Single parenthood can be one of life's biggest challenges. Seemingly overnight, women and men may find themselves assuming the responsibilities of raising their children on their own. Although in some ways these new parenting circumstances can be just as satisfying an experience as sharing parenting with a spouse, there are problems unique to single parenthood.
More than one fourth of all children in the United States live with only one parent. Most single-parent situations result from divorce, but some school-age children have experienced the death of a parent. Others may have been adopted by an unmarried individual. Children born to a mother who was never married accounted for 36 percent of all children in single-parent families in 1995.
Although single parenthood may be a dramatic change from the life you once had or imagined, it can be a workable, rewarding family situation. Particularly when it occurs in the aftermath of a divorce, it may be a more desirable circumstance than the tumultuous marriage that preceded it. Many single parents describe the contentment they feel in having put the tension and dissension of their marriage behind them, and in making a new life for themselves and their children.
Most single mothers work. If they weren't already working before their divorce, most enter the workplace during the postdivorce period. Although looking for work and finding a job to support the family can be stressful, most single mothers report that they enjoy the autonomy associated with bringing home a paycheck. In many cases they also enjoy a strong sense of satisfaction from their jobs.
As children see their mothers succeeding in the workplace, they often develop more respect for them. The children of working mothers also usually have a broadened view of what women can accomplish in life; not surprisingly, then, girls raised in single-parent households tend to see an expanded range of occupational opportunities for themselves later in life.
Although a single mother's work schedule may reduce the amount of time she spends with her children, those hours together tend to become much more precious for everyone. Single parents often develop closer relationships with their children than do parents in more traditional, two-parent families. Other relationships may become more important, too, such as the children's connections with their uncles, aunts, or grandparents.