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Opinion

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Single Mums vs Single Dads

Who makes the better parents? Who has it tougher?

Jason Bryce - Full-time single dad
31 March 2016





Stock Photo - Bigstock.com

I'm an Australian single parent of three beautiful kids. I'm a better parent than you. I love my children more than you love yours.

I have had to overcome more problems, setbacks, trauma, discrimination and financial issues than you have. You have had things easy compared to me and my wonderful, overachieving children.

This is the general tone of some of the commentary and debate on social media and single parent forums. And, increasingly, fathers are finding their way onto these discussions and demanding a voice.

But are single dads really being left out by a lack of services and supports? Are single mums really appreciative of the difficulties dads face?

Or do single mothers still face social stigma and discrimination that men don't understand?

Today we settle the arguments once and for all. This is the World Series Cup of Single Parenting - Mums versus Dads - proudly brought to you by SingleParentAustralia.com.au.

The case for the legendary hero single dad


Hero single dad - Photo credit: Bigstock.com

Men are finally discovering the joy and hardship of single parenthood. There are currently about 140,000 sole fathers in Australia or 15 per cent of the total number of sole parent families. That proportion is steadily increasing every year.

So now, increasingly, men are going through the shock of becoming sole parents and, I can tell you, we are absolute unsung heroes. We are dealing with more crap than any mother ever had to put up with. And we do it largely in isolation with a fair amount of shame and some confusion as we learn new skills and adapt to situations way outside our comfort zone.

Romance publishers like Harlequin and Mills & Boon know of our epic struggles and instruct authors to construct single fathers as hero figures. Think Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird or any movie with a Kevin Costner-type dad character and a cute little, over-mature daughter.

Single dad teenager parenting problems - Photo credit: Bigstock.com

Back in the real world, the hero single fathers battle on with an almost complete lack of services and lobby groups. Mother's groups and forums may not be places that men want to rush to for chatting and sharing stories. And cooking, cleaning, feeding and dressing? That is way outside the comfort zone for many guys. And we haven't even got to the challenges of dealing with daughters as they come to puberty? What about the hair? The clothes? The attitude?

Melbourne dad Tyrell Moore became a single father with a young daughter four years ago. His story has featured on Channel Nine and here on the website of the sole father's group he has largely created. Tyrell and his daughter almost ended up homeless after being rejected by a women's domestic violence shelter.

Another Melbourne based single father told SingleParentAustralia.com.au a harrowing story of applying to court in 2011 for an intervention order to keep his ex-wife away from his home. He showed us the police statement (with photographs) describing the woman visiting the house and using a large kitchen knife to almost kill the father while the children hid petrified in the bedrooms.

Single dad with son - Photo credit: Bigstock.com

When the matter came up in court, unbelievably, the mother was represented by a free lawyer from a local family violence legal centre. There were no charges against the unrepresented father and the police report confirmed he had not been at fault in any way. The lawyer argued that an official order against the mother could affect her employment prospects. It sounds like a dystopian, politically correct whirlpool of despair.

Tyrell Moore said there are plenty of services and groups for mothers but barely any for single dads. That's why he set up Sole Fathers United, he told the Whittlesea Leader.

Terese Edwards, NCSMC
Terese Edwards, NCSMC

Terese Edwards, the CEO of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, has heard it all before.

"I hear a lot about the lack of services and voices for 'dads,'" said Terese.

Terese said whenever she makes a public statement about single mums someone will inevitably comment: "What about the dads?"

"But I never apologise for speaking on behalf of single mothers," Terese told SingleParentAustralia.com.au.

"Advances that our organisation makes have a flow on effect to dads."

Anyway, Terese isn't convinced that dads don't have a voice or lobby groups to act on their behalf.

"In 2014, the Govt paid five organisations to provide services and advice on child support," said Terese, "Of the five agencies, one had a key focus on stepfamilies, one upon single mother families (that's us) while three were for fathers!

"We can easily be caught up in the nuance that there aren't voices or services for dads," said Terese, "This is not my experience."

Single mums: We just keep on keeping on - as usual.


Hero single mum - Photo credit: Bigstock.com

Some older single mothers quietly shake their heads and smile upon hearing about some of the trials and tribulations being discovered just lately by men.

Older single mums can recount horror stories of actual discrimination and real and very ugly prejudice, poverty and violence.

There was a time, less than fifty years ago, when mothers had to prove themselves of good character in order to qualify for a small pension from state governments. Often these payments were administered by churches or the local Postmaster. Before the Whitlam government's Family Law Act a woman had to prove fault to secure a divorce, no matter what the circumstances. These policies are framed around a belief that a single mother might be a loose woman - and civilised society can't have that. The implication that a woman with children (but no husband) can't really be respectable continues today in the attitudes of many and impacts upon policymakers. If you are in any doubt, read this passage from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Passage from Welfare underpins the regular abuse of children - Sydney Morning Herald
Passage from Sydney Morning Herald article "Welfare underpins the regular abuse of children"

"Many single-parent households are not good places for children. The mothers are given to junk food, daytime TV and no-good boyfriends, who might develop designs on an adolescent daughter. The worst mothers are addicted to drugs and alcohol and under their influence neglect and abuse their children."

