• Cate

The Plight of the Single Mother

Updated: Nov 14, 2021

The stigma of being a single mother has always been heavy. People automatically assume that you’ve never been married. They automatically assume that it is your fault the father left. They automatically assume that you are irresponsible.

In this world, a single father is revered. “How refreshing to see a man step up and do the job of Mother and Father!” It may be just as difficult for him to raise his children, but he is assumed to be a hero for stepping up and being the parent his children need.

There is also the fortunate white collar working mother who has a degree, a career, and child support. This is the idealized single mother. The one who worked her way up, the one who’s marriage failed but she was strong enough to keep going with the mutual support of her ex-husband. How “easy” it is for her!

Not so for the under-educated single mother. It is assumed that the mother will care for her children without question. If she turns away from that role, she is judged harshly. If she asks for help, she is told she shouldn’t have had kids if she couldn’t afford them. She shouldn’t have been involved with such a “dead-beat”.

Beyond the stigma, the plight of the poor, single mother is to provide the best life she possibly can for her children, regardless of the circumstances. The heavier the weight of this duty, the more likely she is to be on edge, to crumble, to cry behind closed doors.

She must work more than one job to provide for her children. She must sign up for assistance with the state or the county to get help with childcare, only to be placed on a waiting list longer than its usefulness.

It is hard to keep up with her children. They are unattended and must be self sufficient. In the absence of a father, the mother has to do it all. Her children might struggle in school. Her children might misbehave because their mother is just too tired and overworked to give them enough attention.

Her children are at risk. They are at risk of a less than satisfactory educational experience. They are at risk to predators who know they are alone and unattended. They are at risk to be pleasure seekers at younger and younger ages.

Those children need clothes and shoes, they need school supplies, they need health insurance and dental care. The mother does her best to provide all she can for her kids, but even a mother who makes a little more struggles to meet all the needs her children have.

When her child misbehaves, she is judged harshly. How irresponsible to have children when you can’t provide for them! How pitiful that she didn’t prioritize her education. Where is she in her children’s lives? Why can’t she do what I can do so easily?

She is playing a losing game. Rent is costly, food is costly, transportation is costly. The hours in the day are short when you work most of them and spend the rest caring for children. When she asks for help, she is shunned. Where is her support network?

If she reads the comment sections in articles about education and social services, she is devastated to read that people despise her. Why should society pay for her children? Why should they care? Her situation is her fault, she should suffer the consequences. She shouldn’t be “whoring” if she can’t afford her children.

She may be targeted by an abusive person, who sees she lacks support. They may weave their way into her life and dismantle what little she has built. When she realizes what’s happened, it’s too late. She has to start over again, because he’s taken her life. She’s back at square one and she has less respect than she did before. People are exasperated that she needs help AGAIN. Her children are damaged too. But how can she fix them? It’s so hard to find a counselor. It’s so hard to pay for that counselor.

And what if the kids have learning disabilities from trauma? What can she do to help if they don’t want to talk? How can she help them succeed if the school won’t recognize trauma as a learning disability? How can she pay for a tutor? The tools she needs are out of her reach.

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Being a parent today is unforgiving at best. There isn’t a sense of community anymore. People would rather judge than help. They would rather gloat than offer compassion. They would rather take away what little safety net there is.

The thing is, that these same people don’t understand when there isn’t an educated workforce to hire. Rather than invest in education, they dumb down the tasks they let people perform and pay them as little as possible. They don’t see that removing the skill from the workforce makes a losing model for the business.

If it is too expensive to be a parent, if people judge parents so harshly, if we make it impossible for a single mother to obtain the tools to raise her children, if we applaud the single father but assume he is capable of providing because he is a man, then we have doomed the future of humanity.

There is no future without children. If people don’t want to raise them, then what happens to the human race? The population of the industrialized world is already aging faster than it can be replaced. People are waiting longer to have children, at the expense of fertility. People choose not to have children at all because it is such a burden.

To invest in the children is to invest in the proliferation of the human race. To make healthcare available to all children keeps the entire population healthier. To make childcare universal and manageable enables that struggling parent to spend more time guiding and teaching her child to be a good human.

If we invest in a strong safety net for families and children, then we all benefit. The workforce becomes more skilled. The services that need to be offered change. Crime and substance abuse become less. Kids don’t have to choose between food and education. If there is plenty to go around, then there is no need to suffer from solvable issues.

The world has become very selfish. The average American citizen can’t see past their own nose. They don’t care about anyone else’s situation. If it doesn’t directly benefit them, then why should it benefit anyone?

No longer are doors held open. No longer is the person with 3 items waved ahead of the person with 50. Housing has become a lucrative business, separated from the needs of the average person who can no longer afford their life. Judgement is passed, entire sectors of the population are discredited and shunned. Our neighbors are our harshest judges, reporting your failings rather than offering to help.

What have we become? Why does everyone act as though being selfish and rude is okay? Why is kindness and compassion looked on as a weakness? What happened to community?

If we are to save our future, we must realize that no one is coming to save us. The government is full of paid actors. The newspapers try to sway our opinions with vitriol. The only way this changes is for the walls to come down. The only way we survive is to come together. The only way forward is through community.

I challenge the reader of this article to lead the charge for change. I challenge you to take a deep breath and find patience. I challenge you to leave a healthy space in between your car and the one in front of you and not mind so much if someone moves into it. I challenge you to hold a door open for a stranger. I challenge you to offer to help your neighbor clean up their yard instead of reporting them to the city.

I challenge you to understand that we are all fighting our way through suffering to build a life we can be happy with. I challenge you to ignore the differences and celebrate the ways we can come together. I challenge you to be kind.

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