Solo mothers

Solo mothers

The cost of single motherhood

How much does it cost to be a single mum? Starting with your sanity, your physical wellbeing and your career, it just might be the most expensive thing you ever do.

There are many different types of single parent, but let me specify. I’m not talking about a single parent who shares 50/50 custody with their child’s other parent. I’m not talking about a single parent who has all of their bills covered by their ex-partner. I’m talking about solo parents; parents who have complete and full sole custody of their children with absolutely zero input from anybody else.

Before we address finances, let’s take a look at the mental burden. While the human brain is a magnificent thing with the capacity of hold an abundance of information, it is most definitely not healthy for it to be on alert 24/7. When you’re a single parent, you have to think about EVERYTHING. What do I make for dinner tonight? Is there enough food in the house to last out the week or should I go shopping? Has he got clean clothes for tomorrow or do I need to put a wash on? Are his shoes getting too small? What day is his spelling test? When was his last dental checkup? Has he done his homework?….and approximately a billion other things, before even beginning to think about your own needs, household maintenance, chores, car maintenance, financial worries, job worries, your almost non-existent social life, completely non-existent love life…the list can go on. On top of all of that, there is a niggling worry that will never leave. ‘What if he falls ill?’. As a lone parent, when your child falls ill, life stops. There is nobody else to help you.

Which brings me to the next worry. ‘What if I fall ill? Who will take care of him?’ This then leads to a spiral of panicked thoughts, wondering what would happen to your child if you died, and so your already stressed out body now finds itself under even more stress. Now before you say ‘everybody deals with stress and life worries’, numerous studies have shown that single mothers are at a much higher risk of psychological and physical problems than married mothers.

As we know, mental health can have a profound effect on our physical health. But for the purpose of addressing other issues, let’s put that to the side for a moment. There are other factors that affect a solo parent’s physical wellbeing. Pure exhaustion is the first of course, from the constant labour of multiple full-time jobs (and no, I’m not just referring to external employment). Then there’s the lack of time to go to the gym or at least be consistent with it. I can hear the comments already – “just go when he’s at school! Stop being lazy!” – but what about work, studies, grocery shopping, cleaning and the million other things I have to do?

An honourable mention must go towards the careers of lone parents, destroyed by the fact that childcare costs are impossible and even finding quality childcare not far behind, as well as the fact that the mental and physical load already borne by solo parents often leaves little room for creativity or brain space for long term planning. This means that a huge proportion of lone parents are on very low incomes. According to the DWP, 44% of children with a lone parent are living in poverty, ‘due to the lack of an additional earner, low rates of maintenance payments, gender inequality in employment and pay, and childcare costs’.

Lone parents, who make up around 15% of families in the UK, often live their lives in survival mode. If you’ve ever been chased by a rabid animal or found yourself in some other fear-inducing situation, you may have noticed that it was impossible to think about anything other than your next move. Now imagine living in that state constantly.

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