The singer Jamelia is a single mum, but it's not something she's proud of. She explores where the sense of shame comes from by looking at stories of single mums from the past.
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I'm Jamelia and I'm a singer.
I'm one of nearly two million single mums living in Britain,
and it's not something I'm proud of.
I was bought up by a single mum,
and I always dreamed of having the perfect nuclear family for my own children.
But things didn't turn out that way,
and I've ended up raising my two daughters alone.
Like any mum, I love my children to bits,
but now that I'm on my own, I feel judged by others
and disappointed with myself for not doing it the right way.
It doesn't help that single mums are always being given a hard time.
Right, just wait there.
I'll just be a few hours.
Don't be giving me baby evils!
I want to try and understand why I feel the way I do,
by finding out about the experiences of other single mums in the past.
The women who had to hide themselves and their children from the rest of the world.
She stayed away from anybody in authority -
no doctors, no dentists.
And those for whom this shame was so great, they had to give their newborn babies away.
I felt the longing to have her, to hold her, to keep her.
But in my head, I knew that I had to give her up.
I really want to walk in other people's shoes,
I want people to tell me their stories and I want to know,
what was it like for you?
11 years ago, when I was 19, my music career was just taking off.
I was travelling the world, and had won my first big award
when I found out I was pregnant.
I just remember thinking at that point, "You've messed up."
And I thought once I told my record label, I'd be dropped.
Pull it back. And go.
That's it. Good girl.
I never wanted to be a single mum,
even now I don't want to be a single mum,
that definitely was not one of my ambitions.
You going to help me do Teja's hair?
Why don't you do this one, and then I'll do...
-I'll do this one. I'm her stylist.
-You're her stylist?
This is Teja, and she's ten,
and this is Tiani, and she's five.
They see their dads at least once a week and spend time with them
and that's something that I actively encourage,
I want them to be close to their dads,
I want them to have the father-daughter relationship
that I've always wanted myself,
and when their dads come and I see them jump into their arms,
I just think, "Aw". It's lovely to see, it really is.
I had Teja with my first love,
and my first love was by far the wrong love.
Basically, it was a domestically abusive situation.
And it was just one incident, and I just got out of there.
And I think that, had I not had Teja,
I would not have had the balls to get out.
When Teja was three, nearly four, I met Darren.
I would describe that as a bit of a whirlwind romance, to be honest.
I became pregnant quite early on in that relationship,
and I didn't want to be on my own,
I didn't want to admit to myself, "Oh God, I've failed again."
And so we stuck it out for, like, five years.
It just got to a point where we were just being horrible to each other,
and I just thought, "This isn't a nice environment, this is no nicer an environment for our children
"than us being apart."
I'm in no way a promiscuous person or anything like that,
but I've got two children by two different dads,
it really is something that I'm not proud of, I'm really not proud of.
I do wish that I'd done it right,
and when I say "done it right", I mean, you know, met someone,
be with them for years, get married, and then have children,
cos I think that's the right way to do it.
I want to start by looking at the past,
but strangely, there's very little written about single mums.
War, war, war,
Great Harry, the Prince.
How can I not find anything, not one book?
Is it the fact that we're being hidden, you know,
we're being hidden away, as if they didn't exist in history.
How can there just be nothing?
But I've heard that 100 years ago, if you were pregnant and unmarried,
you could end up living like an outcast.
I'm off to visit a place which used to take in single mums
who had no way of supporting themselves.
It's called a workhouse, and there was one of these in every town.
It just looks so bare!
All enclosed in as well, like a prison or something.
Hi, I'm Jamelia.
'My guide, Catherine, is going to show me around.'
-Welcome to the workhouse at Southall.
So basically, 100 years ago,
this was probably a place where mothers today,
single mothers today on benefits, would have ended up?
If you were a mother with children and your family's not going to be able to support you,
then basically, you're going to be destitute,
and the only relief that can be offered to you is the workhouse.
The idea that you've had sex outside of marriage is very bad,
and the Victorians are making a concerted effort
to try and stamp it out.
They're doing that because it's very rampant, very prevalent,
it's not like it's not happening, it was very common in society.
And so they're trying to find a moral way of reforming people.
Sounds like the workhouse was a kind of hiding place for anyone
that society was embarrassed by,
"Let's put them in the workhouse," was it that kind of thing?
They do have a physical separation,
there are high walls round the garden,
so that the people in the workhouse can't see beyond the workhouse,
there are no windows on the side wall, so you can't see beyond the workhouse property,
and equally, so people can't see in.
'In the workhouse, unmarried mothers
'were given a bed in a dormitory and three meals a day.'
Oh, my gosh!
You've got a nice straw mattress,
and then a nice scratchy sheet, nothing pleasant about that.
'In return, they had to earn their keep by working in the kitchens,
'recycling old rope and scrubbing the floors.
'They had no privacy,
'and any free time was spent praying for forgiveness.
