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Single Mothering: Challenging and Herotic

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    The traditional American family is pictured as a two parent household made up of a mother and father. Times have changed and families are anything but traditional. In fact according to the U. S Census Bureau, there were 11. 7 million single parents living with their children in 2010. Of these, 9. 9 million were single mothers and 1. 8 million were single fathers. (Commerce) These facts may be astonishing to some, and a cold reality to others.

    While there are undoubtedly many challenges and difficulties raising children single-handedly for both parties whether it is a single father or a single mother, there exists a strong, unfair judgment against single mothers that single fathers aren’t faced with. Single fathering is indeed a noteworthy duty, but this essay will focus solely on the specific challenges of single mothering. There are many biased and harsh criticisms that exist for single mothers. A quick Google search on “Single Mothers” will pull up numerous websites dedicated to educating society about the dangers of single mothers.

    Although not everyone in America will use their spare time creating anti-single mother websites and spreading ridiculous lies about whom single mothers are, there is still an underlying belief that single motherhood is wrong and immoral. A Pew Research Center poll on family structures reports that nearly 7 in 10 Americans think single mothers are a “bad thing for society. ” (Roiphe) Living the life of a single mother will mean that you will be up against 218,114,341 people in this country who don’t agree with your lifestyle.

    That means that more people are accepting of interracial and gay relationships than they are of single mothers. What is it about single motherhood that creates such animosity among our culture? Many people will say that insecure people are the first to judge or that hurt people hurt people. Rich Moran, Senior Editor of the Pew Research Center puts forth a few reasons for these results on NPR news: “…people who study family dynamics have some answers. The big one is that people know single mothers.

    And they read about single motherhood, and they see the consequences of it…Then they look at things like gay couples, and they see children being raised by loving parents, financially secure. When they look at the outcomes of single motherhood, you know, they see increase in drop-out rate, increase in poverty and an increase in children who go – who have their first child before 20 without being married. ” What it comes down to is people see negative results from what they believe is caused my single mothering and thereby associate brokenness, poverty, teen pregnancy, lack of education, and etc. ith single mothers. What people fail to realize is that single mothers cannot be fit into a one-size fits all box. There are many different types of single mothers just as there are many different types of Latinos or Africans. To place this judgment on single mothers is unfair and ignorant. There are many varying reasons why a woman becomes a single mother; some of which you might not expect. It would be nearly impossible to list all of the various types of circumstances and situations that have led a woman to becoming a single mother.

    However, there are several general circumstances that can be named. Countless women become single mothers when their boyfriend or sexual partner decides to bail when she becomes pregnant. These women hadn’t planned on becoming single moms and most likely had high hopes of marriage or long-lasting relationships. Then there are the numerous women who do marry their boyfriend or lover and have children during their marriage. At some point, for whatever reason, the marriage doesn’t last and a divorce takes place. These women now join the categorized “single mother” stigma.

    There are women who have fled domestic violence situations to protect herself and her children, thereby choosing single motherhood inadvertently. Widowers living with children are single mothers, although many people fail to associate them with this label. Widows are women who have lost their husbands to death for various reasons and have not yet remarried. Another type of single mom, one that is becoming more well-known and a popular alternative lifestyle, is a “choice mom. ” Choice moms are women who choose to become pregnant through sperm donor and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) or through adoption.

    When discussing the new phenomenon of choice moms Dr. Mary Casey Jacob, professor of psychiatry and OB-GYN at the University of Connecticut Health Center said this, “The literature and my experience suggest that women who make a deliberate choice to become moms, whether it’s through conception or adoption, are different from people who accidentally become moms. The women who are choosing this tend to be educated, to generally have strong support systems, predictable income—not necessarily rich—but they’re able to afford a home, childcare, and either adoption or medical treatment [assisted reproductive services]. This goes to show that placing judgment on single mothers isn’t fair. There is no way to know a woman’s specific situation and circumstances without knowing her. What would happen if instead of judging and criticizing single mothers, society lifted them up and encouraged them? Gandhi, a political and spiritual leader once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world. ” World change, no matter how large and far off it may seem, begins with one person choosing something different. There are many women that society respects and idolizes that dedicated their lives to raising their children alone. When President John F.

