J.K. Rowling's Brutal Honesty About Being a Single Mom on Welfare Is Inspiring

Inspiring 10

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?


Image via Splash News

working moms, harry potter, celeb moms


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Felip... FelipesMom

That's awesome! I never knew she had been on welfare. Wow. She is one awesome chica!!!!!

nonmember avatar Melissa

This is why I have always loved her so much. She came from such a situation and became what she is today. She is an inspiration to me :) She is exactly right about benefits, if you are busting your butt to better yourself, you get NOTHING from the government.

Kate Cooley

What she's not saying is that she went on welfare ON PURPOSE to get the benefits after she quit working to write HP. I love the series and her, but let's not sugarcoat this. She wasn't an inspiration, she was an opportunist.


nonmember avatar Melissa

@Kate...opportunist? Hardly...the truth is that as single mothers sometimes it DOES make more sense to just get pubic assistance. If it weren't for my parents helping me, I would quit my job and take a lower paying job so that I could get government assistance. After bills (like daycare and housing) I LITERALLY have $150 A MONTH to feed and clothe my child and myself AND for gas to and from my job...so I can see why mothers who don't have parents who can pay for their food would do this. I have a good job but it's not great paying, and qualify for NOTHING. My child WOULD STARVE if not for my parents. she did what she had to in order to take care of her child, and a lot of times that does mean taking a lower paying job so you can get government assistance.

Hollo... HollowLuna

Has anyone watched her autobiography?  The British government doesn't allow you to find a job while you're on welfare.  That's what was so hard for her.  She divorced her husband because he abused her and abandoned her in another country.  She took the low paying job because it was at a church and her welfare rules would let her get it.  She didn't just get on assistance and stay that way.. she had to get on it for her child and once she was she couldn't look for a job.  Her story is so inspiring it's unbelieveable.

Mary Byrd Hunter

@ Melissa....Quitting your job just so you CAN get government assistance is exactly what is wrong with this country! I have no problems with people who need it, using it. But I know a few people who have gotten it just because they can. What is wrong with our government that you can live a better life on assistance than you can working your butt off? Anyone who used assistance a CHOICE instead of a last resort is worthless in my opinion and just adds to the problem. You are gonna be real sorry when the rest of us say we have had enough and we quit our jobs just so we can get on assistance. Because, then, there will be no one to pay for the "assistance!"

Kimberly Walker

Unfortunately, People like Mary Byrd Hunter just dont get it. I am a single mom who gets to work from home, if not, there is NO way I would be able to afford the price of day care (@ $1600/mos) on an income (BTW, I have a Master's degree). I look at Mary Byrd Hunter's profile photo, of her, two kids, and a HUSBAND, and love her comment, it so ridiculous, and uneducated. The first problem, that a woman is paid much less than a man, 2nd, if you are not dirt poor, there are very few government programs for you. I laugh because public assistance is so very little, yet some people act as if raising a child on public assistance is living the high life.

Sometimes, people are put into a bad situation, and need help. I am a licensed therapist, and I caution anyone who leaves judgmental comments. I have seen people who have "everything" and soon husbands leave, an illness comes up, or another disaster strikes, and they are left with nothing.

nonmember avatar Melissa

@Mary...maybe you should learn to read? I'm not on assistance, period. I make well over $2000 a month, get no help from my ex-husband, and have to pay for daycare and housing leaving me with $150 A MONTH to live off of. MY PARENTS NOT THE STATE help me. I am simply saying that for some women, to feed their children, they may have no other choice than to take public assistance. You clearly live in a very delusional and self-centered world, and I feel sorry for you, especially when you fall, which people like you always do.

nonmember avatar Lisa

I know that British assistance programs are somewhat different than American, but from my own experience working with public welfare and housing recipients, I can tell you that the system is completely insane. Over half of recipients are either completely abusing or overusing the benefit programs, which in turn takes millions away from the people who actually need help. I have no problem providing assistance for anyone who needs it. I have a problem providing assistance to people who abuse it, and that's a good portion of those on benefits.

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