On the weekend my Sunday morning started off like just about every other Sunday morning in the last five years.
My kids barrelled into my room while it was still dark, burrowed under my covers and woke me up with pleas to turn on the TV so they could snuggle me while they watched ABC Kids.
There is nothing greater than dozing on a Sunday morning while three warm bodies fight over who gets to lie next to you. It’s a wonder and a privilege and something I get every every Sunday morning -no work, no Saturday sport, a once-a-week treat to get out of bed after 7am.
Except this day wasn’t regular. This day wasn’t just a once-a-week Sunday, it was a special Sunday.
It was Mother’s Day.
Mother's Day is just a normal day for single mums. Via iStock.
But for me, like many single mums there is no breakfast in bed, no tea on a tray, no elaborate gifts, no sleep in.
It's just a day; a day where you have to remind the kids that it's Mothers Day and prod the school-aged one to dig out from his school bag the hand made card he diligently lettered and coloured in on Friday afternoon.
For many single mums Mother’s Day isn’t anything special. But for many married mums it’s the same, and for single dads, and parents with partners who work away or are sick or frail.
Mothers Day isn’t a day that single mums get to claim as their own personal cross to bear as much as others try and make it that way.
But what happens inevitably on Mother Day is that single mums get singled out.
They get column space dedicated to them, they get the day made into their own cross to bear whether they like it or not as they get painted with the single-mum-as-martyr brush once again.
Its not meant to cause harm, in fact its usually meant to be flattering, an acknowledgement of just how hard single mums do it. Together the collective consciousness joins to put single mums on a pedestal for just one day, before they come crashing down at the stroke of midnight.
They become heroes, just for one day.
Single mums get singled out. Via IStock.
It happened again yesterday with a thought provoking post by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg who wrote about what she has learned about motherhood and work in the year since her husband’s death and how in particular she has learnt just how hard it is being a single mum.
“We need to build a world where families are embraced and supported and loved no matter how they fit together. We need to understand that it takes a community to raise children” she wrote.
Sheryl Sandberg with her deceased husband, Dave. Via Facebook.
Importantly she wrote of how, for many single mothers poverty is a day to day issue and that in the US almost a third of working mothers don’t have access to any kind of paid leave to care for themselves or their families if someone gets sick
“Being a mother is the most important—and most humbling—job I’ve ever had. As we rightly celebrate motherhood, we should give special thanks to the women who are raising children on their own. And let’s vow to do more to support them, every day.”
It was a great post, a touching post, an important post and one that inspired thousands around the world to share it - many using the opportunity to praise single mums for being heroes.
The I'm-a-single-mother-whats-your-superpower meme. Status updates paying tributes to those who do it alone. Praised, tagged, saluted for their sacrifices.
But what gets lost in this is that single mums aren’t heroes.
Most single mums I know don’t want to be heroes.
Most single mums I know, whether single by divorce, death or by choice just want to be acknowledged as mothers.
Most single mums I know, whether single by divorce, death or choice just want to be acknowledged as mothers. Image iStock.
In contrast to a partnered parent single mothers face a stigma, a label straight out of 1953. That being 'single' makes you different. Research by UK Charity Gingerbread, last year found that three out of four single parents have personally experienced social stigma due to their lack of parenting partner.
While not denying the fact that one third of children in single parent families in Australia live below the poverty line - being called a hero dismisses the struggle that all mothers have – of living up to the expectations of perfection, of juggling work and family, of finding time for your kids, of making ends meet, of just remembering to send back the damn excursion note and that Monday is library day.
The same struggles other mums have too. We just want the acknowledgement that we are the same.
Of course being a single parent – with a mother or a father - is hard – but being a parent can be hard too.
Women with sick partners, or husbands who work FIFO, grandparents who care for their grandkids, parents struggling with partners with drug, alcohol or gambling addictions all do it tough.
Single parents don’t want to be up on a pedestal, they don’t need the praise (besides the fact we are too damn busy to share your “Single mums are heroes” FB status), they just want to be on a level playing field accepted and judged just the same as those not-so-single.
Sheryl Sandberg's comments are important but let's not confuse them by heroising single mums- we're not so different from the rest of you.