A few months ago, I posted an article to my personal Facebook page celebrating National Single Parent’s Day. Single parents and non-single parents alike reposted the article across the web to honor the many single parents they knew and celebrated. It was a love-fest and I was proud to be a part of it, especially because at that time I was the Senior Editor of the magazine the article had been published in.
Imagine my surprise, then, when an acquaintance—an adoptive single mom—commented on my post, cautioning me to “think twice before you say you're a single parent. The simple truth is, you're not a ‘single mom.’”
I am not a single mom.
Because I co-parent, because I am fortunate enough to have gotten divorced from a man who takes his parenting very seriously, because I share custody and receive child support according to the law, I was told that I am not a single mom.
This hit me hard for many reasons. First and foremost, I have dedicated my entire life to helping single moms. I run a successful coaching practice called Kate Anthony’s Guide to Rockin’ Single Motherhood. I was at that time the Senior Editor of Solo Parent Magazine. I was raised by a single mom in the 1970s, when almost no one was a single mom. I am widely considered an expert in the field of single parenting. I have written extensively on the subject and have been published in The Huffington Post, MSN Living, among others. I have been interviewed for radio shows, been named one of the best dating coaches in LA because of my work with single moms, and am the go-to person for friends (and friends-of-friends) for advice on both single parenting and divorce.
I am on the front lines of a movement to change the national identity of single motherhood.
Because I am not remarried, the United States Census Bureau counts me as a single mom.
And yet, another single mom told me that I don't count.
Once I got my ego and my hurt feelings in check, I got mad.
We live in a country where single mothers are blamed for rising poverty levels, according to increasingly insidious right-wing clamor. In 2013 “Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee proposed a tax credit for families with young children and tax preferences for married couples. Now, Fla. Republican Senator Marco Rubio has proposed not only making life easier for married couples, but making life harder for single mothers. In the Wall Street Journal, Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for George W. Bush, argues that, “Marriage inequality is a substantial reason why income inequality exists. For children, the problem begins the day they are born, and no government can redistribute enough money to fix it.”” (AlterNet)
Even Nicholas Kristof, usually a voice of liberal reason, in a 2012 NY Times article accused Appalachian single mothers of not getting married, and indeed keeping their children illiterate and poor, so that they could keep receiving their government payout.
In other words, if we'd just get and stay married, everything would be fine.
Despite how much harder the majority of single mothers have to work -- despite how much they struggle to put food on the table and to keep their dignity—the national spotlight is turned outward upon them, with laws created to keep them further marginalized.
This is what made me so angry about my acquaintance’s comment on my Facebook post.
If we single mothers, as a demographic, are to be systemically marginalized, is it not on us to be the exact opposite for each other?
If we are to rise up against deprivation and disenfranchisement, must it not be as a united front?
Is my voice less important because my circumstances are, admittedly, “easier”? Does my voice matter less because I have child support and a loving co-parent?
Or is it, rather, my responsibility to use the platform that I have been privileged enough to create, in order to unite my voice with the single mother in rural Appalachia who cannot speak as loudly, because she doesn’t have the education, nor the financial freedom, to be able to speak for herself?
As a leader in this arena, is it not my job to say that we are all one, and then stand up and do something about it?
I want to be very clear: As one of the writers for Solo Parent Magazine, Toi Smith, so eloquently wrote, “Not All Single Mothers Are Created Equal.” In her article, Toi breaks down two types of single mothers:
The “Co-Op Mom”
“These mothers can depend on the father of their child. He is involved, active, willing and able to be a part of his child’s life. These mothers are able to take a breather, relax, and experience some “me” time. They are still able to be a part of the world. Their stress level is mitigated by the fact that they don’t have to do it all alone.”
The M.A.D Mom (“Mom And Dad”)
“The financial help is next to none, they get no “me” time, and the responsibility for the rearing of their child falls solely on them. The sense of scarcity is prominent, and worry becomes a daily demon. These mothers are exhausted, drained, and need an uninterrupted nap. They put their dreams on the back burner and have to make some of the hardest choices in the world for the benefit of their child, all by themselves. They sometimes feel unworthy, beaten down, and like they’ve done a disservice to their child.”
But the list doesn’t end with the Co-Op Mom and the M.A.D. Mom. There are widows, single moms who have chosen to have babies with no partner, via IVF or adoption, and those who have found themselves on the path alone, and have chosen to remain there.
But I declare that no matter how we got here, no matter our circumstances, we all count. Because if we don't all count, then none of us do.
I unite with all of my sisters-in-single-motherhood so that we can create a collective voice that is loud enough to stir the winds of change. If we categorize ourselves, if we continue to say that some belong while others do not, then there will be no movement; there will be no change.
And God only knows, change is exactly what we need right now.
If you are a Divorcing Mom, download your FREE checklist: Back-in-the-Game Plan: How to Survive Life After Divorce here.
This article was originally published at Kate's Blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.