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What is a single mom? A solo mom? How to determine which one you are

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One of the tireless discussions in the single mom community is, “Who gets to call themselves a single mom?” 

Emma’s quick take on the differences between a single mom and a solo mom

Below, you will find a polite, academic picking-apart of the who-gets-to-call-themselves-a-single-mom debate. It rages on, constantly, and after 10 years of blogging about single moms (and being one myself for 12 years), I have come to this conclusion:

The argument about who is, and who is not a single mom is one of white privilege, but more about that later.

I also want to explore why some moms are abandoning the label “single mom” and opting instead to be known as a “solo mom.” 

In short: Do no split hairs over who does or does not get to call themselves a single mom, or solo mom — this sort of infighting and misery olympics only divides women and heightens any discrimination faced by women outside of “traditional relationships”

What is considered a single mom?

First, let’s agree to stop arguing about being a single mom — unless you are a married mom, or otherwise living with the parent of your kids. 

A single mom is one whose family is outside of a “traditional” family consisting of two first-time married parents living with their children. These are moms who can be considered single or solo moms:

  • Divorced moms 
  • Never-married moms who don’t live with their kids’ other parent / father 
  • Single moms by choice 
  • Single adoptive or foster moms
  • Remarried moms
  • Moms in partnership with people who are not their kids’ other parent 
  • Widowed moms  
  • Moms with 50/50 custody and otherwise involved co-parents
  • Moms who receive child support or alimony or otherwise get the financial benefit of a co-parent or partner (but are not married) 
  • Single moms with high incomes
  • Single moms with supportive family networks

So, who gets to use the illustrious title of a single mom?

This conversation has long enraged me, because it is solely designed to promote infighting among women and elevating the shame attached to the term “single mom.” After all, if you insist you are not a ‘single mom,' but a ‘divorced mom' because you were once married (64% of Millennial moms have a child outside of marriage, according to Johns Hopkins), the subtext of that designation is:

“I am better because my child was conceived inside of a socially sanctioned partnership, which presumes the kid was wanted and planned for, and presumes I have an active co-parent now that marriage ended — none of which apply to babies born to unmarried mothers.”

Of course, none of these perceived privileges are necessarily true — nor are the presumed hardships of moms who never married, many of whom do plan their families and do have healthy co-parenting relationships.

The keyword here, however, is PRIVILEGE. I cannot remember hearing these hair-splitting arguments made by anyone but white, privileged women, and angry, white men — the latter of whom are usually bitter dads paying a lot of alimony/child support with little access to their children

Related: 19 reasons why alimony is unfair and hurts gender equality

I am challenging the white women who go out of their way to distance themselves from calling themselves a “single mother.”

Motherhood: Addressing the Single Mom Stigma | Black Women OWN the Conversation | OWN

If you are doing socioeconomic gymnastics to get around calling yourself a single mom, you are really trying to get around a social stigma that has for centuries been attached to mostly poor, women of color.

I write about this topic in my bestselling book The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin). New York Post called it a “Smart, Must-Read.”

Historically and to this day, households headed by unmarried mothers have been majority African American, and more recently, Hispanic women, both groups of which are statistically poorer than white people, and continue to experience higher rates of giving birth outside of marriage than white women. For a very long time, we have called these women single moms, without much debate at all. Unfortunately, for a very long time, single moms have been considered social pariahs, derided by politicians and religious leaders as the blame for most social ills. That is how stigmas are institutionalized.

Today, thanks to the amazing work of feminists before us, women now have many wonderful choices on how to build our families. Financial, career, reproductive and legal rights and opportunities mean that women can now afford to chose have children without committed partners, are less likely to marry, and are more likely to initiate divorce. White, educated women benefit disproportionately from these strides in gender equality, and the numbers of white women having babies outside of marriage and divorcing are skyrocketing. Again, it is white, educated women who scramble to distance themselves from the term “single mom” — even though we all check the same “single” box when we file our taxes (though “head of household” is no more, thanks for nothing tax reform!), apply for health or life insurance, or are counted by the Census.

So, even if you are divorced, you are a single mom — no matter how much you want to distance yourself from THOSE PEOPLE who never married. If you enjoy a handsome sum of child support and co-parenting from your kid's dad, or have a helpful boyfriend or high-paying job, you are a single mom — even if your family or financial situation does not look like what you associate happens inside the families or bank accounts of THOSE PEOPLE.

This is call for unity for gender equality, for race equality, and for just being a decent person. When you own your life and family and relationship status (because this is a conversation about STATUS) with acceptance instead of shame, you elevate all single moms, all families — and women everywhere.

26 reasons being a single mom is awesome

Who is NOT a single mom

Ladies, if your husband is away on a hunting trip for a weekend, you are not a single mom. Or even, as Michelle Obama accidentally did, you call yourself a single mom because your husband is really, really busy with his fabulous career, you are out.

And FYI, when you are a married mom and refer to yourself as a single mom you piss off a whole lot of people — people who have little or no financial help to raise their kids, or partnership that provides the emotional and logistical support that all families need. Not that you meant anything by it. But when you say that we want to kill you.