'The women could leave the workhouse at any time,
'but many often arrived pregnant, and would stay for several years.'
This was horrible, what was this used for?
This was the original infirmary building,
so if you were unwell or needed isolating because of your illness, you would come here.
In the case of unmarried mothers,
if you're going to be giving birth,
this is where it's going to take place.
How long would they be in here, before...?
They'd be with the babies the first few weeks, and then later on, the babies are separated out
and they'd be in a special area for the younger children.
With, usually, assistant nurses and a trusted inmate,
perhaps acting as a wet nurse, actually breastfeeding the babies
-on behalf of you and all the other mothers.
-Why weren't they able to look after their own babies?
-They genuinely believe that,
particularly with unmarried mothers, that the mothers are morally dubious,
and have made a bad decision in life,
and the best thing to do was to whip it away from its mother,
and to show it good Victorian values
of, you know, hard work and cleanliness and schooling.
They don't want the... particularly the unmarried mothers corrupting them.
Honestly, it just seems...
It sounds to me just so kind of heartbreaking,
because obviously, I'm a single parent myself, and it doesn't make you any less of a mother
or any less capable as a mother,
and just to have your child, in a way, ripped away from you
and then being told you're dubious character and stuff like that,
I can't imagine what that must have felt like, it's just heartbreaking.
It's another part of the deterrent.
The thing that people most fear about the workhouse,
apart from the stigma they're going to get from having come here,
is that family separation.
I'd really like to speak to one of the single mums who was in the workhouse,
to find out what it was like to be separated from her children, and the rest of the world.
It's unlikely that any of them are still alive,
but amazingly, I have managed to track down 91-year-old Bill Golding.
He went into the workhouse with his mum in 1924,
after she was thrown out of her home by her family,
for having a second child out of wedlock.
-Hello Bill, nice to meet you.
-How are you? Thank you.
-What was your mum's name?
Ida Rose, oh, that's a nice name. That's a nice name.
Do you remember anything about being there?
Um yeah, I do remember the smell there,
carbolic and stale bread,
and I remember the old women,
they always looked old in those days, scrubbing the floors, yeah.
What would your mother's father have thought about her having a child out of wedlock?
Well, disapproved of course.
It was frowned upon in those days, and, um...
Well, the stigma that I carried along with me as well, you see.
You were called a bastard, for starters,
one thing about embarrassed about things...
when I got married, er, in 1945,
where it says, um, "father's name",
rather than say I had no father,
I said "Oh, yes, my father was William Golding, deceased" you see,
-Oh, so you told a lie?
To save embarrassment for everybody, you know.
So did your wife know you were born out of wedlock?
-Did she know at this point?
Um, at that point, no.
I mean, are you happy that the world has changed in the way that it has?
Well, the world gets better all the time, I think,
when they talk about the good old days, it was not at all, no.
It's really sad.
'Bill was sent to a children's home after being in the workhouse,
'and hardly saw his mum again.'
'It really did hit me when Bill kept referring to himself as illegitimate,
'and that he was a bastard, it's just so wrong,'
and also for Bill to carry that shame,
the shame that his mother put on him, and...
obviously me, I can totally understand how someone ends up
in that situation as the parent,
but I cannot understand, or even accept the fact
that Bill himself was penalised
for being born within a single parent family, it's just...
Bill's story has made me realise how lucky I am to be able to
come back to a lovely home
and look after my own children.
I know that because of my singing career,
I don't have the same money problems as many single mums.
You know, I don't worry about...
"I haven't got enough money to buy bread"
or "I can't... What are we going to eat tonight?"
because I haven't got any money.
I don't have those worries.
-I should have did some garlic bread or something.
I think the hardest thing about being a single mum, is being alone.
It's being, you know, having everything on your back.
The worst times are when, you know, when I'm worried,
when I'm down, when I'm upset, those are the worst times,
because I feel as if I don't even have the room to do that,
I've got to schedule my tears, you know.
For instance, going through the divorce,
I've had times where I've been so down and so depressed
and all I want to do is wrap up in my duvet and cry, and I can't.
It's not a splinter, looks like...
'I've got to make sure I've done everything else, or seen to their needs first.'
It's not cut, you were ready to cry then!
I've discovered that during the Second World War,
the number of women having babies out of marriage went up.
There were also a lot more women raising their kids on their own,
because their husbands were away at war.
But even in this climate, it seems as if there was
still a huge stigma about being an unmarried mum.
I know this because I'm really struggling to get anyone to talk.
Would you to be willing to share your story? We have tried so hard...
'Eventually I strike gold with Micheline,
'who has agreed to tell me her own mum's story.'
It seems to be a point in time where that people are kind of
embarrassed about, you know, about this subject in particular.
I mean, how does that make you feel? Is it a familiar feeling?
Well, being in this street is very strange,
because this is where I grew up and I remember being a tiny kid.
