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Cultural connotations of "single mother"
Thread poster: ahmadwadan.com

ahmadwadan.com  Identity Verified
Kuwait
Local time: 06:04
English to Arabic
+ ...
Jan 14

Hello,

I'd like to know whether a "single mother" is:

1. A mother who has kids without marriage.
2. A mother who has kids within a marriage relationship but husband died or abandoned her.
3. Not known whether there was marriage or not.
4. Something else you may add.

Actually I found multiple dictionary definitions that did not define the relationship clearly.

Thank you


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milena beba
United Kingdom
Serbian to English
+ ...
single mother Jan 14

A woman raising children on her own, regardless of marital status.

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MollyRose  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:04
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
single mother Jan 18

An easy way to say she is raising kids alone, without explaining why. Not known whether she has ever been married. (U.S.A.)


[Edited at 2017-01-18 23:45 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-01-18 23:46 GMT]


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Jean-Pierre Artigau
Canada
Local time: 23:04
English to French
+ ...
Single mother Jan 19

In Canada where I live a single mother is a woman who raises a child (or several children) alone, without a man's help, alghough she may receive help from other persons like her own parents. She could be a widow, divorced, separated or never have actually lived with a man.
In this country a large proportion of couples live together and have children without ever getting married, and may spend their whole adult life together. In this context "single" doesn't mean "unmarried", you wouldn't call "single" a mother who lives with a man as a "couple"; formal marriage is seen as totally optional, which may be surprising to someone living in the Middle East (and probably many other places).
These situations are not always "accidental", I have know women (not so many) who deliberately chose to have a child and avoid the trouble of staying with the child's father or any man.
There are also "single fathers", although they are much less numerous.

Jean-Pierre


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Texte Style
Local time: 05:04
French to English
What exactly do you want to know? Jan 19

Do you want a dictionary definition or cultural connotations?

I agree that the definition would be a woman raising her children without the father, regardless of the circumstances leading to this situation.

Cultural connotations would be more like "a woman who brings unwanted unloved children into the world in order to qualify for council housing and extra benefits, sucking the welfare state dry, rather than earning a living" if she doesn't work and "a woman who leaves her kids to fend for themselves" if she does work. All but widows are deemed to be morally depraved and all children assumed to be future drug addicts or criminals or wasters. Well, of course there are some who would simply view a single mother as someone who's raising children in less than ideal circumstances, without judging them, but they're not the ones who talk the loudest.


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Amel Abdullah  Identity Verified
Jordan
Arabic to English
+ ...
Involvement of father Jan 19

MollyRose wrote:

An easy way to say she is raising kids alone, without explaining why. Not known whether she has ever been married. (U.S.A.)


[Edited at 2017-01-18 23:45 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-01-18 23:46 GMT]


I agree with the above definition. I would also say that it doesn't necessarily mean that the father is not involved. For example, a woman may divorced and have primary custody of her children, but her ex-husband still sees the children and pays support. Here, "single" refers to her marital status. She could even be in a relationship with a boyfriend who is the father of the children. I would still call this woman a single mother, even if the father is involved. However, when using the phrase "single mother," there is often the implication that she is raising the children on her own.

But the bottom line is that a single mother is not married (even if she was in the past). It is not relevant why she is single or if she was ever married.

One statistic from 2015 says:

Around 49% of single mothers have never married, 51% are either divorced, separated or widowed. Half have one child, 30% have two.

Cultural connotations: In the US, the first thought that comes to mind may be of someone struggling and poor. But this is not really correct as wealthy single mothers exist as well. And in many circles, single motherhood is the new norm. They are sometimes seen as strong and positive role models who show what women are capable of as far as the ability to balance between career and family responsibilities. More often, however, they are looked down upon, especially if they fit the stereotype of being poor, receiving welfare or other benefits, taking drugs, or having multiple relationships with different men.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:04
German to English
etymologically confusing Jan 19

Amel Abdullah wrote:

I would also say that it doesn't necessarily mean that the father is not involved. For example, a woman may divorced and have primary custody of her children, but her ex-husband still sees the children and pays support. Here, "single" refers to her marital status. She could even be in a relationship with a boyfriend who is the father of the children. I would still call this woman a single mother, even if the father is involved. However, when using the phrase "single mother," there is often the implication that she is raising the children on her own.

