You may have heard people lamenting the state of traditional families in the United States. It's true that the structure of American families is changing. Single parenting in particular has become much more common in the last few decades. In 1980, only 18 percent of children were born to unmarried mothers, while in 2008 the percentage had reached almost 41, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. You may be wondering about America's single parents and what kinds of challenges and rewards they face.
The Typical Single Parent
According to the 2010 Census, there are 11.7 million families in the United States that are headed by a single parent. Of these, the vast majority are single mothers. Sixteen percent of single parents earn less than $10,000 a year, and nearly 34 percent are below the poverty level. While the words "single mother" may bring to mind someone in her early twenties, the single parents are fairly evenly spaced out among all age groups from 20 to 54.
Parenting is a tough job, and when you're single, it can be even harder. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that many single parents feel exhausted and overwhelmed by the many responsibilities that they must juggle. Economically, they are often the sole provider for their children and sometimes work multiple jobs to make ends meet. At home, they must balance parenting, housework and other duties, often scrimping on sleep or self-care to find enough time in the day. This can lead to feelings of discouragement and burnout or even serious depression.
Help for Single Parents
Because single parenting is so challenging, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends getting help in whatever way you can. Enlist responsible family members or friends to watch your child while you run errands or exercise. Join a support group for single parents and share your best parenting tricks, as well as venting your frustrations to someone who knows where you're coming from. Take advantage of the resources in your community, such as parenting classes or family sports activities. If you ever feel at the end of your rope and fear you could hurt your child, call 1-800-4-A-CHILD to reach the ChildHelp USA 24-hour hotline for help.
Becoming a Single Parent
There are many different paths that lead to single parenthood. A little under half of single mothers have never been married, while a little more than half became single parents as a result of divorce, separation or the death of a spouse, according to a 2012 report from the U. S. Census Bureau. In addition, a small number of women are choosing to use adoption or artificial insemination to have children without a partner.