As soon as I mention that I have a daughter during a conversation, people immediately look at my left hand and search for a ring. The absence of it makes them feel a bit uncomfortable, and then curiosity seeps in. They want to know her age, where she is, who is taking care of her when I’m not with her and so on. They never ask about the father. It makes me laugh that most assume my story is the same as that of countless un-wed single mothers who have had to go through the shame of being rejected by the father of the baby and his relatives. Mine is completely the opposite.
My parents completely rebuffed the idea of us getting married because they believed he wasn’t the right man for me. That has not stopped him from showering our daughter with much love and attention, right from when we knew that I was pregnant with her. Even though members of my family know the story, I see that look of “she has brought shame upon us, having a child out of wedlock” in their eyes.
It makes me sad that our society has double standards. I know of many ladies, very much pregnant when they celebrated their wedding. People rejoiced with them and certified it okay so long as the wedding band got to that finger on the left hand. I'm not condoning sex/pregnancy before marriage but it just happens that society frowns upon me and my child because the ring didn't make it to the finger. I count it as a blessing though; better to be in a marriage for the right reasons than for what society would think.
I saw this story about Jamelia and thought to share it. Even though she is a celebrity, she feels a part of what many single mothers go through.
She has emerged as a poster girl for successful single mothers, but becoming a lone parent was never part of Jamelia's game-plan. When she found out she was pregnant at 19 with her elder daughter, Teja, 11 years ago, she was scared. She thought it might be career suicide. As she recalls: "I remember thinking, you've messed up. I thought I would be dropped by my record label."
Her fears were unfounded. After her maternity break, Jamelia's comeback single, Superstar, reached number three in the charts in 2003 and earned her two Brit nominations. Over the last 12 years, the 30-year old R&B/pop singer-songwriter, television presenter and occasional model has scored eight British Top 10 singles, won four Mobo awards and a Q award and received nine Brit nominations. Through it all, she has also been the prime carer for her two daughters by two different fathers: Teja, now 10, and five-year-old Tiani. Not the most traditional circumstances, as she's the first to admit, but she has made her family unit work.
"No woman has an ambition to become a single mother. For me, it was never a choice. Teja's father was violent, physically abusive, and Tiani's father was constantly cheating, and just didn't show me the respect I deserved. I found out what he was really about after we divorced, when he took me to court to try and take away my hard-earned money, Thankfully he didn't win.
"But ending up in this position was not the end of me," she says. "Motherhood gives you strength in other areas of your life. I gave birth to Teja when I was 20 and I think that was the making of me. Had I not had that experience, I probably wouldn't be as successful. I was a very indecisive and disorganised teenager, but since having my children, I have had such a clear focus because I know what my purpose is in life."
Even Jamelia's celebrity and wealth don't completely insulate her from sensitivity about being a single parent. In the BBC documentary, the ironically titled Shame About Single Mothers, she admits that she is "not proud of having two children by two different dads. I always dreamed of having the perfect nuclear family and I feel judged by others. But most of us [single parents] don't want to be without a partner, so don't tell us we are doomed – it's extremely offensive and upsetting. The hardest thing about being a single parent is being alone, having everything on your back. I've got to schedule my tears because I've got to see to my daughters' needs first."
Excerpts from the article Jamelia: Respect for single mothers! www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011