But the bottom line is that a single mother is not married (even if she was in the past). It is not relevant why she is single or if she was ever married.


I'm an American living abroad, but I can't imagine that British or Canadian or Irish or Australian usage would be any different in this case.

I never really thought about the fact that "single mother" might seem a little confusing because the term "single" is usually used to refer to marital status.

I don't think anyone in the US would ever refer to a woman living with and raising children with a boyfriend (or girlfriend or wife) as a single mother, regardless of whether that person is the children's father or not. The notion of a parent raising a child on his or her own (with or without financial and other marginal support from the other parent) is not something implied by the term, it is precisely what the word means.

Theoretically, single parents could still be legally married, but be separated (or otherwise estranged) from their spouses. And it is interesting to note that I would probably refer to someone raising a child with the help of a grandparent as a single parent, so maybe there is some hint of being "single" still attached to the term, after all, but it is faint and generally irrelevant.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:04
German to English
Unwed mother ... Jan 19

... is the term you're looking for. (It finally occurred to me.)

And there are certainly single parents and single fathers, but I've never heard of an unwed parent or unwed father.


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Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:04
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Unwed mother Jan 19

I've never heard the term 'unwed mother' used in the UK. Maybe 'unmarried mother', but 'single mother' would be far more common.

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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:04
German to English
But does "single mother" in the UK ... Jan 19

... mean a mother who is unmarried, regardless of whether or not she is raising children alone?

That is what Amel proposed as the definition of "single mother," and I was trying to think of the actual word for what he is talking about.


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Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:04
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
no Jan 19

I agree that 'single mother' or 'single parent' would tend to imply living alone with children and being solely responsible for their care. A woman bringing up children with her boyfriend would not usually be thought of as a single mother.

"Unmarried mother' might technically cover that situation, but I'm not sure you would use it for a woman bringing up children in a stable, supportive relationship either. I don't think I've ever heard 'unwed mother' used - it sounds a bit 1950s to me.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:04
German to English
unusual concept Jan 19

Rachel Waddington wrote:

"Unmarried mother' might technically cover that situation, but I'm not sure you would use it for a woman bringing up children in a stable, supportive relationship either. I don't think I've ever heard 'unwed mother' used - it sounds a bit 1950s to me.


I agree completely. If I think of the word "unwed mother," I literally hear it said by my mom's voice. I was just trying to find the word. It was filed in the back of my brain next to "out of wedlock."

You're right that the word "unmarried mother" sounds more normal, but I don't know when I would ever have occasion to use it.


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ahmadwadan.com  Identity Verified
Kuwait
Local time: 06:04
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What I exactly need to know is... Jan 19

Texte Style wrote:

Do you want a dictionary definition or cultural connotations?



What I exactly need to know is whether there was/is marriage or not.

Thank you


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:04
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
The mother's marital status is not specified Jan 19

ahmadwadan.com wrote:

Texte Style wrote:

Do you want a dictionary definition or cultural connotations?



What I exactly need to know is whether there was/is marriage or not.

Thank you


The expression "single mother" does not precisely specify whether the mother has been married or not. She may have been married in the past and is now widowed or divorced, or may never have been married, but in any case is now looking after a child or children on her own.


[Edited at 2017-01-19 17:32 GMT]


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David Lin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:04
Member (2013)
English to Chinese
+ ...

MODERATOR
single parent Jan 19

ahmadwadan.com wrote:

Texte Style wrote:

Do you want a dictionary definition or cultural connotations?



What I exactly need to know is whether there was/is marriage or not.

Thank you


Marriage is not the essence of the term here, the single (person) status is, i.e. the person brings up a child/ren on her/his own.

Marriage does not determine the meaning of the term here because a single parent can have a child/ren without having to marry first.

The right to have a child is not determined by marriage by English law.

In general it is called "single parent" in the UK. In other words, if the parent is a woman, she is then called a "single mother". If a man, a "single father", but most cases happen to be 'single mothers'.

Hope this helps.

[Edited at 2017-01-19 20:46 GMT]


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Cultural connotations of "single mother"

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