Some of the news articles about single parents described and linked to in this post are clearly inspiring but others may surprise and alarm you. They aspire to broaden our perspective and understanding of single parents and their experiences worldwide.
If you have trouble getting to these links, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send PDFs of them to you.
Single parenting and burnout go together like peanut butter and jelly — always have, always will — but the pandemic revealed how much single mothers and single fathers need their “strategic village” to parent effectively. This village typically consists of friends, neighbors, family, child care providers, babysitters, carpools, teachers and doctors. Without their involvement and support, single parents could not make it through the day. We would succumb to cynicism, exhaustion, stress, anxiety and feelings of inadequacies. Dr. Stephanie Lee, a senior director at the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit that addresses children with mental health and learning disorders, described the underlying crisis single parents endure:
“Single parents are particularly at risk in terms of isolation because of all the things they need to do on a daily basis, and they have absolutely no help to do it.”
But, we know this.
If I asked any single parent about feeling lonely, angry and depressed, I would listen to or read an outpouring of personal stories and hopefully helpful advice.
Studies cited in this article support — or validate — the reality of our existence. Suggestions to alleviate our burnout are provided, none of which are terribly surprising. Ultimately, we must endure the struggles and confront the challenges one day at a time.
More and more single women and lesbians are choosing to have children through in vitro fertilization treatments — and discovering that their decision to start a family alone or with a homosexual partner faces several challenges. In France, only heterosexual couples are eligible for medically assisted reproduction, including sperm donation. Gynecologists could go to prison and endure penalties if they provide these procedures for single women and lesbians.
Benedicte Blanchet, who lives in a Paris suburb, went to another country to receive IVF at a cost of nearly $20,000. Her son Esteban is now 3 years old. She described her experiences becoming a lone parent:
“Having a child made the whole difficult journey really worth it for me. But it’s still hard because it’s rubbed in your face that a child has to have a mother and a father. I don’t agree. My family is just as legitimate as any other, it’s just a different kind of family.”
French lawmakers now are considering legislation that would legally permit medically assisted reproduction for all women younger than 43. With this new legal advancement on the horizon, the path to parenthood faces an unexpected obstacle: depleted sperm banks. Currently, sperm donors are anonymous, but this new bill would remove this condition and require their identities to be revealed in case the child wants to know who their biological father is. Many women fear this stipulation would hinder donations further — and they may be correct.
In case you didn’t know it, single parents are a miserable lot. Ireland’s Central Statistics Office found that “approximately half [48 percent] said they often experience judgemental attitudes or exclusion as a lone parent,” according to the Life At Home CSO Pulse Survey for May and June 2021. Other findings included:
“Just under seven in 10 [68 percent] lone parents said they are often under financial pressure while four in 10 [41 percent] reported feeling lonely all or most of the time.”
It’s so thrilling to know that I am not alone — despite being lonely. (And yes, I’m being sarcastic.) Despite these depressing figures, nearly 75 percent of responders said they have someone they can depend on if they need help. Overall, these results suggest that society continues to exclude single parents and their children through carefully constructed social, cultural and economic barriers.
Maybe I should have lived elsewhere when my son needed child care. A new report from UNICEF assessed child care and parental leave policies in countries with the highest incomes to find that Luxembourg, Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Germany were the best, and Slovakia, the United States, Cyprus, Switzerland and Australia, the worst. The pandemic made matters worse with the closure of several child care facilities, few leave options, underemployment and unemployment, and inadequate health insurance. Following are some of UNICEF’s guidance for governments and private businesses:
“A mix of paid maternity, paternity and parental leave for mothers and fathers in the prenatal period and the first full year of a child’s life;
“Leave that is available to full-time staff and those in nonstandard forms of employment, such as part time, and support that includes costs related to birth and parental care for parents in other life circumstances, such as the uninsured;
“Encouragement of employers to provide inclusive and gender-sensitive paid leave entitlements, flexible work arrangements and child care support systems; and
“Alignment of child care services with other family care policies, such as universal child benefits, to reduce the risk of children’s existing inequalities being replicated in public child care settings.”
Without strong social policies, countries cannot offer sound economic policies.
A century-old law in Minnesota is hindering the enrollment of the babies of single mothers in college savings accounts through CollegeBound Saint Paul in the pursuit of privacy. The law’s original intent was to protect the women from embarrassment at a time when being a single mother was shrouded in shame. To enroll in this program, single mothers must seek out these low-interest accounts — if they even know they exist. For children of legally married couples, the enrollment is automatic unless the parents opt out of the program. The law’s concern for a single mother’s privacy, however, is not absolute. It does permit the disclosure of information about single-mother births to state health and human services departments and tribal agencies to enforce child support and administer government health care programs. So why are some lawmakers preventing the auto-enrollment of all babies? One legislator suggested that the college savings program isn’t important enough to merit an exception.
On Thursdays, I share a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent.
Starting the summer of 2021, my son, Joseph, is writing a monthly column titled In My Son’s Words where he describes his experiences as a teenager and as a child of a single parent.
Twice a month, instead of a personal post, I put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.