The Impact of Financial Hardship on Single Parents
Struggling financially is hard for anyone. But it can be more stressful for a single parent who is trying to juggle their finances, parenting, and work, alone. With no partner to turn to for help, they are solely responsible for their family’s fate.
SpringerLink, a Family, and Economic Issues journal did a study on 15 single parents to establish the impacts that financial hardship had on them. Here is what they found out.
Even with strained finances, single parents still describe their role for feeding and taking care of their children as critical and unquestionable. They will go above and beyond to make sure that there’s food on the table. And when there’s little to eat, they would either minimize their intake or go hungry. Similarly, they would skip meals or sacrifice on personal things to be able to pay bills.
“I lost count on how many meals I skip in a month to be able to pay my bills. There are weeks where I have like $5 between me and poverty, but that has to go to water or electricity bills,” Peter, a 40-year-old father of two young children.
Most participants in the study said that they always felt too ill to eat. They cited job-related stress and the need to bring home extra money as the leading cause of feeling sick and exhausted. The accumulative stress effect that rises from constant worries about money and sole responsibility were the two leading causes of sleeplessness.
“I don’t cope that well, I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, and I can’t be happy because I always have lots of things running through my head,” Jean, a 37-year-old mother of a teenager.
Lone financial responsibility
Parents who get the primary custodial responsibility for the child(ren), are highly likely to experience the primary financial burden, which some term as big trouble. Not being able to support a family due to lack of enough finances, and having to depend on other people for help is worrying and stressful.
“It is stressful being a single provider, I feel helpless and trapped,” said Mona, a 33-year-old single mother. “I was widowed about 7 years ago, and life has never been the same again: all these time, I’ve had constant battles with finances, and to be honest, I feel stressed and miserable. Imagine having to worry every single day about how you’re going to give your children the best.”
According to the participants, financial worries were a central part of their day-to-day lives and a constant stressor which could not be avoided. The anxiety and stress about food and education were defined as being life-consuming and persistent and was, therefore, something that always occupied their minds.
“There are times when I need to buy some groceries for the house or take care of some errands, but what I have is not even half of what’s needed to accomplish that. The fact that I can’t provide for my child is consuming me; my nights are filled with cries, and days, with anxiety. I feel very depressed, but unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a way out of it,” Barbara, 29-year-old mother of one child.
Distress, frustrations and sleepless nights were shared among all the participants. They described feeling alert and anxious about everything. Some single parents said they felt as though people were judging them and even reported feeling paranoia. And like physical health, descriptions of mental health included rumination, stress, and turmoil of circumstances. Almost all participants said they are always overwhelmed.
“I feel anxious about everything, my heart pounds hard, and I’m very irritable. Sometimes, my kids bear all the rage, because I end up venting out on them. The pressures of taking care of two kids, and bills plus financial pressures get me overwhelmed; I don’t know what to do anymore, ” James, a 36-year-old dad to two young children.
A few participants who sort for professional help described having done that after hitting a crisis point, which is characterized by the stress of raising the kids alone, constant overwhelm and questionable parenting abilities.
Financial hardship is a mainstay among many single parents. The pressures that come with work, lack of enough finances and raising kids can be stressing and overwhelming. In some cases, finding an additional income stream can help reduce the financial baggage. But regardless of the situation, it’s important for single parents to find someone whom they can trust, like a friend, to share all their troubles with. They can also indulge in activities like sports and community programs to get their minds off their problems.