Single parenting is on the rise. There are about 14% of children worldwide living in single-parent homes (1). Around 86% of single-parent households in the US are led by mothers (2), and the number of homes with single fathers is increasing too. About 3 million minor children live with single dads, while around 19 million minor children live with single moms (3).
As the number of single-parent households is steadily increasing, there’s a large disparity in the way parents are acknowledged with different gender-based expectations. Keep reading this post to get an insight on the single mothers vs. single fathers discussion so we can extend our maximum support to single-parent households.
Difference Between Single Father vs. Single Mother
The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has defined single parents are those who are living with at least one biological or adopted child and are not with their partners for varied reasons such as separation, divorce, widowed, single, never married, or not living with a partner (4).
While single parenting is difficult irrespective of gender, there are some glaring differences the single parents of either gender have to face.
Single mother issues
Single mothers face a lot of problems, and society has certain presumed viewpoints. Here are some of them.
1. Involvement at school
Single mothers often are judged based on how much they do for their children. While most single mothers have to work to run the household, they are cut no slack for not attending parent-teacher meetings, sports events, or school events.
2. Lesser salary
3. Less education
Many single mothers are younger and lesser-educated as compared to single fathers (6). This, in turn, hampers them from taking up high-paying jobs and hence, leads to a poorer quality of life.
4. Involvement in activities
Single mothers are judged harshly if their children miss homework or if they are late for school. They are expected to take up the slack without any support and be perfect at all times.
Single father issues
Here are some positive and negative presumptions of single fathers in society.
1. Expectations of less involvement
When a single father does something for his children, he is praised and asked whether the children’s mother is absent. Unfortunately, not many believe that a father can do as much as a mother for their children.
2. Expectations of incompetence
Single fathers are typically assumed as people who cannot manage to change a diaper or dress their children. If they do it well, they are praised. If they don’t, they are criticized. That’s how society perceives them.
3. Reservations in other parents
If a single father’s children have female friends, their parents are less likely to send the girls over to their (the single father’s) house as not many people can trust them.
4. Continual defaults
A child’s mother is usually considered to be the person of contact in all situations. It is common for school authorities or other parents to prefer the child’s mother rather than speaking to the father.
How To Support Single Parents?
Single parents face difficulties irrespective of gender. However, there are some things we can do to support them.
1. Increase resources for single fathers
While it is widely recognized that single parents of any gender have to overcome several difficulties, more resources available for single mothers than for single fathers. This could be because women have been the majority of single parents, so there are not many resources for single fathers.
Single mothers have a greater risk of mortality, poor physical and mental health, higher rates of psychological distress, and lower socioeconomic status than married or partnered women (1). However, such statistics for single fathers are largely undiscovered.
Single fathers also lack support from groups and forums. Most online forums and non-profit organizations support single mothers. Men also face difficulties in basic activities such as changing a diaper in a public toilet because there are no changing stations in a men’s restroom. We can initiate discussions on these and urge the people in authority to have support systems for single fathers.
2. Promote equality in childcare
Many parents raise boys to become breadwinners and girls to take care of the household and children in the future. This is a major setback in situations where a partner cannot or does not contribute to tasks.
Parents need to impress upon their children that tasks have no gender and every gender can do any task. They must start promoting equality in boys and girls in nurturing, childcare, and household chores. They should also make sure that their children know that they can make their own choices when they grow up. If a woman decides she doesn’t want children or if a man decides to take care of the house, they should not be shamed. Boys can mingle more with single dads to normalize the activities of childcare or managing a home.
3. Acknowledge the challenges both genders face
Single parents, regardless of gender, face a lot of issues. They have to, in other words, pick up the work of the other partner and do it all within the same time. Single dads have to manage their work and household chores. Single moms have to devote more time to outside work (if they are not working full-time) and manage the home.
Apart from these, they have to explain to their children the absence of their other parent. If there has been a sticky divorce, children are likely to be resentful of either parent. The parent has to take care of the children’s mental and physical health as well. In this case, single dads find it a bit easier as people tend to praise them for little things while single mothers are scrutinized at every point.
The governments and private organizations must step up and support single parents. More leaves, flexible working hours, facilities to work from home whenever possible, financial support, and societal understanding will make life much easier for single parents.
2. The Hard Truth: Single Moms vs Single Dads, Single Parent Project
3. More Children Live With Just Their Fathers Than a Decade Ago, United States Census Bureau (2017)
4. Families are changing, Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (2011)
5. A Hegewisch and Z Barsi; The Gender Wage Gap: 2019 Earnings Differences by Race and Ethnicity, Institute for Women’s Policy Research (2020)
6. Kasey J. Eickmeyer, American Children’s Family Structure: Single-Parent Families, Bowling Green State University (2017)