Co-authored by Marlena Hunter, M.A., MFTI and mom
Being a single parent is NOT easy—no one ever said that it was. But people often don’t take into account exactly how stressful it can be. According to different research studies about the “financial value” of parenthood, it is somewhere between $180,000-$230,000 a year. Great numbers, but the vast majority of single mothers or fathers don’t make nearly that much money. They get by as best they can, and some do better than others.
Education can be a big stepping-stone from living a substance existence to one of comfort. But getting that education while supporting, raising, and nurturing your children is a very powerful challenge. Then you have to get the career started, and we all know that isn’t as easy as it used to be. Being a single mom or dad in The Great Recession is one of the most difficult positions. Sailing solo around the globe is an easier task than raising a family on an entry level salary, but only 250 people have done it—there are millions of single parents.
Each day they take on the world and care for their kids. Each day they think about ways to make life better, and each day they worry that something will happen and they will not be able to provide for their loved ones. Unfortunately, this forces some single mothers/fathers to take jobs they are overqualified for or not be able to take advantage of getting an education so they can give their families a better life.
Their primary focus is on their children and making each child’s life as good as possible. But the children have their own set of issues, and many end up with friends who are also being raised by single parents. When this social division exists, it can make things more confusing and perhaps a little depressing for the kids. So the single parent has to be aware of their child’s social support system as well.
Doing positive things with your children is very important, and it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. Look for activities and events that are inexpensive or free so you can have some nice family and social time. At these events or activities there will likely also be other parents and children, so new friends and social bonds can easily be forged.
Another suggestion when you have a network of other parents is to them take turns doing things with the kids: giving rides/carpooling, and even babysitting when needed. This saves money and gives the children additional positive adult influence as well as more interaction with other children. This kind of “club” has worked well for many single parents, and they exist in almost every neighborhood.
Most are not “official” so you may have to ask around to find them, but school counselors and your local paper can help you connect with these groups.
Keeping your spirits up is also very important to raising a child on your own. You don’t want to lay your troubles on your child—the kids are already dealing with a bunch of difficult emotions. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your child. As the instructions you get on an airplane say, “Put your own oxygen mask on first, then help your children.”
Marlena is currently a registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern practicing psychotherapy in Westlake Village, CA under the supervision of Jean B. Wolfe-Powers, M.A., LMFT. She is specializing in individual, couple and family therapy and has gained experience in a variety of clinical settings.