    Kennedy was assassinated in 1961 Jackie Kennedy became a single mother to her children Caroline and John Jr. Not only did she serve as first lady for two years while her late husband was in office, but she became a successful book editor for the last 20 years of her life. Halle Berry is the first African American woman to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. She is also going through a hectic custody battle with her ex for her daughter Nahla. Coretta Scott King was a single mother to four children as well as an author, activist, and civil rights leader, after the death of her husband Martin Luther King Jr. n 1968. Most people would recognize actress Sofia Vergara from the show “Modern Family”. She is a single mother to her son Manolo and is also a Colombian actress, comedian, television host, model, and entrepreneur. As stated previously, single mothers cannot all be categorized the same because each of their situations is unique to them. Abigail Adams was in essence a single mother. She raised five children, managed a farm, and took care of her husband’s finances. Abigail Adams was wife to John Adams, the second president of the United States.

    Because of his duties as president he often would spend long spans of time away from home. Their oldest son, John Quincy Adams, later became the sixth president of the United States. There are loads of individuals who were raised by single mothers who became successful and important figures in American history. Lance Armstrong is a professional road racing cyclist who after surviving testicular cancer when on to win the Tour de France seven consecutive times. He also never knew his father. Three months before former President Bill Clinton was born his father died in a car crash.

    His mother raised him single-handedly for seven years until she remarried. His mother divorced this man due to alcoholism, and then remarried again when Bill was 15 years old. Eva Mendes who is actress, singer, model, and recently home ware designer was raised solely by her mother, after her parents’ divorce. Barack Obama met his father one-time before he died in a fatal car crash. He was raised by his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro, with the help of her parents. These are just a select few of the hundreds of people in the spotlight who grew up with a single mother.

    This does not account for the millions of average people living in this world who were raised exclusively by single mothers and whom are normal, well-adjusted, even successful individuals. There are studies that show that children who come from homes of single mothers are more likely to be involved in crime, drug-addiction, poverty, have a lack of education, and etc. But is the common factor in these studies really that these children were raised by single mothers, or is it something else? We have discussed heroic women who raised their children alone and the thriving children that came forth as a result.

    These women did not raise these children without experiencing strife, contention, or difficulties. To not accredit these challenges would be only half the story. Raising a child is a demanding, time-consuming, and challenging job in itself, let alone by yourself. There are no personalized guide books that are given out upon birth. There is nothing that can quite prepare a person for the life-long journey of parenting, especially when doing it alone. Yet, the hardship of single mothering is often overlooked and goes without notice. Single mothers everywhere struggle alone daily.

    To raise a child alone involves wearing two hats: father and mother. No matter what your faith or religious beliefs are, there is no arguing that it takes two people – man and woman to create a child. Therefore does it not also take two people to raise a child? Children have a multitude of needs that are gender specific to mother and father. A mother cannot fulfill all of these needs on her own but many do and have for a long time. There are certain life skills, tasks, and talents that each parent excels in and that the child learns and benefits from. In fact psychologists have even named these unique gender specific parenting styles.

    Paternal is the parenting style of fathers and maternal is the parenting style of mothers. Fathers tend to be more physically interactive and connect with their children through physical interaction. Mothers are generally more care-givers and connect with their children on an emotional level. Fathers are less verbal; their attention lies mostly with planned activities and their conversation are more direct. Mothers are more tedious in their conversations, ask more questions, and communicate by describing and explaining things in much more detail with their children.

    Mothers often have much more tolerance and patience for dependent behaviors than fathers. Fathers are often more silly and will play and joke with their child. Although these differences are not set in stone and there are definitely variances in each person’s behavior, most of these attributes can be seen in mothers and fathers. Variety is beneficial and valuable to the child. The father/ mother differences give diversity and assortment to a child’s life. Each of these qualities teaches the child about different areas of life. When the fathering portion of the equation is removed, there is a significant loss.