On forums and in casual conversation, I hear people (usually men – men who pay lots of child support) grumble about women (usually their exes) who define themselves as single moms. “They have no right to say that — I pay for her manicures and weekends in Cancun with her 26-year-old personal trainer boyfriend!” is the usual gripe.

If you think that because your husband won't freaking unload the dishwasher and complains when you ask him to pick your son at his sleepover instead of watching the game, and you haven't had sex in weeks or months and that makes you feel really bad, I am sorry for that. But you don't get it both ways. You don't get the financial security of a second adult living in your house, or the psychological security of knowing that if you have a brain aneurism in the middle of the night someone will drive you to the ER and then get the kids to school in the morning, or the social comfort of couples' dinner parties and not having to face your mother's judgement for getting a divorce —  and also get to hang with us.

[Now, you know and I know this all doesn't apply to abusive situations.]

Because you are not here with us.

You didn't take that risk.

Maybe you will, and maybe you will thrive in your newfound solo life. Maybe you will stay, work through a rough patch in your marriage, and never, ever regret that.

Or, maybe you will stay and be really, really unhappy — unable to share your unhappiness with your married mom friends because you all assume that the others' Instagram personas are accurate, and not being accepted by actual single moms — moms who bristle at your self proclamation of being part of the club. Because you're not there.

Not yet.

Definition of a single mom

Which leads us to examine what “single mother” really means. Yes, you are unmarried and romantically available. Fair enough. But “single mom” is a heavily loaded term with lots of social and political connotations. Depending on how you vote, a single mom is responsible for bearing fatherless criminals and living off of the taxpayer's dime; or she is a saintly martyr for her children and a victim of a chauvinistic society that tells men it is OK to abandon their children by a male-dominated court system that let him way, way off the hook.

But what if you're living in reality and fall somewhere in between? What about families where custody is civilized and shared 50-50? What if you get a fat support check every two weeks? Or the parent who is saddled with 100 percent of the responsibilities, but remarries into a supportive relationship? Or you get no financial support, but lots of logistic and parenting cooperation? What if you're doing it all on your own, but have the financial means to hire extensive help with the kids and house? What about the married mom whose husband has a lil somethin' on the side, lends zero help with the kids and blows the mortgage payment on electronics and poker games?

Why so many dads are better parents after divorce

I struggled with how to define myself as a single mom

Today, I feel totally fine calling myself a single mom: I float my family financially and am the primary caretaker of my kids. If my ex's situation were different he would gladly participate in a different way, and he very well may in the future. My status (and yes this is all about status) as a single mom because that is a fact. But would I call myself something else if I were not so very independent in my parenting?

The crux of this issue is that “single mom” carries with it at least a twinge of status in many circles — in other groups it lends serious street cred. Being a single mom can be inherently hard, and in America we uphold hard as a virtue. In most of the country, bragging rights belong to the person who put herself through college, saved up for the downpayment on his house, and never took a cent from parents after graduating high school. If you happen to have a trust fund, inheritance, or cashed in on a tech start-up, you keep your pie hole shut and keep your lifestyle in line with your middle-class friends (or go find rich friends).

Which brings us back to single mom semantics. On one hand, we could agree to dismiss the issue as a big, WHO THE EFF CARES?! On the other, the fact that this topic warrants a blog posts underscores bigger changes afoot: changes in family structure, marriage, family economics, and gender, class and money — all my most favoritest topics of conversation, but also some of the most important and compelling issues of our time. As we figure out where women and mothers fit into the worlds of work, money and politics, we need language to help us along the way.

In the meantime, how you define yourself to the world as an unmarried mother has ramifications for women and gender equality.

In my early years as a single mom, I struggled with my title — and my identity — as an unmarried mom.

Sometimes if were in a group of new people and it's relevant, I'd mentioned that I'm divorced. That's a fact. But I don't want my identity to be “divorced.” Divorce is horrible, even if the net result is positive. I don't want to spend the rest of my life labeled by an atrocious legal process. And I will not let divorce define my family.

Sometimes, in my early days as a single mom, I'd play around with “not married.” I like it because it's accurate. It's also fun and delightfully ambiguous, which suits me just fine at the moment.  “Are you married?” asks that judgey, annoying mom with the yoga pants and giant diamond at the school, eying you up and down. “No,” you might respond. “I'm not married.” See? Leaves her guessing. Are you a lesbian? Single mom by choice? In an open relationship? Unmarried but partnered with your super-hot Scandinavian boyfriend of 12 years? A filthy whore? She doesn't know. And it's none of her business. So while she's trying to steal your mojo with her snotty question, smile coolly, pick up your kid, and leave knowing that she will now keep even tighter reins on her husband at the holiday show.

Until we iron out the details, I'll stick with my title of “single mom.” But not too tightly. After all, to toss off a casual “I'm a single mom” can suggest a belief that you are automatically deserving of respect — an attitude that pisses off pretty much everyone.

Why do married moms want to call themselves ‘single moms'?

Not once but THREE TIMES in the past week I have received messages from married moms who want to be part of my single-mom Facebook groups (join Millionaire Single Moms, BUT ONLY IF YOU'RE AN ACTUAL SINGLE MOM!).

