All this month I will be posting guest blogs about Women’s History Month. Our first guest blogger is the incomparable @TheChickAbides on Twitter and The Chick Abides. Chardon Murray is a political junkie, blogger, and researcher. She’s been a human and civil rights activist for over a decade, as well as working in broadcast media, government, and academia. She lives with her childhood sweetheart and young daughter in a coastal town in North Carolina.
“Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can’t get a job and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that’s the story that we’re not seeing, and it’s unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock.[sic]” –Former Gov. Mike Huckabee
I was 25 years old when it became clear to me that my (now ex) husband didn’t have the maturity, desire, or will to fight his severe drug addiction. But it was the night he called me, high as a kite, and threatened to rape and murder me in front of our daughter that my decision was made for me. I didn’t want my daughter to grow up thinking that that’s the way women are supposed to be treated, so I became a single mom.
Even so, it was an agonizing decision. Not because of my ex-husband–his addiction and abuse had long since killed any positive emotion I had toward him–but because I was terrified of the prospect of becoming a single mother. Growing up in the Bible Belt, I had been socialized since I was very young that women were incapable of raising a child on their own. Becoming a single mother was not an easy decision to make, even if the alternative meant a lifetime of pain, abuse, misery, and neglect.
There were sacrifices: I dropped out of grad school to take a job working in the State Legislature. Unable to find affordable childcare, my parents and I got up early and made the 4 hour round-trip drive several times a week.
I worked so I didn’t have to suckle the government’s welfare teat. I sacrificed so that I could provide a good life for her. Of course, I relied heavily on my amazing family. Their support was invaluable, and it has made us extremely close as a family. My daughter has a relationship with them she might not have otherwise had, and my little girl and I are incredibly close. We are survivors, we are strong women, and we did it together.
In the meantime, my ex-husband spent his inheritance, wound up in jail, and high-tailed it back home, 2000 miles away, without so much as kissing his daughter goodbye. Responsibility was not his strong suit; neither was paying his child support. (He has since had his parental rights terminated.)
Life as a single mother was hard, but not because of the sacrifices we made. It was hard because of the judgments.
When I told people about my situation, some were enormously supportive. Others, not so much. One of my fellow grad assistants, upon hearing of my impending divorce, mused, “Oh, that’s so sad! A child should never grow up without their father.” One of my closest friends (at the time) told me, “I’m a Christian, I don’t believe in divorce. You’re making a mistake. He’s obviously crying out for help. You made vows. That child needs her father.”
Heh. I don’t know about you, but when your “cry for help” involves threatening rape and murder in front of a toddler, which you blame on the fact you were high as soon as you got out from your 7th stint in rehab, I’d say you’re doing it wrong.
You see, in the Bible belt, it’s better for a child to have an abusive, manipulative, drug addicted father and a scared, lonely, beaten down mother than it is to have a hardworking, supportive, loving SINGLE mother.
People like Mike Huckabee don’t care that my ex-husband was abusive. They don’t care that my daughter was an angry, impatient toddler prone to fits of rage which mirrored the temper tantrums her father threw…but suddenly transformed into a sweet, reasonable, loving child with no hint of her former violence once he was out of the picture. All that matters to them is that I CHOSE to become a worthless, stupid, incapable single mother who was going to let my child starve…all the while giving a bad example to every female I came into contact with.
Mike Huckabee’s quote was wrong on so many levels. “Most” Single Mothers are NOT everything he claims. A Census report from 2009 found that 80% of custodial single mothers are employed and only 4.3% of ALL single parent families (including single fathers) are recipients of Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF).
I think Melissa Harris-Perry, Ph.D., said it best: “These data show that although they are more often poor, most single mothers work despite the obvious difficulties of working while raising children without a spouse. They further show that our government actually does very little to support these women. These moms are hardly cash-sucking drains on national or state economies. Many of these women and their children could use more support, not less.”
Huckabee needs to shut his big, uninformed pie-hole. Making the ridiculous assumption that all single mothers are poor, uneducated, and suckling the federal teat is both incorrect and insulting. Single mothers are a favorite whipping-boy of the Christian Right, and this habit of vilifying these women has horrifying consequences.
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that there are scores of women who are making the choice to stay in a horrible relationship because of their fears of how they’ll be treated as a single mother, and are unsure as to whether they’ll be able to cope. To those women, I want to tell you that you don’t have to put up with misery and pain just to appease the pious.
Being a single mother made me a better woman, a better mother, and a better partner. (see post script below) I was socialized my entire life to believe that, as a woman, I couldn’t survive without a man, much less provide a good life for my daughter. I proved myself wrong, and I proved the Mike Huckabees of the world wrong. With a lot of sacrifice, a LOT of help from friends and family, I did just fine.
So ladies, they’re WRONG. For those of you who have been abandoned by the man who was supposed to help you provide for your child, know that you CAN do it. For those of you who are in horrible situations: You CAN get out. You CAN raise your child on your own. I won’t lie, it will be tough, but if you’re tough enough to survive pain, misery, addiction, infidelity, and/or abuse, you’re tough enough for this!
Today, on International Women’s Day, of all days, know that you are strong, you are capable, and you will overcome. You can do this…not in spite of the fact that you’re a woman, but BECAUSE you’re a woman. You go girl!
Required Reading: Melissa Harris-Perry: Mike Huckabee: Wrong on Single Mothers
Read ACTUAL Census Data Here (instead of relying on a subjective assertion by people like Huckabee): http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p60-238.pdf
Post Script: A year after my marriage ended, I reconnected with my childhood sweetheart, and I was able to rediscover what it meant to be in a loving relationship of mutual respect–without the addiction, the neglect, the violence. @HarrisonMurray came into our lives and immediately became the father my daughter never had, but that I always wanted for her. She was very young, and has no memory of her biological father. @HarrisonMurray and I will celebrate our marriage anniversary next month, and should be able to afford to finish adoption proceedings sometime this year.
Raising a child with the love and support of a partner is, of course, much easier than doing it alone…but raising a child under violence, neglect, infidelity, anger, and/or addiction is MUCH more difficult than doing it alone. All the time wasted in a bad relationship with a bad partner and a bad parent could be time spent improving yourself, your family, and creating relationships with friends, family, and partners that aren’t dysfunctional.
I’m thankful for Glenn and Leanne, my amazing parents who NEVER let me give up or believe that I was not good enough, my wonderful loving husband Harrison, and my absolutely fantastic daughter. The true joy and wonder of those relationships would never have been fully realized had I chosen NOT to be a single mother.