While most families are two-parent households, single mothers comprise a significant portion of contemporary American society. At the last U.S. Census, the number of single parents residing in the country was 11.7 million, and of that number, approximately eighty-five percent are single mothers. Furthermore, television shows such as Gilmore Girls, whose central themes focus on the dilemma’s its central character faces, not only reflect the changing face of the American family, but they also provide viewers with a glimpse into the lives of single parents, namely single mothers.
While certain truths are apparent in those shows, being the sole support and provider for another human being is the reality of single parenting, which inevitably includes stressful and exhausting days. Fortunately, however, single mothers can get help and support from many places.
Single mothers face many challenges when rearing their children. Because the single parent provides most of the financial support for the child, she is more than likely going to be employed outside the home. When she picks her children up from childcare – which is expensive – single mothers are then responsible for cooking dinner and helping their child with homework, in addition to a litany of other small tasks that can consume an entire evening.
From providing financial care to emotional care, single parents are often drained to the point of exhaustion at the end of the day so much so that responsibly juggling a social life, including dating, can be difficult. In this day and age, when children are distracted in so many ways by other influences, single mothers have a tireless, unending job of raising children alone.
Fortunately, for most women raising children alone, today’s society is much more flexible and accepting of single parents, especially as it relates to childcare. In the past, women who raised children alone were often stigmatized within the community, which is the reason they struggled while raising their children. Because the mother was the sole means of support, the women worked long hours to support their children often missing important parts of the child’s development.
Today, with the advent of the Internet, single parents can work at home entirely removing the need for childcare. Also, some companies offer employees the opportunity to participate in flextime programs, allowing the employee to work during peak times of the day and allowing the parent to spend more time with their children during the day. With flextime programs, parents could leave for work when their child leaves for school and arrive at home just as they step off the school bus, which could significantly reduce the amount of time a child is in daycare and the cost to the parent.
This receptive environment is also reflected in the number and types of government programs that provide support for single mothers. The most popular government programs are WIC (Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children), HUD Public Housing, Early/Head Start, and Medicaid, but there are other programs like:
- SNAP food assistance for single mothers, to help low-income families and single mothers by providing assistance to buy food.
- LIHEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program), which helps low-income single mothers with their energy bills.
- Federal Government Pro Bono Program, which assists low-income single parents with legal assistance.
- TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program), which offers free food assistance to low-income single mothers, families, and individuals.
- Various child nutrition programs, i.e. National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, which assist communities with food and special discounts.
Religious and private charities are also places that reach out single mothers. The Salvation Army, The United Methodist Church, and St, Vincent De Paulo are charities that help single mothers with food, healthcare, housing, utilities, and financial assistance. In addition, religious organizations help single mothers with general clothing provisions, holiday meals, life crisis, cash assistance for transportation, housing assistance, subscription assistance, in addition to other services. Numerous private charities also provide assistance for particular needs, such as the one founded by Charles Phillips, which provides financial assistance to single parents.
While one cannot completely lift the burden of raising children from another’s shoulders, the environment for single mothers today is such that the load can be lightened. Over the years, society has come to recognize inclusive policies that help single mothers raise well-adjusted children to benefit society. The government, religious and private organizations that provide assistance to single mothers are helping to build strong communities.