‘Married-Single Mothers’ are Not Delusional – They Are Partner-Privileged

And by ‘married single mothers’ I mean married women with partners who like to refer to themselves as “single moms” when the hubby is off traveling, or they are “exhausted”.

I just read this and it reminded me of the time one of the married/full-time employed/women in my life (who also happens to be a mother) had the audacity to tell me that she “was a single mother too” back when her husband was working longer hours and she was younger, raising their firstborn and trying to do a PhD at the same time. She told me this as I was going through one of the hardest times of my life, doing a full time graduate degree, raising my baby alone without any financial help and no substantial social support in a foreign country. For this woman, my predicament was simple, and easily solved; her message was:


Except she literally didn’t. At all. Ever. And had no clue what the fuq she was talking about. If you flip what she said around, what she was really actually saying, quite insensitively, was:


Struggling single mamas – can i get a show of hands for how many times partnered women with resources and means have had the audacity to offend you like this?

Actually, F that, I don’t need a show of hands. Why? Because I know it happens all the fucking time, b. Seriously.

Actually, this author articulates some of the problems with partner privilege pretty well. She highlights eight points that differentiate us which deserve attention for every self-proclaiming married ‘single mother’:

  1. Partnership (You have help. With literally everything. We don’t.)
  2. Shared Responsibilities (Too tired to do that today? No problem, because you have a partner to help (see #1). We do not.)
  3. Personal Time (You have some because you have both #1 and #2 above. This is called a luxury. We don’t).
  4. Navigating ‘the Conversation’ with Your Child (You will never have to deal with this because you have #1 and #2 above. Your child is spared ridicule at school. Not so for many of us).
  5. Comparison and Competition (A.k.a. poverty and lack of resources that cause social strain for you and your child. Unless you and your husband are extremely poor, you will never have to worry about this either. But even if you and your husband are extremely poor, you are still privileged because you have each other. See #1 – #5 above).
  6. Living on One Income in a Two Income World (Because you have #1, #2, #3, and will likely never have to deal with #4 or #5. Even if you’re in a relationship and only one of you works, you are still privileged).
  7. Invasive Questions (You get to drop the label when it suits you so you’re spared all the social stigma and fucking bullshit that goes along with it. Must be nice).
  8. Friendships (Hmm, don’t have a big social network? No worries. You can go out when hubby stays home with the kids. Take a breather. Hook up with some old pals and meet some new ones. See, if you were actually ever a single struggling mom, your social life would be pretty close to non existent. But hey, who cares when you can throw labels around, right? Haha!).

Last time I checked, there was a term for people who claim others’ pain and struggle in such a way so as to profit from it: cultural appropriators. Don’t know what cultural appropriation is? Let me help you out:

“A deeper understanding of cultural appropriation also refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.” 

Maisha Z. Johnson (June 14, 2015) Everyday Feminism.

Your easy use of the term married-‘single mother’, tossed around whenever it suits your interests is not only offensive, it is literally cultural appropriation. You feel tired after a long day of your partner not being there and you crave some pity from other people out in the blogging world or wherever, so you refer to yourself as a ‘married single mother’. Or – here’s something that has happened to me several times – you’ve had a hard day without your man and you are so tired and stressed that the only viable option of dealing with it is to call me, or message me, telling me all about your tiredness and stress, how sore you are and all that, sometimes crying – until your man walks through the door. Then, all of a sudden, you have no time for me anymore. It’s time to go, right? You just get to spew all your emotional stress and frustration at me because you KNOW I understand, don’t you? Why else would you do it? Let me tell you something, b:

I know what you’re doing, and so do you.

You call me to exploit my emotional resources, you know I have it hard and you know I get it, and you take advantage of that for your own gain. This is like a mini version of capitalist exploitation. It is women like you who hurt all of us – not just us single moms, but ALL of us women – because you SEE our pain, you KNOW we struggle hard. Don’t you? You KNOW we have it rough as hell. BUT YOU DON’T DO ANYTHING TO HELP US. Claiming our pain and our struggle without experiencing any of it is the essence of privilege. And considering how hard some single mammas do have it, how difficult it can be for them and their children, notwithstanding the hell they are put through by their former partners, society in general, and the misogynistic and violent family court system, you should be ashamed of yourself for using the term in a light hearted sense to describe the silly ways you feel so exhausted when your partner is temporarily out.