It's full of memories, but also it's a bit strange for me
to be talking about this, because it's very private,
I just hope that my mother would...
understand the reason that we're doing this.
Because it's a piece of history,
but I'm a little bit uneasy about talking about such a private matter.
This is my mother about the time that I was born.
-Wow, she looks like a film star!
-She does, doesn't she?
I always say that, but it's true, isn't it?
She came from Leeds in Yorkshire,
and she was a fashion designer.
She came to live in London and this is where she ended up
in the summer of 1940, and this is where she had me.
She was very sociable.
She, in a strange sort of way, was enjoying the war,
that seems bizarre, but you can imagine London was the...
party capital of Europe at that time.
London was a great, fun place to be with soldiers coming in,
and my father was in the free French air force,
and she met him in a dance hall not far from here
in Tottenham Court Road.
-That's him with the free French air force people.
-Oh, wow, OK.
That was all his mates in whatever they called a squadron or something.
I must emphasize that she was an extremely proper person,
so although she was out dancing and merry making,
she was not the kind of girl who would go and have sex with anybody.
So how it was that my father...
Well, he said that he would marry her as soon as the war was over, and she believed him.
He came back in 1945 after I'd been born
and stayed for a week,
and disappeared forever, and she was on her own.
And of course she WAS a very proper person
and for her, that was a terrible shock
because it was embarrassing to have got caught out like that,
to have believed that story, and then find out that it wasn't true.
So she just changed magically from being Miss O'Sullivan
to Mrs O'Sullivan,
and I suppose if you think about a street like this during the war,
a lot of people coming and going, she just managed to keep a low profile.
Because of course, what we now know,
the anxiety was that if you had a baby and you weren't married,
somebody somewhere might come and take it away from you.
-I absolutely love it.
-This is where we used to come every summer.
It's a five-minute walk from the house,
and my mother would work every morning sewing at her machine,
until midday when she would get washed and dressed
and get me ready, put me in the pram,
and we came here every day.
It seemed as if you and your mum
lived like in a little bubble,
do you know why that was?
It was the fear of having the baby taken away.
The best way to make sure that didn't happen was to not let anybody know that we were there,
and so she stayed away from anybody in authority.
No doctors, no dentists,
no baby clinic.
It must have been a huge compromise the day that she decided to send me to the nursery,
that must have been quite worrying.
But she needed to take up her career again. She took me
to the nursery and I was there for a year. When I was five,
the strangest thing of all, she sent me to a private school.
Which was very expensive, she sent me to the French Institute.
I mean, how did she afford to do that?
She worked and worked.
-She worked very long hours, ten to 12 hours a day...
..and she never asked anybody for any money.
As far as I can recall,
nobody ever gave her money except if she had earned it.
-No benefits, nothing. Nothing at all,
and so it was a very quiet, secluded hermit-like existence,
and I was incredibly happy.
That's what little kids want, isn't it, to be with their mum,
-and have her undivided attention.
What do you think of the possibility that you could have been
separated from your mum, that you could have been taken away?
She'd have been like a lioness, she would never have let anybody take me.
She'd have lived in a hole in the ground if she'd had to,
she would never, ever, ever have let anybody take me away.
I always knew that I was absolutely wanted
and absolutely cherished all the way through,
and I'm glad she was my mum.
There's no way of knowing how many other women had to hide
the fact that they were single mums, just to be able to raise their kids.
The thing I can really relate to about Micheline's mum's story is
the feeling you have to make up for being a single parent in some way.
OK, so what is she, what is her job?
-She's a farmer, so where would she go? What letter?
-Yes, good girl.
With the job I have, I don't have that support system at home,
I don't have that other person who can pick them
up from school, that consistent, you know, partner.
Let's do this together.
'You know, once I knew that I could home school,
'I knew that that was the best thing for our family.' Exactly.
Good girl, high five. You got it right, good girl, that's excellent!
"Last one into bed has to switch out the light..."
'I think as a single parent, you do overcompensate because
'people think that your child is missing out,
'and you feel that your child is missing out if your child doesn't
'have that Mummy and Daddy situation which is in every single story.'
"..After I switched out the light..."
But it does kind of get to you,
even if it's the prince and the princess in the palace, she's got the King and the Queen,
and it's just like you do feel like, well, I don't want my child
to feel as if she missed out, I want her to feel as if she had
as full and as round an upbringing as any child in any environment.
'And so I definitely overcompensate, I do it all.
'I don't care how tired I am, how much effort it takes,
'I don't care how it impacts on me or even my health,
'anything, I'm going to do it just because I want them
'to feel like they had it all and they did it all and they didn't miss out.'
Looking at magazines from the 1950s, it's clear that
the traditional family continued to be the only option for women.
Teaching you how to make jelly and fudge...
Shirt expertly ironed.
Could do with reading this!
You know, every single thing is aimed at...
..the nuclear family, everything is aimed at that whole situation
and any pictures, any representation, of women,
there seems to always be a man next to them.
