Single Mothers

~ Single Mothers ~

by: Rachel Crowell, Kiira Bayman, Briana Brady, Vanessa Elberg, and Laura Schaffer


You may be asking “why are single mothers considered a culture?”.  Well, they are a culture for many reasons some of which being that they may share a similar lifestyle, set of values, experiences, support groups and beliefs.  Although single mothers can come from drastically different backgrounds and are a widespread of ages, they all have unique stories and real life troubles just like any other woman.  Movies, books, music, and even blogs have told the stories of single mothers for many years – each showing a different perspectives.  Yet, despite the differences, all single mothers can find support and comfort in knowing other women that are seeking to care for another.  Single mothers use support networks in order to find out methods and ways to work, educate themselves, relieve stress, and care for their children.

Two books – two stories about single mothers.

  A song of which many single mothers can relate to.

Some single mothers have joined the stand that education is important and aspire to promote this in the single mom community.  An increasing number of single moms have began to re-seek their education  Project Single Moms, also known as PSM, has videos seeking to prevent and educate single mothers to understand the power they have as role models for their children.

What does this culture consist of?

Since “single mothers” consists of millions of women, specific appearance, language, traditions etc cannot be pin pointed to this culture.  Some similarities are seen through the social organizations single mothers create with other single mothers and support groups online or in person.

The greatest concern for most single working mothers is how she will provide for her children; financially, emotional and physically.  There are many programs in the United States designed to help single working mothers succeed.

The website: has variety of different support methods for single mothers.  There are blogs; ways for single working mothers to communicate and share ideas.

There are many ways in which the government and communities support single moms:  we have financial support systems, nutritional programs, grants are also available to mothers to finish school.

A nutritional program available to mothers is WIC; Women, Infants, and Children program.  WIC provides education for families.  Families on WIC also have free access to registered dietitians.  In addition to receiving nutritional education and access to dietitians families also receive monthly checks that can be exchanged for food packages.  The women, infants and children receive different food packages for example “Infants can receive formula and baby food while women and children receive checks that cover cereals, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, beans or peanut butter, whole grain products, fruit juice and canned fish” (Amour, 2009).

In addition to the WIC program there are many other programs that provide nutrition to mothers and children:  Food stamps, free reduced lunch program and food for pregnant women.

Another important issue single working mothers deal with is finding a trusted caregiver.  Finding a trusted reliable caregiver can be extremely difficult.  Finding a job that recognizes the importance of family time for single parents is important and can be extremely helpful to the parent.

Single working mothers balance their schedule by staying organized and managing their time well.  One mother stated “planning and staying organized is a key ingredient, this helps to keep her from falling apart in a day of chaos”.  Day planners are often a helpful solution.  At home many mothers try to plan ahead for the week by making meals to freeze on the weekend this helps to speed up the dinner making process.

Single Mothers’ Vision Statement Music Video

Also, there is Single Parents Day on March 21st.  This holiday began in 1957 and still continues today.  This is a day for family and friends to applaud what single parents have sacrificed for their children and for the U.S as a country to have increased awareness of single parent families.

Demographics and Statistics

On Mother’s Day May 8th, 2005 the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that there are 82.5 million mothers; of these, about 10 million are single mothers with children under 18 years of age.

The number of single parents has nearly tripled since 1970 (3.8 million single parents).

In 2009 the U.S. Census estimated that there are 13.7 million single parents [both female and male].  The majority of these are women ~84% [~11.5 million] (Grall, 2009)

Steve Rawlings noted the following important facts obtained from the U.S. Census:

“About 7.3 million or 64 percent of all single parents in 1994 were White, but the incidence of one-parent situations is much higher among Blacks than Whites. Single parents accounted for almost two-thirds (65 percent) of all Black family groups1 with children present (one and two parent situations combined), compared with 25 percent among Whites.

Mothers account for the vast majority of single parents. In 1994, there were about 9.9 million single mothers versus 1.6 million single fathers. Thus, single mothers represented 86 percent of all single parents, which was about the same as their share in 1990 and only slightly lower than their proportion in 1970 and 1980.

Most single parents have either never been married or are currently divorced. In 1994, about 38 percent of single parents were never married, and about an equal share were divorced. These two categories combined accounted for 3 of every 4 single parents. The remainder were either married but not living with their spouse (20 percent) or widowed (5 percent).”

Only 79.5% of these 11.5 million single mothers are either full-time or part-time employed.

27% of them live in poverty.

~40% of these women are age 40 or older.

46% of single mothers are raising more than one child. (Wolf, 2010)

“Among custodial single mothers:

  • 22% receive Medicaid
  • 23.5% receive food stamps
  • 12% receive some form of public housing or rent subsidy
  • 5% receive receive TANF” (Wolf, 2010).

Discrimination & Cultural Differences

A single working mother in this country does not stand out physically as do those of non-European descent, and therefore one wouldn’t think she could suffer discrimination.  Put her in a job interview, though, and suddenly she stands out quite sharply.