Here is one:

Hi Emma! I'm not technically a single mom, but can you please add me to your groups? My husband hardly does anything at all around the house, I manage the finances, run the kid around and work a fulltime job!

My answer?

Uh, no?

P.S.: No. Buh-bye.

And by the way: Are you fucking kidding me?

Any single mom will tell you how we bristle when a married mother casually calls herself a “single mom” because:

a) her husband is out of town on a golf weekend.

b) works all the time.

c) doesn't do his share at home or with the kids.

d) has checked out of the marriage and makes her feel fat, old and unattractive.

Those scenarios may indeed be very hard. Painful, frustrating, hurtful, lonesome, unfair and bad examples for the kids.

I feel for you. I also identify with you. I used to be married. It wasn't so great for me. My marriage was indeed hard, painful, frustrating, lonesome, unfair and a bad example for the kids. But the marriage ended. I got out, and I found a new life. For me, single motherhood has been pretty great. It is for a lot of people, maybe especially women, so many of whom I've met whom THRIVE in their newfound independence and are forced to find their way financially, logistically, romantically and as parents.

What about those who are “living together but separated?”

If you and your husband are technically still married, but have committed to separating, or are even legally separated, but are living together for financial or other practical matters, I say you are a single mom. After all, you have to co-parent with someone you are not romantically involved with, and will be divorced soon (you hope, right?).

Most moms, FWIW, report this is hell. Says Brenda:

“I lived in the marital home during the divorce process and 2 months post divorce until I could close on my new house. (Sellers market here and I had to agree to settle on their desired date). My attorney claimed that I was more agreeable with settlement agreement because of the living situation. I don't completely agree, I was fair. I asked him to move to guest room and he didn't. I refused on grounds I had more clothes and bathroom stuff to move. So we slept back to back like we did for years anyway, no real difference other than there was an end in sight.”


“Lived with mine for 6 months, while he was dating his affair partner. It was a nightmare. We definitely lived separate lives and do what we could to give each other our space when it was our time with the kids (which for me, at the time, was 90%). If it was up to him he would have stayed like that. I actually had to wait until he went away for a weekend to move out because he lost his mind anytime I brought it up. Things are significantly better now that we are in separate houses and co-parenting with him isn’t so bad.”

And Erin:

“My ex and I separated in Oct. and lived in the same house for 2 months and then he went crazy and tried to kill me. So I’m not a big advocate for cohabitating. But my situation is hopefully not normal!”

For some of us, being a single mom is better than marriage, and sometimes, indeed awesome.

Anecdotally, I don't know so many really happy marriages, and scholars have found the same. Per Rebecca Traister's very excellent bestselling All The Single Ladies:

Psychologist Ty Tashiro suggested in a 2014 book that only three in ten married people enjoy happy and healthy marriages, and that being in an unhappy partnership can increase your chances of getting sick by about 35 percent. Another researcher, John Gottman, has found that being in an unhappy union could shorten your life by four years.

A recently published Stanford study found that women initiate divorce 69 percent of the time.

In other words: Married mom desperate to hang with single moms: You are not alone in your marital misery. You're good! Normal! 

Meanwhile, single motherhood is losing its stigma, so much so that all these married moms go around flaunting faux singlehood! The “traditional” nuclear family with married parents and kids now constitutes the statistical minority of American households, with single-mom led homes constituting the majority of the remaining portion. Further, and somewhat astonishing, the MAJORITY millennial moms are unmarried.

That is right: Single mom-led families are on their way to being the majority.

Statistically, it is economically tougher to raise kids without a spouse. It can be scary, stressful, socially isolating, lonely, painful and worrisome. But with 10 million single moms in the United States, you probably know one or 20 who are thriving, fully embracing the economic, educational, sexual and social opportunities afforded women in this country today. It might look pretty good.

To which I say:

Hey married mom: Maybe you sense that single motherhood will be awesome for you, too. But no matter how sad you are, how alone in your marriage you feel, you do not 100% have to be financially, romantically or logistically independent. Because you are not. Because you are married. Because you have not taken the risk to go at this family thing without a spouse.

That is OK. Really, it is fine. You are there, and we are here. I'm OK, you're OK. But you don't get the benefits of commiserating with an amazing tribe of women who, every single day, get up every morning, earn a living and support a family financially, logistically and face the prospect of lifelong solitude while schlepping it to the gym and squeezing into that size 6 pair of skinny jeans and braving the wondrous and terrifying world of dating in 2016 — all while hugging and rocking and yelling and encouraging and singing to and laughing with and scolding their children every day.

And yes, that is what it means to be a single mom today: less than a quarter of dads who do not live with their kids are actually involved, and about as many moms receive any kind of financial support from their children's fathers.

What does solo mom mean?

Sometimes I hear from women who insist they are not single moms, but solo moms. They want to make clear that they are in fact suffering/stronger than/ their struggle is more real than other women who parent outside of a traditional heterosexual, married, cohabitating relationship. 

Enough already.

Solo moms and single moms are the same thing.

Moving on ….

That's right: The vast majority of single moms are really, truly solo moms.