"The Art of Marriage,"
I mean, the fact that they've got, you know, a section
which is "The Art of Marriage",
it kind of indicates to me that...
They assume that every woman reading it would be a married woman.
It's not called Married Woman, it's just called Woman,
so what if you're not a married woman?
I mean, a single mother at this time must have...
really felt outcast.
Then came the swinging 60s, which I've always been told
was a time of cool music, fashion and sexual liberation.
And in Britain by now, there was a well established benefits system,
so by this time, I was really expecting that everything would be easier for single mums.
'In 1965, Padmoney Staples was 16 years old
'when she discovered she was pregnant.'
So, Padmoney, this used to be your old house?
Yes, this is where I lived as a child.
You had a baby, was it in the 60s?
It was in 1965 that I got pregnant and at the time,
-I was going to technical college doing a secretarial course.
I worked part time on a Saturday in the Co-op.
I didn't know quite what to do, cos I couldn't tell me parents,
I was really terrified, so I waited
and hoped it would go away and of course it didn't go away.
So in the end, I told my father
and my father took me to the doctors,
and sort of just everything went into overdrive
about what would happen, but mostly it was kept a secret,
nobody really knew.
Had to leave college, and I was actually sacked from my job
-at the Co-op because I was unmarried and pregnant.
I know people think of it as the swinging 60s, but it wasn't really.
It was a thing of shame and I had to hide and it was horrible.
There were very few birth control options available at this time.
There was no sex education,
abortion was illegal until 1967,
and you couldn't go on the pill unless you were married.
-Well, this is the bus that I would have taken to go to the mother and baby home in Newcastle.
And I went there just about one month before the baby was born,
and we caught this bus, my father came with me,
I had me little suitcase with me clothes and things in
and a little layette for the baby. I knitted the cardigans and things for her.
Do you remember what you spoke about on the bus journey?
Did you speak about what was happening?
No. No, I don't know what we talked about, whether we talked
about the weather or the sites that we were passing or what,
but we certainly didn't talk about what was happening.
About I was going away to have the baby,
I can't explain that enough, it just was not talked about.
It was as though I'm sitting with this belly out and it was ignored.
We were just going on a bus
to a place where I was going to live for a few weeks.
And that was that.
Unmarried pregnant women would be sent
to church-run mother and baby homes, like Ellswick Lodge,
eight weeks before their due date.
Some did keep their babies, but many, because their parents' shame was too great,
had to give up their babies for adoption.
How do you feel being back here?
Strange, it's very strange.
I mean, did your dad just say bye at the door or...?
He was shovelled away. I don't think he stayed any time at all,
he just left me at the door with my bag.
This was the main sitting room where we used to all go
and sit round in chairs knitting, all knitting while we were pregnant.
Knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit...
Did you have like a kind of, you know, like a unit of friends,
-did you find...?
-I made one or two very close friends. Actually, when I came to be here,
it was a relief because it was so nice to be with other women
who were all in the same boat, younger women,
older women, it was just such a relief to be able to talk
about things and feel the same, not feel so ashamed as we had at home.
When you'd had your baby, you came out of the annexe
-and went into the bedroom.
-Where did you have your baby? Did you go to hospital?
I did go to hospital to have my baby. They took you by taxi
when you were in labour, they took us in taxi.
Did your parents come and help you? No, you're laughing!
That's just so bizarre! No, nobody went with me
I went totally on me own. The whole thing I did on me own.
I think my dad came once to see me.
So your parents did know you'd had the baby?
Oh, yes, yes, they knew, yeah.
-But my mother never came to see me, just my dad.
I just remember...
This is where you came, this is where you came with your baby?
-You came here?
When you gave birth... I mean, I remember this kind of just
euphoric feeling and just instantly falling in love.
I mean, how did that feel for you?
Well, I can't remember any euphoria,
but I can remember falling in love.
Cos the moment I clapped eyes on her, I didn't want to give her up.
I felt the longing to have her, to hold her to keep her,
that bonding it was just there. She was MY baby.
But in my head I KNEW that I had to give her up, so it was like trying
to keep the lid on that, trying to keep it controlled.
It was a fight between the head and the heart all the time,
wanting to keep her and hold her, and knowing she had to go,
that I had no choice.
When it was leading up to that day, I mean, how did you feel?
What was going through your mind at that time?
It's hard to sort of think of the dichotomy, but was terrified of the day arriving...
..but I also couldn't stand it, the sort of waiting, waiting, waiting was terrible.
So I both wanted it to happen and didn't want it to happen.
We never quite knew when it was going to happen either.
They didn't really tell you until about the day before.
What do you mean? Oh, sorry, that's... That's shocking.
So they just one day would come up to you and say OK?
Your baby's going tomorrow, yeah.
Quiet word in your ear,
maybe the evening before when we're all sat in the lounge after dinner.
