Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Single Motherhood

     As many of you know, I am a single mother. Single mothers face a myriad of problems and issues that other parents do not generally face. We have to juggle many additional things that married parents do not. The biggest one is the whole single aspect. Single means alone, by yourself, with no one else to assist you or give you a break. I think this, outside of finances, is the hardest aspect of single motherhood. I have to raise my sons without assistance from their dad, my ex-husband. When I need a break from my sons and when they need a break from me, there is nothing I can do to give us those much needed breaks. I can't even really ask friends for assistance even though many of them are single parents themselves. They can only tolerate so much of the train wreck known as Jen at a time, plus they frequently have other plans of their own. Not being able to take a much needed break from each other leads to a great deal of stress for everyone. Many of the worst arguments I have with my oldest son are due to not being able to take a break from each other. And of course, as a teen, he gets bent out of shape when I say I need a break from him and his brother.

     Another big issue that single motherhood faces is finances and budgeting. Budgeting is often difficult, if not downright impossible due to a lack of income. Single mothers make the least amount of money in the workforce of women workers. Non-parent women make the most, then married mothers, and lastly, single mothers make the least amount of money. Women in general do face discrimination in the workforce, but single mothers face the most. I guess that having children is a handicap in the workforce and that being a single mother somehow gives employers the ok to practice pay discrimination. Low wages are not the only financial problem single mothers face. Child support is an important contributor to the income of many single mothers. Unfortunately, there are many dead beat dads out there that don't pay child support at all, or if they do pay it, it is frequently inadequate, sporadic and unreliable. Many single mothers, like myself, are forced to rely on child support because the only jobs we are able to get are low-paying jobs with no financial security to them. When the fathers of the children refuse to take financial care of their kids, it creates untold amounts of stress on the entire family... not just the mom who has to worry about how she is going to pay rent, pay the bills, buy gas, and provide food, but also the children because they are not stupid and those kids are generally aware of what is going on, and this causes a great deal of stress on them as well. The kids start worrying about things like am I going to have a place to live next month? In my opinion, I feel that kids should not have to worry about such grown-up issues, but many of these single parent family kids do worry about such things. My ex-husband causes our sons a great deal of stress and worry because he is inconsistent with his child support, and once again, we are facing homelessness since he did not pay the proper amount of child support for the month of June. And this time, there is no government program to fall back on for a place to live.

     Yet another issue that single mothers face is stereotyping and public discrimination. When another woman, especially a married woman, hears that you are a single mother, that woman has the tendency to automatically assume you are desperate and that you want her man. This always makes me laugh while it offends me. I am sorry, but I am not interested in your man.... I have learned that I don't need a man to make me feel good or to make my life complete. You can keep your man all to yourself because I do not need or want him to make my life complete. I am not desperate and I have learned that the only person that can really make me happy in life is myself.  Public discrimination is slightly different. Yes, there is a lot of the 'she must be desperate/lonely/hard-up' attitude, but the biggest discrimination I have found is the assumption that every single mother must be a welfare mamma that pops out babies every year or so. This is infuriating to me. Many single mothers don't receive welfare because the rules and guidelines make it impossible to receive help. If a single mother is able to receive assistance, the restrictions and limitations that are placed on her make it very difficult to maintain that assistance, plus the amount of assistance received doesn't even cover  basic things like rent. 

     Housing is another big problem for single mothers. Because of limited income, many places are too expensive, and if it is affordable, it is not safe and does not allow such necessities as a personal washer and dryer. Housing assistance is so minimal that the waiting list for such things like Section 8 have a waiting list thousands of families long. I know this because I am on the housing assistance waiting list for my city, and I am family 3,578 on it. Funding for such crucial assistance is at an all-time low and only getting worse as the economy worsens and the government continues to make huge slashing cuts to any and all types of assistance. Many single mothers face homelessness on a regular basis because of the complete lack of affordable housing in this country. Our children are our future, and the government is letting most of them slip through the cracks in poverty. Many mothers spend upwards of 75-80% of their monthly income on housing. Affordable housing should be no more than 30% of monthly income. With so much of their income going to housing, there is little money left for other bills and food. Any emergency, no matter how slight, can send a single mother led family into an unrecoverable tailspin that leaves her family homeless. Many single mothers are forced to choose between paying rent or buying food or medicine. 

     Many mothers also face serious legal problems due to their ex's. Many single mothers face regular court battles over child support and custody issues. Many of us also face financial issues in court as well. Since there is little money for necessities, things like debt goes by the wayside and the next thing you know, you have been sued for repayment of debt...as if we are ignoring the debt just for the fun of it.... if we had more money, we would take care of debt, or better yet, not accumulate debt.

     I know I am working towards a better future for myself and my sons by going to college, but I truly wonder sometimes whether it is worth it or not. I face so much financial hardship that I wonder if college is truly worth it. I am losing so much money by not being able to work a regular type of job while in college. I have to work a work schedule around my sons, what they need and want to do, and my class schedule. I also need to be able to sleep and do homework somewhere in there. I frequently end up sacrificing sleep to accomplish everything. My sons rarely see me and if they do, I am generally trying to do homework, clean house, cook and supervise their homework all at the same time. Will this ever get better? I know God is supposed to be there helping me with the things He feels I need help with... but where is He? I rarely see him in all the things that I do. I am in desperate need of a miracle, especially a financial one, but I know it won't happen because I never see Him provide one. I am losing faith in myself, my goals and dreams, and worst of all, in God sometimes.