Fighting Stigma. What Stigma?
Ahead of my event tomorrow I decided to publish my thought process and plan to unearth the topic of stigma for Single Mothers.
Stigma was the first thing I addressed when I started my Instagram page less than a year ago. It was the combination of a few incidents that had led me to feeling uncomfortable and misjudged by the label I felt I wore I like a shining beckon. Surely there was a better term to describe us, surely the label was outdated now? So, in a random epiphany I went with the combo Independent Mother.
As the front page of this website explains, the dictionary definition in my view is a far more accurate cluster of words that define us.
The word Single to me sounds solitary and alone but not in an uplifting way.
Yet as a parent we may be a single entity, but I see my son and I as a team of which I am leading with my head held high in the face of adversity, that to me is a sign of strength and independence.
At the start of this journey into the unknown of social media the two most prominent statements that had been held over me like a looming dark cloud were still very much a force that clearly held control over my thought process.
The first was that of my Mother. On hearing I was pregnant and would be doing it alone she said “But Zoe, it takes two to make a baby because it takes two to raise one”.
The second prevalent statement, well more of a jeer I guess, came from the Father of my child, yes the delightful dickhead that walked out on me (well over the phone) the night before my 6 week scan. During one of his last ridiculous yet demeaning rants he said “If you keep this baby you’ll be just another Single Mum on benefits living in a council house”
So, without going into too much detail, you can see I clearly defied both of their obscene opinions and became that Single Mother. Years on I could say with full conviction that I was definitely not just a single mother, hence my Instagram name.
10 months on and I’m planning events for the wonderfully inspiring Single Mother community that I’m so honoured to be a part of and I thought about what topics would be most important to tackle. Well of course, I thought let’s get right into it and let it be ‘Fighting the Stigma’.
The reason I’m explaining my own story first is because I believe we all have different ideas of what stigma looks like to us just as we all have different paths that have led us to this predicament.
Yet in such a short time of being submersed within a pool of Single Mother supremacy I’ve come to question the very stigma that brought me to dip my toe and take a swim in the first place.
Was my view of stigma purely based on my own experiences?
Is there even still a stigma attached to Single Mothers or is it just in ignorant pockets of society that make the population the diverse yet dangerous race that we are?
Who better to put this question to than the inspiring women I’ve come to see as daily doses of solidarity. The women who I asked to be on the panel have all written about Stigma in some form of another, whether it be in publications, in their blogs, or research documentation.
I also want to know how the attendees viewed stigma before they became a single mother and how it differed to the Mother they have become as a result.
What gave them these beliefs? Was it TV, films, magazines, people they knew growing up, or maybe conversations we were exposed to. Had, like me, they eradicated those beliefs and views embedded in their mind simply by stepping into the role.
I’m aware that Single Mothers have been common in society for generations whether it be a result of the Hippy, free love movement or the wartimes where flings with soldiers and widowed wives were common place.
Divorce is prevalent and not as shameful these days as it once was. The financial burden of a marriage deters many couples who therefore have an easier option when their relationship doesn’t turn out as planned and separation is a healthier choice for all involved.
More and more women find themselves in the significant age bracket of 30+ without the partner and the settled existence they’d once pictured as a child growing up being spoon fed Disney movies of princesses being rescued by Princes and living happily ever after. They therefore embark on the brave journey of becoming a Mother using a donor.
All of these common life choices churn out Mothers singlehandedly raising children (with some fortunate ones in a healthy co-parenting set-up).
Although this explains why the average age of a Single parent is 38, it doesn’t explain why there is such negative connotations towards becoming one.
I for one, view us as strong, brave, selfless individuals that suck up the hard times in order to create happier ones for their children first and foremost then themselves, in true lone parenting style always getting last dibs, yet still thriving.So, tomorrow as I ask questions to the panel I hope that I can add to my knowledge and understanding of where the stigma is affecting us most, is it in decline and how can we eradicate it completely. One things for sure I want all those in the room to know the strength and feel the empowerment that comes from uniting a group of women in the hope of providing solidarity and sisterhood.
Wish me luck!
Hugs, Zoe x