Nearly 3 in 10 kids today are growing up in a separated family, and more than 80% of those kids live primarily with their moms — 20 million of us. This does not mean that the other parent / father is MIA, or does not want to be involved, or is not a 50% parent, or has fought through family court to be more involved. You can read more about the gender-equality benefits of equal parenting, as well as the child welfare benefits of equal parenting in my work.

My own research found that 51% of single moms have their kids in their custody 100% of the time, and 36% have them the majority of the time. That is a lot of solo moms, who of course are really also single moms. 

What is the difference between solo parent and single parent?

Typically this debate of solo vs single parent comes down to this:

Solo moms say that they have no co-parent at all. They are solo moms by choice, or their kids’ other parent is otherwise not at all in the picture.

Single moms are all other unmarried moms. 

Worth reading: Washington Post: “Why I Can’t Call Myself a Single Mom”

Bottom line: So, are you a single mom or solo mom?

Instead of engaging in the misery olympics and humble bragging about how much support you do not have raising your kids, let’s all agree that there is a wide and flexible definition of single motherhood, and we can all benefit from redirecting our energy to supporting one another, advocating for policies that benefit all families (affordable child care and health insurance, paid family leave, equal parenting policy), and lay off the symantics. 

What is the difference between solo parent and single parent?

Solo moms say that they have no co-parent at all. They are single moms by choice, or their kids’ other parent is otherwise not at all in the picture. Single moms are all other unmarried moms.


I have a question that’s bothers me. I’ve got a 7 year old her mom dipped out and isn’t in her life at all. Well 5 years later I met my best friend she had 3 kids all 17, 14, 12 years old. Well we had a kid together she is 11 months old. We don’t live together but we are together I’m with them all the time but bed and work. I even give her 50$ a week for her and buy her things needed. Which isn’t child support but is for the support of my child. I do not pay for her 3 kids as she doesn’t pay for mine kid that isn’t hers. Which is both of our choices. Now my problem is simple she calls herself a single mom. I don’t call myself a single father. She says it’s a man thing which may be true. Us man get stupid over women, money, sports, and most importantly our pride. And I can’t stand hearing her call her a single mom because she isn’t single. Yes she does support her 3 kids that isn’t mine as I do mine that isn’t hers, but I’m there for the one that is mine. So is she a single mom? And even if I’m wrong I will never be in my own opinion only be called a single father.

Does she get help from those children’s father? She’s not a single mom to your kid because you’re in it’s life but maybe to her kids if their dad isn’t in theirs.

Who in any relationship would be with someone for, in your case a minimum of 20 months (possibly longer unless she got pregnant right away), where you both have kids outside of that relationship, chooses to only hello with the child you created together? When I met my now ex husband he had a daughter and I had two.. very early in the relationship I convinced and together we had a daughter. And even before we lived together we helped each other with the other children… Not doing so sounds selfish and could lead the other children feeling inadequate or not as important as your child together. Weird…

I’m sorry, but at the end of the day NO ONE is a single parent. Ever heard the saying “It takes a village to raise a child?” B/c it does… A child goes to school where their taught by teachers. A of age cold gets a job where they learn life skills. Children stay with friends where their influenced by that family… And so on and so on. Many/most single parents receive cold support, GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE or if the other parent is deceased, social security. Young children of “single parents” send their child to some type of daycare (paid by the parent or through more government assistance) So unless you can honestly say you do or have none of those things then you my dear aren’t “doing it alone”… And btw nice job adding in the white privilege.. Keep up the good work with keeping racism alive!! Calling yourself a single parent is done by ppl of every color.. Smh

I am a white single mom, I raised my children on a waitress’s income and I haven’t gotten Child Support thru the years. I raised them completely on my own. They are now 23 and 18. So it does not just happen to black and Spanish woman. We did not have a lot of money and we struggled financially. I did not get the emotional or financial support that I deserved to raise them. I agree that “wives“ whose husbands aren’t home alot should not call them selves single mothers, which I believe is a joke because they’re getting financial help. My definition of a single mother is someone who has to make all the decisions themselves and all the sacrifices and carries the financial load. There may be a lot of white women out there that don’t experience this, but do not downgrade those of us who have, because we had it just as hard as you.

I could not possibly agree with you less and here is why. My wife passed away when my daughter was eleven years old. This officially made me a single father. If my wife and I had become divorced we would have been parents who were single. If a parent is non supportive for whatever reason the responsible parent is parenting alone…..single. End of discussion. It’s not complicated. I find many divorced parents, most often women who’s ex’s are still in the picture supporting their children refer to themselves as single parents as a badge of honour, like they are some sort of super hero looking for others admire them for this. It’s not only wrong and unfair to parents who have all the responsibility but very sad as well.


I haven’t read this entire article, and just have to say, a single MOM is a female who has ZERO support! End of story, haha not really end of story :) My mom was a single mom and I am offended for all single moms, when females who are divorced, getting child support of ANY kind, alimony of any kind, the dad takes the kids…shared custody… I agree with one of the comments, single woman, not single mom.

