JK Rowling: There is ‘no escaping the single parent tag’ & ‘stigma’

JK Rowling

It’s hard to tell someone that you’re a single parent. People often assume the worst and tend to believe that you got pregnant by a one night stand. You obviously don’t know the first thing about birth control. If you were married, you must not have worked hard enough to keep things together in your relationship. Never mind that the best-laid plans for marriage can end in a pile of abuse and/or adultery. People can be so judgy.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has penned an essay on how the stigma of single parenthood continues to follow her to this day. The essay itself is at least twice as long and covers a lot of controversial issues involving welfare benefits. Much of her discussion also covers UK politics, so I cut that out too. Mostly I’m focusing on how Rowling feels like people still look down their noses at her because she became rich and famous while “sitting at home” writing her first books. She was in fact working, parenting, and penning Harry Potter in her (scant) spare time:

Nearly twenty years ago (it’s a shock to me to write that, because it still seems quite a recent occurrence) I became a single parent. Like the vast majority of single parents, this had not been my plan. My much-wanted daughter had been conceived and born while I was married, but the failure of that relationship saw me living shortly afterwards on state benefits in the coldest winter Scotland had seen in quite a few years. I had been living in sunny Portugal prior to my return to the UK and the snow was merely the first shock to my system.

I had imagined that I would be back at work fast. Indeed, it was because I expected to be employed outside of the home again that I was working so hard to finish the children’s novel I never told anyone I was writing (not wishing to be told that I was deluded). As it turned out, my belief I would shortly be back in paid work turned out to be a much bigger delusion than the hope that the novel might be published.

Then, in a sudden, seismic and wholly unexpected shift, I found myself in the newspapers.

There was still no escaping the Single Parent tag; it followed me to financial stability and fame just as it had clung to me in poverty and obscurity. I became Single Parent Writes Award-Winning Children’s Book/Earns Record American Advance/Gets Film Deal. One of the first journalists to interview me asked me whether I hadn’t felt I ought to be out looking for a job rather than “sitting at home writing a novel.” By some miracle I resisted the almost overwhelming temptation to punch him and subsequently decided to channel my frustration a little more positively by becoming a Patron of what was then called the National Council for One Parent Families (now Gingerbread).

In spite of the fact that I became a Married Mother again in 2001, I remain President of Gingerbread, a superb campaigning organisation for single parents and their children. Unfortunately, their work is as necessary as ever today, in a recession much worse than the one I faced when I returned to the UK in the 90s.

According to a Gingerbread survey in 2011, 87% of single parents think there is a stigma around single parenthood that needs to be challenged and one in three say that they have personally experienced it. I find the language of “skivers versus strivers” particularly offensive when it comes to single parents, who are already working around the clock to care for their children. Such rhetoric drains confidence and self-esteem from those who desperately want, as I did, to get back into the job market.

Government has the potential to change the lives, not just of single parents, but of a generation of children whose ambition and potential must not be allowed to dissipate in poverty. In the meantime, I would say to any single parent currently feeling the weight of stereotype or stigmatization that I am prouder of my years as a single mother than of any other part of my life. Yes, I got off benefits and wrote the first four Harry Potter books as a single mother, but nothing makes me prouder than what Jessica told me recently about the first five years of her life: “I never knew we were poor. I just remember being happy.”

[From Gingerbread.org.uk]

I’ve known lots of single mothers who have trouble getting back into the job market even after only taking off for one year. Employers also tend to think mothers will call in sick more often too. Of course dads don’t get treated the same way, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Mostly I find Rowling’s words inspiring. She’s not proud that she received welfare benefits when her child was very young, but she worked like crazy to climb out of her financial hole. It sounds like her daughter was privy to an excellent example of a strong woman.

JK Rowling

JK Rowling

JK Rowling

Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet

 

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

75 Responses to “JK Rowling: There is ‘no escaping the single parent tag’ & ‘stigma’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Mercedes035 says:

    Why is she wearing a comforter on the top picture that green dress with pink flowers looks like a nice bed spread

  2. Evelyn says:

    My sister is a single mom working and going to school, it drives me crazy when people get judgemental about her needing government assistance to make ends meet. Sometimes you can’t do it all, but all you can do is work hard, and JK Rowling is a sterling example for her daughter

  3. bijlee says:

    “I never knew we were poor. I just remember being happy.”

    Beautiful. People are VERY harsh on single parents especially single mothers. I have nothing else to say except that JK Rowling is inspiring.

    • Spooks says:

      I never really noticed that around me. Maybe because I live in a small town where everybody knows everybody and family is always there when things get tough. But the single mothers I know weren’t treated harshly.

