Finances, other challenges for single parents are important

There are halls of fame for musicians, athletes, volunteers, and high achievers in many other fields. My quick check on Wikipedia found over 250. Yet, I couldn’t find recognition anywhere from a band that richly deserves it.

There is no hall of fame for single parents. There is no single parent of the year award. There should be. The challenges of being a single parent are monumental.

The number of American children living with a single parent has increased, accompanied by falling marriage rates and an increase in births outside marriage. A Pew Research Center study of 130 countries, released on December 12, 2019, shows that the United States has the highest rate in the world of children living in single-parent families. Nearly a quarter of American children under the age of 18 live with a parent and no other adults (23%), more than three times the share of children worldwide (7%).

I can’t think of a class of people I have more respect for than single parents, most of whom are single mothers. I witnessed the lives and struggles of these parents juggling all the parenting responsibilities, being the primary breadwinner, and trying to take care of themselves just to maintain their sanity. As one single mother said, “One of the hardest things is that you’re always on duty. No one is there to help you 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.

Financial difficulties alone can be almost overwhelming. For divorced single parents, the financial consequences of a marriage breakdown almost always mean a reduction in income and lifestyle. Even when a divorce decree requires support for a custodial parent, in too many cases the payments are unreliable.

Low-income single parents with young children face a particularly difficult challenge: childcare. To support the children, they have to work. To work, they need someone to take care of the children. Daycare centers are expensive and often hard to find. Grandparents or other family members may not live nearby or have the means to help. Many single parents end up relying on a patchwork system involving childcare providers, friends, family members, accepting employers, and luck. Too many of them are just an ordinary misfortune of homelessness.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only made this act of juggling more difficult, with daycares closing and schools moving to remote learning. One of the factors behind the so-called “Great Resignation” was the difficulty in finding affordable child care.

Ironically, Salary.com claims the work that stay-at-home parents do is worth $184,820. Given that the number includes a host of roles from CFO and COO to laundry manager, interior designer and conflict manager, I suspect it’s largely geared towards the emotional impact rather than economic precision. Yet it emphasizes the enormous responsibility and workload that is part of parenting. It is overwhelming to even imagine how single parents manage to take on this responsibility on top of having a full-time job.

So yes, there should be a single parent of the year award. Ideally, the award would not be a trophy or medal, but a more tangible form of appreciation. This can include personal care, such as a weekend in a quiet hotel with unlimited room service, a comfortable bed, and uninterrupted TV remote control. Preferably while someone completely trustworthy and reliable does the laundry, cleans the house, and lovingly takes care of the children.

Rick Kahler is president and owner of Kahler Financial of Rapid City.

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