I can remember whoever it was, you know, the other girls would rally round and try and be nice to them,
but it was always a subdued atmosphere when a baby was going the next day.
So...when, you know, when it came to that point...
..where you had to go there... Sorry, I'm getting really upset.
So, um, when it when it got to that point where you had to go to...
I mean, what happened? The next day, what happened?
The next day, we did the morning routine, getting up.
I think I probably was a bit more relaxed about being up in the night.
-Thinking, "It's my last night," so I probably took more time,
but in the morning you got your baby ready, got it dressed in its best clothes.
And then my father came.
He probably came up on the bus, but we got a taxi,
and I took the baby in the taxi to the moral welfare workers office.
So you went, like, to an office?
Yeah, to an office in Newcastle, yeah.
And then what, you know, what happened there?
Well, I waited in one room,
with the baby, and the parents were in the next room.
And then the moral welfare worker
took the baby into them
and I was just so distraught, and crying and things.
I was supposed to meet them, but because I was so distraught,
they let the parents go, so when I was ready, when I'd pulled myself together and said, "Can I see them?",
-it was too late they'd gone.
I mean, what did you feel at that point?
Did you get to kiss her goodbye, did you get to...? What did you do?
I kissed her goodbye, I hugged her and I said goodbye
-and told her it was for the best.
I mean, so...
..once you'd had... Once you'd experienced that and...
..having to leave... I mean, did you feel as if you were reluctant?
Did you feel as if this really wasn't a situation that you wanted to happen?
I knew I didn't want it to happen, and I knew it had to.
And it was kind of just, "Let's just get it over with, let's just get it over with."
So going through the motions of doing it, and some kind of fog, really.
Cos, well, I cried and cried and cried,
I cried all the way home on the bus,
I cried myself to sleep for months and months and months afterwards.
And I had to sign the papers in about the October.
I had an interview with somebody, and I don't know who it was,
but I can remember she was some kind of social worker person,
and I remember having to answer lots of questions and I was upset then, I was crying.
She told me to shut up and stop crying, not to be so silly,
you know, "It was months ago now, you should be over it by now."
I know, in six months,
I hadn't got over it.
I haven't got over it in 47 years.
I certainly hadn't got over it in six months.
Sorry. I'm sorry.
I really didn't want to get you upset.
Thanks so much.
'The older generation are holding in so much.'
Half a million women had their babies taken from them.
You know, it wasn't... Even though they may have signed the papers,
they didn't want that to happen.
And we don't know how many of them are walking the streets,
how many of them we're in contact with every day.
These people may even be in our own families
and we don't know because it's all swept under the carpet.
I'm so glad so glad that I'm doing this programme and so glad that...
..people are getting to hear stories like this, because I don't know
in a way I feel so ignorant, I feel like...
I don't know, I just feel like I've kind of had my eyes closed
and really taken for granted...
I complain sometimes about being a single mum, it's not an issue now.
You know, I haven't got it hard,
I haven't got it as hard as I thought I did.
You know, at least I got the opportunity to be a single mum,
I've had the option of being a single mum
and didn't have to have a ring on my finger.
Padmoney went on to have a son,
but she never forgot the daughter she had to give up. 33 years later,
she managed to track her down in New Zealand, and they're still in touch.
Things must have changed quickly because in 1980,
14 years after Padmoney had her baby, my mum got pregnant with me.
-My sister wants to know if she can be your back up dancer.
Is she good at dancing?
'I wish I could bring her back here and chat about what it was like being a single mum in the '80s,
'but she lives in Jamaica now.'
Not even for a second did she feel that she wasn't going to have me
or that she couldn't have me, that she would have to give me up
or anything like that, I know that it was always,
"OK, I'm pregnant, that means I'm going to have a baby."
That's very indicative of the fact that times had changed by then.
I mean, this is only, you know... My mum had me in 1981,
this is only, what, 13, 14 years after Padmoney's story,
where she felt as a 16 year-old getting pregnant, 16, 17 year-old getting pregnant,
that she had no choice, she had no option. It was the unspoken rule.
I actually lived in that house there, number three.
I grew up there with my mum and my two brothers.
Growing up on this street with a single mother was pretty normal,
90% of the houses on this street were single-parent families, single mothers.
My mum struggled financially from time to time.
Everybody was borrowing, "Have you got some sugar, some eggs?"
It was very much that kind of community.
Everybody helped each other out, and I guess it's because everyone understood each other's situations.
My mum saw benefits as assistance,
as help when you needed it, but as soon as she was capable
of getting back to work, which she felt was when we got to school,
that's when she volunteered at the local play centre and worked her way up to the manager.
I look to my childhood and I say, genuinely,
my mum did the best she could, and that for me
is all you could want as a child, to know that your mum did
everything to the best of her ability for you.
So what had changed between the '60s and the '80s?
The answer is everything. For the first time ever,
women had choices and freedom.
