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The life of many single mothers

Dr. E. Faye WilliamsBy Dr. E. Faye Williams
Trice Edney Newswire

I know I am one of many who can say “I was raised by a single mother.” A recent study by Legal Momentum reminded us that being a single mother can be, and often is, a challenge.

It’s easy for one who comes from a two parent home to ask why so many African Americans, especially highly paid athletes, pay tribute to their mothers when the cameras turn to them. It’s almost 100 percent certain when one of us receives an honor, you’ll hear, “I thank God, and I thank my mother.”

Those aren’t just empty words. They come from deep down in the person’s soul expressing them. So many of our high achievers have come from homes where there was no one to depend upon but a single mother, grandmother or other single female.

Thinking of the harsh revelations in the Legal Momentum study, I applaud every single mother or single woman who stands in for a mother. It’s not my intention to disregard the number of single fathers who raise their families, but in most cases, their realities are not quite so harsh.

A Pew Research Center report tells us that four out of 10 mothers are the sole source of income for their families — a figure that has nearly tripled since 1960.

That doesn’t tell the whole story. When they don’t earn enough to take care of their families, there’s often no second person to whom to turn.

Despite the hardships for most single mothers, the number of single mothers has increased significantly in the last 40 to 50 years, but we’re in a new culture. The Civil Rights Movement combined with the Women’s Liberation Movement, freed women to strike out on their own.

They no longer stay in abusive relationships for the “sake of their children” or because they didn’t know where they would go, how they would pay the house note, the car note and for their children’s education.

Many feared what people would say if they left their husbands. Despite known abuse, some parents and friends would advise women to stay in the marriage because the man was a good provider! Women today rarely accept that advice. There’s no longer a stigma to raising children without a father in the home.

Still, being a single mother is not a picnic. For most, the struggle is endless. Single mothers will work two or three jobs if necessary to help their children do things they were never able to do for themselves.

Some have been blessed to raise children who’ve gone on to become huge successes — and that makes any mother happy. When their children acknowledge them right there after God, that’s truly special.

Buying the mother a house is the ultimate way a successful child has to say thank you to mom. Buying her a car, providing her with travel opportunities and other things mom never had — all of that says “I understand what you went through to help me get to where I am today.”

Even today, the national median income for single mothers is just $23,000 — only 4 percent of the wealth of single fathers. I am single without children, and I can’t imagine how I’d feed, clothe, house and educate just one child on that amount!

Again, according to the recent report from Legal Momentum, single parents account for 40 percent of low-wage workers — and most of these are women.

I applaud single mothers who manage on so little, and I understand why children who become successful come back to their communities to make life a little better for single moms who sacrifice so much for them. Congress must heed President Barack Obama’s call for increasing the minimum wage.

Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq., is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. She can be reached at www.nationalcongressbw.org  or 202.678.6788. 

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