Everyone knows that being a single parent is challenging. But just how equal the challenges are for single fathers and single mothers?
In films and in real-life society, single mothers are often perceived more negatively than single fathers. Single moms are often described or judged as either a failing parent or “flirtatious woman who is in dire need of a husband figure to provide for her family.”
You may have seen on the screen about the portrayal of “a hot widow next door” whom other wives need to be cautious of. Also, you may recall the time when Britney Spears went through a divorce breakdown where she shaved her head and got heavy drinking problems, before getting back on track--eventually. Although it was later revealed that she was afraid her hair would be tested for drugs and used against her for the battle of child custody by her ex-husband.
On the other side, single fathers are seen as having admirably got through the challenge of single parenting. In cinemas, single fathers are either pictured as fathers struggling to connect with and raise their children (especially if they have daughters) or simply hot widower who is financially established, fatherly and “free”.
The gap in both stereotypes is not entirely baseless. Especially in Asian countries, most households still put men as the main or even the sole provider. So when couples separate, single dads are most likely to be financially steady than single moms, for the women earn less than their husbands or take the role of a no-earning housewife.
Single moms later become less secure and struggle to provide the primary necessities of their children. As poverty rushes into the household, they become pressured and they have to shift their focus on surviving instead of living. The implication of such a situation is mothers who neglect their children, appear to have reckless behaviour, and generally perceived as less responsible.
On the other hand, single fathers are less to not affected financially by the separation. Ignoring financial struggle, they could focus on their new parenting role and balancing their dating life with raising kids.
Since single fathers are usually already the provider of the house--financially steady--they are less likely to look for a partner to depend on. They won’t be seen as a ‘threat’, but ‘longed-for’ by younger single ladies or female widower instead.
On the contrary, single mothers are often seen as a ‘threat’ since they are more likely to look for a partner to depend on. The widespread patriarch society instils the notion of “woman is safer under the protection of a man”, so their need for a partner is somewhat different than men’s.
However, that’s not always the case.
As more female labour entering the industry and more women reach powerful positions in their career, many single mothers are financially sufficient without the help of a partner. Even if they are not (i.e. ex-housewife), single mothers are not necessarily “husband-hunters”.
Sadly, such stereotypes still prevail somehow in today’s society, especially Asian. What we must realise is how negative judgements affect single mothers in real life. It could become an “affirmation” for them or simply extra pressure. These stereotypes could even get in their way of providing for their children (i.e. finding jobs and getting accepted by their neighbours).
A shelter house in Malaysia called Rumah Titian Kaseh is giving a helping hand to single mothers. They primarily provide shelter for them and their children, while also surrounding them with a big loving family. As part of our community, you can read more about Rumah Titian Kaseh’s story here.