They could buy a house, go on the pill, abortion was legal,
and they could now get a divorce from their husbands.
And everybody was talking about it.
She's only a child... and her without a father!
Well, I'm one of the new breed of free-thinking women - sex, yes, babies, yes, marriage, no.
Mother of God! What's the world coming to?
I find it so amazing the difference in, you know,
things that are on TV now, like the '70s seemed to be like the death
of shame almost, you know, the fact that, I don't know,
people having sex outside marriage now is kind of OK to talk about.
And even on TV, I mean, it's not...
The thing is it's not that long, but I guess...
I don't know, I guess maybe these new changes that came in really did make
a huge difference and, you know, had that kind of an impact on women
and popular culture as well.
I wonder what impact this new freedom for women had
on the new generation of us children who grew up with single mums.
These are just little bits that I've...
I made this, I'm such a Blue Peter kid. I made this for my mum for Mother's Day.
'Like me, the Emmerdale actress and TV star Roxanne Pallet
'was brought up by a single mum in the 1980s.'
I was born in 82,
so it was primary school for me, and I couldn't...
I mean, I've brought a picture this will make you laugh. It's Mummy, Grandma and Roxanne,
we're all smiling, but to me that was like the norm.
It was me mum an grandma, not a big deal, whereas I'm sure there was a few kids
who'd have to go and see the school psychologist with what they drew.
And they had a mum and a dad.
But this probably sums up my childhood best,
because it's the Betty Boo pose - do do be do -
and it's Mum, very windswept cos we were in Greece, Auntie Jackie,
and my grandma and me, and so it's three generations, and we were just
we were all so in sync with each other. I was always part of a gang.
It was a happy time and it was you and Grandma doing a high five.
She'd come in from one shift, you'd go out for another,
and we'd go out at the weekend and do stuff.
We weren't ruled by that stigma, because even though you were the only single mum
out of 30 kids in my class, I was one of the happy kids
and the brightest kids,
and I think that's what matters really, doesn't it?
Do you feel you've been affected in any way
by not having a dad around?
I've never missed out because it's all I've ever known, is
to have my mum and my grandma, and for me, that is my most... It doesn't
matter what I do in my career, my most prized possession
is you and Grandma bringing me up. I know I wouldn't be
as strong and as creative and as strong minded and independent,
and I value that. There's been moments in my life that
without this strength and this belief and tenacity
that I've got from you and Grandma, and watching a mum, a woman, do it
on her own, I don't think I would've survived certain moments.
-I think I'd have crumbled.
-The President of the United States
was brought up by a single mum, and I just think that we have
something in us, we do have something in us as children.
You know, to see our mums struggle like that makes us think,
"Well, if my mum can do it, I can do absolutely anything,"
and my mum gave me that. It's something that I now pass on to my daughters.
My mum definitely gave me the feeling that nothing is impossible.
If I'm going to have a man in my life, he has to be strong,
not just physically, but mentally, emotionally,
and I can't... There's no room for error
if I'm going to invite a man into my life.
And if I have a kid, I'm hoping that there will be
the dynamics of a mum and a dad, but I'm not scared if there isn't.
-I'm not scared to do the single mum thing at all.
What do you think, Monica?
Oh, the tight lips have come out - she disagrees!
How could you cope with sleepless nights? You forget about the sleepless nights...
..and it is hard.
Don't be fooled into women making it look easy, because it isn't.
And I don't think that's changed from the '80s till now, you know.
Roxanne and Monica were part of a growing number
of single-parent families.
By the 1990s, there were 1.3 million of them,
and a special lone parent's benefit had been introduced
to help them out.
But the political climate was changing.
It is time to get back to basics.
Britain's fast growing population of single parents have found themselves in the eye of a storm.
There is a small minority who need encouraging to form
stable relationships and marriages before having children.
We do believe in the family unit as being the basis of a stable society.
We want to discourage the young mum who turns up with child in arms
and stands on the town hall steps expecting the council
to immediately be able to help her.
'Annie Oliver has chosen to live as a single mother, and when three years...'
Single mum Annie Oliver was so upset by what was being
said at the time, that she went on television to defend herself.
Single parents are being scapegoated it seems.
It's not going to promote childcare to single-parent families
when he thinks single-parent families are unnatural.
'And she's still doing it today.'
-Hello. Hi, I'm Jamelia.
-Hello, nice to meet you.
What's all this, then?
This is some of the newspaper articles and cuttings from the '90s.
Well, I became a single parent in 1990, I had my son Alex...
-..in 1990. I was on my own with this baby,
I'd left a violent relationship so I thought
I would do the right thing which is bring him up WITHOUT violence.
I had no money, I was living in this house that was cold.
I was really miserable, and then when I started to read this
stuff in the newspapers, it actually made me really, really depressed.
Made me really upset, I actually took it very, very personally.
"Single parents fail children," says a judge.
"Life on the estate of missing fathers."