My mom had zero support from my dad, and when I was thirteen she became disabled. She received no money of any kind and I never spent time with my dad, didn’t even know him. My kick ass mom did it ALL! That’s a single mom. Divorced with shared custody and/or “amicable” finances, is not a single mom.
Sorry, not sorry. When I hear people complaining about being single, yet the ex takes the kids, it’s an offense to the man too, and sad for the kids. Is it healthy for either side to diminish the other? no

So many reasons why people end up single, for both genders. Reasons that led to “single-dom” are separate from being single, regarding the definition.

So, from a child of a TRUE single Mom, she was a kick ASS mom, stop saying you’re a single mom if you are not. I don’t really ever remember my mom complaining, thankfully! I can not imagine how HORRID and STRESSFUL it would be growing up around someone who complains all the time, yuk! Guessing kids in those “homes” probably have anxiety, and too many are probably on meds :(
My mom did complain/bring it to my attention when I did a bad job at a chore, those were teachable moments, not a nag fest.

It’s not a contest of who has it harder, especially when you do get help. Don’t insult the man, regardless of him doing it the way you want or not, if he is present and making attempts, you are usually not a single mom, even if you think he makes it more difficult when he is around. Yes, I’ve heard a lot of excuses as to why females want to call themselves single-moms. And yes, if a mom has an awesome job, has no help, other than herself, and is able to pay for lots of luxuries that are out of other people’s budgets, YES, she is still a single mom.

Remember it’s not a contest, use the definition to be who you! Be the best version of you, and save the dramatics for the stage, and charades.

P.S. miss my mom :'(

My ex wife calls herself a single mother all the time even though I have the kids every other week, every Monday until five, every Friday until five, and every Saturday until five. I have my own place for them, my own clothes, I pay child support, and buy all their meals and snacks for school when their with me, I attend all school functions if she’s present or not. We space out appointments to make things fair and holidays go well. We never talk bad about one another infront of the children (I can’t speak for her but I assume its mutual and she said she doesn’t). I don’t have custody of the children because I give up custody willing while battling PTSD. Every time I go to court for it the lawyers always tell me if I go forward I’ll lose the time I have with the kids from every other week to every other weekend. Yet everyone feels sorry for her and looks at me like “yeah, that’s what your suppose to do.” “Your their father you should want to spend time with them.” I don’t see myself as a single dad, why does she qualifying a single mom? Honestly if she needs people to feel sorry for her I guess that’s what she needs. Ultimately I hope my children see what I do by my actions instead of what is said to them.

My ex who left me for another man when i worked helped around the house and payed all the bills calles herself a single mother. She is no longer with that man and pulls the woe is me bs. I pay her 900 month and am re married with 3 other kids with a non working spouse paying all the bills..i drive a 1988 model car and eat canned soup every single day. She drives a new car and get nails done and eats out. I take our son to all his dr appointments still. She pulled that shit to get people to feel sorry for thoughts is grow up bitches and quit feeling entitled. Own up to the responsibility of how you feel and quit putting it all on us are responsible for your happiness. I worked a lot because she didn’t want to she says we dont spend time together and she got arms and a me and i can be home more.screw all of yall

Any mom who is divorced is a “divorced mom”. Sorry if you don’t want divorce to define you, but you chose to get married, now you have to live with the consequence! I am one of those who had kids on my own – on purpose – a Single Mom by Choice. My kids have been with me 100% of their lives and I have supported the financially 100%. Of course I have friends and relatives who have provided emotional support, but this is so very different that friends whose kids leave at regular intervals to spend time with their dads, and/or those who get financial support from an ex. Also, most divorced dads also love and care about their kids so there is someone else to care about their day to day and life achievements as well, which is something Single Moms really miss out on.

Mkay being a single mom has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with raising your kids and deciding basically everything for the children. Your divorced and have the kids and ate having to provide most of the stuff? Okay your a single mom. I was married, raped, had a kid, am dating but still am doing everything for my daughter. Yeah I can call myself a single mom since I am a single mom. Technically I am dating someone, but unless he wants marrige, I will consider myself a single mom. I really don’t care if someone else thinks they have it harder. Everyone is different and handles things differently. Stop harping on each other and try supporting each other instead.

Ok, so I hear ya’ll telling me I’m not a single mother. I am divorced after 17 years and have my kids half of the time and I get a little child support that is taken out of his paycheck. My ex is an awful nasty person. I wish I would have fought for more custody. We can not discuss issues with the kids because he is argumentative. No, it’s not just me, even my kids know it. I do things for my kids all the time when he has them because he says he can’t. Our agreement says he is supposed to pay 80% of all of their extra expenses, he pays maybe 10% and that I usually fight for. I am a full-time student and a substitute teacher, so I make zilch. I will graduate this year and teach and he will still make more than twice what I make, but he won’t pay for the kids’ haircuts or braces or sport’s uniforms and fees. In fact, I got my son braces believing he would be paying at least 60%. When it came time he never had the money and 5 months in I’m still waiting as I make the payments every month. So great, I’m not a single mom than what the hell am I? I’m sorry but I feel like my life would be easier if I had my kids all of the time. Dealing with a difficult ex can be a nightmare.

