There’s a significant amount of research on the unique struggle of being a single mother, particularly the psychological effects of being a single mother. Single mothers often face a number of challenges, including financial difficulties, limited social support and the challenges of balancing work and childcare. These challenges can have a profound impact on both the mothers and their children, and can lead to struggles with mental and physical health, educational challenges and economic insecurity. This is not because single mothers are doing something wrong—this is a systemic and societal problem.
We have failed, time and time again, to provide adequate support and resources to help single mothers overcome these challenges—the psychological effects of being a single mother should be motivation enough to offer more support. Single mothers continue to prove their resilience and strength, though they should not have to be so strong.
This article is about the psychological effects of being a single mother.
The Mental Health Impact of Being a Single Mom
Single mothers often face a range of challenges in their day-to-day lives, including financial difficulties, limited social support, and the challenges of balancing work and childcare. These challenges can be overwhelming and can make it difficult for single mothers to provide a stable and supportive environment for their children—this fact alone is enough to affect a mother’s mental health.
Imagine desperately wanting to provide everything your child may want and need, working tirelessly, only to remain in the same cycle of financial insecurity. Many single mothers struggle to make ends meet, and may face difficult decisions about how to allocate their limited resources. They may also experience feelings of isolation, stress, and burnout as they try to manage all of their responsibilities on their own.
What Research Says About the Psychological Effects of Being a Single Mother
Existing research on single motherhood has typically focused on the challenges that single mothers face and the potential negative impacts of these challenges on both mothers and their children. These studies often involve collecting data through surveys, interviews, and other research methods, and may focus on specific aspects of single mothers’ lives, such as their financial situation, social support networks, and parenting practices. The results of these studies can help to identify the key challenges that single mothers face and can provide valuable insights into the ways in which these challenges can be addressed.
How We Can Address the Psychological Effects of Being a Single Mother?
There are a number of ways in which the challenges faced by single mothers can be addressed. The psychological effects are the symptom of a larger issue, so it’s important to look at the root causes.
One key approach to alleviate the burden from single moms include providing financial assistance, such as through government programs like welfare or food stamps, through community organizations that offer assistance with rent, utilities, or other expenses. Affordable childcare and maternity leave also have a huge impact.
How Affordable Childcare Can Help Single Mothers
Providing access to affordable childcare can help single mothers balance work and parenting responsibilities (in fact, it can help all parents with this incredibly challenging feat). As someone who lives in Canada, I am incredibly privileged in this regard. Our universal government-run daycare system (called CPEs) charges $8.85/day for everyone, regardless of income. I have had my kids in several private daycares and I have to say the CPE is the best quality daycare of them all. They offer extensive play-based developmental programming for the kids, home-cooked lunch and snacks, low teacher-student ratios, and year-round care.
The only caveat is that there are not enough of these government-funded daycare spots to fit everyone, so most parents need to start in a private daycare. These range from $45-$65/day, but the government gives you back a large chunk of that as refundable tax credit for childcare expenses (we can even get advance payments, so we get money in our bank account before the fee is due to the daycare), and this evens out to almost the exact same cost as the government daycare in the end.
I included this information because many people may not know that this program not only exists, but it also works. We are so happy and grateful to have access to this system. The Canadian system is far from perfect, but this is the one area where they nailed it. And it can work anywhere.
How Education and Training Can be a Game-Changer for Single Mothers
Education and training opportunities help single mothers improve their job prospects and increase their income. The single mothers who become a statistic are stuck in a cycle of poverty. This is a systemic issue that needs to be examined and, frankly, turned upside down. An individualistic mentality in society only serves to keep down those who are struggling—while also maintaining the status of those who are doing okay or thriving.
Sure, there are examples of those who have overcome the odds, and I have no doubt that everyone has it in them to do so “if they try hard enough”. I put that in quotes because it frustrates me: Why is it reasonable to expect those who are at a disadvantage (almost always through no fault of their own) to jump over extra hurdles to the detriment of their mental and physical health to “beat the odds” and achieve an adequate quality of life? It just doesn’t make sense. This is a question of equity versus equality, which is a topic for another post.
How Social Support Can Counter the Psychological Effects of Being a Single Mother
Beyond governmental aid, support from social networks, such as friends, family, and community organizations, can also be important in helping single mothers to cope with the challenges they face, particularly psychological ones.
There are many small things that friends and family members can do to help support single mothers in their lives. Some examples include offering to help with childcare or household chores, providing emotional support and listening to their concerns, and offering practical help, such as providing transportation to appointments or running errands.
Other ways to help might include offering advice or resources on relevant topics, such as parenting, financial management or job hunting. It is also important to be understanding and respectful of the challenges that single mothers face and to offer support without judgment. Simply being there to offer a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on can make a big difference in the life of a single mother.
Single Moms Need Mental Health Support
One important part of social support is emotional support from family and friends, but that is often not enough. When single moms are navigating hurdle after hurdle, it’s almost inevitable that mental health struggles will follow. The perception of mental health has shifted dramatically in recent years and it has become far less taboo. This is fantastic, but it is unfortunately not nearly enough (alone) to actually make a difference for many people. Therapy is still just as expensive as it always was (if not more), and is still rarely covered enough (if at all) by health insurance or medicare/medicaid.
But hey, don’t get me wrong, societal acceptance of mental health struggles is nothing to scoff at. This makes it easier for everyone to speak openly about their struggles and, at the very least, get the social support they need. But when someone is dealing with major life challenges, there’s only so much friends or family can do without sacrificing their own mental health. A professional is required.
How Organizations Provide Support to Counter the Psychological Effects of Being a Single Mother
There are many organizations in Canada and the United States that provide support to single mothers. These organizations may offer a range of services, including financial assistance, access to affordable childcare, education and training opportunities, and mental health support. This is fantastic and we need more of this.
Some organizations may focus on specific aspects of single mothers’ lives, such as providing support for single mothers who are also dealing with addiction or mental health issues. Other organizations may offer more general help, such as providing a community of support and resources for single mothers.
Here are some organizations that provide support and resources to single mothers in the United States and Canada:
- National Women’s Law Center (https://www.nwlc.org/): This organization offers resources and advocacy for women, including single mothers, on a range of issues such as education, employment, and family law.
- National Single Parent Resource Center (https://singlemothersoutreach.org/): This organization provides support and resources for single mothers, including financial assistance, housing, and education.
- Single Mothers by Choice (https://singlemothersbychoice.org/): This organization provides support and resources for women who have chosen to become single mothers, including information on adoption, assisted reproductive technology, and more.
- The National Association of Single Mothers (https://singlemothers.org/): This organization provides support, resources, and advocacy for single mothers, including financial assistance, housing, and education.
- Single Mothers’ Alliance BC (https://singlemothersalliancebc.com/): This organization provides support and resources for single mothers in British Columbia, including financial assistance, housing, and education.
- Mothers Matter Centre (https://www.mothersmattercentre.org/): This organization provides support and resources for single mothers in Toronto, including financial assistance, housing, and education.
- Single Parent Action Network (SPAN) (https://singleparentscanada.org/): This organization provides support and resources for single parents, including financial assistance, housing, and education.
- YWCA Canada (https://ywcacanada.ca/): This organization provides support and resources for women and families, including single mothers, on a range of issues such as education, employment, and housing.
These are just a few of the many organizations that offer support to single mothers. To find organizations in your area that provide support to single mothers, you can search online or contact your local government or social services agency for more information.