As a black Muslim woman I’m quite used to the fact that I will be stereotyped and often even misrepresented by society. Knowing this has allowed me to develop thick skin so as to not let the misconceived perceptions of others affect how I see myself. So it came as a surprise to me when life threw me a curve-ball and I started to feel some type of way about one of my identities. I started to become self-conscious about being a single parent. I was worried that people would think less of me. My concern of being judged stemmed from the way our society views single parents. I think society has a negative perception of single parents, as if we don’t already have enough challenges to overcome. I never really understood why this stigma around single parenting exists, even before that became my reality. As a society, you would think that we would rally around and assist individuals that may need a little more support. Being a single parent is already difficult enough without the added social stigma.
I’ve often heard digs taken at single parents as if they are inadequate, bad parents, or just less than other parents. Being a single parent, I’ve felt self-conscious that others were judging me based on something Allah has destined for me. Single parents, mainly single mothers, are often looked at as a joke or shamed for their situation. In this patriarchal society, there is even this fear that people will view you as “damaged goods.” People look at single parents and are nosey about their situation, often questioning if their child was born out of wedlock, if a spouse has passed away, or if something is wrong with the individual for them to be in that position. Most of the time single parenting is viewed as a hardship, and although it is hard, that is a misconception. I think people have an image of what a single parent looks likes, for many I think the stereotypical single parent may look like someone who is always struggling or does not have it together. I was recently meeting with an individual for work and we were discussing children and parenting. The individual made a joke about single mothers unaware that she was speaking to one. In a professional setting, I was hesitant to check her for the shaming she was doing as it came across as incredibly judgmental and rude. As a society, I think we need to ensure that we are stepping away from stigmatizing something that is normal and okay. Being a single parent is not how anyone envisions their life and it’s not something most people seek to do, but there needs to be an understanding that life is unpredictable and we are never sure where it will lead us, and that’s okay.
As I stated earlier, I was very self-conscious about being a single parent due to how others would think of me. It has taken time to adjust, but I’ve slowly embraced it. There is no need to be concerned about how others view me as a woman or mother because I’m fully aware of my greatness. Frankly, I have other things to worry about such as surviving the terrible twos, improving my time management, and planning career moves to further establish a good future for my child. I will not be shamed nor will I be looked at differently. I’m a black, Muslim, hijabi woman in a world that has often made it known that I am an outsider. I will not allow a label to define me. I’m grateful for every situation that has let me down this path. I hope that we are able to shift our thinking as a society and be more understanding of others’ lives. To my fellow single parents, I see you and I support you.