Single Mothers; How Family and Childcare Issues Affect Employment

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Single Mothers; How Family and Childcare Issues Affect Employment

In fall of 2009 Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, a 21-year-old Army cook and single parent, was days from deploying to Afghanistan for a year when her mother backed out of an agreement to take care of her 10-month-old son for the duration of her tour. Her mother, Angelique Hughes, had a child of her own at home and was also caring for a sick sister while running a day care from her home in California. Feeling overwhelmed, Ms. Hughes took the boy back to Georgia, where Specialist Hutchinson was based, and begged her to find someone else. Specialist Hutchinson chose to stay home with her son and missed her flight to Afghanistan. She was arrested and later charged with offenses that could have led to a court-martial and jail time. She eventually received an other-than-honorable discharge, ending an incident that surprised many legal experts and spurred debate within military circles. (Dao, 2010)

Why did this story make news? What was odd about this young woman refusing to go to war when thousands of single mothers have gone off to war in both Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001? I think it became a story because it highlighted a larger national problem that I’ve witnessed of single female parents who had to make hard choices for the welfare of their children because of their job (employment). My aim is to discuss the difficulties associated with single parenthood and how it affects childcare and employment. Lastly, I’ll focus on two solutions that will help alleviate this problem

The last snapshot of the American family, taken by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000, looked markedly different from previous years. Divorced parents, stepparents, adoptive parents, unmarried biological parents who live together, gay parents, and single parents raising a child on their own- all add up to the most astonishing revelation: The "typical" family of married parents and their biological children accounts for fewer than a quarter of all U.S. households. Almost a third of all children in the U.S. (20 million) are growing up in single parent homes, more than 80 percent of them headed by single moms.

Since 1990 the number of households headed by single mothers has increased more than three times faster than the number of married two parent homes. Unlike celebrity single mothers, these moms still struggle to pay the rent and the daycare bill and can be an inner-city teen, a fortysomething suburban mom or anyone in between. Divorce is still the most common way in which women become single parents, but that's also changing. Today, over 40 percent of single mothers have never been married, and they're becoming parents in ways that reflect a significant cultural shift in attitude. (Renkl, 2001)

Single-parent families in today's society have their share of daily struggles and long-term disadvantages. The issues of expensive day care, shortage of quality time with children, balance of work and home duties, and economic struggle are among the seemingly endless problems these families must solve. Because many single-parent households are female-headed, their economic burden is much greater than that of a single-father family. This issue results from the fact that single women typically do not earn the same income as a single man; thus, there is a consequent economic struggle not experienced in the single-father household.

An offshoot of this economic struggle is the balance of work and family duties. Single mothers often work overtime shifts to compensate for low salaries, thus taking time away from their children and other domestic chores. This results in a child that is home alone, without adult supervision, or placed in a daycare service for up to 8 to10 hours per day for large fees for this service.

A great majority of singe parents raise children with less income and time than two-parent families. For most single parents, child care is a necessary work-related expense,...
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