It is well-known that single mothers may suffer from increased economic hardship after divorce. Living on one income and paying for child-care and extra household help contribute to the overall decrease in the standard of living for single mothers in the US. What many people fail to understand is that in addition to the economic stressors placed on single-mothers, social isolation is prevalent and another source of emotional stress for single mothers. In many regards, society pays lip service to the plight of the single mother, while culturally we marginalize this group through social isolation.
In the aftermath of a divorce, a single mother is regarded quite differently than a divorced male. He is once again an “eligible” sought-after bachelor in a society that has decided that there are not enough “good men” to go around. A divorced woman, and most especially a single mother, is frequently regarded as a tragic figure, someone for whom finding love again could be likened to winning the lottery.
Friendships and family relationships change as well. Married friends often disappear, due at least in part to their discomfort with the new marital and social status of their formerly married friend. Women frequently report that almost immediately following a divorce, the world perceives them differently, and they feel that they are treated differently by friends, family, and society in general. Ask a single mother what it is like to attend a holiday or family event without a spouse/partner -- the response is overwhelming negative. Emotions range anywhere from moderate to extreme discomfort, due to the way they believe they are perceived by their married counterparts.
There is the perception that all single mothers will experience financial hardship, have difficulty with their children, and are lonely without a partner. Often, this is very far from reality. Many single mothers are raising children who are thriving, while living active, healthy, and fulfilling lives on their own.
Communication of these attitudes is subtle, and is often expressed as an attempt to empathize with the plight of the single mother. General statements that are negative in nature and imply a compromised lifestyle because of marital status may come across as judgmental to some. Single mothers also report that they are judged differently than their counterparts when it comes to having a career, owning property and child rearing. The assumption that divorce is always negative and that children will suffer adversity should be re-visited. Recent studies have shown that, contrary to the popular belief that married people are always happier and healthier than their single counterparts, the quality of the marital relationship is the true indicator for overall satisfaction and health (Lunsted-Holt, Ph.D, et al., Annals of Behavioral Medicine, March 20, 2008). The same is true for children growing up in an unhappy home. Kids who are living with a single parent who is happy fare better than those in a two-parent home wrought with conflict.