What Qualifies as a Single Mum?

There’s nothing quite like a good case of the hardship Olympics to really bring people together (and then break them back apart again). You might think that the single parenting community is just that: a united community, but like any other group, there can be division. So, what exactly qualifies as a single mum? Are you one, really?

What’s a single mum?

It’s just a mum that happens to be single, right? Not according to many. The term “single mum” can be a source of debate, as there is no universally agreed-upon definition. However, the core essence of a single mother is a woman who is the sole or primary caregiver for her child(ren), without the full-time involvement and support of a partner. 

At the most basic level, a single mum is a woman who is not married or in a committed relationship with the father of her child(ren). This includes women who have never been married, are divorced, separated, or widowed. 

What makes single mums different from co-parents or parents in couples?

The key distinction is that she is solely responsible for the day-to-day parenting and financial support of her family, without the consistent involvement of a co-parent. The definition becomes more nuanced when considering factors like custody arrangements and financial support. Some argue that a woman only qualifies as a single mum if she has sole or primary custody, and receives little to no financial or caregiving support from the child’s other parent. Meanwhile, others take a more inclusive view, stating that a woman can still be considered a single mother even if she shares custody or receives some level of support, as long as she is the primary or equal caregiver and decision-maker for her child(ren). 

How many single parents are there in the UK?

Single mum vs co-parent

Does it actually matter? To some. Many solo mums or primary caregivers who receive little or no financial support from their child’s other parent resent being grouped together with co-parents who may have 50/50 custody arrangements or receive regular financial contributions. 

However, I would say this: If you are the only person at home providing for and caring for your children, making decisions, responsible for their safety, day in, day out, whether full or part time, you are a single parent. This flows both ways. In my view, the single parent who has their child every other weekend, shirks child maintenance payments and cancels at the slightest inconvenience is also a single parent. Just arguably not a great one. 

Being a single mum, dad, caregiver, parent, isn’t about the label you attach to yourself. If you parent alone, whether full or part time, you are a part of the single parent community. If you prefer to identify as a sole mother, solo parent or co-parent, that’s up to you. There are big differences between being a single mother that co-parents and a solo mother, but they are not all benefits or disadvantages, just nuances. Many co-parents would give anything to spend more time with their children, many solo parents would give anything for a night off. 

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One set of single parenting circumstances isn’t inherently easier or more difficult than any other. Co-parents don’t always mean less stress (or, indeed, child maintenance). Solo parenthood doesn’t mean a simpler solution. Every single parent family is unique, just like the children within them.  

Same shit, different title, Ammiright?

What support do single mothers get in the UK?

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