To the guys who called my single mum a ‘stain on society’

They’re the proof that class division at university still exists

There are a number of things I am very proud of – making it to university being up there near the top. But number one on that list by far, is that for 21 years I have been brought up by one person, Sarah. My mum. It is because of her that I am where I am today. So when people ask me, “Josh, who do you admire the most?”, what’s my answer? My indomitable mother.

When I was a kid, I was used to having a different kind of family. My dad was never around and made it clear that he was not going to be in my life that much, if at all. To this day, I have no contact with him. All my mates had the “perfect” family – their mum and dad happily together, yet I realised quickly that the “perfect family” didn’t really exist. That my family of two was perhaps no better but certainly no worse than all the other families that surrounded us.

Being the child of a single parent family opens you up to criticism and judgement from certain sections of society. Some people wrongly believe that the children of single parents are intellectually and emotionally deficient. So it was no surprise when the other day coming home from uni, this ugly shortsightedness sadly reared its head once more. Having sat down on the bus, two other guys sat down behind me chatting casually. Yet their conversation suddenly turned a little sour.

Having already branded gay and lesbian parents as “socially regressive”, it was their foray into the world of single parent families that ultimately led to a very public confrontation. Undeterred by me challenging their views, they continued, labelling mine and countless others’ upbringings as “dysfunctional” and “a stain on society”.

The guys were Manchester University students and they sounded quite posh. They didn’t appear to have these views because of religion either, it was just pure ignorance. One said: “the state must act as your dad with all the benefits you get”, which totally took my breath away. The other guy’s final line before stepping off the bus was: “I pity you for the upbringing you received”.

Repugnant, ugly, backwards and idiotic are just a few of the words I used to describe their views. Yet it was this argument with two strangers on a Magic Bus in Manchester that reaffirmed my belief once and for all that the hardest job anyone could ever be given or take up, is that of being a single parent.

My mum never asked to be a single parent nor aimed to be one either. Like so many others, she played the hand she had been dealt with and my, how she played it. Being a single parent is hard at the best of times, being a single mother of a boy is a hard dynamic to work with at the worst of times too. Think puberty, think football, think girlfriends. But she stuck to the task, she stood on those sidelines as I played junior football for nine years, she made the drinks at my cricket games, she came with me to watch all the sport I wanted to, whether she wanted to or not. Like any good, competent family, she helped me with my homework, she came to my sports days, she attended my parents evenings.

Contrary to the “belief” of the two tedious boys on the bus who thought all single parents sponged off the state, my mum isn’t a “scrounger”. Since I was born she has held down a full-time job, working five days a week. She had to work over the summer holidays – thus myself and my mum have never been abroad together. Shock, I know. Our family may have half the income of a dual-parent household, our family may not do the conventional, we may not be the stereotype. But my family, however small it may be, is just as much a family as anyone else’s.

So to be labelled as a “disgrace” by two strangers, to be publicly belittled and degraded merely for the fact that I have only lived with one parent all my life, insults not just the single parents who work tirelessly to bring their children up to the best of their abilities, but also the children of single parents who overcome the stigma that still exists amongst certain sections of society.

We all owe our parents a lot of gratitude, but I feel like I owe my mum twice the amount. She has sacrificed endless opportunities in order to give me the best education and the best upbringing possible. She hasn’t just instilled her morals and principles into me, but allowed me to discover and develop my own ideas. My mum isn’t just an inspiration to me, she is the most admirable person I will ever meet. So, to the guys on the bus, I’m thankful to you. Thanks for reminding me that no matter how small or large a family is, it’s a family nonetheless.

Myself and my mum are a family of two. Would I change the situation? Would I change my mum? Absolutely not.