Megasuccessful Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has often been the face of single motherhood gone right. She famously began writing the Potter series while single-handedly taking care of her young daughter and surviving off government benefits. Her rags-to-riches story is famous. But you'd think now that she's a gazillionaire who not only is legendary for Harry Potter but continues to write other successful novels, and is also remarried, that she'd kind of slink away from the whole "single mom" thing and hope everyone forgets about it. Au contraire! Rowling still talks about her single mom days every chance she gets. In fact, Rowling says that she is "prouder of my years as a single mother than of any other part of [her] life." And, to that end, J.K. Rowling is going to keep sticking up for single moms.
Rowling and her first husband, television journalist George Arantes, divorced a mere 13 months after their marriage. Rowling was left to care for their baby daughter, Jessica.
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Rowling lived on state benefits; however, she didn't qualify for state childcare because, she says, she was told she was "coping too well." In other words, she was punished for being somewhat competent, even though she had no one else to watch Jessica while she tried to work. Her mother was dead, her sister worked full-time, and she had no friends or other family in the area she had moved to to be near her sister.
Rowling was lucky to be able to secure a job at a local church, where she filed and did "a bit of typing." The most lucky thing about that job? She was allowed to bring Jessica to work with her.
Imagine all of the women who do NOT find that opportunity. What do they do?
Rowling deliberately worked for less than she was worth -- so she could keep her state benefits, the only thing allowing her to survive. She says she felt like a "complete failure," and she was subjected to all sorts of judgments. She writes:
I was a Single Parent, and a Single Parent On Benefits to boot. Patronage was almost as hard to bear as stigmatisation. I remember the woman who visited the church one day when I was working there who kept referring to me, in my hearing, as The Unmarried Mother.
Fortunately for Rowling, the small amount of help she did receive allowed her to work furiously on her Harry Potter novel. She had been told so many times that she would never find "real work" that she actually thought getting a book published would be "easier" than finding a job!
Rowling hasn't forgotten her roots and campaigns to make sure that single moms can still get the benefits they need, which are constantly being threatened to be taken away by the government.
It was the government that gave Rowling the opportunity to eke out a living and feed her child until she could find something better. And she did. Not every woman is Rowling. But the majority of women never imagined single parenthood as their life and want to do better and financially support themselves and their children. As for Rowling, she was one hell of an investment, and the British government has gotten back a million-fold what they paid her.
J.K. Rowling is an example of what can be done when single moms are given a chance. Good for her for not being ashamed and for continuing to speak out about it.
What do you think of what Rowling is saying?
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