Anxiety and the Single Mom
A new report says more single moms are feeling anxiety and regret, especially those with low income status
I was raised by a single mom who did her best to help my brother and me feel secure. We were provided for, sometimes with the aid of my grandparents, and we never went without our basic needs. We had a roof over our heads, food to eat and clothes on our backs. There were times, though, when I understood the financial strain my mom was going through raising two children without the support, both financially and emotionally, from my father. Sometimes, when I was attending a friend’s birthday party, I would have to go into my own allowance money I saved up to buy that friend a present. So it was no surprise for me to read about the recent study released by The Shriver Report, in partnership with the Center for American Progress and the AARP, detailing the anxiety single moms feel.
The report says that single mothers suffer from higher levels of economic anxiety. The moms were more likely to agree with the prompt, “The harder I work, the more I fall behind.” Yesterday I forwarded this report on to my mom, who at the age of 63 is newly retired and feels financially secure now with two adult children. She told me that when my brother and I were younger, the stress of childcare cost was overwhelming. She’d often question her earning ability and compare it against her ability to pay for childcare. At times, she did think she might as well sit at home and get government funding.
This was a bit shocking to hear from her. I knew she had times of financial stress, but I never realized it led her to have those thoughts. As a working mom myself, I too know the strain of childcare costs, especially when I look at my year-end tax report and see how much money I handed over to my daughter’s full-time preschool. Yet I am a mom with a good paying job in a two-parent household, where we have the funds to pay for childcare and still have a comfortable, albeit sometimes modest, lifestyle. I can’t even begin to fathom the thoughts going through my mom’s mind, or any single parent’s mind, as they figure out how to pay for childcare alone.
The report also states that single moms tend to feel a lot of regret for things like not investing more time in school, getting married too quickly or having kids too soon. For low income women, especially, some of them even regret having children at all.
For my mom, it was a different story. She told me she didn’t relate to this statistic. My parents divorced when I was 8 months old and my brother was 7. She wasn’t working at the time, but she got a job working as a secretary at a private university close to my house. Though she already had a Bachelor’s Degree from New York University, she was entering the workforce without much professional experience, and her job didn’t pay a lot. This new job, though, afforded her the ability to return to school to get her Master’s Degree as a perk for working at the university, helping further her career within the school. She knew that in order to provide better for my brother and me, she had to make a change.
Granted, it was tough for my mom, working full time and going to school at night. Not only was she paying for daycare for me, but she also had to come up with funds for babysitters while she was in class at night. But she saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and for more than 30 years, my mom has seen professional success as she worked her way up the university. Though she struggled and doubted herself a lot during her early years of parenthood, feelings similar to many of the single moms in the study, she kept persevering.
The report also sheds light on what politicians are doing to help single moms and what social policies they favor. It was no surprise to my mom to see that Democrats tend to favor more policies to help struggling moms. Ninety-one percent of Democrats support policies in the realm of childcare, while only 65 percent of Republicans support such measures. When it comes to paid leave, 90 percent of Democrats support this endeavor, while 76 percent of Republicans do. Both parties are pretty close when it comes to policies supporting pay equity, with Democrats at 95 percent and Republicans at 88 percent.
Hopefully, though, both sides can come together sooner rather than later, to help single moms and, more specifically, low-income single mothers feel less anxiety and regret. Having a family and raising children bring me such joy, and I hope one day all women will feel this joy instead of the cloud of stress and remorse floating over their heads.
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