Society may have moved on since the days of Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard, the (in hindsight, mightily offensive) portrayal of a teenage single mother with a nursery’s worth of children, but single mothers still get a lot of flak. In popular culture, the right-wing press and close-minded sections of society, they are still demonised as "morally dubious". (Just last month they were blamed for the childhood obesity epidemic, and an accusatory correlation between single-parenthood and childhood poverty is still sometimes drawn).
But there’s way more to single motherhood than these tired, two-dimensional narratives tap into. This week, with All The Single Mothers, we’re taking our cue from Beyoncé’s ode to single women and celebrating everything it means to be a Single Lady™ who also happens to be a parent. A quarter of all children in the UK live with one parent, and 90% of these 1.7 million families are headed by a woman, according to single-parent charity Gingerbread. We want to celebrate the myriad forms this messy, beautiful, demanding and at times, hilarious, experience takes. It’s 2019 and family life is richer and more varied than ever before – and it’s about time the daily joys of single motherhood got their due. We're going to tackle the media's demonisation of the term 'single mother' and ask those who've muddled their way through raising a child by themselves to pass their wisdom on to those at the beginning of their journeys.
We are celebrating the messy, beautiful, demanding and at times, hilarious, experience of being a single mother today.
From the delightful, surprising experience of raising your children alongside other single mums and sharing responsibilities – to the benefit of both families (think morning yoga and smoothies and more time for dating); to the support, resources and legal help available to new single mothers that provide reassurance and much-needed comfort in those tentative first few months; to the enriching, often confronting, lessons learned from parenting a child of a different ethnicity; we’ll be delving deeper into the day-to-day realities (plural) of single-motherhood than you might be used to seeing.
But we’re not shying away from the struggles single mothers come up against. No one’s saying it’s easy, and we’ll get real about how frustrating, boring and lonely it can be at times, especially when the circumstance has been unexpectedly thrust upon you. Let’s be real, it’s also painfully expensive (look out for not one but two single mothers' Money Diaries – because if we need anyone's financial wizardry, it's theirs) and we’ll explore the childcare options available.
We’ll hear from a woman who’s lived through a horrifying scenario – becoming a single mother of two overnight following her partner’s suicide – and emerged stronger, proud and feeling more solidarity with her fellow single parents than she’d imagined possible, "because it is the longest, hardest thing you can ever do. We carry the can. All of it, all the time," she writes. However you’re feeling, it’s okay to ask for help, says another of our writers, whose partner abandoned her and their newborn baby, and found solace and motivation from books, Instagram accounts, apps and podcasts from women in the same boat. "To anyone who is in this situation now, know this: no matter how lonely you feel, you are not alone."