Single Mother, please let’s ditch the label

Identity is a strange thing.  Who are we? And how do we fit into our societies? I am stamped with the single mother label.  

I was thinking a bit about identity as I walked back home from my ex’s house having collected my son from him at 7:30 this morning. 


I am a mother

I am a single mother

I am an employee

I am a government employee

I am a graduate

I am young (well relatively, I am 34)

I am a daughter (to some awesome parents)

I am a sister (to some great siblings)

I am an ex-fiancée

I am a flat owner

I am a tax payer

I am a commuter

I think I am going to stop there because this is getting a bit dull.

single mother label

If we take any of these labels and examine them more closely, we find that there are a number of different and associated images.  Let’s take mother to start with.  When I think of the word mother, the following comes into my head:

Nurturing – this is good, I am happy with nurturing.  My mother is certainly nurturing and I certainly aspire to be.

Mumsy – not sure!  I don’t think I am mumsy.  I don’t think my mother is either.

Selfless – yep, I’d like to have this label.

Unconditionally loving  this is certainly true when it comes to our children.  Speaking from experience I’d say this isn’t true when it comes to our partners…

Forgiving – yep, I like this label too.

Patient – Also good.

Strong  Happy with this.

I am going to stop there because this is getting a bit dull.

So, generally speaking, the words associated with mother are all positive.  I am not sure that we’d aspire to be called ‘mumsy’ but hey, it is no bad thing and certainly nothing to lose sleep over. 

Now lets take the single mother label.  I confess to having consulted google here to see what the search engine thought words associated with single mother might be.  Words that came up were:

Desperate – I don’t feel desperate.

Benefits – I don’t receive any benefits

Stripper – I tend to keep my clothes on other than to wash

Hard working – Yes, okay, I think I am. 

Something that can happen to a female who makes poor decisions  I can’t disagree with this one.  I chose the wrong man (although to be fair to me, I don’t think he showed his true colours for a while).

Lonely – No!  I am sometimes alone in the evenings whilst my son is in bed, but actually, I don’t mind this at all.  It is quite peaceful . 

Young – as above, relatively, but probably older than society’s image of a single mother.

Bitter – I confess to being a bit bitter and angry at times. 


Heroine – I am no heroine!

Victim – and I don’t consider myself to be a victim either.

I am going to stop there because this is getting a bit dull. 

In fact, I don’t identify when many of the labels that society associates with single motherhood.  What is striking though is how different the words associated with ‘mother’ are from the words associated with  the single mother label.  Do you have to have a partner to be selfless?  Do you have to have a partner to be unconditionally loving?  Do you have to have a partner to be strong, forgiving and patient?  I don’t think so.

I don’t like the single mother label at all.  Single conveys the sense of being alone.  I guess I am lucky, but I don’t feel alone at all.  I am very connected to my parents, to my siblings and to friends, in fact possibly more connected than I would be were I married or in a couple.   I am fortunate, because although I am a single mother I am not raising my son single-handedly.  My parents are helping, and he sees his father regularly, then there is the nursery and in future there will be school.  There are many influences and support networks in both of our lives and I feel that the single mother label, with all of its connotations, obscures that. 

My Random Musings

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  1. July 30, 2015 / 8:47 pm

    I was a “single parent” or single mother for 5 years. It was hard work but it did had a stigma attached to it! Often people judged me. They always assumed things and once someone told me they were shocked to learn I was divorced as they assumed I’d had a one night stand, (not like it’s anyone’s business how I became a mother). The focus should be on supporting mothers yet the term “single mum” does often depict alone, single, unmarried etc etc and does seem to be a negative when actually being a single mum for me was the best decision I ever made at the time I made that choice!

    Angela from
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    • thesingleswan
      July 31, 2015 / 6:46 pm

      Hi Angela,

      thanks for your comment. I totally identify with your point about becoming a single mum being the best decision you ever made. I feel liberated, free, happy and although the future will be challenging, I have no doubt, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I have made the right decision. That confidence in having made the right decision is actually a really great feeling.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and I hope to hear from you soon. x

  2. July 30, 2015 / 10:34 pm

    Great post! And a really great point about the labels and terms we use to describe people without really considering what they imply and how they affect perception. I think it’s a very important distinction that you draw between parents who don’t happen to have a partner and parenting single-handedly. Thanks for sharing on #snotallaboutyou!
    Jennifer {The Hollyhock Door} recently posted…Moving and Babies — Is this the last time?My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      July 31, 2015 / 6:43 pm

      Hi Jennifer,

      thanks for your comment. I think the danger in applying such generic terms is that we fail to see the diversity and differences between the people lumped in that generic category.

      I am really lucky not to be parenting single handedly and my son is lucky in that respect too. I recognise that not all single parents (using a label for which I apologise) are as lucky as me.

  3. July 31, 2015 / 3:13 am

    Great post and I totally agree that we need to ditch the labels! Why do we feel the need to label everyone around us? I hate the term single mother, as you point out, it has so many bad connotations. Why can’t it just be mother – whether you have a partner or not, you are still a mother.
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes
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    • thesingleswan
      July 31, 2015 / 6:40 pm

      Hi Debbie,

      Thank you for your comment! Yes, we like to categorise. I think it helps us as individuals to work out who we are in relation to everyone else in society. It is potentially limiting and damaging. I like to think that people will look beneath the surface. Thanks again. Pen xx

  4. August 1, 2015 / 7:52 am

    It’s so sad that people feel the need to attach labels and the ones given out to single mums are typically negative. I have friends who find themselves single for one reason or another and the words I’d use to describe all of them would be inspirational, hard working and brave.
    Izzie Anderton recently posted…Keep Calm and Hold on to Your SeatMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      August 1, 2015 / 9:00 pm

      Hi Izzie,
      Thanks for you comment and the really nice words you have chosen to describe your single mother friends. You certainly have to be brave to chose to leave your partner, but I feel it is the best decision I have ever made. Hope to see you back here soon.

  5. August 3, 2015 / 8:07 pm

    My poor sister became a single mother earlier this year, I hate watching her go through it and I just hope she will be able to get through it soon. Great blog thank you, label shmables #snotallaboutyou
    Emma recently posted…#candidcuddles – Value a MomentMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      August 3, 2015 / 8:47 pm

      Best of luck to your sister. It is really tough. I find that my family are a massive help to me in so many ways. Your sister will really be appreciating your support right now. x

  6. August 5, 2015 / 8:47 am

    I hate that the single mum label is such a negative one, yet a single dad is seen as a hero!

    You didnt make a poor decision, because if he showed his true colours when you met him I imagine you would not have dated him! It all happens for a reason I believe

    I feel like a better parent as a single parent because I devote all my time to my son and it all gets done my way lol.


    • thesingleswan
      August 6, 2015 / 10:15 pm

      Why is a single Dad seen as a hero? I don’t get it.

      You are right I wouldn’t have dated him if he showed his true colours early on, but I can’t help but wonder whether the clues were always there and I should have paid more attention to them. He just blinded me with his charm! Thanks for your comment.

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