Has parent alienation become a lifestyle brand?

I was triggered to write that headline by a programme on Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 this week which explored changing attitudes to what it still called “single parenting” in the UK.

This has been a subject that has troubled me for years as it is clear to me that, probably since the early 80s at least, we have been cultivating parenting as a lifestyle brand and that leads to commoditisation and exploitation, if left unchallenged..

It’s not unfair to generalise that until shamefully recently, raising children was, to a large extent,  perceived as a stay-at-home woman’s lot to be “endured”.

Ridiculous, really.

But it has now become a huge, £multi-billion industry from whence has sprung brands like Mumsnet, Boden and Mothercare and dozens of lifestyle magazines and thousands of websites all promoting how to look, feel, behave and appear to fit in with the clique, the club.

Commercialisation of motherhood and parenting has many positives.

It has become very trendy to be a parent. Aspirational. Mums (and even dads) can be cool rather than dowdy. Marketers have reversed the psychology surrounding parenting from something women endured early on in their lives before hopefully, finally living their lives once the “birds” fled the nest, to both parents joining a fashionable group or club of real grown ups. It’s now depicted as something you share once both parents have found their place in life and are ready to co-parent, balancing raising a family with their careers.

I guess many of us bought into that, regardless of how true it is.

Commercialisation of parenting, especially co-parenting, however, also has its drawbacks.

It brings pressure to seem or be a certain way in order to belong at all stages from conception on.

And what happens when the perfect, co-parenting family image is torn apart by divorce as it is, all too often?

Well, people are nothing if not adaptable and a new brand has emerged to exploit this situation as well. It’s the industry surrounding the “single parent” or in the UK at least, where 97% of divorced households are headed by the mother, the cult of the “single mum”.

Now, that’s a positive thing, right? People networking in order to adapt their circumstances to the changing realities of our times where as many as 1/3rd of marriages end in divorce can be really positive?

Of course it can be, provided it serves the needs of the now separating family, all of them, in order to best serve the needs of the children for whom both parents should be equally responsible.

But doesn’t the notion of single mum as single parent have more of a 50s, regressive ring to it? What happened to the new notion of shared parenting, even post-divorce? If sexism was wrong then, well it’s wrong now, isn’t it?

Just how appropriate is the separated parent industry now? Is it non-gendered or does it actually reinforce confusingly sexist notions of single parenting that are the antithesis of how parenting has evolved?

There are many positive aspects of organisations like Mumsnet  that as well as reinforcing the model family dream also offer networks and support facilities for people trying to cope with their new challenges should they split from their partners. And organisations like Gingerbread provide resources for single parents regardless of gender.

But there is a darker side to separated parenting, especially when it becomes a lifestyle brand. Because when you mix the compulsion for control and seeming rather than being and create an imbalance in the relationship between the alleged co-parents and give the malicious a network on which to perpetuate abusive practices, the temptation is for selfishness or manipulation to creep in. And that’s exactly what has happened.

Rather than work through difficulties and complications, the resident parent, who has all the power in our legal system and who lives with the daily social networks surrounding the children, may well be tempted to dominate control of the children by controlling those networks to ensure that the life that parent wants, fits in with the image they want to present to the world.

Having an inconvenient ex around often doesn’t fit that facade enacted daily online and at the school gates. The other parent can quickly become an uncomfortable truth, threatening to undermine the superficial image of super parent they are trying to present, because, let’s face it, the other parent knows the truth. And our adversarial legal system actively encourages the airing of home truths in a way that traumatises the participants and damages relationships beyond repair.

The following tweet to the BBC this week, in response to the Woman’s Hour programme, challenging the notion of single parenting, surprisingly attracted more re-tweets, interactions and attention than we had expected:

“Unless your ex deserted you or died, you are NOT a single parent! That’s the language of the “entitled”, self-imposed parent alienator who does not respect shared parenting and has probably forced the other parent from the child’s life. Please be mindful of this

It resonated with people because, for so many divorced and separated parents, mums and dads, single parenting is a misnomer.