    Single mothers are forced to make up for the missing piece as best she can. In the United States, 22 million children go home to one parent, and 83 percent of those parents are moms. Also, half of all children involved in one-parent households headed by the mother do not see their fathers on a regular basis two years after the breakup of the family. (Ketteringham) The hard truth is that most single mothers are the only parent their child has. The single mothers that desire a father for their child and someone to spend their life with will have a harder time finding one then if they were without child. It’s more difficult for unwed mothers to get married, and if they do, they tend to not marry well,” said Zhenchao Qian, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University. The fact of the matter is women who have been in abusive relationships, of all varying degrees, will most likely chose the same type of person when they begin dating again. The other factor that comes into play is that most men don’t want the responsibility of raising someone else’s child. Marriage rates are lower now than ever historically. About 45 percent of single mothers are not married and 50 percent of them are divorced.

    It is unclear to the experts what the exact reason is for the recent decline in marriage but there are several influences that they believe are affecting this new trend. Young people today are cohabitating instead of marrying. Although it seems harmless living with a boyfriend of girlfriend while dating, it can lead to unplanned pregnancies, lack of commitment, and inevitably separation. Another reason appears to be that women today have more choices and freedom than ever before. In the past the man would work and support the family, thereby causing the woman to rely heavily upon him for support.

    Women have broken through many of the glass ceilings that existed in the workplace and are more independent than previous generations- 46% of the workforce in America is made up of women. Although these statistics are great for women, single mothers are still struggling. Having a child creates a yearning for commitment, stability, and security. Cohabitating surely won’t provide this, and freedom in the workplace doesn’t help retrieve the unconditional love and fatherly support that these women are looking for. The best thing a single mother can do when dating is to hold out for the right now.

    There are many cliches about “Mr. Right” and “the one”, but for thousands of years people have found and kept happy marriages proving that there are great matches available to everyone. It’s important for single mothers especially to spend time growing herself mentally and emotionally before jumping into the dating game. Every woman deserves a man that will treat her wonderful, but the truth is there are many men that don’t. Learning about personal strengths, building character, finding peace within, and loving yourself are all changes that will attract the right person to you.

    Without working on these elements, it is almost a guarantee that another failed relationship will be experienced. Lack of time is one of the most common complaints from people of all kinds. For single mothers, this isn’t just a complaint, this is a reality. She does not get to decide when she would like to go to bed, what time she wants to wake-up, casually decide when to eat dinner, or choose a day to go out and have fun. This is a drastic, life-changing way of life that can be overwhelming and extremely challenging.

    One of the hard lessons of single mothering is learning how to put the child first; there will be many times a single mother will have to give up her time, sacrifice a favorite hobby, let friendships go to the wayside, and possibly forfeit a life-long dream. Choosing the life of a single mother involves a vast amount of commitment, selflessness, and self-sacrifice. It is important to remember that although life as a single mother takes dedication and commitment to your child, you are not giving up your life completely. There are still ways to live a life and have children.

    This does not going without saying that there will be countless times where you aren’t able to do what you had planned or that improvising might be in place; this simply means that you’ll have to be more creative and determined to be able to schedule things for yourself. Setting aside all faith-based beliefs and looking only at the equation of man plus woman equals child, there is no argument that it takes two parties, one female and one male, to create a child. Despite this unarguable fact, many women are left to care for their child alone.

    We have previously explored the emotional and time factors of raising a child, which weigh heavy on every single mother, but what about the financial aspect of raising a child? Here is a surprising statistic- For $235,000, you could indulge in a shiny new Ferrari – or raise a child for 17 years. A government report released Thursday found that a middle-income family with a child born last year will spend about that much in child-related expenses from birth through age 17. (Hananel) Note that this statistic is referring to “middle-class families. The poverty line for a single parent with one child in the U. S is $15,030 and $17,568 with two children. In 2010 15. 1 percent of people lived below poverty, of that 27. 3 percent of them were single mothers. Most women do not get pregnant with the notion that they will inevitably be the sole financial provider for their unborn child, in fact it is most likely that the woman has plans to raise her child with someone she loves who is an equally contributing parent. It is reported that almost 50 percent of marriages end in divorce and 4 in 10 women will give birth out of wedlock.

