’t use social media, and had no clue that there was such a huge community of single mothers to reach out to.
It was only when I opened up about what I was feeling and connected with other Mums from around the world that I began to turn the tables on the message I had internalised for all those years.
It didn’t take me long to become proud of being a Single Mother, which is why I felt the need to banish the old stigmatised term and reinvent it with a more empowering one.
That was now the new message I was giving out, own your status.
Being an Independent Mother was what I stood for but encourage you to stand by the term you value and connect with most.
For example, since starting Independent Mother another strand of empowered Single parents has emerged called Frolos. I often get messages from Mothers desperate to meet another Single Mother in their area so now being able to redirect them to an app such as Frolo or a webpage as in depth as Gingerbread, shows how far we have come in finding a tribe we can finally feel comfortable and empowered within. This will only grow stronger as time passes.
A huge thanks to the incredible ladies on the panel at this event for speaking so openly and to all those who attended the event, it was because of you that it was made possible.
I will always be sincerely grateful to them for trusting in me and supporting my vision.
To listen to the live recording of the event, head to the podcasts section on this website, the links on Instagram or search for us directly on Spotify, Google Play and Anchor.
As always feel free to contact me on Instagram @not.just.a.single.mother or email@example.com for any more information.