Archive for October, 2014
In a recent survey conducted by Mothers Helpers online via social media, we asked 100 single mums in New Zealand a series of questions which they responded to anonymously so that we could better understand the challenges that they face.
Clearing Up the Stigma
Contrary to what can be portrayed by media of single mothers, the majority of those that responded to the survey had separated from a committed relationship where they were living together or married and there was only one father in the picture. Here are the statistics: 74% had one or more children to one father, and 23% had more than one child to two biological fathers. The remaining 3% had more than two fathers in the picture. 50% of mothers had been in a defacto relationship with the father and 35% were married prior to separating while just 14% said they’d never had a relationship with the father.
In a separate recent survey (again of single mothers with 100 respondents), single mothers gave their reason for leaving the relationship. 85% of the women surveyed were the ones to leave the relationship but the vast majority left for the safety and wellbeing of themselves or their children: 19% left because of physical abuse, 47% left because of psychological abuse (defined as threatening to harm, frequent shouting/name-calling or put downs or damaging property), 8% said they left due to his drug/alcohol abuse, 28% left because he cheated on them, 38% left because of frequent arguing. Three respondents described situations where they or the children were sexually abused. Just 26% left because they fell out of love, 6% left because they found someone else.
The majority of women surveyed were either working, preparing to work or looking for work. 59% either worked full time or part-time. 37% of respondents were on a sole purposes benefit and 4% were on another kind of benefit, however 18% of those were studying, 48% said they chose to be on a benefit so that they could be at home with their young children while 34% said they were looking for work but could not find work that paid more than the benefit, and 34% said they were looking for work but could not find a job. 15% said they have not looked for work due to illness or disability.
The Experiences of Parents on the Benefit
51% of single mums on a benefit experienced disrespectful treatment from the staff at WINZ at some point with 39/51 saying it happened sometimes and the remainder saying they experienced it most or all of the time. 40% of single mums on a benefit received criticism from friends or family for being on a benefit and 38% said they felt ashamed for being on a benefit – 31% sometimes hid being on a benefit from others while 21% hid it most of the time and 4% hid it all of the time because of that shame.
In a previous blog post “Mums on the DPB” we have presented some mothers’ more specific experiences.
Stress Experienced by Single Mothers
In addition to those mothers on a benefit experiencing disrespectful treatment from WINZ staff, criticism from friends or family, shame for being on a benefit to the point that they hid it from others, the vast majority of single mothers had the lion share of the day-to-day care of the children with 39% not seeing their father at all, 29% seeing their father once a month or less, 30% seeing their father once a fortnight and a mere 22% in a shared care arrangement*
62% of single mothers agreed that they found the grief/loss of the relationship somewhat, very or extremely difficult while 17% described it as slightly difficult.
87% of single mothers said that they found loneliness somewhat, very or extremely difficult. Just 8% found it slightly difficult.
89% of single mothers said that they did not get enough of a break from their children and they found this somewhat, very or extremely difficult while 7% said they found it slightly difficult.
71% of single mothers said they found financial hardship very difficult or extremely difficult with 22% saying it’s somewhat difficult – a mere 3% found financial hardship to be slightly difficult and 4% reporting they did not have an issue.
66% of single mothers found it at least somewhat difficult that friends/family chose sides following the separation from their ex.
50% of single mothers did not find the reduced time with their kids to be an issue but 23% found it very difficult or extremely difficult.
60% of single mothers found parenting responsibilities on their own very difficult or extremely difficult and another 16% described it as somewhat difficult.
The vast majority of single mothers found conflict with the ex to be a source of stress with 33% describing it as extremely difficult, 20% describing it as very difficult, 19% describing it as somewhat difficult and 13% as slightly difficult – bearing in mind that conflict with an ex-partner is likely to be more difficult at the beginning and it fluctuates which might influence answers. It is likely that at some point it is a significant source of stress for single mothers.
Just 28% of mothers found that their childrens’ emotions regarding separation were not an issue. 18% described it as extremely difficult, 20% described it as very difficult, 19% described it as somewhat difficult and 15% as slightly difficult.