An internet search of “discrimination single working mothers” yields almost three-quarters of a million sites.  Many of them are blogs and support groups for mothers who feel they have been discriminated against in the workplace.  Although employers are not legally able to discriminate by gender, women are more frequently asked in interviews if they will often have to miss work to care for an ailing child (Young, 2009).  In a blind study, working mothers were rated as less competent and less committed to their jobs than a woman without children, although with the same resume.  They also receive less pay.  On the other hand, fathers got higher ratings in those same categories than did men without children (Young, 2009).  Unfortunately, most single working mothers are desperate for a job, so they are not likely to stand up for equal pay and benefits at the risk of being fired.  Almost half of single working mothers in the early 1990s worked for less than $7 per hour, and a quarter worked nonstandard schedules (Lleras, 2008).

This problem of workplace discrimination is not simply going to go away.  Marriage rates are the lowest in history and from 1975 to 1993, the percentage of single working mothers in the workforce went from 8.8% to 22.1% (Boushey & O’Leary, 2010).  In 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 10.6 million single mothers, with 8 million of those in the workforce.  That compares to the 25.7 million married mothers, of which 17.8 million are working (BLS, 2008). So, yes, there are more married mothers in the workforce than non, but there are still 8 million women that are trying to balance their home and children with the mandates of at least one job.

Single working mothers have a lot on their shoulders.  They know they must work to provide for their children, but they also must provide a safe and nurturing home environment.  Lleras, using data from 1990 through 1994, showed that women with fewer preschool-aged children had a better home environment than those with more children.  She also showed that those mothers who were able to stay off welfare had a higher home environment quality than those who were frequently laid off and had to rely on welfare.  These trends make sense, but we must not jump to blaming the mothers for not retaining a job.  Remember, they are discriminated against from the start of their interview.  Federal laws requiring employers to allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for care of a child do not apply to business with less than 50 employees (McKenzie, 2003).  Even then, those regulations are not tightly monitored and, as I mentioned before, single working mothers often do not have the time or desire to advocate for themselves, for fear of losing their job.

Possible High Risk Behaviors

There are a few high risk behaviors that single mothers partake in, keep in mind this does not include all single mothers. There are varying reasons why single mothers are involved in some of these behaviors some positive and some negative. The high risk behaviors include substance abuse, prostitution, stress, poor health, lack of prenatal care while they are pregnant.

According to the Harvard Law record, many of the prostitutes not only in this country and many others are single mothers (Foohey). These mothers feel that they have no other choice but to engage in prostitution in order to survive and take care of their children. Many of them can work less hours in prostitution and make more money than working a full time job. It is also noted though that some single mothers become prostitutes in order to fill a need for not having a man in their lives and so they resort to this to make themselves feel better and to provide for their children. Many single mothers also have substance abuse problems especially those that are on welfare (Cook et. al). They often begin to drink alcohol or use other drugs because of the financial stress they are under trying to raise children on their own, hold down a job etc. and they turn to drugs and alcohol in order to try and cope. Lots of single mothers also do not have access to health care or they do not receive it even if they do have access. (Westin)  Not having health care leads to poor health in general which in itself is a high risk behavior. Because of the lack of health care it is noted that many single mothers do net get prenatal care which puts their babies at risk for having a low birth weight and other complications. Lastly single mothers are under a lot of stress which is a physiological risk. Single mothers have a lot of responsibility which can be overwhelming for some and cause them to become stressed. They are raising children on their own without the help of the father and often times have to act as the mother and the father which can be very difficult to do (Leman). They usually have to work long hours at a job just in order to make ends meet and may even be going through a divorce which can cause lots of emotional stress. All of this stress can have many negative effects on the body and can put them at risk for serious medical complications.

Cultural taboos/Tips to know?

There are several things to take note of when it comes to single working mothers. One of the first important things to take note of is the mother’s wages, work hours, and welfare not only affects the mother, but her children as well. For example, and increase in wages will probably reflect positively in the child’s work, but an increase in hours or transitioning from work to welfare will negatively affect the child’s school work and lead to more delinquency (Neblett, 2007).

Second, the mother’s age, education level, and economic resources play a large part in the quality of care she is able to provide her and her family with. If she is younger, only graduated from high school, and has little income or help from family members she will most likely not be able to provide her children with the quality of care they need. If, however, has at least graduated from college with a bachelors degree and has a greater income she will be more likely to be able to provide her family with the quality of care they need. Furthermore, if she is older, it is more likely she will be able to deal with the stressors that come with being a single working mother and will have more success in providing quality of care (Lleras, 2008).

What should a nurse know about Single Mothers as a culture?

