J. K. Rowling has said that she is “prouder of my years as a single mother than of any other part of my life”.
In an article written for Gingerbread, the charity for single parents of which she is president, 48-year-old Joanne told the story of her own experience to give hope to single parents facing stigmatisation.
“My much-wanted daughter had been conceived and born while I was married,” wrote Joanne. “But the failure of that relationship saw me living shortly afterwards on state benefits in the coldest winter Scotland had seen in quite a few years.
“Yes, I got off benefits and wrote the first four Harry Potter books as a single mother,” she added. “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.'”
The mother-of-two, whose Harry Potter books became the best-selling series of all time, describes the problems she faced trying to work and raise her daughter.
“My overriding memory of that time is the slowly evaporating sense of self-esteem,” said Joanne. “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.”
Joanne also said her belief that she would immediately find work was a “much bigger delusion” than thinking she could successfully write the Harry Potter novels and she eventually began working for a few hours a week at a local church.
“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,” recalled the writer.
“However defiant I might feel about the jobs I was doing round the clock (full-time mother, part-time worker, secret novelist), constant bombardment with words like ‘scrounger’ has a deeply corrosive effect,” wrote Joanne.
“Assumptions made about your morals, your motives for bringing your child into the world or your fitness to raise that child cut to the core of who you are.”