      And God, I love this woman. Harry Potter was the book that got me into reading, one of the first books I ever read. I still remember the way I felt when I was 7 and read it.

  4. Sixer says:

    I might not like her books much and I might not agree with all she says (although I do here) – but I like Rowling. She’s not afraid to nail her colours to the mast.

    It’s an important point she’s making here – that government rhetoric about welfare/single mothers misleads the public into believing recipients are only the workshy, when the truth is that the majority are in work, but on poverty wages in an environment of unaffordable rents.

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion on welfare, but if the opinion is based on a fallacy, then that’s not on.

    Rowling is writing this knowing that it flies in the face not only of current UK govt policy, but also in the face of general public opinion here in the UK, which, by and large, supports the govt’s welfare policies.

    So props to her for saying what she thinks.

    • Anna says:

      This was so smart and touching and I cried.

    • gogoGorilla says:

      You should read the stuff people in the US say about this issue in general. My Facebook feed is constantly clogged with drivel from relatives about how every person on assistance is a drug-addled douchebag that needs to be driven out of the state. It’s very disheartening. I get that people need to be responsible for themselves and other people will take advantage if they can, but the whole point of assistance programs is to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable members of society. It’s easy to lose sight of that (and also have zero compassion).

      • Sixer says:

        I have seen. The vocal weight of US public opinion is the vocal weight of UK public opinion but on steroids!

        I do wonder where the compassion goes.

        To me, it’s simple: support those who can’t; if you work full-time and you can’t afford to put a roof over your head and feed yourself, it’s not you that’s wrong. It’s the society you live in.

      • Eleonor says:

        I went on welfare once: phd years, I didn’t have a scholarship, but I was working at the University, working outside, and I couldn’t make it: it wasn’t enough. At a certain point I received a sum from the French Government: they saved my life with that.
        It’s not embarassing, sometimes you need a hand, and it’s wonderful to know that outside there’s someone who’s helping you, someone who’s telling you ” we know you’re working your ass off keep it up”

      • KM says:

        Are these same people also anti-abortion? See, that stumps me so much with the people I know who are militantly against welfare provision. They’re anti abortion, but also anti making it possible for women to keep babies in crisis pregnancies, too. It’s not joined-up thinking at all.

    • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

      I’m in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and while I do agree that sometimes people need gov’t assistance (my family was on it for about six months, while my mom looked for a job and my dad was in school full time and working), where I live, there are soooo many people who are just freaking lazy.

      And that’s a fact. There’s no ifs or buts. I’m not trying to say everyone who’s on welfare is lazy, but where I live, it is the vast majority. Like one good example is one of my aunts. She is amazingly smart, loves science–actually has her training to be an lpn, but is too freaking lazy to keep her certification up.

      She’s gone back to school TWICE, because she didn’t keep it up, and hasn’t finished yet. And where I live, if you’re on gov’t assistance, you can go to (community, at the least) college free….she is 37 years old and hasn’t been able to take care of herself and her (4) kids at all–she depends on the government to give her money, as well as whatever boyfriend she has. I love her, but I’m seeing that now (especially since a lot of shit has gone down in my family recently) that she’s a user.

      And that’s the norm around here. But I do agree that you only see the people who show the worst of it–not the ones who are working hard to get out of whatever hole they’re in.

      I really do like JK Rowling, I love her story–I LOVED her books. I’m excited for what she comes up with now.

      • Bobbie says:

        Yes, I agree completely. And it is very hard to bust your butt day in and day out as a mom who works full time only to see other people who do not work get free food and health insurance and school lunches and lots of other things (this is what I am working to pay for). I try not to dwell on it because it doesn’t do any good, but it’s HARD to work and part of me would love to quit and just get all of the things from government subsidies. Honestly, we wouldn’t be that far behind. At the end of the day, though, I have to live with myself and I want to pay for my children’s own needs.

      • Scal says:

        The plural of anecdote isn’t data.

        That’s to bad about ‘most’ of the people in your area, but frankly most studies about people on assistance show that they are employed and needing additional help.

      • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

        @Scal
        My point is that the people like my aunt, and all the drunks that live around me (I live in a VILLAGE, where on the mainstreet there is an elementary school, a bank, and three bars right in a row–the bars are ALWAYS full all day), those are the people that you hear about. You don’t hear about the honest people who are working their asses of–I didn’t even know that we were on welfare-we used food stamps.

        My mom told me that a few years ago–I only remembered because right after she found a job (it was in the beginning of the month), she went to Walmart to return the food stamps, and the lady told her that she could still use them; they weren’t expired yet. Which I think tells you about how many people, where I live, abuse the system.

