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Why I don't like being called a 'single mom'

Does it always have to sound so...negative?

By Kristen Kennedy May 23, 2013 8:59PM

Swap in “cancer survivor” where you see “single mothers,” “single moms,” or “single mother” in any of the following headlines:
“Single moms are strong, courageous”
“Justin Bieber releases ‘Turn to You’ to benefit single mothers”
“We care: Single disabled mother needs vacuum cleaner”
See what I mean?

Kristen KennedyMost of the “single mother” headlines sound like this. Single moms are noble and strong, but in desperate need of vacuum cleaners.
Newsflash: Being a single parent is hard. It’s exhausting. It’s financially challenging, and for some people, impossible. It demands everything of you when you having nothing left. And it leaves little time to regroup and recharge.
Dinner with friends is a luxury that requires precision tactical planning, not to mention extra cash. Most of the time  it’s just easier to dine on peanut-butter sandwiches with a companion who laughs at her own poop jokes.
But it’s not a cancer diagnosis. That would truly suck.

More from MSN Living: Why we love single parents

And that’s why I describe myself as a “single parent,” more than I do as a ”single mom,” mostly because it makes me feel less pathetic, less like one of these headlines.

The great debate

While that conversation about women “having it all” has been going on, I’ve been paying attention to the other one about all the bad, horrible outcomes children of single parents can expect. Jason DeParle outlined the significant inequalities in social class that exist between children with two parents and children of single parents in “Two Classes in America, Divided by ‘I Do’.” He chronicles the very different choices and opportunities available to families who have two parents in the home and those that don’t–and how more money basically translates into a better life.

Bella DePaulo took him to task on Psychology Today for, among other things. not examining policies and laws that place single parents at an even greater financial disadvantage than their married counterparts.

Just think about the discount you get on car insurance when you buy more than one policy. And how much more likely it is that you’ll be able to buy a home with two incomes–and then get a nice deduction at the end of the year for owning the home that you wouldn’t have been able to to afford on your own.

I’m oversimplifying the many good examples she offers to make her argument, but you get the point.

But if the biggest factor in the equation of how well children of single parents fare is economic, and the number of single-parent families is increasing, then why aren’t we doing more to help single parents?

We could, for example, make quality childcare affordable to everyone. We could offer paid leave for hourly employees so they can care for themselves and their children without losing pay. We could let single parent households deduct more of their living expenses since they often have no other option than to rent. We could make it easier for them to purchase a home.

There’s much we could do, but it’s not an issue anyone cares enough about yet. And the group that needs protecting isn’t yet well-organized or wealthy enough to do much about advancing their cause.

And if you’re juggling a full-time job while raising kids on your own, you really don’t have time for this.

Single mom needs . . .

If the statistics about children growing up in single parent households are to be believed, then maybe I should start feeling sorry for myself and my daughter.  Coming from a single-parent family means she has a greater risk of dropping out of high school, substance abuse, and getting pregnant as a teenager.

I don’t want to think about my daughter as being “at risk,” but she is. Her risk is significantly reduced by the fact that she lives in a home with a mother who makes a very good salary, owns a home, and is in fairly good financial shape–if you don’t count the number of times I’ve had to borrow money from my mom. My economic stability alone reduces her risk of being prey to the host of problems children of economically disadvantaged single mothers are. But if I lose my job, I’d need to sell my home. My daughter would need to change schools. I’d lose my health insurance. I’d start draining my already depleted savings.

And in no time, I’d need a vacuum cleaner.

Read more from Kristen Kennedy at her blog!