While 51% reported that legal battles were not an issue (presumably were not involved in any legal process regarding care or protection), the remaining 49% of respondents had obviously had this experience and most (41 out of the 49%) described it as somewhat, very or extremely difficult.
8% of single mothers had no family support while 23% had just a little and 40% said they were stressed most of the time and 8% that they were stressed all of the time.
It isn’t any wonder that single mothers are at-risk of developing postnatal depression when you consider the amount of stress that they are going through in terms of grief and loss of their relationship, the loneliness they experience, the loss of friends/family who have chosen sides, dealing with the grief of their children, recovering from the trauma of an abusive relationship (47% described psychological abuse and 19% physical abuse, 8% described alcohol/drug abuse and a few described sexual abuse of them or the children). In addition to that they have the practical implications of parenting alone and how that affects them mentally in terms of financial hardship and not getting enough of a break from the kids – particularly since most of them had the lion share of the day-to-day care of their children. In addition to this stress, is the ongoing conflict with their ex – 49% going through the court process which can be extremely stressful.
Despite all of these challenges, single mothers invariably remain committed to raising their children in a loving and positive environment – 59% working to provide financially for their children, 34% of beneficiaries looking for work and 48% choosing to be on a benefit at great financial sacrifice to be at home for their young children (the remainder unable to work due to disability/illness). We should be applauding these single mothers for the commitment they show to their children and continuing to fight for the wellbeing of their family despite all of the incredibly stressful challenges they face. This has to be the most significantly difficult time of their life – so why is it that there are still WINZ staff that think it’s ok to treat these women with disrespect? Why is it that after losing their significant other, they now find themselves losing some of their friends or family that have “chosen the other side”? Why is it that they experience criticism for being on a benefit from friends, family – from the media, from the Government when their reasons for being on one is due to an inability to find work or driven by their belief that their children need them at home? And why is it that in 2014 (not 1954) more than half of these single mothers find they struggle under the stigma of the label of ‘solo mum’?
At the beginning of this article, Mothers Helpers shared the statistics that oppose the stereotype that has been given to single mothers and single mothers on the benefit. These statistics show that single mothers are predominantly working, committed to working or choosing to be at home with their young children for the sake of their kids. They show that mums had mostly left committed relationships with one father of their child/ren for the sake of their own or their childrens’ safety or wellbeing. Even so, Mothers Helpers wishes all single mothers to know that whatever their circumstance – whether working, studying or staying at home with their children; whether there is one or more than one father in the picture or whatever your reasons for leaving the relationship – we acknowledge that being a single mother is stressful and you deserve support rather than judgment from society. From our perspective, you have both our admiration and our support.
For all single parents but in particular those who do not have sufficient family support or you feel like you are stressed most of the time, please request help, we are here to support you. You do not have to do it all on your own.
Mothers Helpers is conducting an online survey for single fathers so we can understand their stress better. If you are a single father and you’d like to participate in this survey, you can do so at the link HERE
* Please note that in some instances there was more than one father in the picture which is why percentages do not tally to 100% when added together.
We know that you can’t just “snap out of” depression – it is a healing process just like any other illness. But when you’re feeling those blue days when you need to do something to lift your mood, how about downloading these songs on your ipod/mp3 player and sitting out with the sunshine on your face and your bare feet on the grass looking up at those big puffy clouds in that beautiful blue sky?
1. Things Will Get Better – American Authors
2. We Can Work It Out – Stevie Wonder
3. Ain’t It Fun – Paramore
4. Touch the Sky – Kanye West
5. Good Time – Owl City
6. Get Up Offa Thing – James Brown
7. Yo Hello Hooray (Everyday) – Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker
8. On Top of the World – Imagine Dragons
9. Hey Ya! – Outkast
10. What I Like About You – The Romantics
11. Happy – Pharrell Williams
12. Love on Top – Beyonce
13. Mr Blue Sky – ELO
14. Ho Hey – The Lumineers
15. Xanadu – Olivia Newton John
16. Home – Phillip Phillips
17. Crazy – Gnarls Barkley
18. Just Dance – Lady Gaga
19. I Smile – Kirk Franklin
20. Beautiful Day – U2
21. Best Day of My Life – American Authors
What are your favourites that lift your mood?