Smug married guy, you don’t know anything about single mothers

I’m chuffed to welcome bluemilk back to Hoyden About Town for this guest post. Bluemilk is an Australian feminist mother, posting about life, love and mummy-myths over at bluemilk.wordpress.com ~ Lauredhel.

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I was so frustrated by this discussion over at Offpsrungthat I ended up writing a whole post instead of a comment in response and it has taken me a while to finish so, you know, it’s totally out of date now anyway and better off as a separate post.

Here’s how the post I’m responding to went: the discussion was about the terms we use to describe the father of our child when we’re not in a relationship with the father, and particularly the terms to use when you have children with different fathers. ‘My first ex’ or ‘his father but not hers’ might not quite cover it, and ‘baby daddy’ was the proposed hip alternative. I don’t much like ‘baby daddy’ but then I’m not hip anymore and I am, so far, partnered (for many years, but not married) to the father of my child, so, whatever. Of course, some smug married guy had to come along (pretty quickly) to make judgemental comments about single mothers because we all know that single mothers are just women who’ve cottoned on to the amazing gravy train that is having babies for profit when their ‘casual sex luck’ ran out, whereas single fathers are either non-existent or heroic.

Some sensible things were said in response but there was a tendency to defend single mothers from smug attacks by essentially saying to smug married people – well dontcha know nobody is perfect and haven’t you made mistakes before, to which particularly smug married people will inevitably say, no actually, I don’t make mistakes, I’m married remember.
Being a single parent is not about whether you make mistakes or not! Everyone makes mistakes but that is beside the point. So here are 10 things that need to be said to smug married people who are down on single mothers.

  1. Not that it should matter to you smug married guy, but most single parents were partnered actually when their children were conceived and born. The vast majority of single parents are divorced or seperated. (See also here).
  2. Most children in the world, whether born to single or partnered parents were conceived unintentionally actually, which doesn’t mean that children are mistakes, just that they happen, and some children were conceived really easily. Even in hospitals in the developed world a third of babies born there will be nominated by their parents as unplanned pregnancies. (Single mothers are probably more honest than partnered mothers about whether their pregnancies were intended or not).
  3. Unlike lots of other minority groups smug people like to tread on, single parents are one group you could very well enter yourself one day, even if you don’t currently have children.
  4. Don’t be smug about lifetime relationships because a lifetime is a long time. Sorry to say this but your partner could die, or fall out of love with you, or have an affair causing you to fall out of love with them… or lose their job and get a gambling addiction and fall into depression and debt, and you can’t stand it and the effect it is having on your kids so you leave them, or… you know, just one day your marital partner decides that they find your smugness unattractive.
  5. Single mothers are not lazy or stupid or uninspired about life, and they’re not all living in poverty either, although being with one income means they are almost always more vulnerable. Single mothers, like partnered mothers are often studying and working, but single parents are often doing it tougher – earning less and owning less. In fact, lone parents (who are women in the vast majority) are more likely than partnered parents to be undertaking study. And… the proportion of lone parents in the labour force increases with the age of the youngest child in the family, as is the case for partnered mothers. Incidentally, when single parents get jobs they have more stable jobs than other groups of people who have experienced unemployment, and this is even though they tend to get jobs with less flexibility and less paid parental leave than the jobs of partnered mothers. (How very unfair).
  6. Single mothers are not living high on the hog from money they receive in child support or maintenance payments. In fact, in 2003-04, more than half (51%) of one-parent families reported that they did not receive any current weekly income from child support or maintenance payments and a further 12% received less than $10. Around 16% of lone parents received payments of $100 per week or more.
  7. Single parent families often do it tough financially and are consequently vulnerable. Close to half of lone parents with children under 15 years (46%) reported that their household could not raise $2000 in a week for something important, compared with 13% of couples with children under 15 years. And think about it smug married person, where would you be next year if your partner vanished from your life today? How would you go affording the basics, and the extras, and also saving for the emergencies?
  8. Just over half of all single mothers are raising one child.. (maybe less children than you, smug married guy) and single mothers are not walking around bewildered about the parentage of a collection of children, saying “who my baby daddy, where my baby daddy at?”. (Ugh, that quote was vile).
  9. Step-families are on the rise, which means that often times single mothers become partnered mothers again. Smug married guy, be careful who you spout off your ideas to because the married mother or father you’re talking to might once have been a single parent.
  10. Some single parents conceived their child/ren as single people. Some of these people were on flights of fancy, full of youthful zest, some of them even willfully planned it that way, and some of them thought why the hell not – I’m up for this when it happened unintentionally. And you know what, smug married guy? Risk-taking, a sense of adventure, being open to life’s opportunities, optimism, a willingness to be spontaneous and daring, those traits are just as valuable as being cautious and restrained.

