There are Halls of Fame for musicians, athletes, volunteers, and high achievers in many other fields. My quick check on Wikipedia found over 250 of them. Yet nowhere did I find recognition for one group who richly deserves it.
The number of U.S. children living with a single parent has been rising, accompanied by a decline in marriage rates and a rise in births outside of marriage. A Pew Research Center study of 130 countries, released December 12, 2019, shows that the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households. Almost a quarter of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults (23%), more than three times the share of children around the world who do so (7%).
I can’t think of a class of people that I have deeper respect for than single parents, most of whom are single moms. I have witnessed the lives and struggles of these parents juggling all the responsibilities of parenting, being the primary breadwinner, and trying to eke out some self-care just to maintain their sanity. As one single mom put it, “One of the hardest things is that you’re always on duty. Nobody is there to help make decisions or give you a break once in a while.”
According to Marriage.com, the five biggest challenges for single parents are loneliness, child discipline, self-esteem, guilt, and finances.
The money difficulties alone can be almost overwhelming. For single parents who are divorced, the financial consequences of ending a marriage nearly always mean a reduction in income and lifestyle. Even when a divorce decree mandates child support for a custodial parent, in too many cases the payments are unreliable.
Lower-income single parents with young children face an especially tough challenge: childcare. In order to provide for the kids, they need to work. In order to work, they need someone to care for the kids. Daycare is expensive and often hard to find. Grandparents or other family members don’t necessarily live nearby or have the means to help. Many single parents end up relying on a patched-together system involving daycare providers, friends, family members, tolerant employers, and luck. All too many of them are just one ordinary misfortune away from homelessness.
The pandemic only made this juggling act harder, with day care centers closing and schools going to remote learning. One of the factors behind the so-called “great resignation” was the difficulty of finding affordable daycare.
Ironically, Salary.com claims that the work stay-at-home parents do is worth a staggering $184,820. Given that the number includes a host of roles from chief financial officer and chief operating officer to laundry manager, interior designer, and conflict manager, I suspect it is largely meant for emotional impact rather than economic precision. Still, it emphasizes the huge responsibility and workload that is part of being a parent. It’s overwhelming to even imagine how single parents manage to meet that responsibility in addition to holding a full-time job.
So yes, there should be a “Single Parent of the Year” award. Ideally, the prize would not be a trophy or a medal but a more tangible form of appreciation. It might include some self-care pampering, such as a weekend in a quiet hotel with a unlimited room service, a comfortable bed, and uninterrupted control of the TV remote. Preferably while someone completely trustworthy and reliable does the laundry, cleans the house, and takes loving care of the kids.