Statement of the Issue
Oftentimes, individuals unconsciously associate the term single mother with negative connotations. Problems faced by single mothers are not typically those they bring upon themselves; however, they are more often problems that arise from stigmas enforced by society. Therefore, the issue at hand is that single mothers are viewed as a dependent threat to social norms rather than how they should be viewed – a means through which self-reliant and independent women are produced. This is a feminist issue because instead of commending single mothers for their experiences and efforts, society ridicules them for not conforming to gender norms associated with the typical family. Single mothers should not solely be portrayed as poverty-stricken dependents of others and the state. Instead, society should focus on the strengths and contributions of single mothers. They are greatly contributing to independent womanhood, through their actions and daughter-rearing! In summary, society does not view the term single mother as it should – a pioneer in furthering feminism. We greatly hope to contribute to solving this feminist issue by illustrating the positive outcomes from single mothers raising independent daughters.
Purpose of the Research
The purpose of our research was to explore the experiences of single mothers who, because of their circumstances and decisions, made conscious efforts to raise independent daughters. We made inquiries concerning their personal happenings which made self-reliance important to instill in their daughters. We acknowledged the challenges they faced; however, our intent was to convey the positive aspects they encountered while parenting alone. In addition to shedding light on the upsides of being a single mother, we aimed to disprove stigmas socially associated with this label. Through interviews with three single mothers, including Paula Warner, Lisa Williams, and Andrea Clayton, we hoped to find that single motherhood can be beneficial in producing independent daughters who are unrestrained by typical gender roles. Not only did we hope to discover that their daughters were rejecting typical gender roles, but also we hoped to find that their daughters were playing an active role in securing their social status by being autonomous and driven. Luckily, these were some of our discoveries. Single mothers are contributing to the feminist cause by molding their daughters into self-reliant women. Overall, we hope to influence public opinion by encouraging a shift from negative connotations associated with single mothers to an appreciation of the positive aspects they encounter and contribute to an independent womanhood overall.
Paula Warner was interviewed April 6th, in the apartment of her daughter Margaret Warner. She is a single mother of seven children. Her first three children are boys, and her final four are girls. Warner was married for fourteen years when she became a widow. She explained that she had always been an independent woman because she was raised as such; however, her independence was strengthened in her years post-widowing. Warner explained that she did face the stereotypical stigma of being a victim, “There was a lot of ‘poor pitiful me’ from everyone.” She then further explained that she was not going to live that way, and never allowed her pride to get in the way of her fully caring for her children. When asked about her parenting style, Warner commented, “I am not a helicopter mom; I don’t hover…I feel actions speak louder than words, and I hope that they learned from me.” Warner’s parenting by example is evidenced when she humorously explained that if she had a flat tire on her way to Athens that day, she would be the one to change the tire; it is not worth her time waiting on a man for anything. There was a sense of pride in her voice when she explained that she is the first person her daughters and even her sons call when something is wrong with their cars. Although these independent actions may seem minute, the combinations of all her independent actions created an overall message that screamed louder than words at her daughters who are all very proud of her and the knowledge they received. Her success includes all of her daughters’ quick and witty intellect evidenced in “story time” at the end of the interview. She explained that they are all confident, outgoing and prideful. She further explained that her daughters always pursued their desires without fear.
Andrea Crayton was interviewed on April 17th in Boggs Hall at the University of Georgia, about her experiences of being a single mother. She has one daughter, Mia Crayton, who is currently a freshman at the University of Georgia. Crayton became a single mother when her daughter was three, after she and her husband divorced. When Crayton became a single mother she began to see stigmas that included the assumption that she would needy, lonely and dependent, especially upon a man. However, Crayton raised an independent daughter by instilling the values of self-reliance and independence. Crayton hopes for her daughter include the hope that she is someone who, “Can do anything for herself if she chooses. And doesn’t have to rely on anyone else. She doesn’t have to take anything from anyone else unless she chooses.” Her style of parenting obviously paid off for Mia. The outcome is that she raised a daughter who is not only strong, independent and self-reliant, but if of high intellect – she is a high school honors graduate, and is attending a top university.
Lisa Williams, the treasurer of a bail bonding company, has been a single mother since her husband’s death. She was interviewed on April 19th at a family residence in Decatur, Georgia. Mrs. Williams was also the oldest of six children, who were raised by a single mother. When asked about stigmas she faced as a single mother Williams stated, “I didn’t really think of being a single mother as a stigma, because of how I became a single mother… I became a single mother through no choice of my own. It wasn’t a divorce, and I didn’t have my daughter out of wedlock. I was forced into being a single mother because I lost my husband. So I never really encountered any of the stigmas associated with being a single mother.” This being said, she also lives an upper-middle class lifestyle that according to our research does have an effect on how different single mothers are treated. Aside from making it clear that she stressed education and Christian values above all to her daughter, during the interview she also repeatedly put emphasis on her and her daughter’s experiences together making them stronger women. Additionally, she felt the fact that she was forced to be a single parent at such a young age helped her to be a good example to her daughter about what it is to be an independent woman. As she had to rely on herself and take care of herself, showing her daughter the importance of being self-sufficient and having a good education- qualities she felt it takes to be independent. Her daughter, Lauren Williams, is a current junior at Spellman College that graduated from Woodward Academy, one of the top private schools in the state of Georgia. Williams also stated that her daughter has a very strong work ethic.
After interviewing the three single mothers, we learned many aspects about single motherhood. The manners in which they became single parents were not completely congruous; two mothers were widowers, while the other was a divorcee. On the other hand, we found many similarities in their stories and outcomes. We found similarities in the stigmas that were attached to their title as a single mother. They were oftentimes seen as victims or dependents. In all cases, we found the exact opposite! We found similarities in their parenting styles and the ideals they hoped for their daughters to possess. They all instilled the values of self-reliance, independence, honesty, integrity, and a great work-ethic in their daughters; therefore, our greatest discovery is that single motherhood certainly produces independent women – an asset society truly needs. As a result, their daughters became independent, strong women through watching the experiences of their mothers. This is evidenced in each case; each single mother had many success stories to enumerate about the daughters. Successes included wit, personality, intelligence, and an active drive to succeed. These women can only increase the benefits of the feminist movement. They are acting powerfully and femininely themselves, while producing a newer generation who will only further their advances.
First, we would like to acknowledge that this project brought together four very different people. Preconceived notions about each other’s demographic categories were challenged, disproved, and reshaped through conversations about single mothers, race, and social class. Aside from the friendships formed, we gained a feminist outlook through which we view single motherhood and independent women altogether. Some members gained a new appreciation and closeness to their single mothers. Specifically, Margaret was able to release some resentments towards her mother by hearing her side of being a single mother. Also, our group deepened our feminist schemas; we find ourselves widening our thought processes day-to-day in terms of what makes an independent and liberated. We are most pleased with our project because we feel we are focusing more on the joys of being independent women, rather than pointing fingers at those who attempt to keep us from being such women. Our honest hope is to show an appreciation for the women who are purposefully raising our generation of independent women – the next wave of feminist.
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