If being a mother is a labor of love, then being a single mother requires double the labor and double the love. Without a father around, single mothers have to give twice the hugs, twice the affection, and twice the attention, with half the time, half the energy and often, half the resources.
Just about everyone knows a single mom. The U.S. Census Bureau says almost a third of all U.S. children are being raised in a single-parent home headed by a woman. But do we ever look beyond the statistics and think about what it really takes to parent without a partner?
Some of the highest hurdles single moms face are financial, the day-to-day challenges of meeting basic needs. Only half the mothers due child support get the full amount; 25 percent get nothing at all. Therefore it’s not surprising that almost 50 percent of single moms and their children live in poverty, compared to eight percent of families with a married mom and dad.
And whatever your opinion of single motherhood, most women who are single parents probably didn’t set out with that as a goal. Divorce accounts for 46 percent of all single parent households, unwed mothers 25 percent, marital separation 21 percent, and death of a spouse seven percent. But no matter why a mother is on her own, we need to encourage these women and the 14 million children living in their homes.
We should all consider how we can make the day in and day out job of single parenting easier. If a single mother also works outside the home, her mom duties resume as soon as she walks in her front door. Want to see her face light up? Fix dinner for her family and have it ready when she arrives.
Childcare demands are also tougher when it’s only mom doing the picking up and dropping off for ballet, baseball, or band practice. Find out who the single moms are among your children’s circle of friends, and see if you can take some of their taxi duty. Perhaps you can help a single mom by mowing her yard, running an errand for her, or washing her car. You can even get your own children involved. In the process, they’ll learn lessons in kindness, hospitality, and giving.
If you really want to make her day, offer to watch her kids while she spends an evening with a friend or a relaxing day at the park or beach. It’s tough being a single mother and not always easy to ask for help.
So on this Mother’s Day, think about the challenging ways that single moms’ lives are different from other mothers’. Then think about how they are the same. All mothers have hopes and dreams for their children, but single mothers have to do their hoping and dreaming alone.
Mark W Merrill is president of Family First, an independent, non-profit research and communications organization dedicated to strengthening the family.
© Mark W. Merrill. All rights reserved.