Have No SHAME!!

With the recent increase in the numbers of children born to single mothers, a great deal of attention has been focused on the single parent family, specifically those headed by single mothers. Some of this attention has not been so nice with some of the outcry suggesting that single mothers should be somewhere cowering in shame. Articles suggest that the social stigma against out of wedlock birth has all but disappeared thereby lessening the shame and contributing to the rise in single motherhood. Here is my question…why shame for a single mother? Should a woman be ashamed of her single parent status?

To be fair, I do not believe most little girls dream of growing up to be a single mother. Most single parents probably imagined their lives turning out very differently but yet and still, here they are. While I am sure there are some single parents who may regret or even be ashamed of the choices they made or the circumstances that resulted in their current single parent status, should that shame extend to the single parent status itself?

My answer starts with a question. What child, whether from a one parent household or two parent household, should be raised in an environment of shame? I think every child, no matter how they were conceived, deserves better. A parent who is ashamed will transfer that shame onto their child. Once they do, how is a child supposed to develop a positive self concept, feel motivated to excel and secure a bright future?  How is a parent supposed to encourage their child, have high expectations and demand the best for themselves and their child if they exist and operate in a cloud of shame?

Secondly, single mothers are a diverse community. Why lump all single moms into one category of disrespect? There are a variety of roads that can ultimately lead one to single parenthood. This broad shame directive leveling the accusing finger at all single mothers fails to consider the diversity of roads. So does that mean, no matter how you arrived there, shame should be yours?

Should the woman whose soldier husband was killed in the line of duty be ashamed? Should the grandmother raising her grandchildren due to the death of her child be ashamed? Should the wife whose husband abandoned her be ashamed? Perhaps we should inject some sort of class system within the single parent population and only certain segments should be ashamed while others should not?

Thirdly, in considering single moms, why do we continually ignore the men who helped create these children? What of the fathers? Is there no outcry against irresponsible fatherhood? Is it being suggested that the mothers who sacrifice and stay to raise their children should be ashamed and not the men who abandon them?

Yes, yes and yes, there exists a population of women who made choices they now regret and those women are now living out the consequences of those choices. Perhaps this population is the target of the shame directive. If that is the case, my question is this: How long must they carry the burden of the shame of a bad choice? Must they carry it longer than those who have made other bad choices? The loss of personal time, the loss of sleep, the deferral of their own dreams for the sake of ensuring their children’s; is that not penance enough as they sacrifice all of that and more in order to raise their children and give them the very best of what they have to give? On top of this, they should carry the weight of your condemnation too?

For what purpose? Will it make them better parents? Will it energize them and give the strength they will need to equip the next nation of leaders that they are raising? Or instead, will it rob them of the little bit of courage they do have? Will it help or will it weigh them down and rob them of the confidence they need? Will it help to drown out the sound of that whisper inside that they fight daily, sometimes hourly – that quiet whisper that asks “Can I ever be enough? Even if I give everything I have and am, will it ever be enough?” Or will it amplify that voice thereby robbing them of the strength they need for the battle they must fight?

I suggest an immediate change in attitude. Instead of pointing fingers, why not extend a hand? Instead of condemnation, why not offer compassion? But above all, if one cannot help a situation, at least commit to not hurting it. Words hurt. If words don’t heal, perhaps they should not be uttered. If not, I believe the true shame does not lie with the single mother; it lies with all of us.

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Have No SHAME!!

  • mom by chice

    This issue also irks me. I am a mom by choice that just happens to be single. I am employed full time & have 2 masters degrees. I raise my son to be thoughtful of his actions, kind & responsible.

    I work in the field of education and am exposed to MANY children throughout the day. I also have witnessed their interactions with their parents. Please believe me when I say that having 2 parents is NO guarantee of a safe, stable, nurturing home. I have also encountered single parents that have been extraordinary in their efforts to raise their children well.

    The Ozzie & Harriet myth of the 2 parent family must be let go. It is quality, not quantity that matters.

  • bitBM

    I’m so lucky to have stumbled upon this post because this subject irks me greatly–especially when shaming single parents comes up in the Black community.

  • Wow, this is an issue that had been bugging me recently. I have been discouraged this week (and it’s only tuesday) by people who “accidently” received our magazine and have called to let us know. The problem is, many are not nice nor do they understand what single parents go through, instead they are offended. It is as though others think that single parents, especially single mothers, are an outcast in society. I am not saying everyone shares this same thought! Single mother’s are single for many reasons. Two years ago my best friends mom didn’t know her husband was going to have a massive heart attack and she would from then on be a single mother. She didn’t know she was going to have watch her son graduate college and her daughter get married, without having his support. Lending a hand to help those overcome their struggles is what needs to be done, instead of being ignorant to what single parents deal with. Single parents need support. Judging a single parent doesn’t only hurt the parent, it hurts the children.. believe me, I know.

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