Yuk! Sounds like a pain in the you know where! My mom was a true single mom. It has to do with, for better or worse, having the dad around or not. That is one thing I’ve thought about quite a few times. As an adult, hearing other peoples stories, I thought about this, “better to live in a peaceful environment, than around parents who stayed to gather and created a BAD environment.”
So even though you feel your ex is a pain, he is still around and participating in parenting. However; on the bright side, you are a single female who now has the knowledge to look for what you want! :) If you’re interested I wrote a post to, it’s below…

My sons biological father abandoned us while I was pregnant. My son is 4 and his “father” has never been seen or heard from. He basically disappeared. I don’t get child support because they can’t even find him to perform a paternity test. I have no family help. I’m sole provider for myself and my son. I don’t get breaks. I feel like shared custody and time with another parent doesn’t really qualify you as a single mom because, well… you aren’t alone in raising your child. That’s called being a co-parent.

Exactly!! All the best to you! My mom was a REAL single mom too, she kicked BUTT to. I am forever grateful. I made a post if you want to read it, it’s here somewhere.

The following are “single mothers”:

1) A woman, whose ex husband (or boyfriend) is TRULY a deadbeat father and not involved with the kids in any size shape or form, who has not remarried

2) A widow who has not remarried

3) A woman who was forced to flee with her kids and abusive husband who is TRULY a danger to her and her kids

4) A woman who had kids on her own (whether via IVF or adoption)

Otherwise, such a mother a NOT a “single mother”, but a “divorced mother”. It’s not rocket science.

Sorry, not sure what you’re referring to. The fact that people call themselves single moms when they are not = victim language or ?

My partner has two little girls he has been getting it in the ear because he isnt seeing this oldest girl every single day he takes her out at 4 after school then drops her off at 9 that night this has been the same way for years he and his ex had a one night stand before we met and she became pregnant he told her it wasn’t the right time but she had the baby he doesn’t see the new child and isn’t on the birth certificate she is now on social media saying how she is a single parent and how she’s proud of her self but in reality my partner has his daughter more than her

Great post. I’m just recently divorced and can absolutely relate. I’ve been thinking of myself as “divorced parent” until the other day when I had to fill out one of those annoying home survey things for my kids school (where you answer questions about income, number of people in the household, free lunch, etc). One of the questions was whether it was a single parent household. I had never thought about it too much before; am I a single mom? But after thinking about it and reading articles like yours, I’m going to say yes. Though my ex does pay child support, he was not allowed 50/50 custody I have primary, I provide the health insurance, I make more money only because he left his job to go on LTD conveniently while we were getting divorced, he takes his visitation weekends (every other) maybe 70% of the time, etc. So, though he is not 100% absent, I think I’m gonna embrace the title.

Sorry, that’s not a single mom, please read my post and let me know what you think.
Thank you, and by the way, sorry your marriage didn’t work out :/

IMO, a “single mother” is either a widow, a woman whose kids’ father disappeared w/o a trace nowhere to be found, a woman who had to escape with her kids from the kids’ father because he is a danger to her and/or the kids, or a woman who became a parent on her own (whether via IVF or adoption). Once any of the above remarry (or marry) they are no longer “single mothers” (it goes w/o saying)

If the kids’ father is involved in the kids’ lives, you are a divorced mother (if you were married to the kids’ father) or a co-parenting mother (can’t think of a better term) if you were never married to him.

On paper, my ex-wife is the primary custodial parent, but in reality my kids are with me almost (about 40 percent) as much as with their mother. It was me who attended everyone of my son’s soccer games. It is me who spends countless hours helping my kids with their math homework (many times when they were ready to give up in frustration). It was me who ran after my kids more hours than I can count on their bikes in the heat until they knew how to ride. I am more likely to take my kids to the doctor or be in touch with their teacher/s. In all the years my kids are in school, I think I have missed one parent/teacher meeting. And, I still pay full child support (about half my income) plus half the kids tuition, half the medical expenses, half of summer camp, half of after school activities, despite taking the kids way more than our agreement stipulates.

My ex (despite calling herself as such or, even worse, claims to be “parenting solo”) is no more a “single mother” than I am a “single father”. We are both “divorced parents”.

“Single mother” implies, to me at least, that there is no father in the picture., so when my ex calls herself that she is not only insulting me, but insulting all the mothers out there truly doing it on their own (like the widow in my community whose husband suddenly passed away last year) with no financial help and no “me time”.

YES!!! Thank you!! My mom was a REAL single mom, and hearing people say they’re single moms, when they are definitely not, irks me! And I have had the same sentiment of how it insults the dad(s) who are in the picture. It’s even worse when the female makes this claim in front of the kids!! Ahhh, awful! In addition to this I wrote a lengthy post, hopefully it is received the way it was intended and not misconstrued in a defensive manner.

I don’t see what the big deal is. To me, anyone that has kids and is living alone with them, as in not married and has no live in significant other, is a single mom or dad. I don’t think child support or custody agreements matter. Who even cares, there’s no other term to use really. I consider myself a single mom and it’s not for street cred or anything else. It’s because I take care of my kids 85% of the time, and I don’t have a partner living with me. So I’m a single mom, what I say goes in my house. I’m in charge, there is no partnership. Am I my kids only parent? No I am not, and I do not feel that term implies that.

