I’m frustrated by the lack of voice that single parents still have in online content. I half-jokingly remarked to a friend (also a web geek and also a single mom) that we single parents seem like web outcasts. We live outside of the “normal” communities. We have our own little enclaves of content, but we are not part of most of the large communities.
So why hasn’t our voice been heard? Why are we regarded as an invisible minority?
I think it’s due to a few factors. One of them is misconceptions about single parents – who they are, what they are, and how many there are:
- only 24% of all households (US) are a married couple with children
- 45.8% of (US) marriages end in divorce
- single mothers are not just teenage mothers:
- teenage mothers are only 11% of births (US)
- almost half of all single mothers (US) are divorced single moms (3.392 million)
- 33% percent of single parents have never been married
- 11.2% of ALL (US) households are currently single parent households
- 27.7% of households with children are single parent households
- almost 30% of all US parenting content goes to single parent households
- 37% of (Canadian) marriages end in divorce
- 31% of all family households* (Canada) are not married:
- 15.5% of family households (Canada) are common law families
- 15.9% of family households (Canada) are single parents:
- 12.8% are single moms & 1.3% are single dads
- 31% of all Canadian parenting content goes to single parent households
In short: ONE THIRD of the US/Canadian parenting content consumers are single parent households.
Also worthy of note: Canada has a much higher single parenting rate than the US – in part because common law households and married same sex couples are more common (and legal) here in Canada.
Canadian crime rates are lower than US crime rates - and we have more single parent households (per capita) than the US.
This means that based on population numbers – every “parenting” panel, every “mommy” group of contributors and group of “parenting” content award winners should have more single parents. For every 10 married mom bloggers out there there we should also see at least three single mom bloggers and at least one single dad blogger as well.
Popular single mom bloggers and single mom community leaders are often regarded as “unusual” – while single dad bloggers and community leaders are as rare as hen’s teeth. The online market is saturated with married blogging moms. Unfortunately many content providers and marketers view married blogging moms as representative all parenting issues and priorities.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
What’s even worse is when a commercial community desperately attempts to market to the single parent demographic and they do a horrendous job of it. Like when Momversation deliberately chose to ask their panel members to represent an issue they don’t even have; being “a stressed working mom” or when they tried to bring in a single mom audience with the inflammatory and prejudicial question “can married moms and single moms be friends?”. Or how Blogher chooses to not have ANY single parent content or an editor for single parent content.
Imagine if someone tried to speak “for” another race or speak “for” another gender? Speaking “for” a group implies they can’t speak for themselves, that they don’t have a voice, are incapable of understanding their own issues, or that some other voice has more “authority”.
I can’t list how many times I’ve heard married moms compare themselves to single moms (or working moms) and outright stating what single (or working) mom issues must be because they think so.
They don’t ask what our issues are – they tell us.
One third of the market continues to be under-represented or to have our view presented “for” us – and the massive single parent audience is left with web content that is largely irrelevant, unappealing, useless, misleading, inaccurate and sometimes even insulting.
Why would commercial web communities exclude single parents? Is it a deliberate choice or an unconscious choice? Single parents recognize that we’re being excluded (unconsciously or otherwise) and we want to change it.
So we need to know why – and change what online communities know about single parents:
- publishers of online content are genuinely unaware of how large the single parent audience really is – and that the single parent demographic is growing much faster than the married parent demographic (we are one third of the market and growing – fast!)
- leisure time, lack of appeal or inclusion:
- working and parenting alone leaves single parents with much less leisure time than other parenting families for publishing content and participating in online communities
- single parents publish much less quantity content – but often publish higher quality content. Quantity of online publishers should be minimized and quality should be emphasized.
- do not speak for us - invite us to speak instead
- the image of the single parent – false perception that single parents are poor, uneducated, unemployed and inactive on line
- broken homes nonsense: the mistaken belief that single parent households are a sad and broken – a real “downer” for their audience. Single parents are often empowered and positive images out there – LOTS of us have IMPROVED our situations by becoming single parents, including higher income levels
- our discretionary spending power – the mistaken belief that single parents are raising only one child and that we do not have discretionary spending budgets. We often have entire households we maintain, more than one child – and the budgets to go with it.
- age range – single parents are NOT only (or even mostly) teen mothers
- fear of single parents as a negative “moral” influence – when many single parents are single parents because of their moral choices or beliefs
(This piece originally appeared in longer form at Momartfully, Karen‘s personal blog. We felt her points were so important that we wanted to share them here and publicly express our commitment to serving our members who are single parents. Karen is also the owner of our Single, Divorced and Widowed Parent Support Group.)