The Top 10 Single Mom Myths of All Time

The truth about single moms, welfare, house-ownership ... and dating.

Posted Sep 07, 2020

Gustavo Fring/Pexels
Source: Gustavo Fring/Pexels

"Welfare broodmares," "crack-addicted thieves," "parasites," and "cougars with kids in tow" are just some of the terms media personalities have used to keep the single mom myths alive.

The myth of the broken home should have been debunked by now. But I had to check twice that I wasn’t reading a 1980s article from Google News Archives when I was searching for statistics on single parents and came across the claim that "children of single mothers are more likely to commit crimes than children who grow up with their married parents." The post was dated December 3, 2012.

The more blog posts and news stories about single parents I read, the more I realized that most of the myths that have fueled people's unconscious biases about single mothers in the past continue to thrive on the internet. Here are the top 10 single mom myths I found.

Myth 1: Single moms receiving public assistance are welfare broodmares.

On his nationally syndicated radio program, conservative radio host Neal Boortz is fond of describing "single mothers receiving public assistance" as "welfare broodmares" lacking values, morals, and ethics. A broodmare is a female horse kept for breeding. To back up his claims, he has, among other things, cited statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau showing that women who received public assistance give birth at more than three times the rate of women who do not receive public assistance.

The Truth: The term "welfare" is a contradiction in terms. The highest rate of poverty in the U.S. is in families in which the head of household is a single mother. For nearly 3 in 10 children living in a single-parent household, the family income is less than $15,000 per year. That is $1,250 a month. And besides being an unforgivable insult, calling single mothers "broodmares" conceals the truths behind the statistics, which is that middle and upper-class women have better access to contraception and abortion and have the privilege of putting off procreation in favor of education and careers.

Myth 2: Single moms cannot give their children the same love and attention as married couples.

The Truth: Two is not a magical number of parents. According to Bella DePaulo, author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, what fuels this myth is the fantasy that "all children living in nuclear families have two totally engaged parents who lavish their love and attention on all their children, and on each other, in a home free of anger, conflict, and recriminations." But nothing could be further from the truth. Many children in two-parent homes grow up in a negative environment with constant anger, fights, and abuse. There is no magical number of parents, DePaulo says. "When it comes to kids, love is the answer. Single parents can give quite a lot of that."

Myth 3: Single moms can’t own a home.

The Truth: Twenty-five percent of all first-time homebuyers are single women. "Singles are not putting their lives on hold while they wait for The One. Instead, they are taking those big steps like buying homes," writes DePaulo.

Money need not be an issue. It's about finding the right resources. For example, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers low-interest loans to people who cannot obtain financial assistance elsewhere, and Habitat for Humanity offers to help people build their own homes to reduce costs.

Myth 4: Single moms cannot save for retirement or kids' college.

The Truth: Children are expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, two children will cost a single parent between $118,000 and $250,000. This amount does not include the costs of sending your children to college or any other expenses after the age of 18.

But it would be a mistake to think that people who didn't have children will have an additional $250,000 in their bank account by the time they reach mid-life. Kid-less singles and couples tend to have different lifestyles. As a friend of mine recently noted, "It’s expensive to be in a kid-less relationship. We go out for dinner almost every night."

A second income doesn't necessarily add to your savings either. A second income means increased costs of housing, food, clothing, transportation, and health care. And people in a two-income family are not completely free to decide what they want to spend money on. They cannot decide to be frugal if their partner is a spender.

Myth 5. Single moms have less time for their children.

The Truth: Being a single mom requires strategic time management and a lot of effort in balancing family and work. But women who divorce sometimes find that they have more time for the kids after the divorce. When you no longer have to devote time to a marriage, that time can be spent with the kids. "There is always a way to make time for the things you love. Always," writes Michelle Zink, a single mother to four kids and a successful writer.

Zink works hard every day but she manages to find time to write and spend time with her kids. "Sometimes my house is a mess and sometimes we have for dinner what we lovingly refer to as “hodge-podge,” which basically means I’ll make the kids whatever they want as long as it’s quick so I can get back to writing," she says.

But her weekends are devoted to the family. "I run a teen book club through Borders and we meet every other Saturday, but other than that, we’re mostly around the house watching movies or swimming," Zink adds.

Myth 6: Married moms pity single moms.

The Truth: Single-mom envy is more common than you might think. A survey by Babytalk Magazine found that 22 percent of the married women they surveyed feel single women sometimes have it easier when it comes to parenting. Seventy-six percent of these women liked the idea that they wouldn't have to fight with a partner over the best way to raise a child, 69 percent found the thought of not having to work on the marriage, too, appealing, and 30 percent thought it would be nice not having to deal with concerned in-laws.

Myth 7: Single moms are “easy.”

The Truth: A friend of mine, a single mother of three, went on a first date. She told the guy about her children. "Wow," he exclaimed, and for a moment he looked genuinely impressed. Then his facial expression changed, and his next comment was, "Are they all from the same father?" Needless to say, my friend didn't waste another second on that guy.

There are men who believe single moms sleep around a lot. Guess what? Even if they had wanted to, they don't have the time. And they don't fall for younger guys babbling, "Women my age are so insecure," "I love older women," "single moms are really cute." They politely reply: "I understand. I love older men, especially single fathers."

When you are responsible for raising a kid on your own, you find out what really matters. A partner is third on the list after children and work.

Myth 8: Dating as a single mom is too hard.

The Truth: Dating is hard. Period. However, for some men, single mother equals “baggage.” How do you minimize the chances of running into a man who thinks kids are a dealbreaker? The answer is online dating. Online dating gives you a way to sort good apples from bad. You just have to be upfront in your profile about having kids. But it's always a good idea to keep your dating life separate from your family life until there is a clear commitment to the relationship.

Myth 9: Single moms couldn't make their marriage work.

The Truth: "Today many women are becoming 'single moms by choice,' believing that their life dream of being a parent shouldn't be derailed by the absence of a life partner," writes Connie Shapiro, author of When You're Not Expecting: An Infertility Survival Guide. She reports that Single Mothers by Choice, a 25-year-old support group, accepted twice as many new members in 2005 compared to 1995, and in 2005, one-third of the people who used the California Cryobank, the largest sperm bank in the U.S., were single women.

Myth 10: Single moms are supermoms.

The Truth: Single mothers have the same fears and needs as everyone else. On top of that, some may still be struggling with emotional traumas from a hard break-up, divorce, or the loss of a spouse. Shellee Darnell, a licensed marriage and family therapist, recommends that single moms develop a network of people who can provide emotional support, help in the case of an emergency, babysitting, and companionship. "Single parents with healthy support systems usually feel better mentally and physically and demonstrate to their children that it is OK to ask for help," she writes.