Life can be lonely when all your friends are coupled up and you find yourself a single parent. But Giuditta Pasotto, the creator and founder of GenGle.it an Italian social network for single parents and their children, has turned this situation into an opportunity for creating a strong community, writing a book and giving herself a new purpose. Thanks to her intuition, enthusiasm and manager skills, Giuditta has been listed amongst the 1000 Italian women who are changing Italy.
Starting from her personal experience as a single mum in her early 40s and thanks to a master’s in social media marketing, Giuditta was able to create a community from scratch. A community that has now reached more than 65.000 people and that keeps growing up to 1500 new subscribers every month. Recently, GenGle.it has also moved forward by creating the GenGleonlus.it offering a help-line for supporting parents in need, opening a house for single fathers in economic difficulties by giving them a shelter to start up their life again and developing new social form of co-housing, along with legal support and constant visibility with institutions to give voice to parents and children to change the political and social views about the concept of parenthood.
Giuditta, what does it mean for you being a single mother?
Being a single mum has its pros and cons. When you are in your 30s and you get married or start a long relationship, yourself and your personality are still a work in progress. Ironically, the risk is that you become a single person while living with your partner. After my divorce, I have discovered sides of my personality I didn’t know and worked on them. Being a single mum means you always have to be strong and that can get very tiring. At times, I would have needed someone to tell me to relax, that everything was fine, especially when I used to spend nights being awake and trying to sort out expenses and lack of money. In your 40s you are a hybrid: you’re not young, but you’re not old. You want to do so many things but ending up in your pyjamas. Also, you learn to be stronger than yesterday and that it’s possible to reboot your life, unexpectedly.
How did you create the community GenGle.it and why?
During one of the first holidays alone with my children, I experienced something that gave me the ‘kick start’. I was in a water playground, my eldest son asked me to play on the slides, but I didn’t’ know what to do with my youngest boy. So I asked for help from another mum who was there alone with her kids. From there, I started thinking about how good it would have been to join forces and create a community for single parents and their children in which people could share problems, spend time together, receive support. GenGle.it is an Italian network that organizes events for parents and children, or just parents who want to enjoy some time between adults. Each city has its own community so meeting up it’s quite easy but you can also decide to join other gatherings around the Country. Above all, GenGle.it aims to support parents against solitude, creating a network of relations.
As a woman entrepreneur, what difficulties did you find in pursuing your goals?
A famous song says “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”, and even if things are changing, there are still some occasions in which I am the only woman at business meetings. It’s not easy to be a mother and a businesswoman at the same time: you have to be ready to make some sacrifices. Some dads would say: “well, it’s the same for us”, but it’s not. As a single mum, you have to learn to do in 3 hours, what others could do in 2 days. You have to become almost a maniac at organising everything, trying to set up a business meeting between taking your son to a football game and a school event. By the way, even if you don’t have children, as a businesswoman you will always encounter more critics and difficulties than a man. For instance, I found myself having to stand on stage and giving a speech to a hall full of men, right after breast-feeding my youngest child. I did my best while speaking: I had no graphs, no statistics, no digital support. I simply talked about problems and solutions by heart. I received the best score on my speech, everyone was enthusiastic, however, I have also been told: “now you can go back to your dreams, as we need to do business here”.
Have you ever thought of creating an English version of Gengle.it and exporting your idea abroad?
We are launching GenGle.it to Belgium, Switzerland, and England soon. We are currently working on translating the site in three languages. We want to test the project abroad and see if we can work well together with these neighbour countries before launching GenGle.it overseas.
How do you feel growing older and approaching middle-age?
Every age has its beauty and we don’t need to fight against it. Maybe nowadays I have now difficulties in losing weight, my body is changing but my mind keeps being creative and I have decided to love myself. I appreciate all of my experiences. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. So I am peaceful about time passing by as I am putting in front of me, new goals to help reach into the future.
Do you think there are still some prejudices around 40-something single mums?
Yes, especially if you live in a catholic Country like Italy. As a single mother, I have struggled quite a lot without receiving any help or support from local communities or institutions. In the 80’s being a single mum meant you were totally isolated, there was almost a guilty mark on you. In the ’90s, after Lady D’s divorce, things started changing in the public eye: yes you were still facing economic issues, and there were very poor supportive legislations, but at least society stopped looking at single mums with disappointment. Nowadays, you might have hundreds of friends on Facebook but no concrete help from anyone if you are a single parent. According to stats, 40% of the population in Italy is made of separated or divorced people in their middle age, however, nothing has been done to address this problem. In my opinion, it should be seen as a priority for political issues to work on. What I’m trying to say through GenGle.it is that we can change things, and we can change society from the inside.
UK: There are around 1.8 million single parents – they make up nearly a quarter of families with dependent children, less than one per cent of single parents are teenagers. Around 90 per cent of single parents are women, the average age of a single parent is 39 years (Source gingerbread.org.uk)
IT: Between 2011 and 2018, the number of single parents with children generally increased. More specifically, the number of single parents with one child grew from 1.7 thousand individuals in 2011 to 1.9 thousand single parents in 2018. Moreover, the amount of singles with two children rose as well, going from 640 thousands to 752 thousands. On the other hand, the number of single parents with three or more children decreased between 2015 and 2018. (Source Statista.com)
US: There are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States today, and those parents are responsible for raising 22.4 million children. This number represents approximately 27 per cent of children under 21 in the U.S. today, 40.1 per cent of custodial mothers are 40 years old or older (Source U.S. Census Bureau)