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A National Crisis in the Shadow of International Women’s Day: The Challenges of Single Moms

Today, we take the opportunity to honor women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements with the annual celebration of International Women’s Day and campaign for gender equality, and raise awareness about the continuous struggles that women face worldwide. One of the numerous issues women face today, which deserves special attention, is the challenges faced by single mothers.

The surge in single-parent households over the past few decades is a national crisis, as evident by all comparable measures. This is a uniquely American issue. The U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households. Over one in four children in the United States is raised in a single-parent household, of which 80% are headed by single mothers. Single mothers are more likely to be the sole provider in families with children under 18 and an income at or below the federal poverty level. Millions of women are solely responsible for raising their children, often with limited access to financial resources and social support.

During next Sunday’s Oscars Awards, single moms may receive a few shoutouts and acknowledgments with messages like, “Mom, you sacrificed everything to make me who I am today.” However, it’s important not to normalize these success stories as they are the exception rather than the rule. Most single moms and their children face significant challenges and are up against daunting odds.

The “Motherhood Penalty” is one of the most challenging obstacles for single moms. This is because women’s pay typically decreases when they give birth to children, but men’s pay typically improves during this period. According to research, mothers make 70 cents for every dollar the father earns, and this pay disparity worsens as their children age. This penalty has the potential to substantially influence women’s financial stability, making it more challenging for them to provide for their children and plan for their futures.

The Motherhood Penalty is a phenomenon that can be attributed to several causes, such as discrimination, gender stereotypes, and the expectations of society. It is commonly expected of women to put their roles as primary caregivers ahead of their professional advancement, which can result in lost possibilities for promotions, pay raises, and more training. Some employers may also make assumptions about the level of dedication women bring to their jobs and their availability, which can lead to bias in hiring and promotion decisions.

It is vital to a society that wishes to grow and prosper to advance gender and pay equality and improve the well-being of families, to take action to address the motherhood penalty. This includes policies supporting working parents, such as paid family leave, affordable childcare, and flexible work arrangements.

It’s time for every corporation and society at large to step up to the plate. We have surpassed the era of simply being women’s advocates or using phrases like “empowering women.” We must collectively demand comprehensive, fair, and systematic reforms that guarantee equal opportunities and pay for women, enabling them to support their children’s well-being.

Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, for as long as you can.


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