The stereotype against singles mothers is such that every aspect of their existence is held under the microscope: is she went out, she wasn’t responsible; if she receives child support, she looking for a free ride and only thinks of the dad as a paycheck; if she gets a sitter, she’s abandoning her children; if she works too much, too little…. The list goes on.
This is especially true for “Young Single Mothers.” The women who had babies while still nothing more than kids themselves. Or the women like my mother who at 30 years old with an 11 and 9 year old standing beside her and a toddler wrestling an imaginary dragon in her arms was still frequently pegged in her early to mid-20s.
The preconception that my siblings and I were heathens was as quick as a glance at her ring finger. Women like her didn’t raise ‘good’ kids. Women like her didn’t care about values, morals or manners; if she had, she’d have married.
The truth is, this judgment doesn’t just follow single moms: it follows the poor, the minorities, the lower classes, the heavy Appalachian accents, tattoos, and any hint of hip hop fashion.
So when we decided to play football on tricycles in the middle of the store, she had to rush to contain us. She might have panicked under the weight of the scowling if she hadn’t already grown accustomed to the treatment. We weren’t just a couple of near-teenage boys being dumb, reckless and all out disobedient. We were an example of everything wrong with society. She was the classless whore sucking down welfare checks driving a Mercedes and popping out babies to buy crack instead of diapers.
(It’s a harsh thought, isn’t it?)
To be labeled a welfare-queen every time one of your kids decides it is appropriate to have a panic attack with screams reaching 150 dBA when chocolate milk is not ordered with their Happy Meal.
You must be a crack-whore, because there’s no ring on your finger and you can’t proudly sign a Christmas card “Happy Holidays From The Such-and-Suches.”
I firmly believe she would have raised us in much the same way even if she’d hadn’t been consumed with making sure society didn’t judge us and predetermine our fates. She was just so afraid that her choices would hurt us – She could take the looks, the invasive questions and stereotype but she refused to let it limit us.
But I can’t help wondering what she’d have been like without the weight…
Would she have scored a touchdown between the pet food and cleaning supplies?
Would she have worried less about doing the laundry and clean shoes?
Would she have swing danced with us in the park like she did in the kitchen on Sunday mornings making food coloring pancakes?