    These statistics don’t pay homage to the end result ramifications. Finding a job as a single mother can be treacherous. Many employers want a dedicated employee who is able to put in overtime and can work nights and weekends. If a mother can afford daycare, the center most likely is open only during business hours and has a 10 hour limit per day for the child. If a single mother is lucky enough to find a job that works within her and her child’s schedule and finds a daycare that is open and can accommodate her work hours, she still has the hardship of sick leave.

    It is estimates that a baby will get anywhere between 8 to 12 colds per year. Aside from colds there are many other sickness that a child will pick up, especially when in daycare or with multiple other children, such as pink eye, the flu, chicken pox, and hand foot and mouth disease. Most single mothers have no choice but to stay home with their child, and isn’t that what a parent’s supposed to do? Unfortunately there are workplaces that won’t tolerate a sick child. What are the effects of growing up in a single parent household that struggles financially?

    The effects of growing up in single-parent households have been shown to go beyond economics, increasing the risk of children dropping out of school, disconnecting from the labor force, and becoming teen parents. Although many children growing up in single-parent families succeed, others will face significant challenges in making the transition to adulthood. Children in lower-income, single-parent families face the most significant barriers to success in school and the work force. (Mather) Poverty is a real issue that has proven negative effects on children.

    For a child, they have the social pressures of school and trying to fit in. It’s a high priority for most school age kids to have the right clothes, the right hair styles, have music that is “in”, and so forth. This will be another inevitable challenge as a single mother; being able to set boundaries with your children and not overstretching yourself or your finances. Of course mothers want their children to be happy, but there is a limit to what a single mother can buy. Unfortunately the budget of a single mother includes mostly the necessities and not a lot of wants.

    For older children, single mothers can incorporate daily chores into the child’s life so that they can earn a little bit of their own money while helping out with household chores. That way the child can learn the value of money and can save his or her allowance up to buy the special things that mom can’t afford. Many single mothers are forced to take lower-paying jobs that fit into their child’s schedule. Their first priority when job-searching is work hours that coincide with childcare and proximity to home, and then they can consider whether the job is a right fit or the right pay.

    Many single moms end up working unhappily to make ends meet. There exists judgment in the workplace, whether spoken or not, against parents who take time off to care for their children, especially if they are newly hired. Co-workers look down on single mother’s for fulfilling their duty as a mother. Although the expenses of raising children far outweigh the expenses of single adults, it is estimated that a single mother will make anywhere between 7 to 14 percent less in the workplace than other women. Many employers view children as a hindering block to the success of the company.

    There is a notion that a woman cannot be professionally successful and committed while raising a child, even more so when she’s doing it alone. If a job was based on personal character alone, there is no doubt that a single mother would come out on top. Single mothering requires extreme dedication, commitment, selflessness, organization, and ambition. Single mothering will call for creative thinking when it comes to saving and spending money. For instance, many single moms take up coupon clipping. Coupon clipping is a great way to find deals on food and other necessities and can also be made into a game.

    You can share this activity with your child and make it a race to find the best deals or a special item that you need. Another great way to save money is second-hand stores and outlets. Children grow fast and are constantly outgrow their clothes. The first year of life is a time of astonishing change during which babies, on average, grow 10 inches (25 centimeters) in length and triple their birth weights. (What is Growth? ) There are many other things a single mom can do to earn some cash such as garage selling, consigning children’s clothing, and taking on side jobs from home like house-sitting or pet-sitting.

