Economic Struggles Facing Single Mothers with Children
Single mothers face hardships well beyond what is seen by two-parent families or even single fathers. These struggles can involve money, time, education, emotions, spiritual concerns, mistreatment and judgment from others, and a number of other issues. The reasons why a person became a single mother are often questioned, and opinions of others are expressed without being asked for by the single mother. With so much having to be dealt with, single mothers can feel like giving up. The majority of them, however, do not do that. They continue to press on and do everything they can to make sure their children have what they need and grow up to be healthy, happy people. It can be difficult and thankless worth for many years, but it can also be highly rewarding for those who have chosen it or who have ended up dealing with it through less fortunate circumstances.
Single mothers appear to be nearly everywhere in the United States. They are seen on TV, in the local grocery stores, and posting to their social media accounts about the latest amazing things their children have done. But how did they get there? Whether they chose to be single mothers or ended up that way through other circumstances often affects how people view them, and the judgments that are made regarding their life choices. Single mothers who are widowed are not judged in the same way as single mothers who are divorced, and those who became mothers without ever being married often see the highest level of judgment (Allen, Nunley, & Seals, 2011). In addition to that, the judgment generally falls along age and gender lines, along with people who hold opinions regarding race, sexual preference, and other factors (Dlugonski & Motl, 2014). A wealthy white woman who is in her mid-30s and chooses to have a baby without a partner will not be seen the same way as a 19-year-old black girl who gets pregnant accidentally and must sign up for public assistance because she is unsure who the child's father is.
Naturally, there are many scenarios that fall in between those two extremes. However, the judgment of single mothers remains. That judgment must be handled on top of all the other issues these mothers struggle with each and every day, including how they will afford to feed their children, how they will handle daycare and work, and many other aspects of not having a second parent available to take some of the physical and emotional weight that comes with raising a child (Zabkiewicz, 2010). Whether these single mothers chose that path intentionally or they ended up as single mothers because of circumstances beyond their control, they still have the same kinds of jobs to handle, day in and day out, without help from a spouse in the household. Some have better support systems than others, though, and that can make a difference for them and their children (Zabkiewicz, 2010).
Everyday Life Struggles
Many people struggle with the basics of life, and when a person is a single mother, she does not have a spouse to rely on when she needs help. That can make the basics seem like insurmountable issues, and single mothers have to focus on ways they can get through issues that they would not necessarily have to face if they had spouses (Golombok & Badger, 2010). No matter whether they wanted to be single mothers or they ended up that way through no choice of their own, there is no doubt that they have a different set of challenges than those who are married (Allen, Nunley, & Seals, 2011). Most of the challenges these single mothers face revolve around time and money. They struggle with finding work, arranging daycare, paying for that daycare, and getting more education so they can obtain a better job -- especially if they are young (Broussard, Joseph, & Thompson, 2012). There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but most single mothers fall into this category. Addressing the issues they face most often can help show the areas where these single mothers need the most help.
Employment and Education
Many single mothers are either unemployed or underemployed (Bernal & Keane, 2011; Bratter & Damaske, 2013; Chen, Gu, & Chen, 2012; Correa, Bonilla, & Reyes-MacPherson,...
For some of them, this is because they have not worked while they had a partner in their life. For others, it is difficult for them to find a job when they have a child. Because of that, they end up on public assistance, living with friends or relatives, or bouncing around from one place to another (Golombok & Badger, 2010). They may even end up homeless, living in a car, or staying in a shelter (Bratter & Damaske, 2013). These kinds of arrangements can change on and off for single mothers and their children, especially if the mothers cannot get good employment that will last (Bernal & Keane, 2011). One of the ways they can get better employment is through good education. Single mothers who go back to college and get a degree can often find better employment, but the time and money to go back to school are very difficult to find for most women who have children but no spouse (Broussard, Joseph, & Thompson, 2012; Cheeseman, Ferguson, & Cohen, 2011).
Employment for single mothers is often reduced to retail, fast-food, and part-time work that they can do while their children are in school (Mullins, et al., 2011). When their children are out of school, it becomes difficult for them to have employment, because it requires someone else to watch their children. When children are older that is often not a problem, but very young children cannot be left alone while their mother works. In order to protect children from having to fend for themselves, single mothers should not leave their children alone. That harms their employment chances, though, as does the fact that many single mothers do not have a lot of education (Zabkiewicz, 2010). While there are some older, well-educated single mothers, the majority of them are young and do not have education beyond high school or a GED. That makes getting a job -- and getting more education -- difficult, but not impossible. While more education is generally a big part of the answer, it takes time and money that can be difficult to come by when taking care of small children with a low-paying job or public assistance (Allen, Nunley, & Seals, 2011).
Child Care Costs
Another big financial issue for single mothers is the cost of child care (Hatcher, et al., 2012). Some are very fortunate in that they have friends or family members who will watch their children while they work, but most single mothers do not have that opportunity. This is part of what leads these single mothers to live off of public assistance. They can collect money and stay home, so they can care for their children. If they get a job, they may have to pay nearly all of the money they make in child care costs. For some lower-paying jobs, the single mother would not even make enough money at the job to pay the costs of child care (Allen, Nunley, & Seals, 2011). There would be no benefit to working at that point, because it would put the single mother further into debt as she tried to pay for someone to watch her child while she worked. It becomes a vicious circle that is very hard for single mothers to escape from (Broussard, Joseph, & Thompson, 2012).
Effects on Mothers
Naturally, being a single mother has an effect on the mother, the child, and others who interact with them. It is important to address how mothers are affected, because the way they feel about their situation is often spread to their children through stress, anger, an inability to be there for them, and other factors (Allen, Nunley, & Seals, 2011). Effects on mothers can be physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. How much a mother is affected, and what areas of her life are affected the most, can depend on a number of things, including her age, income level, and how many children she has, as well as education and potential support network (Chen, Gu, & Chen, 2012). With that in mind, it is vital to examine the ways in which mothers and their children are affected by single motherhood, and what can be done to help them succeed more easily. Until the effects that are seen on mothers are better understood, too many of the problems they and their children face will not be addressed in the right way to help them move past their difficulties (Dlugonski & Motl, 2014). That can lead to serious problems for the children of these single mothers, as well.
Effects on Children
The children of single mothers have higher rates of criminal behavior, and often do not…
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