Single mom is when someone has zero support, no dad in the picture and zero everything… zero finances, zero care taking help…

My mom was a single mom and there is a difference, A BIG one.Child support and custody does make a difference. What you have is some support, that’s not single. I’d say it can be defined, depending on your situation as: divorced female with kids, and dad is in the picture. I wrote a lengthy post, it’s somewhere below. You can say what you want, but before you do, please read my post.

Thank you :)

I am always having debates with my partner over this. So we have been togther/dating for 2 and a half years. I run my house and 4 children and he has his house. We see him every weekend when he visits. He doesn’t pay any thing towards unkeep etc… sometimes he may treat the children and offer to pay half a school trip to help me out.
So when I’m having a tough week I say how much of a struggle it is doing its all alone and sometimes refer myself as a single parent. I work nights. My dad babysits whilst I work. I sleep when the children are at school.
So am I a single mum. I mean I know I’m not single but I do the parenting alone. Yes my boyfriend may hoover or cook a dinner when he is here to help out…. am I wrong in referring myself as a single mum

My mom never called herself a single mom. My father called himself a single father though all the time.

But is it weird that my mom never called herself a single mother, or does that show strength?

In my mind, if the other parent is involved in the child’s life in any way, you are not a single parent. It bothers me so much when I hear people call themselves a single parent when they’re not. I feel like it minimizes what ACTUAL single parents (like my father, after my mother’s death when I was a baby) go through

…, My ex and I were legally separated before my daughter started kindergarten and divorced not long afterwards. He never helped me. It took years to get him to pay sporadic child support. He’s now living away in his home state and it’s as if he never even happened.

I’m a divorced single mother of one adult daughter and I’ve done absolutely everything alone from kindergarten to present. I raised her alone even while I was married because the ex-husband was too busy running after other extracurricular activities. I didn’t waddle in despair and kept on moving. Got tired of making chump change and put myself through college twice and got my bachelor’s degree and MBA all before she graduated high school. So yes, many of us definitely wear the single mother hat.

Emma, I love your blunt, no-nonsense approach and I look forward to sharing my brand new blog once it’s launched soon.

So if I am financially independent but doing everything – and I mean everything on my own – I do not have the right to call myself a single mom?!

Ok so all this talk of the other parent not being in the picture. What is the person who has the child is calling themselves a single mom or dad, however does not raise the child? The grandma, grandpa, sister, mom, dad ECt.. Had the child 90% of the time. While that parent works, hangs out with friends, or goes on dates. How bout if the family financially supports the child and the mother? Are they considered a single parent, of in fact they are not parenting?

Thank you for bring this subject up because I think it bears discussion and I always think about the perception that the children might have in this situation. If you have a parent and the first words out of his/her mouth is I’m ‘single’, as in romantically available, it could come across as the child’s interest’s are second to the parent finding another partner. It could also come across to a child hearing how their mom or dad is a single parent as undue hardship has been brought upon by being a ‘single parent’ which is what the phrase ‘single mom/dad’ can invoke. Let’s not tell the child how hard it is to raise him/her especially when parenthood is an elective.

I’m with the ‘sixty year-old grandmother of a 5 year old’, single parent means widowed/widower or only parent. If you are the only parent, then try ‘I am the only parent’. If you are a parent with another parent alive and well and contributing in any way, then say I am a parent, happily or unhappily divorced/unmarried. Your single/dating/divorced status can come second to calling yourself a parent first.

Clearly a great discussion because ‘single parent’ means so many different things to so many people. Thanks!

Neighbor and friend Julie calls herself a single mom to claim sympathy or as an excuse for certain situations.

Julie married Bob and they had 2 children together. Bob worked full-time to support the family, he does not have a college degree, but did well. His job did not require travel, but lot’s of hours so Julie was the primary caretaker for the children and homemaker. They lived a good life, but Bob had to work a lot. Bob tried to find other work so he could be home more, but the 2008 recession hit and things at work just got harder at work for Bob. Julie had enough and moved out with her two children. Bob pays child support and spousal support and things are amicable between Julie and Bob. The children have now been in school full-time for several years and are in middle school now. Julie still does not work. She has 100% custody and Bob visits on weekends to take the kids out for the day once per week to once per month. He is around for holidays. Bob is not an involved dad by any stretch, but the children do have a dad they know and love. Julie runs low on money. Grandparents on both sides help out. She is a helicopter parent to the extreme and super volunteer at her children’s school. She in an uber parent to her 2 children and manages her small household with others paying the bills. She does not have to balance work and parenting.

Single mother or single parent is not a precise term, but it does imply hardship beyond a two parent situation. Julie may be a single mom, but she is not a single working mother.

My wife and I both work full-time and struggle to balance work and family life. Our children go to extended care at school early and come home late. We don’t complain about our situation as if it’s some special hardship, but we are sick of Julie’s “single mom” sob story.

So, does a mom have the right to claim the single mom title if:
– mom has 100% custody
– has an ex-husband who visits and pays child and spousal support
– gets support from 2 sets of local grandparents
– does not have to work because other pay the bills

I think it’s a tough call. She is the single full-time parent, but because she does not have to work, there does not seem to be any special hardship because she does not have to work to support herself or her children. One wonders what she will do when her children go off to college or otherwise grow up and move out.

