Raising my daughter as a single mother has been, at times, a political act. Maybe it always has been. I didn’t realize this at first, I was too busy putting my life back together after escaping a violent relationship. Julia Kohler’s article ‘Please don’t call me a ‘single mother’’ was recently published. The article’s parting message is, “It’s time to dismantle the single-mother hierarchy – to stop calling out my family’s supposed difference from that of other single moms, as well as from two-parent families.” I agree with this sentiment, I disagree with how we can get to that place. I don’t want to become a part of a system, I want to change it. Family structures are amalgamations of other social structures and ignoring this erases the experiences of these families.
This response is in no way meant to attack Kohler. She acknowledges her privileges throughout her article and she is of course allowed to state her preference and share her experiences. When she asks, “What is there to like about being labeled a single mother?” I get it. She’s right when she says responses vary from “You are so valiant” to “What a shame that your kid is going to be messed up.” When people view single-mothers as scum of the earth, out for taxpayers’ hard earned money, the resulting social treatment of that sentiment hurts a whole lot, on many levels. But, that’s their shit they are placing on my family situation. That hostility is based in other factors such as racism and classism. I can’t speak to living in a white supremacist society, as I am on the end of things that benefits from it. I can say it is wrong, I can say white folks as a whole – myself included- need to check themselves, but I have no place speaking to it. I can speak to the classism of this neoliberal hatred, though.
When I was pregnant I heard one too many comments about how “Oshawa doesn’t need another teenage mother.”* Wasn’t everyone supposed to be telling me I was glowing or some shit?
When I called the police for help when I was abused, I was told I was lying and I was interrogated under the assumption that I was an alcoholic.
When I went into labour I was scolded by hospital staff that I did not attend pre-natal classes. The classes that ran when I was at work. The classes I could not get to as I did not drive. The classes that if I went, there would be hell to pay when I got home to my jealous (now ex) fiancé.
Today I jump through hoops to receive subsidized daycare, I get insulted at parent-teacher meetings, and I spend a lot of time filling out grant paperwork so that my daughter can attend extra curricular activities.
I find more support in feminist spaces than in parenting groups. The last time I participated in an online parenting group, designed for single parents, I saw someone complain that when they are around single parents who are not single parents ‘by choice’ (affluent, older) too much space is given to talk about abusive exes and financial woes.
In the end, I love being a single-mom, I don’t have anyone bossing me around while I boss her around :p The label hurts me only because the world I live in makes it so. The label itself is one I am proud of. My experiences shape who I am and how I run my family. Don’t erase them. If my single-mother status makes anyone uncomfortable, these people need to be asking themselves why. These obstacles are not inherent to single-motherhood. They are products of a class hierarchy under capitalism.
*I was 21 the majority of my pregnancy and turned 22 just a month before my daughter was born. I do not mention this because I think this makes me better than teenage mothers, I mention this because, again, I don’t want to speak for a group I am not a part of. Really, I don’t want to speak for anybody but myself, because everyone’s experiences are so different from one another, our identities intersect in so many ways.
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