When you hear the phrase ‘single mother’, what do you think of? (I’m not making you say it out loud, you over-sensitive lefty, you can be honest.) It’s not good, is it? Despite the fact that 25% of all families in the UK are single parent families (yes, that’s 1 in 4 for the mathematicians out there), there are still negative connotations attached to the phrase. If I’m being really honest, the phrase has always held negative meanings to me, despite being raised by a (the absolute very best) single mother, myself.
I won’t get into the government policy, legal loopholes and towers of paperwork that stand in the way of tax breaks, credits and benefits for single parents who are already stretched to the limit from raising children alone. Because frankly I’m too tired, busy and stretched-to-the-limit-from-raising-a-child-alone to do the research and write soundly about this. (However, you should check out gingerbread.org.uk who do great work supporting single parent families.)
But what I can do, because it’s been my job for over a decade and I can do it half-decently even on two solid years of bad sleep, is write about the media. About film, television, celebrity, fashion, beauty. All the really important stuff.
So, I’ve decided to start a new project. To highlight the, on-the-whole bonkers, portrayal of single mums (and dads) in the media. In film, TV, the news, in books. Anything I come across, or have come across. It won’t all be negative (hello, Erin Brockovich) but as usual, I approach the task with full pessimism and an expectation of disappointment.
If you’ve ever wondered just how Rachel from Friends has time for endless coffees with the gang when you haven’t seen your friends in months (or pondered just where exactly Emma is, and who’s looking after her) or wondered why not a single one of the mindless cartoons your toddler make you watch features a single parent family to help your child feel ‘normal’, join me as I embark on…
The Single Mother Project.
I’ll be posting reactions to depictions of (or lack thereof) single parents in the media, and discussing themes that crop up. (For example, why are single mother protagonists always divorced, but single fathers always widowed? Because men don’t get the kids unless the woman dies? Or because women are unbearable and likely to be left alone?)
JOIN ME. And leave suggestions for things to watch and post on in the comments, s’il vous plait.
Full disclosure; the films and TV shows I talk about will not be (all that) new. A lot of them will be wildly outdated. I haven’t watched TV since Christmas and I have two jobs, a child and a cat to prioritise over this silliness. It’s also possible there will be long gaps between posts, or that I’ll get distracted and stop altogether due to sleep-related emergencies or house disasters that I’m ill-equipped to deal with. What I’m saying is, don’t unsubscribe to the Guardian Long Reads podcast and think that your weekly entertainment is sorted. I am a single mother. Everyone knows they’re wildly unreliable.