Respect. Admiration. Amazement. Appreciation. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when I think of many single mothers.
How do they do it? Certainly not with the support of their children’s fathers. Only 25 percent of dads pay full child support while another 50 percent pay nothing.
For lower income families, the day dad walks away, the family income falls more than 70 percent. On that same day, his spendable income rises more than 40 percent. He now has money to buy sport cars, drink, and entertainment.
His children have no such money. Because 54 percent of children living in mother-only homes are poor (compared to 12 percent of children living with both parents), finding the money for clothes, shoes, school supplies and even food can present a daily challenge.
The percentage of families headed by a single parent continues to increase with our society’s high divorce rates.
Approximately 60 percent of our nation’s children spend part of their childhood in a single-parent home. This places children at high risk. Not only must many face the difficult challenges of living in poverty, but they, too, must face all of the problems that accompany living in poor economic conditions.
Single mothers, struggling to maintain the home while working full-time jobs, are understandably at greater risk of suffering from health problems, depression, and chronic anxiety.
While minimum wage jobs may be available, they do not pay nearly enough to constitute a living wage. Low job skills, high daycare costs, mounting bills, and limited support systems for many single mothers make poverty inevitable.
Of course, this is problematic not only for the single mother, but also her children.
Social and economic environments in which children grow often are high predictors of their overall well-being. Almost all research supports the conclusion that children’s education, later employment, future earnings, and health greatly depend on the socioeconomic status of their families. Please understand that it isn’t poverty per se that predicts for failure in life. Families certainly can be poor and yet happy and well-adjusted.
Some children from affluent backgrounds are also at risk for failure. But their risk is simply not as great since children living in poverty are much more likely to face violence, hopelessness, theft, drug use, unwanted pregnancies, and dropping out of high school.
Sadly, the combination of devastating realities that consistently confront single mothers and their families often predicts for one generation after the next experiencing the same living conditions.
Is there a hope of breaking this cycle? Yes. But it won’t happen without giving single mothers the assistance they need.
First, fathers must be forced to be responsible for the care of their own children.
Second, our society needs to take measures to educate all our children so that all children have an opportunity to actualize their potentials.
And third, as individuals we can become involved so that no single mother faces the challenges of parenting alone.
Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.