        I’m not putting welfare or unemployment down, or the people on them, I’m just saying…all you ever hear about is the people who don’t use it correctly.

      • ViktoryGin says:

        @ Virgilia

        It flies in the face of a lot of leftist policy, but the fact is enough people do live off the government to skew perception about the usefulness of government benefits.

    • Chicagogurl says:

      Well said! Single motehrs in the welfare system do have it harder. I worked for a company that helped to provide government assisted housing to those with vouchers. It was very complex. The majority of the tenants (200+ w/kids about 700+) were doing something – young mothers who getting diplomas, grandmothers who took in their grandchildren but could no longer afford the cost of living now that they weren’t alone, workers who needed subsidized living because they didn’t make enough as a nurse/postal worker/school bus driver/sales clerk. Then there is the fraction that has been marred by large debt…the housing bubble and their loans were interest only, laid off, they have a child who has insurmountable medical expenses, those who were elderly or with mental disorders….then there’s the minority…in my experience it was about 30% who didn’t work at all and completely scammed the system every chance they got and in my opinion with the level of intelligence you have to have to scam at this level you are highly capable of employment. Women who didn’t claim fathers on the birth certificate so his income didn’t count to wards her vouchers/food stamps, but then he would get money from the government for babysitting his own kids, women who would foster kids not out of love, women who took seasonal jobs (the same ones annually) so they could get fired and collect unemployment for months or women who would have filed for housing vouchers 2-3 yrs ago when they were living with family and now they are financial stable with quality employment, but would quit so they could take advantage of vouchers and stay home. Case workers who on average had 400-600% more than the caseload recommended by the government who didn’t have time to monitor situations, to make good judgment calls — and with a median age of caseworkers 18-25 and the training grossly lacking, most burned out within 6 months and quit. It’s a very broken system here in the US, but when dealing with any gov’t policy, you have to look at does it benefit the majority…is this way works for most? Years ago, no. Now, I see steady improvement and I think some of the stigma (slightly) was alleviated when we had the major layoffs in 2009 and those who never experienced feeling destitute used assistance they never planned on needing. I look at other countries who handle their system completely different and get betetr results and i think the big difference is, in our country, for most people with gov’t assistance its a heredity issue. Entire sections and generations of family on assisted living and they can do this their whole lives. In other countries (not many unfortunately) its set up to be temporary assistance unless you’re physical or mentally unwell to work. Educational or job training programs are neccessary to continue on assistance, etc.

      • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

        Good post! I agree! I didn’t mean to make it seem like EVERYONE in my town scams the system, but there are an awful lot of drunks who do nothing all day but get drunk, and young girls who do nothing but have babies and work at McDonalds.

        One good example are my cousins. With the exception of myself and two other female cousins my age (in the offspring of six siblings) we are the only ones without babies. All of my cousins either work factory jobs or they work at places like McDonalds, and all of them have at least one kid. They are all on food stamps, whatever kind of assistance they can get, BUT they have money to party.

        My mom went to their house once, while we were visiting, and they were drinking some type of vodka from P. Diddy–Sharoc? maybe?…but that’s some stuff my mom, who had a good job couldn’t afford, but they could and they couldn’t even pay a mortgage.

      • Sixer says:

        Virgilia:

        Bear in mind Rowling is talking about/against changes to the UK welfare budget that are happening now. She’s not making general, international points.

        Here are some actual numbers, taken from the UK government itself.

        The total welfare budget is £201 billion.

        Of that, £144 billion (about three-quarters) goes on pensions. The UK has a universal old age pension paid for by a payroll tax, so this isn’t welfare in the way the public understands it.

        Of that, £5.9 billion goes on unemployment payments.

        Of that, £3.1 billion goes on help with rents to both employed and unemployed people.

        Of that, £16.5 billion goes to payments to support children of people both employed and unemployed. And remember, in the UK EVERY child gets a payment from the state unless its parents are high rate taxpayers. That’s every British child whose parents are unemployed or employed and basic rate income taxpayers.

        But in the public’s understanding, MOST of that £201 billion goes on the workshy.

        THAT is what Rowling is trying to explain to the people who support the government’s current policies.

      • d says:

        Virgilla, your opinion is what’s essentially wrong with society. We need to stop judging people based on circumstances. I know lots of people in supposed high powered jobs who are functioning alcoholics.
        Rowling is an intelligent, logical person and there are many women out there in the same situation she was in.
        Society as a whole, needs to stop judging.