Oh, this is John Redwood, he suggested that we put our children up for adoption.
This one, headed up," The single mothers, just who is to blame?"
says the statistics tell a damning story
of social and moral irresponsibility.
So this is how we were being spoken about.
This is so unfair. What a horrible picture. Oh, my gosh.
This is how the people in power saw single parents at the time.
It's just so unfair, it's unfair to the mothers,
it's unfair to the children. As you said, children can read, my daughter could read that,
and I'd hate to be faced with something like this every day.
There was so much negative stuff that there was a cartoon in one of the newspapers,
and England had been knocked out of the World Cup,
and it was a cartoon of despondent footballers sat like that,
and underneath it said, "I blame single parents."
That's how much was in the media about how single parents were wrong.
This is the backlash, this is kind of, "Well, this has got too much,
"these women are leaving their husbands, and wanting social housing,
"and wanting access to benefits, and it's all too much."
And I think what happened was we became a scapegoat.
We are not in the business of subsidising scroungers...
..so Mr Chairman, just like in the Mikado,
I've got a little list...
of benefit offenders, who I'll soon be rooting out.
And who never would be missed. They never would be missed.
There's young ladies who get pregnant just to jump the housing queue,
and dads who won't support the kids
of the ladies they have...kissed.
'Who was that?'
That was Peter Lilley who was, um...
the minister for social security.
He upset a lot of people with that speech.
On his list is the list of fraudsters,
and that basically included single mothers?
-Looking after their children.
-Do you think that there are any women who get pregnant
-to get a council house?
-It would be a very small minority.
There's no way you would get pregnant
to have a council maisonette.
'I want to understand what was going on in the '90s.'
-Lovely to see you, come on in.
'So I'm off to meet journalist Julia Hartley Brewer
'who has written about some of the issues in the newspapers.'
I'd love to know where it kind of came from.
Was it the politicians, was it the media,
did the media just make it up or...?
What the government and I think the media were reacting to, and the public at large,
was the evidence before their eyes, the anecdotal and statistical evidence that was backing it up.
Unfortunately, it is the case, whether you like it or not
that a child who comes from a single-parent family regardless of their income,
regardless of whether they're middle class and educated as opposed to a two-parent family is more likely,
by a LONG way, to turn to crime, more likely to use drugs, have an alcohol problem,
less likely to be in full-time employment, more likely to have a teen pregnancy
and to do badly in school. The statistics on average are not good.
Well, did the government want to get it into people's heads that
-being a single mum is bad for your children?
-It's, you know...
I think the idea was not to say it's bad, but to say it's not desirable.
We did have a benefits system, which is now changing, where
there were perverse incentives where a woman who was single
would be better off than if she stayed with the guy or if she moved
in with a new guy. We were discouraging, by only a couple
of grand a year, which for a lot of families is a huge percentage
of their income, and stopping people from setting up new family units.
It's all about really just trying to, well, encourage
the family unit, but not to penalise single mums at the same time.
That's a very difficult balance. It's not a balance the media, I admit, has got very well.
We do like a bogey man, someone to blame
and single mums for a long time have been an easy target.
Through someone's lifestyle choice, if you want to call it that, there's a massive effect
on the economy, on the taxes, on other people.
Other people's lifestyles are affected by your lifestyle choice.
I do believe that being a single mother is never
a choice, it's never something that... It's very rare that someone
has set out and said, "I'm going do this on my own."
There are some women for whom there is a choice
and for whom that is a financially sensible choice in terms
of getting on the housing. Yeah, in terms of getting council housing,
in terms of making a living, because they're never going to work or get a home of their own otherwise.
I find that that picture of a single mother is the one that is painted
to represent all single mothers, and I mean, that surely is unfair,
particularly because most of us
don't want to be in that bracket and are not in that bracket,
but media-wise, they were the ones that were chosen
to represent all single mothers, and is that intentional?
I don't think it's been intentional, but it has been a caricaturing of single mums.
You think pram face, you know the image I'm talking about. You know?
Look, no-one wants to be in that situation,
no-one rational will choose that situation. I don't know any single mums who would not rather be
either in a happy marriage with a guy with whom they had their child or with somebody else,
so why are we pretending that this is a positive lifestyle choice? It's not.
It's not a bad one, but it's not the best one, so why don't we encourage people for the best one?
I hear that, but at the same time, I think that this is...
Would you think it was fair to say that this is part
of the reason why single mothers of today feel this stigma and feel...
Even me as a single mother myself, because of things like this
I can't help but question,
"Am I doing the right thing by my children?"
In an ideal world, you would probably...
As great a mum as you are and for all the good reasons you had for getting out
of your relationship, you'd rather be in a happy, loving one
with somebody to help you look after your kids, and your kids would prefer that.
So lets stop pretending that that isn't what we're all after.
