The modern hyperfocus by some Christian-identifying conservatives on how *widows* should be treated better because they’re not at all like those wicked, awful, hypergamous single mommas is basically the result of broken tradition-passing and a complete inability to understand that the “grass widow” has been with humanity for a very long time. Women sometimes claimed to be widows when they were not but as the story of the Samaritan woman and Jesus shows, there were plenty who didn’t even use that fig leaf. The text does not definitively indicate she was widowed five times.
The Bible repeatedly refers to the fatherless, and also widows, but it would not have had the precision understanding it has when it’s used to justify giving nothing but rude words and a closed church door to single mothers and divorced mothers.
The fruits of patriarchal regulation are specifically commanded to be shared with the naughty.
I think the strain of disgust and revulsion these types have for single mothers and divorced mothers having any kind of support for their children comes from the individualism that conservatives are so prone to. Since they don’t understand or want to be part of real patriarchal social structures, they can only think about support in the narrow, literal terms of marrying such a woman or paying child support to her. There is so much more than that in caring for others in your neighborhood and church though, and none of it involves “man up and marry those scandalous dames” at all, not even a lil’ bit.
It’s worth noting none of these guys are beating the bushes to go provide support to those saintly, superior literal widows and orphans, of which there are still plenty around and about. No, it’s all talk and justification for not doing anything for women you can’t have sex with or don’t want to have sex with. And as for the women lining up to concur that only the right kind of individual woman is entitled to help with her children, that was a driver of fun stuff like socialism, other women not wanting to deal with the wrong kind of woman.
Single motherhood does have a sort of status in wider society in that single (and to a lesser extent divorced) mothers are more willing to bully or beg people (nearly always other women, which makes the panic over some stray man having to do anything for them even more sadly funny) into helping them with child care so they can work. And people will give them verbal encouragement. This is real, I won’t downplay its existence.
But it’s hardly some carefree, easy path. And contrary to popular belief, a lot of explicit law and social norms work to sharply limit the number of children such women do have.
And related to this, raising children has historically not been so totally expected to be the work of individual parents to individual children at all. It was much more collective. Jane Austen’s mother bore seven children, and every last one of them was shipped off to be raised by *gasp* another man and his wife! when they were infants and then brought back to their parents when they were around toddling age. That particular kind of foster care is but one of the many traditions among Western societies in which raising other people’s children was just part of the social fabric. Apprenticeships for both boys and girls at ages seven or eight were also one such tradition. And many of those kids, particularly the boys were quite utterly raised by a man who wasn’t their dad.
Weirdly, all this is mysteriously ignored by people who freak out about a child having strongly masculine, healthy and Godly men in their lives if mom was improvident about how the kid got into the world. Christ’s love isn’t zero-sum. You can love the grass widow and the not-grass widow and their children. This very issue is, incidentally why we have so many of those awful government programs and nonprofits for supporting single mothers’ children. It was the increasing unwillingness to share with the naughty and take on the burdens. Some frontier woman turning up at her city sister’s doorstep with five kids might well be a widow, but it was just as likely she “married the wrong man” (as Betty MacDonald put it in a sequel to The Egg and I) and just left and wanted to come home to family. And fewer and fewer families wanted to deal.
Never-married motherhood is terrible for kids, and the harshness of taking away the children of those women to be raised in other families was an attempt to compensate for that.