  5. Mia 4S says:

    Wonderful woman and very right. The idea that single parent homes doom kids and two parent homes are the blessed nirvana is (from personal experiences) bull. Every family is struggling these days and every family has challenges. Single parents are made the scapegoats. The scocio-economic issues are far more relevant.

  6. Lindy says:

    I’m a single mom and I don’t feel an enormous amount of prejudice.

    The only time I really notice is when I have to do both traditional women’s jobs (sew, cook) and traditional men’s jobs (fix the bikes, clean the drains) on the same day. Those days, I wish I had someone to help me.

    Other days, I don’t know when I’d have time for a husband. They take so much care, feeding and maintenance. I don’t think I could handle any more laundry!

  7. booboocita says:

    Awesome novelist. Awesome lady. Years ago, I read an article about the Portuguese man she married who left her shortly after she had their daughter. She went back to Scotland, wrote Harry Potter, and the rest is history. He missed out on all her millions, needless to say. The article said he was more than a little bitter (he’s a journalist), and had a lot of catty, bitchy things to say about Rowling and her writing. All I have to say is, like Nelson, “HA HA!”

    And I love, love, love the paisley coat and tan shoes in the last photo.

    • MaiGirl says:

      I LOVE hearing that he had to choke on it!

    • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

      Can you put up the link? That is an amazing FU! That reminds me of my own biological father cussing my mom out for over an hour, because she DARED to bring him to court for child support (after 12 years of not paying any). He told her that if she brought him to court, that we wouldn’t ever have a relationship. My mom said “oh well”.

      Guess who wants to see me?

      Guess who I’m not going to see?

      • booboocita says:

        I wish I could. It appeared in the Daily Mail (UK) in June 2000, and I can’t find the full text anywhere online for free. It really was a hell of a read; Arantes claimed that Rowling started work on Harry Potter before they split, and insinuated that he had edited early versions. It’s all BS, of course, but what do you expect from someone who was arrested for attacking his wife (Rowling), and might have been a wealthy man if he could have just controlled his temper? And you’re right: it’s a magnificent F U!

  8. Goddess says:

    This is true especially for developing countries (and some predominantly Catholic countries). Here in my culture, the conservatives frown upon single parents because they feel that the two were not responsible enough to get married. They are both shamed if the child is the product of a “one night stand” or “casual sex”. The man is considered to be less than a man because he did not “man up” and “protect the honor of the woman” by marrying her. The illegitimate children are considered “children of sin” and “bastards” because they are born out of wedlock. The mothers are called “disgrasyada” or “women of tragedy” because they were impregnated and not honored (by marriage).

    Although single parents are not shamed face to face, there is an unwritten, unspoken stigma in my culture. People smile and treat you with kindness but deep inside the stigma still exists. And I believe that because of my country’s strong Catholic influence, that will exist until kingdom come. Maybe the modernization of my society will decrease it, but it will not fully exterminate it.

    I do not speak for other countries. I can only speak for mine, basing on the input I get all around me. unfortunately, not all cultures are as open as America. A good friend of mine is a single mother, and she’s raised her son to be well behaved and focused in school.

    Being a single parent is not the end of your world. It’s the beginning of a new one. One that will change you. Hopefully for the better. :-)

  9. jaye says:

    I’m a single mom. I was not married to my son’s father when we conceived, but we were very much a couple…just not married. Unfortunately the relationship didn’t work out and I was left to raising our son, (primarily) on my own. Sometimes I wish we had been more responsible, sometimes I wish I had taken the time to find a PARTNER who was more mature and He and I actually had a better understanding of how hard making a family is. But then I think, if any piece of my circumstances had been different, I wouldn’t have the wonderful, smart, talented individual I am proud to call my son in my life.

  10. Tiffany :) says:

    I just finished the Casual Vacancy, and you can feel her experiences and the lessons she learned in that book. Very different from Harry Potter. I enjoyed it a lot, but I can see where others might find it a bit dull.

  11. nicegirl says:

    Single parenting is hard work. Co parenting (with two parents in the home, or otherwise)can also be hard work. I am not sure which one is better/best/more challenging, to be honest, as I have had experience with both.

    Sometimes I notice an attitude that really bugs me, though. It is the idea that a single parent (or mom, generally), is so very fortunate if she gets into a relationship with a man who will accept her with her children – that she should be very appreciative and grateful of the fact that someone accepted this woman (damaged goods) and her kid(s)(baggage). I always wonder, why is it not that he is super lucky that he landed them?

    I may not be articulating this very well, but it just bugs the heck out of me. It seems a really prevalent attitude toward the ‘formerly unmarried yet single mom’ crud as opposed to ‘divorced single mom.’ (just my own experiences, but it SUCKS hardcore when it happens).