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Jun 8, 2013 5:40AM
Why are you a single parent????  Did you leave your ex-husband or have your child out of wedlock?  Why do say the term single mom is negative and then use it in your article?  I am a single parent (father) we have joint custody and my ex using the excuse that she works as why she can't cook the kids meals or spend time with them.  I work 4 - 10 Hour days at night and since she has doesn't approve my my current girlfriend is bringing me back to court for sole custody.  Where is the father of your child?  Why not let him be involved and share the responsibility?  Many women are over controlling and feel that they have all the answers and do not let the father of their children have any say in matters.  My kids love me and my gf and love spending the time they get with us just as much as with their mother.  There are no special treatments or honors for single dads or for men trying to the right thing either.  I feel the writer of this article wants us to feel sorry for her but doesn't want to sound pathetic in allowing herself that empathy.  If you are having such a hard time with raising your child you look for a good support system.  There is no shame in asking others for help.
Jun 8, 2013 4:49AM
keep it separate.
first you are a mom. once you have a child it's not about you. except for the fact you have to take of yourself first in order to take of the child.
second you are single.
make time for you n don't fret if it's only once in a blue moon.
some don't even get that.
instead of whining. be thankful.
if you look around you probably have more than you need.
n most certainly more than those in countries less fortunate than ours.
no sniveling.
the end.

Jun 8, 2013 2:51AM

I feel sorry for all of these women that bought into the Feminist agenda: they are paying the price now.


Women, you better run from Steinem, Boxer and the like; they are a bunch of J_e_w miscriants!

Jun 8, 2013 2:44AM

They want it, so they get it!


Women wanted their independence and now they are crying in their beer.


Why is this woman single? hmmmmm......


Independence comes with a price!

Jun 8, 2013 12:55AM

I'm having trouble with this article.

On the one hand, the writer is trying to plead her case, to gain empathy. 
Readers are supposed to come to the conclusion that "single mom" is an inappropriate term.

On the other hand, she's calling out couples who combine their income to build a life together. So what? I can't knock people who have a supportive partner, did planning, and happen to have a more solid life.

And in the same breath she goes on to say that these are the people who should dedicate themselves to "her cause" because she has "too little time".

I wasn't won over.

Jun 8, 2013 12:32AM
Bravo Take5thenDance!!!! (Nice moniker and good advice by the way). The "PC" craze is giving people a "pass", on bad or ill considered lifestyles. Unfortunately, our society is somewhat schizophrenic. Politicians praise fundamental "Family Values", but don't support policies that support families, and encourage traditional lifestyles. An example is the so called "Marriage Penalty" in the Federal Tax Code. They encouraged giving mortgages to people that really couldn't afford homes, and should have been renters. Take5 is right. A lot of people should rent. I always have. I rented apartments that my income could support. If I lost a job, or got ill. I didn't have to worry about all the bills that came along with owning a home.
    Also, the "Main Scream Media", likes to report "horror" or "feel good" stories about single parents. I wish I had a dollar for every "news report" about a single Mom.
Life for most of us is tough. It's just sad that the children have to suffer because of negative things that happen in the lives of their parents.

Jun 8, 2013 12:29AM
Why should we subsidize single mother's? Every child had a father, right? They can't be born any other way. Otherwise, we should all be subsidized for our problems. Shop-a-holic? Let the government pay the credit card bills. Lost car insurance because you are an alcoholic who drives drunk? Let the government supply free taxis. 

This could go on and on.
Jun 8, 2013 12:05AM
I am a single mom of five grown children, We (my kids and I)  worked hard (no child support and no government assistance) and raising my kids was my number one priority.  We had a home, food on the table, time together, and honestly I found some things were easier as a single, like my decisions were final and there was no one else for them to ask - 'no' was final.  I never felt I was pathetic and my children never thought they were pathetic!  We were pretty proud actually.  Times were not always easy, we were pretty much middle class. They played musical instruments, sports, had birthday parties, sleepovers, computer games, bicycles, vacations, camping trips, and anything else that kids of two parent homes had. All are college grads and a couple of them have Masters or two degrees.  The three that are married are happily married and made good choices, none were teen parents, I never  dealt with alcohol or drug issues (thank God), the ones that are parents are amazing parents and my grandchildren are pretty special. My peeves;   I hated the term "broken home" because our home was put together better than some of the homes of the married couples I knew and when we traveled, travel plans were always based on two traveling adults so one of my kids was always charged adult rates. I must say that I can remember a couple of times that I needed a new vaccuum but it wasn't the end of my world and it didn't make me feel pathetic!!! I am a single mom and a single grandma and I am damn proud  AND my family is damn proud of me too!
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