You don’t know exhaustion. You know physical tiredness.

Struggling single mother exhaustion is a mix of literal physical, mental, and emotional depletion and stress but it is a stress that makes every bone in your body hurt, makes your muscles twitch, your sleep poor, your immune system weak, inflamed, constantly fighting off viruses and bacteria with sore throats and the perpetually runny nose, in and out of the hospital, at the doctor every week, makes you want to cry at the end of every day but you don’t because you can’t because you’re also dehydrated and need to breastfeed the baby, it is an emotional paradox of complete darkness, a stinging numbness ringing through your head all the time but especially during those last five minutes before sleep because those are the only minutes you get to yourself every day, but you can’t cry because you’re filled to the brim with love for your baby, so much love that no one knows, but that circles back around to making you want to cry again because you’re alone and your child deserves better, but nope, gotta get to sleep because you have an early day, have to get up and do it all all over again because you’re all this baby’s got.

I wonder… how many of these ‘married single mothers’ are white class-privileged women? Anyone out there know or have ways to get a handle on that? Because I suspect they are in the majority. Nothing annoys me more. Not the whiteness, not the economic privilege per se, but the lack of empathy, the total disrespect, and the satirical treatment of other people’s suffering.

Here’s my sage advice to married ‘single mothers’:

Dump him. Try it all on for size. See what you think. When you’re done, I guarantee you will never use that term the same way again.



  1. Jennifer

    ” I feel compassion for married women in abusive situations and I know it’s not easy to live in that kind of environment but they still garner more respect in general. This is also notwithstanding the fact that they still also have literal help and the option of taking a much needed break because they are partnered.”
    “But there is still a huge difference between being completely alone and having someone in close proximity (regardless of if they are abusive or not) who can lift a finger and do the dishes or wash the clothes or take baby to nursery or pay the bills or mop the floor.”
    Do you have any idea how incredibly clueless and offensive you are? Positively stunning lack of eempathy. I have an idea. Remember how at the end of your diatribe you suggested the woman leave the man and see how it is without one? I suggest you hook up with an abusive man and see how much help, respect and status it gets you. Let us know how you make out.


    1. Troll much?

      Seriously though, I don’t understand your obsession with defending the type of married women I’ve discussed in this piece. It’s almost like you’re… dare I say it… married. Why the hostility? I’m honestly starting to wonder if you’re as ‘single’ as you claim you are…


  2. Jennifer

    I understand the frustration, hurt and resentment expressed in this piece. The contemptible tax structure and court system in the US along with every other financial burden/abuse we suffer is exhausting and demoralising. Yet with our experience of the patriarchy and understanding of what having a “partner” within it so often entails, I have serious doubts about the grass being so much greener for the marrieds. It isn’t that I can’t conceive of a condescending arse of a woman of privilege being cluelessly sanctimonious. But for as many if not far more of those, there are woman who feel quite alone within marriage. That special kind of capitulation and powerlessness to the soul-snuffing hell that I daresay the majority of married women endure inspires no envy in me. I haven’t heard anyone call themselves a “married single mom” but if it were said or implied, I’d tend toward compassion. A woman who refers herself as such could be, however awkwardly, attempting to articulate her own suffering to someone she thinks might be more understanding than the typical “get over it” “it’s your own fault” mentality we sisters so often face. The burden and drain of an unhelpful, unsupportive, likely thwarting, very possibly abusive partner can be far from a privilege, when all is taken into account.


    1. Thank you for your comment, Jennifer. I get that many married women do feel alone and helpless starved for meaningful connection, but I maintain my argument that the experience of single motherhood is distinctively qualitatively different, still. The experience of single motherhood under patriarchy and poverty is not a feeling, as you say, but a conglomeration of different oppressions each pressing down upon women and their children. I understand that women who live with abusive men are also oppressed, but they face far less social stigma and hate from people and institutions across the board. I feel compassion for married women in abusive situations and I know it’s not easy to live in that kind of environment but they still garner more respect in general. This is also notwithstanding the fact that they still also have literal help and the option of taking a much needed break because they are partnered. Struggling single mothers have no such privilege.


