Ever since I was thrust into the suddenly single world of motherhood nearly a decade ago, Ive been slowly unpacking the nuances and spoken and unspoken rules of the single mom. I learned that I quickly turned from friend to foe when it came to hanging around my girlfriends husbands. I learned that my happily married friends secretly envied my child-free weekends and six-week summers, when my children were with their dad. But I also learned that there is a hierarchy to single motherhood, one that has been historically constructed by societal norms and patriarchal influences but still rules with a tyrannical hold today. ... And while it is true that no matter how you entered single motherhood you will struggle with time management, sole decision-making and career compromises, the perception of your single motherhood often shapes the experience of your single motherhood. For example, a widow is likely to receive much more support from friends and family than a woman who is perceived as becoming a single mother because of her own poor decision-making or even by her own choice. If you stepped into this circumstance by your own fault, then there is little compassion for you. If you were never validated by the institution of marriage, then there is little but shaming and struggle for you. ... What all single mothers need, no matter how they got there, is not more lines of demarcation glorifying some while demonizing others, mostly across racial and socioeconomic lines. Single parenting is not a competitive sport with badges of honor and various prizes of support and social acceptance based on how you entered the race you probably never expected to join. When we can shift the focus to the children, not the former marital status of the parent, and ensure every child of a single-parent home is valued and supported, and not stereotyped, then we can all win the gold. Thats a societal badge of honor worth celebrating.
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