“Congratulations!” is the first word women hear when they announce that they are pregnant. In most cultures and countries, being pregnant or giving birth is celebrated as an amazing, life-changing event. There’s a lot of things new moms learn on their own, every single experience is individual for the person having the baby. In most European countries, being a single mom is not a big deal, they celebrate the mom and the baby just the same, partner or no partner.
In some countries, traditions, religion and culture are all mixed with each other, and dictate the order of affairs. Usually, the issues we hear about are selective abortions, arranged marriages, underage brides, sexism, etc.
In general, people are prepared for the prejudices of the world by living their lives as part of some group, religious, ethnic or otherwise. In rare cases, some people have to learn to adjust to the stigma they did not even know existed. Single moms are learning that having a baby while being single comes with its stigmas and judgements.
We spoke to a single mother, who had a child out of wedlock in a society where having a baby is regarded as the logical continuation of a marriage, not something you do without a husband.
“It all boils down to expectations, you know?”, she says, casually checking her phone, counting down the minutes she has until the baby wakes up.
"If you spend the whole 9 months thinking you’re going to be a single mother, then the reality of raising a kid on your own hits you a lot less hard. It’s not just the technical part either. Yeah you change the diaper, give the baby milk, but you constantly question your decisions as you go. Did I buy the right pacifier, is this good for the baby, are the onesies I bought cotton or polyester? These are the universal things a mother thinks about when she’s taking care of the baby.
I got the gist of what being a single mother was going to be like, in terms of raising a kid. No partner to help you with the feedings or changing diapers, but what is left outside the conversation is the fact that in a conservative society, having a baby out of wedlock or being divorced automatically translates into you being a woman with loose morals.
As the conversation got into more details, it was said that some men look at single moms in a completely different manner. And the reasoning does not seem to be about the fact that the woman has a child, it’s the fact that the baby is a proof of her having had sex previously, outside of marriage, which somehow translates into “open to the idea of casual sex”.
“Every time I meet a guy, I have this anxiety about what’s the correct time to mention very casually that I have a toddler at home and like clockwork, every single time I mention I have a kid, the man’s attitude changes. Immediately they are searching for the answer to the puzzle of why I am alone with a baby, while others think having a baby means I already had sex so I am open to doing it right then and there. I think it’s funny how for some people it’s more acceptable to have a dead husband than an former one. If you are a widow, your “pride” is still intact or something, but if you are divorced, the initial thought is “What did you do wrong? What did you do to drive him away?”. They don’t care about why you got separated, it’s more acceptable to be out of love, abused or neglected, than without a husband.”
In some countries, especially in Post-Soviet ones, the idea of a woman getting a divorce is so unacceptable that they pressure people to stay in toxic relationships. This problem may seem exclusive to women, but what happens to the child being raised in this environment? When does it all begin to form into a bigger problem? Maybe, being a child of divorce is better than a child of a hateful, loveless marriage.
“Make it work for the kids” is something often heard by women who consider ending their toxic marriages.
*Illustrations: ThroughTheNews and Ana Parini