  12. Ravensdaughter says:

    Divorce with kids involved holds a stigma-I agree.

    I divorced my husband in 2007: lots of reasons-let’s just say that we grew apart, counseling had no effect, and we were constantly battling in front of the kids.

    Now our sons are 12 and 13, and they’re doing really well. However, when my older son was in first grade, during the separation and into the first year post-divorce , he started having reading problems. This extended all the way into second grade but note-he had a terrible teacher in 2nd grade.

    We had two big staff meetings for G in Spring 1st grade and Fall 2nd. There was a lot of tension, and then the whole panel of women jumped down MY throat because I was asking the boys to do simple chores to help me and thus “taking away their childhood”. They either didn’t know or care that I have chronic back pain, which makes picking up after them a painful process-literally.

    G’s third grade teacher was totally cool with me and with him, and she bailed him out by the end of Fall Semester 3rd grade. I really think my older son suffered the stigma while my younger son, who was in a lovely pre-school and then kindergarten, did not.

    I know this sounds like a whine, but if you at the stats (real people, not celebs), women typically do not fare as well as their ex-husbands in terms of income and lifestyle. And, as you alluded to, Bedhead, it’s harder to be a single mom than a single dad. I think single dads have become insta-heroes, even before “Kramer v Kramer”.

    Well, that’s the life I chose. Sometimes I regret it, but usually I don’t.

    Nicegirl-we are co-parenting, but sometimes it really seems like a farce. Also, I do end up seeing my ex way more than I’d like to. The kids have adjusted to going back and forth (we split weeks), but the ex and often have squabbles over poor communication. I always have to keep reminding myself-stay calm, be patient.

  13. kimmy says:

    I’m almost 29 now and and about two years ago, I decided to take a leap and start a new career in the spa industry. I left my stable job w/ benefits (that I loathed!) and went back to school. Luckily, I had already paid off round 1 of student loans, but I had to take out another loan to get my license. I went to school full time and worked nights at a restaurant. Cut to now: I am at a beautiful luxury spa and working on building up a clientele.

    I absoultely love what I do, but they say it takes about 2-3 years to build up a steady client base…so needless to say, $$ is tight and I cannot afford insurance. Earlier this month, I decided to give up the restaurant job and take another leap to make the spa my full time job. It was gettting too hard to juggle 2 schedules because I obviously don’t want to give up new clients!

    I have been working my TAIL off the last two years. Luckily, I have no children to support, but I still can’t afford my own apartment or health insurance and still be able to live comfortably. Somehow, I still make too much $$ to qualify for any kind of assistance.

    What really drives me bannanas are those who take advantage of the system. I can’t stand hearing people say they’d rather not work b/c the goverment pays them more than a retail or restaurant job. I can count a few just off the top of my head. Apparently, I should just become a lazy mooch so I can finally have my own house!

  14. m says:

    My parents divorced when I was a toddler. I was raised by a single mom who had a great career and therefore was still able to do everything my peers from double income families did. I loved my childhood and never felt a stigma until I was at a dinner party in England with my then boyfriend.

    I can’t even remember what the conversation was about, but his mother turned to me and said “You’re from a broken home, what do you think?”

    I was shocked. I couldn’t even formulate a reply. Until then I had no idea that people looked down on my mom and her choices. But I definitely felt it there.

    • lulu1 says:

      Yes – it’s the ‘broken’ that does it.

      I’ve raised my three children alone, since they were about three, four and six (they are all at uni now).

      As for stigma, the worst for me was the occasional time someone would assume I was flirting with their husband..it always came as a shock, and I always found it hurtful. Married women can talk to and be friends with the dads, but single mothers should never speak to anyone other than the other mothers apparently.
      I wouldn’t mind but these particular guys were not exactly the Clive Owens of the Married Men….and when I looked at most of the marriages around me, there were very few that I would consider inspiring. I found my own life as a single mom fulfilling, exciting and exhausting. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

    • sullivan says:

      “Broken home” Ugh! It makes me sick to hear that expression. It’s so mean and condescending.

    • elena says:

      Ahhh, the broken home line :) . It happened to me once. I replied to the person who made the comment that my home was not broken thankyouverymuch, unlike their home which had an actual broken window and a chewed lower part of the door (their dog had sharp teeth)and I also told her that she could ask my mother for advice about how to prevent your home from breaking, seeing how my mom’s home was hole-less and in better shape than theirs. Loved the look on her face and the dead silence that followed :)
      But it is true that single parent families (and especially families with single moms) are discriminated against, and also many people scam the system as much as they can, but there are quite a few exceptions which maybe prove that it’s ok to help those who need it. My only objection would be that the monitoring of money, who gets it, even how the money is spent is not so well managed, as to discourage dishonest people. But maybe in the end it does more good than bad. And a quiet and peaceful single parent home is a million times better than a crappy 2 parent home, and single parents are more than capable to raise smart, responsable children who will become useful members of society.

