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:
ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS WORK HARDER, SEE. I DID IT TOO!
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:
YOU’RE NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH.
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, 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’:
- Partnership (You have help. With literally everything. We don’t.)
- Shared Responsibilities (Too tired to do that today? No problem, because you have a partner to help (see #1). We do not.)
- Personal Time (You have some because you have both #1 and #2 above. This is called a luxury. We don’t).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.