It should actually be called separated co-parenting.


Well for all the reasons summed up in that simple tweet:

  • It is selfish
  • it is abusive
  • it is alienating
  • it is a lie
  • it is wrong

By endorsing single parenting as an identity and a lifestyle brand when the vast majority of so-called single parents are not victims of abandonment or tragedy but are most likely single parents by calculated design, we are, to be blunt,  reinforcing the abuse of children. We are complicit in destroying lives, in stealing half their identity from them by supporting and encouraging selfish behaviour that alienates them, not only from the less empowered, non-resident parent, but half of their extended family as well.

And to do that to create some single parent brand to compensate for personal inadequacies, whatever they may be, is wrong, by any objective measure.

As ever, we would love to hear what you think.

Please use the comments section below.

Please Note: We will gladly refer readers to true professionals who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles. 

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers; any wish to remain anonymous will be respected.

So if you align with our vision and ethos, have someone to recommend, are someone we would recommend or have something to say on the subject of shared parenting and parent equality in either a personal or professional capacity and would like a platform to have your say or contribute in some way to our cause, please contact us.


The Peace Not Pas Team

5 thoughts on “Has parent alienation become a lifestyle brand?

  1. My alienating and contact denying ex wife goes to great lengths to portray herself as a ‘single mum.’ This is despite me being emotionally, financially and physically available to our children. I have spent tens of thousands of pounds begging via the family court system for her to agree to co-parent. She has no wish to share parenting. She wants me to go away or simply kill myself. However despite this she rather remarkably claims and revels in claiming to be a ‘single mum.’ Must be tough for her not having anyone unconditionally offering her emotional, physical or financial support to her children!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an interesting point of view regarding parental alienation. It is quite unfortunate and most telling that there has been no mention of those parents who are in fact estranged from their children , as a direct result of domestic violence. Many of those children are, or have been, subject to child protection orders, as a direct consequence of the behaviour of the so called alienated parent. Disturbingly, those very parents are using parental alienation to gain unsupervised access to their children, and regain control over their ex partner, when it is not alienation at all. The so called alienated parents (mostly fathers) are very quick to place all the blame on those awful single mothers who have turned their children against them. Well ” hello!” Perhaps if you were a better and safe father they may have wanted to see you. Who’s the victim here? It certainly is not the bogus alienated parent.
    If this is happening to you, do not give up, you can fight to keep yourself and your children safe. I did and won.


    • Thank you for your comment, Nina.
      It should be clear from the site, the ethos and everything we write, that this is not a gendered group.
      There is an explicit understanding that the alienation, to which we refer, can and does happen to both men and women, fathers , mothers and extended families.
      Although 97% of “single parent households” are female in the UK alone.
      Parent alienation is very clearly defined on our blog as “unlawful”, namely that the children are either withheld or turned against the other, loving parent, about whom there are no safeguarding concerns.
      If there were, then there would be no shared parenting or contact rights to contest, would there? And that would be a very different matter.
      For obvious reasons we don’t re-state this point in every blog.

      You ask who the victims are in these alienation cases?
      Well, first and foremost, they are the children who are psychologically abused and bullied by some resident parents who have the time, inclination and absence of a moral filter so deliberately choose not to comply with either an arrangement or formal order and do what is right for the children.
      And then, in turn, it is the target parent and their extended family who are made to suffer prolonged abuse as a consequence of this calculated behaviour, examples of which we detail throughout the blog.

      This is a very different and separate issue to the one your blog deals with, namely domestic violence, which happens to both women and men.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, despite the sarcasm
      But a little more empathy towards parents suffering a growing form of domestic abuse would be appreciated.
      We encourage you to read more of the blogs to understand the misery this problem is causing parents, grandparents and siblings of both sexes.
      It would be nice if we all tried harder not to make matters worse.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: WARNING! PAS: You’re next… | Peace Not Pas

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