'I know that Julia is only saying what a lot of people think,
'and she's right, I WOULD rather be bringing up my kids
'with a partner, but for me that's just not a reality'
I refuse to believe that I've made the wrong choice with
where my children are concerned and I don't know a single mum who
was in a positive relationship and decided to leave. It wasn't
that situation, most of us didn't want to be single mums, most of us
don't want to be without the partner, but circumstances
have led us to this place. Now don't tell us that we're all doomed!
I refuse to believe that, I really do,
and it's really upsetting. For someone to basically tell me
it's pointless, if you ain't got man in the house it's pointless,
it's extremely offensive, it really is, and more upsetting
than offensive because, you know, I don't want to think
that my kids will be nothing, just because of choices
that I have made. Sorry.
It's really, really, really hard to even think of.
I want to feel as if my kids have got the same chance as anybody else's.
It's becoming clear why I don't feel proud to be a single mum.
In the Daily Mail, it says, "The collapse of family life,
"births outside marriage hit the highest level for two centuries.
"Some 46% of children are born to unmarried mothers,
"according to research by the Centre for Social Justice.
"The think tank said a child growing up in a one-parent family,
"is 75% more likely to fail at school, 70% more likely
"to become a drug addict, and 50% more likely to have an alcohol problem."
It's because of things like this why single mothers
can feel sometimes a bit bogged down,
with society's views.
With other people, having pre-conceptions and coming up with
their own opinions and prejudices, because they're fed crap like this.
You know, they're...
I think it definitely affects how we're looked at
and I feel that as a single mother myself,
this is part of the reason why I fight so hard, why I try so hard,
and why it's so important for me...
..to show people I can do it, and...
to do more than the average, you know, to do more than possibly a married mother would do,
because I feel I've got much more to prove.
If I'm honest, this is my deepest, darkest fear -
that somehow no matter what I do, my kids will be damaged in some way.
And I'm not imagining it
because here are the statistics in black and white in the paper.
So what IS the truth?
I'm off to Cambridge University to meet the most qualified expert I can find.
He's Professor Lamb, head of the Department of Social and Developmental Psychology.
He's spent 30 years studying what happens to children brought up
in single-parent families.
Perhaps he can tell me what these statistics mean and whether we are really to blame.
So this is an article that was in The Daily Mail,
and basically says that a child growing up in a one-parent family is 75% more likely
to fail at school, 70% more likely to become a drug addict,
and 50% more likely to have an alcohol problem.
When I read this, I literally picked up the newspaper
and I saw it and I was literally horrified,
as a single parent, I was just thinking,
"Oh, my gosh, my children are finished."
Right, and I think of course that that's part of the message
that people are meant to get, when they read these stories.
But it does involve...
presenting the statistics in the way
that makes them seem most scary.
In most studies, you find that somewhere around 15%
of the children in two-parent families,
show some sign of mal adjustment.
If you look at a group of children in single-parent families,
you find 25 to 30%. What this means is that
the majority of children in both these groups are absolutely fine.
So here you have 85%,
in the other group you have 75%,
now they don't look quite so different when you look at these statistics.
At the positive side of it, yeah.
What this means is that the problem isn't the single parent
because the majority of the children in the single-parent families
are doing just fine.
I like to think in terms of three types of factors
that help explain it.
So the first of those have to do with the children's relationships
-with their parents.
Second factor is the amount of conflict
that the parents are engaged in.
-We have lots of evidence that conflict isn't good for children.
And then the third factor has to do with the social and economic circumstances.
For as long as I've been around,
the single most economically disadvantaged groups
have been single mothers.
So it's not the fact that you are a single mother, it's the fact
that you're a single mother possibly facing one of these struggles.
Which MAY make it more difficult for your children, but in most cases,
most single mothers are raising their children as well as most,
two-parent, or married mothers, or cohabiting mothers.
So it is important to remember that actually
the majority of kids, the majority of families do fine.
Yeah. It's good to know, that is!
'My visit to the professor feels like a weight off my shoulders.
'When I started this film, I felt ashamed to be a single mum.
'It's like the club that no-one wants to join.
'What I've learned is that although circumstances might have
'changed dramatically over the years, we don't have to go to workhouses,
'we don't have to give up our babies for adoption, or hide our kids away.
'There is a stigma that has never completely gone away.'
I feel really privileged to have met women who are willing to kind of
put aside that shame and speak to me and share their stories with me.
It really helped me, it helped me understand,
and also to get rid of some of my own shame.
I feel that...
..yeah, it's not the ideal situation,
it's not the best situation in the world,
but what single mothers deserve more than anything is respect.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Singer Jamelia Davis is a single mum and it isn't something she's proud of. But why? After all, millions of other women in Britain are in the same boat. Jamelia sets out to explore the source of her shame through the experiences of other single mums in the past. She begins in the Victorian workhouse, where unmarried mothers were deemed unfit to raise their own children. She discovers that even in the swinging sixties the stigma was still so great that many young women felt they had no choice but to give their babies up for adoption.