Single moms and their kids battle recession

Mother holds Child
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I was somewhat surprised to read in a Legal Momentum e-newsletter that single mothers have traditionally always had a higher unemployment rate than the general population. Now they say the recession’s having an even greater negative impact. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) say the unemployment rate for single mothers was 13.6% in 2009 compared to 9.3% for the population as a whole.

I know how hard-hit so many two-parent families have been by this recession—several in my family had to have the stay-at-home mom go out and get a job. And having been a single mom myself who fought like hell to pay the bills and find a new job after losing  my employment in two earlier recessions, I find it painful to think about the struggles of the single mother in today’s brutal economy. First, they are women, which means they are already more likely to be paid less than men for similar work—in every type of job, from WalMart greeter to corporate executive. Second, unlike two-parent families there’s no second person to bring in backup income. Third, since a single mom already has an important second job—raising her kids—it may literally not be possible to take on a third job or find money to pay for child care even if she could.

Whether you make $20,000 a year or $100,000, whether you’re a working married mom or a single mom, as a parent your goal is to give your child the best possible life. When I read about how families are supported in other countries such as the private/public partnership to provide child care for all kids in Finland, it makes me sad that we don’t feel more of an obligation to help all of our country’s children receive the care they deserve while their moms work or look for work.

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Begging ex-spouse for help with child care?


Saw a good post over at “Work It, Mom!” about a single mom having to “ask permission” to get the father to take responsibility so she can have some time to herself. Whereas the dad just calls up and says “I can’t make it this weekend, I’m going away” – even though it’s his scheduled time and the mom has plans she’s expected to drop.

Classic stuff. I can totally relate to this scenario of frustration. The worst part is it can feel like you’re still married to the person–which you went through the hell of divorce to get out of!–but without any of the partnership benefits (even if they were pathetically small at best).

The comments are interesting. Some claim it’s a man vs. woman thing rather than a single vs. married mom (‘cuz lots of married moms report the same thing). Others–including the lone single dad who responded–claim it’s a case of not handling the situation assertively and aggressively enough–that you’re a doormat if you let someone (male or female) get away with treating you like that.

They all have valid points. If I’m being a doormat because I don’t know how to assert myself, maybe a little training is all I need. If I’m a doormat because I don’t believe I’m worth it, a little therapy might be in order (or at least a bunch of positive affirmations).

But if your ex- (or spouse) is a pathological type who couldn’t care less about the kids and is more concerned with controlling/manipulating you–and unhappily, people like this are not uncommon–you can certainly try the assertive stuff, but you’d better take care how your kids are treated while they’re in that other’s company. And, of course, those of you who are in, or suspect you’re in, such a situation, probably already realize that issues around your children need to be handled with special care to protect them as much as possible.

How to interview a nanny/babysitter for your child


You’re about to have a baby. If you don’t plan to use a daycare center, you’ll need a reliable child care resource–a person to whose home you will bring your baby, or someone who will come to your home. How do you know if you can trust the person you’re hiring not to lose her temper or turn abusive or mistreat your child? Impossible to say? Well, no one can ever predict anything with 100% accuracy, but there are ways single moms–and every parent–can increase their chances.

This is not an exhaustive list, but asking some of these questions could be helpful in weeding out a potentially dangerous person when you’re hiring a child care person/nanny. The basic information is from the book The Gift of Fear: Survival signals that protect us from violence. The book was written by a guy who grew up in a violent home and eventually started a business in which he became advisor to stars, politicians and the U.S. government on preventing stalking, violence and murder. He says our intuition is very powerful if we just listen to it.

He cautions it’s important to look not for reasons this person might be good, but instead for reasons to DISQUALIFY when interviewing a person to care for your child. I’ve added a few of my own.

  • Don’t rely on the fact that a person acts like s/he likes animals as a sign of anything. Although a dog does react to fear because it knows a creature who’s afraid is more likely to be dangerous, author Gavin deBecker says that if your dog reacts badly to someone, it’s almost certainly your dog reacting to your own intuition. He says your problem as a human being is that you will use something your dog doesn’t have–judgment–to decide not to honor your perceptions…to ignore your intuition. But he still cautions that you not give any weight to how your animals act.
  • Ask about drug use.
  • Ask about use of alcohol.
  • Ask what her family was like when she was little. People who become violent or abusive as adults were invariably abused as children.
  • Ask “Have you ever mistreated a child?” – Even though s/he can lie about any of these questions, the way s/he answers them will give you a big boost in comfort — or discomfort — with that person.
  • Ask a close friend or trusted relative to be in the interview with you–ask them to suspend their judgment, too, and just listen carefully. If you want to eliminate someone, it can help to have a confirming opinion–and it may be that the other person might even have a stronger feeling than you do that this is the wrong candidate. Don’t ignore that.

Suspend your judgment and listen to your instincts. Start early, because it’s better to have to interview 50 people than to hire the wrong person because you’re in a hurry–or worse, because you didn’t want to be rude.