Let's lay the blame where it's due. The finger points nowhere else but at the fathers, without whom the children wouldn't exist, without whom this new social underclass wouldn't be classifiable.
We are often made to feel it's all our fault. My son's father virtually made out that I had conceived the child all by myself.
Despite this, few of us unintentional single mothers are man-haters. Quite the reverse. Sometimes I wish I was, then I could stop dreaming about marriage and more babies with Mr Marvellous. I can even find it in my heart to thank my son's father, not for leaving me alone, but for contributing - however unwittingly] - to the creation of the most precious person in the world.
But don't ask us to be charitable about the men who not only abandoned us with a shrug as we vomited into our morning sick bowls, but turned away from their own children.
Despite the statistics assuring me that my little family unit represents 25 per cent of today's families, I still feel like the odd one out. All around a single mother are couples. Single mothers are considered frivolous to want clothes and make-up and to feel gorgeous again. Their needs must be sublimated, as a kind of punishment for having got into the situation in the first place.
I was alone from the start. I saw the scan pictures alone; gave birth, if not totally alone (my awestruck mother and sister were there), certainly without the one person who ought to have been there. I spent visiting time alone, while fathers hung over the cribs in the maternity ward.
Back from hospital, there was no manly hand to take over at night. Then you start budgeting alone, go shopping alone, drive the car alone. You are alone when the lights fuse, you are alone on the first day at school, alone on parents' day, organising birthday parties alone, playing at Thunderbirds alone.
Single mothers go to parties after months of tactical manoeuvres to arrange babysitters. They will then spend the evening hearing happy wedding stories, and being edged aside by suspicious wives whose husbands have been a touch too attentive in advising you on your knackered car. Then the single mother will go home, pay the babysitter extortionately for the privilege of one weak spritzer and a nerve-shredding drive through deserted streets, and wearily climb the stairs to an empty bed. Whereupon a little figure on the top step will greet you, put soft arms around your neck and say, 'You look pretty, Mummy.'
Single mothers have a job to do like any other mother, and a job multiplied by two. We know our place, and it isn't always in the wrong. Don't blame us for every modern ill. See our loving, well-fed children, frankly sometimes a lot more fun than some who are born and raised in wedlock. Don't for one moment imagine that we laughingly entered this situation. And if you want someone to criticise, well, there's an army of men out there who are in line for a good hiding.
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