Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why I am Writing about Single Mothers

Painting by Arna Baartz

Several people have wondered why I am going off track with my Goddess work to write about single mothers. To me, it’s all related.

The way we treat mothers is indicative of how we view The Mother.

"Under patriarchy, the mother is feared and hated, quite crazily, both for her power and her weakness; everything a man cannot courageously accept about himself is projected onto his mother, or wife.” –Monica Sjoo & Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother

To me, honoring real life mothers is just as important as setting aside our indoctrination to believe in a male God.

As someone who has been both a married mother and a single mother, I can tell you that there is a big difference in the way the world treats you. There is also an enormous difference as to what your perceived "rights" are: namely whether or not anyone else will help you—financially or otherwise—to raise your children.

It’s hard to feel like a Goddess when you’re worried sick about how you are going to feed your kids. You can do all the affirmations and self-help work you want, but it is a rare woman who feels empowered living in poverty.

Amy Logan wrote in The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice, “Every time they butcher a woman for honor, they’re killing the Goddess.” I believe that is true with every rape and murder of a female, and to a somewhat lesser extent, every time a woman is hit, verbally abused or forced to live in poverty.

I may have left my status of “single mother” behind several years ago when I remarried, but the repercussions of those years have still followed me. Every month, I wonder if I will receive even a partial child support payment. I still have no retirement fund saved for my later years due to the 3 accounts I had to cash out to feed my children. My credit is still ruined and I have nothing in savings. My back and neck are still in chronic pain every day—a leftover from the tremendous stress of those years—and I do not have the funds to do much about it.

You don’t just recover from being a single mother. You deal with it the best way you can.

Art by Igor Morsky

I have already received hundreds of submissions for the upcoming anthology on single mothers, and none of them tells a happy story.

The thing is, when you’re isolated as a single mom, you believe you are the only one going through all this. Andrea Dworkin wrote that "The genius of any slave system is found in the dynamics which isolate slaves from each other, obscure the reality of a common condition, and make united rebellion against the oppressor inconceivable."

Years of participation in a single mother’s group has shown me that although we may feel alone, we certainly are not alone in numbers or our experiences. I believe it is time for women to stop suffering in silence and tell our stories so that we can change this dynamic.

“The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat.” -James Baldwin
I tell some of my personal story in my upcoming book, Hearts Aren’t Made of Glass. But my connections with women in similar situations over the last thirteen years have convinced me that we need a collection of stories. We must reveal the worldwide scale of abuse towards single mothers. It is not just individual men who are doing this; it is our laws and lack of understanding around this issue that allow it to continue to happen on such a large scale.

In my own life, I am owed more than $30,000 in past due court-ordered child support, but no one—at the State or National level—seems interested enforcing that child support. I racked up over another $20,000 in legal fees in Family Court, that my ex was ultimately ordered by a Judge to pay—but no one is enforcing that either.  In the U.S. alone, there is over 108 billion dollars of unpaid child support.

I don't have a collective number on legal fees, but in talking to other women, I know I am not alone in this. Men are successfully using the "Family Court" systems to tank us.

As Vanessa Olorenshaw writes in Liberating Motherhood, “When it comes to women, how far do patriarchal and exploitative capitalist values rely on women providing unwaged care, on which our society can freeload and from which it can wash its hands of financial responsibility?"

So often, we are told to just suck it up—for the sake of our children. The only group that sucking it up and keeping quiet helps are the men who don't do their part—and the agencies who allow them to get away with it.

We are not less strong for admitting how terribly hard and inhumane it feels to be single mothers. We are shining the light on an important human rights violation—and allowing other women to do the same. We are demanding better lives for ourselves and our children.

$108 billion is not a small problem. And it doesn't begin to measure the long-term effects on women and children. As far as I know, no one has calculated the worldwide total of unpaid child support either—but I would guess it is somewhere in the trillions. As Ann Crittenden writes, “A society which beggars its mothers beggars its own future”.

I hope other single moms will join me in shedding the secrecy and shame around this issue. I hope other women—and other mother’s especially—will join their sisters in demanding fair treatment. All of our children deserve to grow up surrounded by love and peace—not pain, poverty and stress.

You can learn more about the anthology here and order Hearts Aren't Made of Glass here. I will be sharing many of the stories I receive on this blog in the months to come. I hope you will take the time to listen—and share what resonates.

A book on Financial Abuse is also in the works, and I will be unveiling those details with my co-author shortly. 

Thank you for your support.


  1. I couldn't agree with this more. I never viewed myself as a victim, but many people have treated me as such. I have a fantastic career these days, two gorgeous girls, and powwow still say..."oh poor you, you are still single. ....". Just deplorable

  2. Dear Trista, I am so very glad to have found your work a few years ago and grateful that you are doing what you do. I find everything you do or work so hard to put together so inspiring. Power to you! The connection between how women are treated as mothers and more specifically how single mothers are treated and the lack of reverence for and acknowledgement of the Great Mother is glaringly obvious to me. I hope to do something on this myself-although I do not know exactly what just yet... .Much love and respect to you