Stop Saying You're A Single Mum When You're Not

No seriously, stop it.

09/05/2016 6:53 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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Single no longer has to be sad.

Ladies, please do not call yourself a single mother unless you are one. Thank you. If you are financially and emotionally supported by the father of your kids and you all live under the same roof, even if he is a frequent flyer or he likes weekends away with the boys, then you are NOT a single mother. Married mums proclaiming they are experiencing a single-mum-like lifestyle simply continue to fuel the single-mum stigma.

Many single mums work so they can cough up $20 an hour for babysitters when they can't be physically there. They are responsible for meals, household chores, pick ups and drop offs; they celebrate the kids highs and are there to dry up all the tears from the lows.

They finish school science projects and then stay up all hours of the night to catch up on unfinished work. So while that diagnosis sounds just like motherhood there is one key defining factor -- it's all up to them. The responsibility baton has been well and truly passed their way. With custody comes the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual responsibility for the kids. And most likely all the bills. As a soccer dad said on the sidelines: "It's like they are on point the whole time."

But single no longer has to be a symptom, no longer has to be sad. It is just the new reality. Single-parent families are now the fastest-growing family type in Australia. The numbers of couples with children will grow by up to 40 percent over the next 20 years, while the numbers of one-parent families will increase to 70 percent. All doing it on their own.

When married mums with absent husbands slap single mums in the face with the "it's-like-I'm-a-single-mum" line, they continue to reinforce the stigma and subliminal messages of shame that surround the single mum. Similar to those annoying family car stickers of the mum, dad, two kids and a family pet. It says: "Look, we do functioning family", "We can have time for family team activities", "Look we are not single". Stop it.

It is unquestionable that motherhood is a ridiculously under-appreciated job and no one is begrudging happy families, but, be it conscious or not, belittling the single mum is wrong. It also goes against everything statistics tell us. The idea that mum and dad and kids make up the majority of households in Australia is pure myth -- they make up only 37 percent of households. There's a massive shift going on; we are moving from married "matramania" to "single culture" or singledom. By 2030, 30 percent of Australian households will have one person in them.

In Japan, where single households are the norm, they have a culture that has embraced this singledom. They even have a "watch over" service, where the local postman stops by to check in on elderly singles to see if they are okay. Imagine Australia as a place where community spirit could support the single mum.

In China, they have a dedicated day where singles reward and celebrate being single, a kind of anti-Valentines Day. The 'Singles Day' sales are one of the largest sales events in China, reporting $14.5 billion in sales last November.

Singledom is part of a larger attitudinal shift. We are seeing a more entrepreneurial spirit in Australia, a modern value system that embraces self-realisation. Imagine a world of solo acceptance, where singles will be able to book a hotel room at a single rate and actually pay less as one person. Where people are accepted for who they are beyond marital status.

The idea that an individual could live a solo lifestyle is viewed as strange and odd. Layer motherhood on this and it feels like Australia is back in the 1950s. "Get on Tinder" is the collective command to the single mum -- it's just not okay to be single in Australia.

In Japan, they embrace singles so much that nearly 40 percent of singles in their twenties and thirties do not want a romantic partner, with many calling relationships plain bothersome. Singles will be the new tastemakers of our time. Let's embrace them, and help kill this single-mum stigma dead in its tracks.

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