When was this article published? Not forty years ago, but just three years ago, on the 16 January 2013. The author, historian John Hirst, was arguing in support of the removal of Parenting Payment from single parents.

Single mother and daughter - Photo credit: Bigstock.com

Single mothers endure a stigma, even today, that fathers and grandparent carers do not said Terese Edwards.

"The stigma becomes stronger when the dark cloud of poverty takes over. This stigma precludes women from identifying themselves as a 'single mum'" said Terese.

In movies and books single mothers always have to deal with the good woman / bad woman question. (Think Jennifer Lopez in most of her movies). At some point the single mum character will need to explain how she became that way. The father was killed in Iraq. The father was a low life scum. The audience must be reassured that J Lo has a really good reason for being single.

Single mums are simply not seen as 'deserving' as other sole parents because women are 'expected' to undertake the parenting role said Terese.

"We don't have TV shows about us and we don't capture attention when we forgo a career to take up the lion's share of parenting."

And women who come into a single father's household are 'stepmothers' who are the basis for thousands of evil characters in children's fiction. A man coming into a single mother's house is a hero taking on the job of being a provider.

And the winner is - Photo credit: Bigstock.com

Deciding the winner - the champion is ...

(and the judge's decision is final!)

About one in five Australian children will grow up in a single parent household. It's not an easy path and sometimes single mothers and fathers can be tempted to vent their frustrations on social media. But let's face it, almost none of us actually chose to be sole parents. It was thrust upon us and it is a harder, and possibly more rewarding, life than anyone asks for.

One theme that runs through sole parent forums is the shock of newly single mothers and fathers at the lack of real support. As the years go by, sole parents learn to do everything themselves, to work out how to get the most they can out of the system and support each other as much as possible.

Terese Edwards says rather than looking at the gender of parents, we need to work out how to support all children. Mothers do accept single dads as equals in the parenting stakes said Terese, but are still more likely to experience poverty and violence than men.

"The gendered debate becomes sharp when we hit 'hardship'" said Terese. "If we valued all parenting and had an anti-poverty scheme then wow - what a positive change that would be!"

Single mother and single father - Photo credit: Bigstock.com

Jason Bryce
Business & Finance Specialist



Who do you think are doing it toughest - single dads? Or single mums? Comment below!



go to Jason Bryce's Biography

Jason is a business and finance journalist with 20 years experience, and is also a member of the SingleMum.com.au Expert Opinion Panel. He has a regular weekly column in the Sunday Mail (Brisbane) and writes regularly for the Business Daily section of the Herald Sun in Melbourne and many other newspapers and magazines.

...read more of Jason Bryce's Profile here






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This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of SingleParentAustralia.com.au. This article contains only general information. For advice regarding your own personal circumstances, always seek individual advice from a qualified professional.


What does it mean to be a single mum?Of course, the

kids

are the most important thing in a single mum's life. Kids are the focus and always have been. But along with the children, there are other matters that can confuse a single mum's life.

Centrelink

plays a big part of a single mother's life, mainly because this is where a large percentage of single mums get their finances from. Centrelink are the source from where the

single mother pension

, or as it is otherwise known, the single parent payment comes from. The single mother pension is a subsistence amount, but just the same, it is money to live on, and so it is important, no matter if it is called single parent payment, single mother pension or whatever Centrelink welfare classes it at the time

Often, single mums come out of a

divorce

or defacto relationship only to find that their troubles have just begun, and find that their first step leads them towards Family Law - it's time to engage a lawyer.
There are more than just Centrelink finance problems to worry about, as mentioned before, but also

child custody

issues. Child custody is something that hits right at the heart of

single mums

. If a single mother's ex husband or ex partner has been a domestic violence perpetrator, the mum may be greatly worried about child custody. They worry that their kids won't be safe with their spouse, who has already proven to be abusive because they caused

domestic violence

, which resulted in a divorce or separation.

Even so,

Family Court

will often still order a form of child custody named

Shared Parenting

. Shared Parenting is a form of child custody division of time or parental responsibility between the parents. Mother's often look for a good divorce lawyer to try to avoid share parenting with an abusive ex-spouse after divorce, however in many cases Shared Parenting is still the outcome after the divorce, no matter how good the divorce lawyers have been. They will often settle for visitation at a contact centre or access centre where fathers or mothers are supervised during child custody access.

Please remember the bigger font words,because we will use it often in our website.