    • taxi says:

      I well remember the change in social perceptions when I took our pre-schooler & left my husband. Many “friends” distanced themselves as the community I’d left had no divorcees. Later, at a 1st grade parent function, I overheard a woman remark about how I’d probably want male assistance & they should guard their husbands. I turned around & said “I went to a lot of trouble, including 5 court appearances, to get rid of my own husband. What makes you think I’d want yours?”

  15. bettyrose says:

    After the success of the first book I do recall it being oft cited that she’s a single mom. On another note, though, this new wave of uber successful female YA authors really has JK to thank for no longer having to conceal their gender behind initials.

  16. Little M says:

    Well, I have to say not only single moms get the looked down. I am single and I take care of my dad. He had a stroke and needs someone to help him with the most basic activities.

    I am unemployable because nobody in Spain wants to hire a fertile single woman who might become pregnant, and who also takes care of her dad.

    I became self employed and work from home because my dad has lots of medical expenses and there are NO benefits whatsoever from the government here.

    It is tough but my dad is happy and I am proud because I did not leave him alone or put him in a home we could not afford anyways.

    I just wonder, sometimes, what kind of world do we live in?

    Sorry for the rant.

    • Nan St. George says:

      @ Little M- I am really sorry that your dad had a stroke, but you should be applauded for all that you are doing for him. I’m sure that he is grateful that he has you in his life and I am happy to know that there are people like you in the world. I hope things improve for you job/money wise and for your dad’s health.

      • Little M says:

        Dear Nan St. George,

        Thank you! I mean, really, really thank you. Even my friends judge me because I chose to take care of him instead of partying or having a more “normal” life -whatever normal means.

        My dad is awesome and I do enjoy every minute I get to spend with him.

        There is a robot, called Robotherapist 2 (Universidad Miguel Hernandez). It is not in the market yet but it is a great machine, designed to help people who had a stroke to learn to move again their upper extremeties. The engineers designing it did not have a real patient and needed one to build the machine. My dad volunteered, and we worked with the engineers for 2 years. Just this week we were at a Neulogy conference and he participated in a demo of the robot, teaching others how to use it.

        My dad says science has given him so much, he wanted to give something back.

        What worries me is that most of the time is us, women, taking care of the weak, the ill, the disabled and the children and then getting scowled by society (or by friends, relatives and employers).

        Apologies for my terrible grammar. My English is not very good.

    • Bianca says:

      Little M – I really wish I could hug you. You’re a fantastic daughter and you’re doing the right thing.

      • Nan St. George says:

        @Little M- Sorry I could not reply sooner, I was at work. It is so wonderful that your father is able to participate in the science program, I hope the robot will be available for more people soon. And to echo what Bianca said, you are doing the right thing. Please don’t worry about what your friends or anyone says or thinks about you. You will be able to look back on what you are doing for your father and have no regrets because you put him ahead of partying or whatever else they think you should be doing.

  17. Seattlemomma says:

    I really love her. She’s an amazing example of triumph in the face of adversity.

  18. Renee says:

    HP was a bond between me and my daughter since the first book. When the 2nd book came out, we read it together, each at our own pace with our necks craned to the side. Precious memories. I became a single mom when she was 12 and struggled but managed. I’m proud of myself and wouldn’t change a thing.

  19. Lee says:

    I was raised by a single mom. From my perspective I distinctly remember two things:

    1. my two aunts (both of whom are married) were constantly giving my mother advice on how to raise me because I was “destined” to turn out wild, pregnant at 15, and a high school drop out because I didn’t have the stability of a father living under the same roof (their words).

    2. two girlfriends I had in high school were NOT allowed to spend the night at my house because there was not a man at home to protect us in case anything happened. Their moms also said nasty things about my mom when she would drive four hours every other weekend to take care of my grandmother while she was going through chemo. I had a job in high school and couldn’t take off every weekend and my mom trusted me enough to let me stay home alone. Apparently this made her a terrible parent.

    Cut to my mid twenties: I graduated in the top 5% of my high school, I graduated from college with honors, I have a great job, and married a kind, hard working man. No DUIs, no teenage pregnancies, no drugs, etc. Unfortunately most of the girls whose mothers judged my mom cannot say the same for their girls. No shade – just saying – there is zero wrong with being a single parent and I know plenty of adults who came from single parent houses who turned out just fine.