    Many people will remind a single mother when she complains about her lack of self-time, “You gave up your life when you decided to have children, don’t forget that. ” In some ways this is true. A conscious decision to have a child is a mindful choice that you are now dedicating your life to raising and caring for that child. For unplanned single motherhood, the absence of personal time can be challenging. Two-parent households still have to give up their lives to raise their children, but they have an extra person available if one parent becomes tired, needs time to themselves, or if they want to participate in an adult activity.

    Single mothering is a fulltime job that has no breaks. A single mother is likely to lose close friends because her time is solely dedicated to her child. This can lead to feelings of depression, loneliness, and isolation. Many times there are very few activities for single mothers to participate in with their children. Most social outings are geared toward adults without children. Everybody, especially single mothers, needs a break once in a while. It is unhealthy to have no time to yourself and can even affect your parenting abilities if left untreated.

    To be a good mother to her children, the mother must take care of herself first. There are four dimensions to self-care which include: intellectual, spiritual, emotional/social, and physical needs. When one of these areas is lacking, it can cause frustration, lack of patience, emptiness, depression, and may even cause the mother to become physically sick. There are activities single mothers can do, some with their children, and some without that can help statisfy these needs.

    To fulfill intellectual needs a mother can take her children to the library, she can take online college classes, watch educational programs from home, conduct an internet search, join a book club or some other type of activity group, read a newspaper, magazine, or journal, write a poem, or participate in volunteer work. To meet her spiritual needs a single mother can become active in church or other religious organization, traveling, going to a museum, meditating, relaxing bath, going for a long walk, or visiting a natural place of beauty.

    Another important aspect of self-care is emotional and social needs. Single mothering at times can feel very lonely. As an adult, single mothers need to have stimulating conversations with people aside from their kids. Ways to meet their emotional/ social needs include spending quality time with friends, spending time alone, making time for romantic endeavors, maintaining balance with social needs, listening and trusting yourself, gardening, and journaling. Just as important as it is to have a healthy mind and spirit, it is equally important to have a healthy body.

    To meet your physical needs, a single mother can exercise for 15 minutes day for three times a week which can be made into a family activity, eating healthy nutritious foods, getting at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, attending regular doctor appointments, and taking vitamins. Although some of these activities seem like no-brainers, many single moms forget to participate in self-care and find themselves running on empty and losing their patience with their children.

    Although it is easy to use the excuse, “I don’t have enough time”, or, “I don’t have anyone to watch my child”, single mothers have to learn to be creative and incorporate their children into normal everyday activities. Single mothers tend to believe that they have to take care of themselves and their families alone. Asking for help or accepting help would be a sign of weakness. This simply isn’t true. In fact, one of the most important first steps every single parent can take in terms of building healthy parenting practices is to consider who else they can turn to for help outside of a raditional spouse, including family members, friends, co-workers, other single parents, support groups and more. (McCandles) There is a saying that says, “it takes a village to raise a child. ” Children have a variety of needs that one person simply cannot fill wholly on their own, nor would it be healthy for one person to fill all of these needs on their own. Accepting and asking for help is a sign of maturity and humanity. Humans are interdependent and social beings- we cannot function solely by ourselves, and this is one of the distinct differences that set us apart from animals.

    There is no doubt that raising a child single-handedly is challenging emotionally, physically, and financially. Luckily there are many programs available to single mothers to help supplement some of these hardships. Many programs like WIC, TANF, and others were created especially for single mothers. Finding the programs is the easy part, the internet Is full of links to different programs for single moms and their children, the hard part will be accepting the help and letting go of the stigma that is associated with it.

    Works Cited Commerce, U. S Department of. United States Census Bureau. 26 August 2011. 23 September 2011 . Hananel, Sam. Huffington Post. 14 June 2012. 25 September 2012 . Ketteringham, Kristin. Yahoo! Voices. 6 June 2007. 24 September 2012 . Mather, Mark. U. S Children in Single-Mother Families. May 2010. 25 September 2011 . McCandles, Sarah. How to Manage a Single Parent Household. n. d. 28 September 2012 . Roiphe, Katie. The New York Times. 11 August 2012. 3 October 2012 . What is Growth? May 2010. 28 September 2012 .

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