Though there are several things a nurse or health care provider should know about single working mothers, these are the top five they should probably know:

  1. Single working mothers are the primary caretakers of their children and are “responsible for the emotional, cognitive, and physical needs of their children” (Lleras, 2008, p. 1270-1271). Nurses and health care providers need to recognize this stress in the mother’s life and assist the mother in any way they can with health care (recommending the mother to a cheaper clinic or different support systems, etc.).
  2. The number of hours and the different shifts a single working mother works can have an effect on her energy level and health (Llearas, 2008). If she is working 35 or more hours and then having to go home and take care of her children, her energy level will decline and this will impact the mother’s immune system. Furthermore, if she is working night shifts and sleeping during the day, her health may be impacted because of she is not being exposed to sunlight. Nurses and health care providers need to make sure the mother is getting plenty of physical and mental rest. Furthermore, the health care provider may need to prescribe vitamins for the mother (such as vitamin D) if she is not being exposed to sunlight.
  3. A single working mother’s income level may affect the quality of care in the household. Most importantly it may affect nutrition. Nurses and health care providers need to educate single working mothers on the importance of eating right and which foods to buy that will be nutritionally appropriate for her and her family.
  4. Nurses and health care providers need to assess single working mothers for depression and low self esteem (Lutenbacher, 2000).
  5. Nurses and health care providers need to ask about a history of childhood and previous partner abuse. A history of being abused as a child or as an adult by a partner could lead to affected mental and physical health and could affect parenting practices on their children (Lutenbacher, 2000).

Single working mother sharing about the change that “Landmark Forums” made for her and how she communicates with her children.

Thoughts From Mothers about Being Single

In Michelle Bruns article “Single moms sound off: Why they love solo parenting”  she offers a few quotes from mothers across the U.S.

Straight and narrow
“I soon discovered after the birth of my child that my husband did not share the same ideas on raising children as I did. But, now I have the freedom to teach my kids the morals and values that I feel are important, setting the tone for who they will be. It has been a healthier environment for everyone.”
– Gen M. mother of two, Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Hang time
“I struggle with the fact that I have to go to school and work and try to be a parent, but when I get home from a long day, I just have to focus on spending time with my children. I feel lucky that they still think I’m a cool enough mom to hang out with!”
– Lori C., mother of three, Henderson, NV

Lean on me
“Divorce is a tough, emotional situation. It can be even harder on the kids. But, I had the advantage of my children needing me. I didn’t have the option of being down in the dumps. I had to keep their spirits up, which in turn, kept my spirits up by default. It has even brought us closer as a new family.”
– Margaret S., mother of two, Poughkeepsie, NY

Room to grow
“Becoming a mother changes you. When my son was born, I had the stress of worrying about how my growth would affect my husband. But, when we separated, I was free to grow and change for the best of my son. I am truly blessed.”
– Vicki M., mother of one, Portland, OR

"Love Mom"

Resources for Single Mothers


Single Parent Home Blog

A Single Mom’s Story

Single Mother’s Blog


Working Mothers –


Must Mom Designer – Fulcage

“Me and Emily” by Rachel Proctor

A beautiful song for all mothers.


Amour, K.B. (2009, August 13). What is the Wic program?. Retrieved from

Boushey, H. & O’Leary, A. (2010). How Working Women Are Reshaping America’s Families and Economy and What It Means for Policymakers.  Retrieved from

Bruns, M.  Single moms sound off: why they love solo parenting. Retrieved from

Bureau of Labor and Statistics (2008).  2008 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, Current Population Survey.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Cook et al. Prevalence of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders Among Single Mothers Nearing Lifetime Welfare Eligibility Limits. Archives of General Psychiatry, 2009; 66 (3): 249 DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2008.539

Foohey, Pamela. Panel Discusses Prostitution and the Sex Industry. Harvard Law Record, 2009.

Grall, T.S. (2009, November). Custodial mothers and fathers and their child support: 2007. Retrieved from

Leman, Kevin. (2002) Say Goodbye to Stress; Stress and the Single Mom. Michigan: Baker Publishing Group Retrieved March 28, 2010

Lleras, C. (2008). Employment, work, conditions and the home environment in single-mother families. Journal of Family Issues, 29(10), 1268-1297.

Lutenbacher, M. (2000). Perceptions of health status and the relationship with abuse history and mental health in low-income single mothers. Journal of Family Nursing, 6(4), 320-340.

McKenzie, B. (2003). Dealing with Parent Discrimination.  Retrieved from

Neblett, N.G. (2007). Patterns of single mothers’ work and welfare use: what matters for children’s well-being? Journal of Family Issues, 28(8), 1083-1112.

Rawlings, S.W. (2008, July 8). Population profile of the united states. Retrieved from

U.S. Census Bureau. (2005, May 8). Mother’s day: may 8, 2005. Retrieved from

Westin, Mark. Single Mothers and Fathers have Poorer Health. Public Health Research, 2007.

Wolf, J. (2010, February 26). Single parent statistics. Retrieved from

Young, L. (2009).  The Motherhood Penalty: Working Moms Face Pay Gap Vs. Childless Peers.  Retrieved from


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