    • Renee says:

      Lee, that’s a nice story. I was raised by a single mom and there was a lot of shade and pity coning our way. Both my brother and I grew up to be college professors and stable happy adults.

    • Cel says:

      Renee & Lee

      The only person I knew from school who was in and out of rehab like a yo-yo came from a so-called good stable home. People talked about how could that happen? Well, those of us who had been around to their house knew: self-involved, selfish parents who didn’t give a damn about their children, but who outwardly projected the “perfect family”.

      It doesn’t matter if you have one or two parents or a guardian/other family member looking after you, all you need is someone who is loving, caring and instils good values. You two are the proof of that.

    • Lee says:

      I’m a different Lee, but I was also raised by a single parent and totally relate to #2, except I was raised by a single father and it was my grandma who made comments about how it might “look wrong” with just the two of us. I used to get uneasy looks because people thought it was weird or inherently nefarious for a pre-teen girl to live with her single father.

      I have the utmost respect for single mothers, but it makes me sad that single fathers are so often left out of the conversation. My dad was not perfect, but he loves my brother and me and he FOUGHT for us. And there is plenty of stigma around single fathers too. Some of it is the same as for single mothers, and some is different, but it is just as upsetting.

      Even just the idea that my dad won primary custody in the mid 90s was a huge deal. And the types of comments I still read when that happens imply that the mother must have been completely unfit for that to happen. My mother wasn’t an unfit parent, and I love her dearly, but she up and moved to another country. We were lucky and grateful that the courts didn’t uproot us just because of my father’s gender and the associated assumptions about his parenting abilities.

  20. tx_mom says:

    I am a single mom and I haven’t had too many bad experiences with people treating us like second-class citizens. I think it is because we are pretty successful. My kids are top students at their school, each skipping at least one grade and competing at the state level in academic competitions. I don’t think people guess that I am on my own.

    As a single mom I do resent two things. One is the MEDIA image that we are mooches, when in fact we work as hard as anyone, if not harder. I have received a sum total of $300 in gov’t benefits over the years (unemployment benefits one summer with a job gap). Since I have been paying payroll, income, and property taxes for decades, I hardly feel like a “taker” rather than a maker. Ann Coulter especially burns me, as she says that single mothers are responsible for the decay of American society. !!

    The second thing I resent is just that being a mom on your own is SO FREAKING HARD, it feels like a plot against us sometimes. Jobs are not family friendly, and schools are not job friendly. For example, my kids have been in school all of four weeks and their school has contrived to create three separate events that required me to miss work time — for example, mandatory final enrollment signatures at 10:00 a.m. on a workday to ensure their places (in a charter school,so we could lose them).

    In the meantime, it is also impossible to get my kids normal medical care without missing work, too. I don’t understand why medical care isn’t available after hours and on weekends. The only people in america with insurance are people with jobs at this point, don’t they know we have to be there? Covering three people’s dental, medical, optical appointments is really hard for one person.

    Single moms make less money than married working moms and less money than single ladies without kids, and we have more financial burdens. I earn about 75% of what I made before kids because I simply cannot take on a more challenging job with my current family obligations. If schools and businesses made life a little easier to navigate, I could better support my kids and save better for my retirement.

    Sigh.

  21. Mabs says:

    Bravo Rowling. You’re simply sublime, flawless and a global inspiration.

  22. Kimble says:

    I’ve been a single mum (twice) and have never had a penny of Government money – but that is NOT to say that I haven’t experienced shade.

    My son has severe special needs, such that childcare is almost impossible and I haven’t worked full time since 1999, I imagine my employment prospects will be crap when my maintenance runs out …

  23. TG says:

    The people I usually see with little kids on welfare is because they had a child they couldn’t afford in the first place and in many cases more than one child. I despise having to support people who refuse to use common sense. IMO welfare should only be used for unexpected and extreme circumstances like a death of a caregiver, losing a job or illness and not the BS illnesses the other lazy people se to get out of work.

  24. Shoe_Lover says:

    well there is a stigma because of the people who abuse the system. Not everyone does but those that do ruin it for everyone else.
    I know someone who has three children, lives off of the single mother pension and deliberately had the third child so she wouldn’t have to go to work. (The Australian government says once the youngest is school age the mother is expected to go to work) she admitted she would keep having children so she wouldn’t have to work. which is pretty dumb to me because I’m sure staying home with three children is a lot harder then a job.

    • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

      I agree; you said what I was trying to say in few words (something I struggle with–I love to type, as it were).