What do you think?

If you have help from the other parent at all you are not a “single parent”. Does your child see their other parent? Does the other parent help financially? Does the other parent give emotional support? If the answer to any of those questions is YES then you are not a single parent. You are not a “single mom” or “single dad” you are a “mother” who happens to be single. You are a single woman, but in no way shape or form a “single mother”, you have help parenting.

Ela, I receive minimal support from my former husband. For years child support was around $250/month total for each child. I have 2. I have been on my own with my children since my daughter was 6 years old and my son was 11 years old. They are now 24 and 29 years old. I have had the full responsibility of deciding everything as it pertains to them. Both have disabilities and both still live with me. I had to work very hard to provide a decent life for them and it included travel a week a month. There was no one to help. My mother, who has now passed away, gave me emotional support.At the divorce, my former husband declared bankruptcy and I had to follow as I couldn’t pay 100% of the bills. I started again at 50 years old with nothing but furniture. The house and car were gone. I had to dip into RRSPs to help my kids with College and University and pay for their meds and everything else that came up. Because of using some RRSPs last year, I now owe almost $7K in taxes which I just don’t have the money to pay. You can imagine how pissed off I am that D. Trump hasn’t paid any taxes for years. I am now a senior and on old age pension and am struggling to pay bills. My adult children still live with me. I consider myself a single mother yet I don’t want to dismiss the support I receive from my FH.

Oh, by the way, my former husband (FH) after the divorce left the country and hasn’t been back. He hasn’t seen his son for over 13 years!

Donna, Your children are grown so you are not a single mother and Trump’s taxes have nothing to do with you.

I found this article following a disagreement I had with my girlfriend of two years.
She refers to herself as a single mother, however, has split custody with ex husband (who by the way makes over 100k a year, my point being the kids NEVER go without) they do a great job still coparenting, and then myself.
When she says that, I have trouble understanding what my place is?
I work a lot of long hours being in the medical field, and I times am awake over 30 hours before the kids even get out of school. To make things easier for her, I pick them up, or go for groceries, tidy up her house after I’ve already done mine, money goes both ways, and after two years of this, she claims the title of Single Mother. Am I wrong to be completely offended?

No, you are not wrong. Your girlfriend should not call herself a single mother because she has “split custody” co-parenting with the father and you also help out. By calling herself a single mother, she is being dishonest. She’s claiming a title of hardship she does not deserve and insulting you and the father by dismissing your support. The single mother or single parent title is not a precise term, there is some wiggle room, but your girlfriend’s situation does sound to me as if she even comes close to deserving the title and the true hardship it implies.

But why does ‘single mother” automatically connote hardship. I am a single mother (no one would argue with that) and I live better than 99% of the people in this world. That title is simply a fact.

I’ve never been a single mom technically but I felt like one for many years. When I got married my husband was really immature and quit his job about a month before our first child was born. For about 7 years I was mainly the only one working. He had a few jobs but either quit or was fired from them after 1-4 months. He spent most of the 7 years unemployed playing on the computer all day at home. I worked, managed the bills, did the grocery shopping, did the cleaning, and took care of our son when I was home. He didn’t watch our son during the day when I was at work. Our parents did. Some moms can identify with single moms eve if they aren’t technically single on paper.

I’m thankful to say that now , after all those years, something clicked in my husbands head and he began to change. In the last three years he has worked and brought in income. He’s not good at cleaning still but he helps out with his children and has tried to spend time with his family. I no longer feel like a single mother.

I’m very glad your situation is changing. I also am amazed that you stood by your man. Good for you. Just hope you have less of a burden on your shoulders.

Why not just call yourself a single woman instead of single mom if the dad is there for the kids.

Maybe single moms are not asking for sympathy. Maybe we are lonely, exhausted, and isolated, and desperately want to make a connection. Maybe we find it very difficult to do that when we hold beliefs that other moms don’t REALLY understand what it’s like to be completely on your own, and that it is insulting and minimizing when one refers to oneself as a single mom when she is able to drop the kids off at her ex’s every other weekend and receives more child support in a month than another mother earns on her own. Single moms that don’t have that have to either a)pay for child care, yet another expense we cant’s afford or, b)rely on friends for help in which case when a single mom finally gets a break it’s time for her to reciprocate and keep the friends’ kids. I can’t help but feel sad and jealous that my daughter does not have a father in her life – hers is dead. I can’t help but feel sad and jealous that my daughter does not have grandparents that send her presents and have her over in the summertime. Hers are dead. Sucks, huh? But I always comfort myself knowing that my daughter has a kick-ass mom that loves her to the moon, and she is thriving. I am also completely aware that we have it so good – I have a job, we are healthy, and we have much to be thankful for. I have a brother with a family that we get to see twice a year. We get $576/mo. SSI survivor’s benefits, since her dad left us nothing. I make $27,236/year, and I finally have insurance, but by damn we are ok. So perhaps, if you are a single mom who feels isolated and overwhelmed, find a community. Find people who show empathy, rather than sympathy. That’s partly what Emma’s site is for.

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