Rowling hits out a lone-parent stigma
on 20/09/2013 00:00:00
Rowling, who is president of single-parent charity Gingerbread, called on the British government to do more to help people who find themselves in that situation to be able to get into employment.
She famously began working on her Potter books after splitting from the father of her daughter Jessica, writing with the youngster at her side.
As she could not afford childcare, she took a low- paid filing job at a church in Edinburgh, where she had settled, which allowed her to take her daughter along.
Writing for the charity, she said: "My overriding memory of that time is the slowly evaporating sense of self-esteem, not because I was filing or typing - there was dignity in earning money, however I was doing it - but because it was slowly dawning on me that I was now defined, in the eyes of many, by something I had never chosen. 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. I was half-annoyed, half-amused."
Rowling said the stigma around single parents - including a view that they do not want to work - needs to be "challenged".
And she reassured others who have found themselves in the position in which she formerly found herself.
"I would say to any single parent currently feeling the weight of stereotype or stigmatisation that I am prouder of my years as a single mother than of any other part of my life.
"Yes, I got off benefits and wrote the first four Harry Potter books as a single mother, but nothing makes me prouder than what Jessica told me recently about the first five years of her life: 'I never knew we were poor. I just remember being happy.'"