      My aunt, who I mentioned in my above post, admitted to my mom that she was moving in with her boyfriend, a dude she barely knew, (with two kids) because she didn’t want to work. She said this flat out.

      And I just can’t imagine saying that to someone seriously. I will complain that all I want to do is sleep, but when I have to work, I work. I just can’t even formulate saying to another human being that I’m going to move in with some guy that I barely know, so I won’t have to get a job (to raise the kids I chose to have)…

  25. ViktoryGin says:

    On so many issues I take a progressive stance, especially where social issues are concerned. But with all due respect, this is not one of them.

    I’m black and I’m American.

    Single-parenthood, lamentably, is the virtual norm in the black American community. I just went to Google to type in black women + children. “Out of Wedlock” was the first item to pop up in the search, that was once I got past black women + child support. The number is something like 70 percent, which I do believe is a bit skewed, as it doesn’t take into account that black women, overall, are having fewer children compared to a few decades ago. But where there’s smoke there’s typically a fire, as they say.

    I personally saw so much single parenthood (read: single motherhood) growing up that it scared me away from sex until my twenties. The 7th circle of hell was more palatable than being some dude’s baby mama. This trend would have been fine and dandy had this status quo been the product of well-intentioned feminist ideology. But in the majority of the circumstances that I was around, most of their children were born from ill-begotten (non-legal) unions and just plain ignorance. And these are just family members. They weren’t happy that they were yet another black woman who got knocked up from some dead-beat n*gga, and now had to go it alone. And don’t let me get started on these itinerant “fathers” who populate the planet with their offspring and don’t bother to care for them. It’s so normalized because they’ve seen their mothers and sisters do it, so it’s become generational. A sizable number of this girls (black) with whom I attended school have kids. None of them are married nor have they been. It’s bothersome because there’s yet another black child growing up in a home without his/her father present. And I take the Chris Rock stance: “Just because you can doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.”

    I’m guilty of perceiving divorced mothers differently than mothers who have never married. I just have such little tolerance for this baby mama/daddy sh*t.

    Now, I’m generally in support of public policy that extends state benefits to those in need, and the wheel of fortune says that virtually no one is immune; however I have little tolerance for people who willfully and repeatedly enter into parenthood when they can’t afford to and they don’t have to. This is not 1900, after all.

    In fact, my former best friend and I are no longer friends because I wasn’t willing to traipse around Seattle looking for public assistance so she could manage to figure out how she was going to care for her 1 year old and the baby that she had on the way (no job and two baby daddies). Yeah….

    • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

      I’m black and american too–and I could say the same thing.

      All except for myself and two other female cousins that I have (out of six aunts and uncles), all of them have kids that they can’t afford–except one–she’s the only one who’s actually married to the father of her twins. One other cousin has two kids with the same guy, but he’s pretty much a deadbeat–got other kids,etc.

      The majority of my male cousins old enough to have kids (i.e. over 18), have them, but it was pretty much DRILLED into their heads that they better take care of their kids–because only one of my uncles has never been a single parent–my other uncle, and my mom and aunts have been.

      But I get what you mean….it is hard to not judge, because it seems like you very rarely meet the exception–probably because they actually live like they’re poor, like that vodka example I used earlier.

      None of those cousins could afford real rent or mortgage (they were living in my grandma’s house, basically rent free–they had to pay the utilities and a couple hundred bucks in rent a month), but they can afford vodka, that my mother, who isn’t on any type of assistance, pays all of her bills on time, can’t afford it. And they all have kids….

  26. dahlianoir says:

    “staying home and writing a novel” ??
    She just inspired MILLIONS of kids to go back to reading that’s all, no big deal.

    Stupid reporter -_-”

  27. notleo says:

    Kudos to JK! I too am a single parent raising two sons. I too, didn’t just “sit at home” collecting welfare benefits. While pregnant and raising both boys, I worked a third shift job (so I could be there when they went to bed and wake them up in the morning), attended school full-time (earning my Bachelor Degree and Masters Degree)and am proud to say my children (ages 17 & 11) are pretty well-adjusted and doing well. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve done what I had to to ensure my children have been fed and happy.

  28. Lauraq says:

    I don’t like JK Rowling’s work, but that was a lovely essay. My mom finally left my biological father after years of abuse when I was four. I was the youngest. There were three of us. Yes, she was on welfare and food stamps for a few months. Then she found a job. Then, about a year or so later, she found my dad (my real dad, not my sperm donor). Things haven’t been perfect, but I know she did the best she could, and thus I am very supportive of single moms (though I do note there are a few OBVIOUS idiots in every pile).