Single parenting takes what seems like superhuman reserves of physical and emotional energy. In days gone by, a wife and mother who stayed home listed her occupation as “unemployed”. Today that same woman would list her occupation as “homemaker”. And indeed, in today’s complex society being a homemaker is respected as a full time occupation and the homemaker is accorded the respect she deserves. What then of the single parent who cannot be a full time homemaker?
He or she must be a homemaker after their other full time job. The single parent has two full time jobs and sometimes more. I have a friend who works a 40 hour job during the day and waitresses at night to make ends meet. This is superhuman! Many single parents are forced to hold a second part time job just to pay the bills. In fact, sometimes the second job is necessary to pay for the childcare required so the single parent can do the first job. This is I suppose especially true for many single mothers who have relatively low paying jobs in our society where woman are traditionally accorded the lower skilled jobs and pay scales.
In fact, many of you may have already gone from a comfortable lifestyle to near poverty. The vast majority of single family homes (over 80%) are run by the mother and studies have shown that the average living standard for woman and their children who are living with them may drops dramatically. Unfortunately in our society, women still earn less than men. The median income for males age 25 or older is approximately $39,000 and for woman is $26,500. Of more compelling interest is the fact that the median household income is $46,000 for all households and over $67,000 for two earner households. The point is, over 42% of all households and 76% of households in the top 20% had two or more wage earners. The conclusion is obvious. If you are a woman (which many of you are) and you have experienced a divorce or other separation agreement, chances are you have lost a household income.
ell what about child support? Doesn’t that make up the difference? Hardly! First only 56.9% of you have been awarded child support at all and the average is $5366. So there you have it.
You have one, or more, angry, emotionally stressed children who are quite possibly beginning to experience some difficulty at school, your income has dropped substantially and the boss expects you to be at work on time daily. On top of all that if you are among the unlucky 47% of divorced woman, your ex isn’t paying his full child support.
According to recent statistics, only 47.1% (or about half) of the woman who are awarded child support are getting the full amount; and, another 76% get only partial payments. Even worse, according to government statistics, about one-quarter (24.6%) of custodial parents and their children had income below the poverty level in 2007. The US government defines poverty level as $14,710 for two persons in a family and a whopping $18,530 for a three person household.
I don’t mean to bore you with statistics, but the fact is, if you are feeling financially challenged, you are not alone. Many of you are in very difficult financial positions.
So in addition to everything else, you are quite possibly financially stressed and your children are experiencing the additional difficulty of not having the same financial support they enjoyed when you were married. They likely blame you for their financial deprivation and continue to point out that, “if you had stayed with dad, these things wouldn’t have happened”.
Fortunately there are a lot of good programs that offer help for single parents. Almost every state has a 211 number. Picking up the phone and dialing 211 can put you in touch with a wide variety of services such as housing or a food pantry.
There is also “SNAP” which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (used to be called food stamps) and can help you feed your family. The SNAP website is http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/
You might also check out the following website:
Foodstamps.org makes understanding the US SNAPS program simple. Get quick access to Forms, qualification rules, rules & regulations, and FAQs
Unfortunately there are also lots of scams that prey on single moms. Be wary of any program that sounds too good to be true and charges a fee before you receive their purported services, especially if it is a grant.
For more information see for example, http://singleparents.about.com/. This is an excellent website by Jennifer Wolf and covers a wide range of topics.
If you happen to live in the UK and are in need of assistance, there is a website for you at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Moneyandworkentitlements/YourMoney/index.htm
Now a dose of reality from Len. Having been a single parent, I truly realize that the demands of the house, kids and primary job almost preclude having the time to explore these options in depth. Who has the time to be sitting on the phone, filling out forms, standing in lines and dealing with government agencies?
I have watched my daughter spend countless hours trying to deal with the confusing volumes of paper and requirements for housing assistance and other government programs.
So all I can say is, “Good luck”. My wish for you is that your children grow up healthy, and contribute to society in a positive way. I’m here to help you get there. We’ll talk again. This is Len. Bye for now!