Basically, single mothers are a lot like you – looking after their kids and trying to do the best they can by them – only a lot less smug.



Categories: gender & feminism, relationships

Tags: , ,

12 replies

  1. I read the discussion you linked to. It was about using a term from African American culture “baby daddy” to refer to the biological father of a child.
    I got the impression that few of the liberal participants were really worried about falling into trends within African American culture in which the father is most usually absent from the family.
    Do you really want married men to take the attitude that being present within the family is of no consequence? If men really took such an attitude the efforts men make to be providers and to contribute to the care and socialisation of their children would inevitably decline.

  2. Drawing an awfully long bow there, both you and any other commentors at Offsprung who took the same line.
    Fact of the matter is, there are inevitably going to be some children born where the biological fathers either do not want anything to do with raising the child or the mother does not want them involved. I can understand why the mothers of those children would like a term to distinguish those men from non-custodial fathers who are involved in raising their offspring even though they are separated from their mothers.
    Surely having such a term would reinforce the value placed on married men (and unmarried men for that matter) being present within the family? Not using the same word for those fathers as for uninvolved fathers?

    Edited to add: totally went off half-cocked here. Read comment below.

  3. Rereading Lauren’s original post, I see that I got it totally arse about from memory above, as she was referring to the evolution of the term amongst her age cohort of single parents who find that “ex-boyfriend” doesn’t seem a serious enough term for the father of their child(ren), and that the original connotation of uninvolvement with the child does seem to no longer apply.
    In comments she clarifies:

    As stigmatized as “baby daddy” is, it still manages to hit the most important points: never married to one another, not in a relationship with one another, have a child together.

    So how does a choice of term within the unmarried parenting community affected married men in any way?

  4. You tell them, bluemilk!!!

    The traditional nuclear family is dying. And people are getting anxious, because once it does, there will be no guarantee that what they are doing, ie: getting married and having children, will be morally superior to any other lifestyle.

  5. Weird, I read the post, and all the comments, and have not a clue where Mark got that impression from.

    And I have usually got pretty good reading comprehension.

  6. On a slightly different note, can we think of a term we can label guys (beyond “bastard”)who say to women they impregnate “if you have the child I won’t support you or the child physically, finanically or emotionally in any way” and “I continue to refuse to use condoms”?

  7. Once upon a time words such as “cad” and “bounder” and “libertine” would have been hissed venomously and non-ironically, but they’ve become jokes.
    I think we need a new term, definitely, and I hereby declare that we are going to take the model of the Dag’s Dictionary Challenge and choose the best suggested word/phrase that defines such a user perfectly.
    I’m sure that we can come up with something at least as memorable as the examples below?

    Airfauxbics (ayr’ fo biks) noun. Any sequence of stretching exercises designed to cover the fact that the person at whom you just waved turned out to be a complete stranger.
    Famnesia (fam nee’ zee ah) noun. The tendency to mix up the names of family members, calling the boy by the girl’s name, the father by the mother ‘s, and the baby girl by the dog’s.

    Get your thinking caps on, Hoydenistas!

  8. I would suggest that Smug Married Guy look at his own family first before making comments about others. He may be surprised to find that his wife feels like a ‘Married Single Mother’ (w thanks to Kathy Lette). I’m not saying she does, but with an attitude like his, lets say I wouldn’t be surprised.

  9. “On a slightly different note, can we think of a term we can label guys (beyond “bastard”)who say to women they impregnate “if you have the child I won’t support you or the child physically, finanically or emotionally in any way” and “I continue to refuse to use condoms”?”
    I have a very good name for those guys. Doomed-never-to-sleep-with-a-woman-again.

  10. On a slightly different note, can we think of a term we can label guys (beyond “bastard”)who say to women they impregnate “if you have the child I won’t support you or the child physically, finanically or emotionally in any way” and “I continue to refuse to use condoms”?

    Parchedcocks?

  11. Rebekka – I’m so glad you couldn’t follow that first comment either. I never responded to you Mark, because basically I haven’t got a clue what you’re on about.
    Lauredhel – I love parchedcock. That was laugh out loud funny.

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