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Unmarried mothers often expected to perform their struggles

Women become mothers through different circumstances and, as seen on Unmarried, they tend to be scrutinised more, regardless of how complicated their situation is
Thu, Feb 25, 2021

When South Africa went into lockdown, as a single woman, I thought about my life.

I continued dating online and working from home, but I maintained my single status. I am nobody's momma and I'm not desperate to be somebody's everything. For this reason, the women in Unmarried seem a little unrelatable to me. However, Brenda, played by Renate Stuurman, is probably the most relatable character when it comes to my lived experience.

As a knowledgeable entrepreneur, a good friend and a single woman, I can relate on that level. However, she seems to feel inadequate in the absence of a partner, more especially, a husband. Where children are concerned, she doesn't seem nearly as pressed. That is, up until her friend Lesego is murdered and leaves her son, BK in Brenda's custody.

Effectively, out of the sky, Brenda became a mother – I'm sure when BK grows up and asks how babies are made, Brenda can honestly say that you get a phone call from the police and they assign a child to you.

In season 2 of the Ferguson Films production, Brenda is up for a prize that would put her business on the map. All the while, she has to navigate single motherhood, and reluctantly so. During the interview process as she's competing for this prize, her interviewer keeps asking about her personal and home life in a way that we don't see businessmen being scrutinised.

This makes me think. Women don't have to choose work over motherhood, however, they shouldn't have to celebrate their motherhood at work.

To change gears, when we think about children, we don't think enough about the quality of the fathers of those children. For instance, when Lesego announced her pregnancy in season 1, Brenda was openly against the idea of Kenneth, Lesego's married boyfriend, being permanent in Lesego's life. Perhaps Brenda was right, given how Kenneth murdered Lesego at the beginning of Season 2.

While dating, I make it a point to ask the important questions before becoming a girlfriend. Where is your father? What is the relationship between you and your mother? Do you have any children? If so, where is the mother of the baby?

Traditionally, you become a girlfriend, a wife, then a mother; or that's what we've been led to believe is proper. In Brenda's case, she became a friend, an aunt and then a mother, with no baby daddy in sight. Not a bad way to come into motherhood – just different.

As she dates, it's interesting to see that the questions she has for men slightly differ from mine. Sure, the questions I ask in real life are still relevant to the show, but if a woman was in Brenda's position in real life, I'm sure another line of questioning would be needed. "Do you like children?" followed by the silent, "will you love my child(ren)?"

Motherhood looks different on everyone.

Women come into motherhood through various avenues and methods, but that doesn't make them any less of a mother. Interrogating what type of a mother someone is, or whether or not they are a good mother is something to be left for intimate partners and close friends/family. Outside of these people, the questions, whenever considering babies and working women, in my opinion, should only ever be: "How are you holding up at home/work?" and "how can I help you as a friend/colleague?"

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