      1. Jennifer

        Being a struggling single mother of three myself, I am quite sure I did not say nor imply that being a single mother is merely “a feeling” or that single motherhood was not different from married motherhood. Not sure one can quantify the degree of hate and stigma faced by single mothers versus abused married women or the amount of respect they bestowed upon either. The so called respect married women get is by association with a male and therefore not respect at all. And to assume that because a woman is married she has help and the option of taking a break is nonsense. Not sure why the utopian view of marriage. Your point about the situation of single motherhood is undermined by this simplistic view that married women have it better no matter what. We are all under the foot of the patriarchy.


      2. Married women get more social respect conferred to them by virtue of their status, not necessarily because of the association with a man. Married lesbians are more respected than single mothers, to be sure. If a woman is married, she has help and the option of taking a break because of that help. Not an assumption as much as a fact. I don’t see any nonsense in that at all. My view of marriage isn’t utopian, it’s based on a very basic relational structure between one person and another. I agree that we are all under the foot of patriarchy but married women have a host of privileges and resources that struggling single mothers do not.


      3. Jennifer

        “If a woman is married, she has help and the option of taking a break because of that help. Not an assumption as much as a fact.”

        No, it is an assumption based on your perception of marriage that seems to come from a place of privilege, one that doesn’t recognize things outside one’s own experience. For example, many women especially those who are poor, end up with drug-addicted spouses who are anything but a help. They are, n fact, a burden, a danger and a further drain to the scarcely allotted resources available to the women and children. Do you think people automatically confer respect on the desperate spouse of a drug addict simply because of marriage? Or do you think perhaps they lump her in with this “lifestyle” whether or not she’s busting her ass to rise above it because of the association? This respect and status you assume all married women have, do you think it goes across the board? Do you think a telltale manner of speech, bad teeth and tattered clothes won’t matter because women are enshrouded in the wholesome glow of marriage? People will makes assumptions because of the way a mother looks and sounds and then judge and treat the woman accordingly, married or not. In fact, it is often assumed poor mothers are unmarried. Married working poor women won’t necessarily have help or a break either, as often here is no time for either just making ends meet. There still exist very structure called the patriarchy that places ownership of a woman’s body and life with her husband. Marriage under this structure does not always provide the safety net you insist it does. Very far from it. I do not downplay what single mothers endure but nor will I assume a married woman automatically has privilege I do not.


      4. Well, I appreciate you taking the time to tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about but you don’t know me very well.

        The issue of conferring respect is not about my personal opinion or perception of married women, but an actual phenomenon that I have experienced time and time again. Of course class affects everything – I am not saying that poverty or race are not serious issues for married women. What I am saying is that if I and a married woman were to walk into a room together with our children, each dressed presentably, more respect would be conferred upon the married woman than myself because in a normative social situation that is usually the way it goes.

        Further to my point is that western society, and actually to a large extent most of societies around the world, prize the institution of marriage as something that is ‘normal’, historically traditional, and something to be celebrated. Thanks to religion and patriarchy, a married woman is seen and treated as a person to who has accomplished something and is to be held in higher regard than the spinster.

        To be honest, it kind of sounds like you are really defending married women here. You say that “Married working poor women won’t necessarily have help or a break either”, which is true to an extent. But there is still a huge difference between being completely alone and having someone in close proximity (regardless of if they are abusive or not) who can lift a finger and do the dishes or wash the clothes or take baby to nursery or pay the bills or mop the floor. I think these are all simple things that women with resources take for granted to the detriment of their less fortunate sisters. Married women fundamentally have privileges that single mothers doing everything alone do not. I know that is hard to accept for some women but it is true.


  3. I wholeheartedly agree. It’s the being solely responsible for this child whom you love more than anything, knowing you are limited and giving all that you can oftentimes still feels less than what your child deserves. The sole financial responsibility, the social judgment and the shame this can engender. Feeling lesser because that narrative remains pervasive, the good woman, the good mother keeps her family together, or at least couples up with another man swiftly. And the continuous undermining that the child’s father wreaks with the aid of family courts, making it all the more difficult to maintain equilibrium, when that person is supposed to be the one who supports not brings detriment to your family. It’s the end of a long day when you are home alone, the kid’s asleep in bed and you don’t even have the simple comfort of a hug, or a shared meal, or a conversation with someone who is in this with you, together.

    Liked by 1 person

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