Single mothers' voices in the 1990s : an exploration of economics, choices, and relationships

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Female-headed households fom an important group in North Arnerica. Unforhmately,
many single mothers and their children are living at or below the poverty line, which means
financial strain plays a prominent role in their lives. Being a single mother means making
difficult choices on a daily bais because they are the sole breadwianers and child rearers in their
families, and poverty only intensifies the cons?aints under which these choices are made. Single
mothers' relationships with their children and their children's fathers are a significant part of
their lives whether these relationships are positive or negative.
Ten single mothers were interviewed with open-ended questions concerning three areas:
economics, choices, and relationships. These ten women were al1 living with their children and without a partner at the time of the interview. Some of the women came from diverse social locations. For example, one woman was First Nations, one was a lesbian, one was bi-sexual, one
had a special needs daughter, and two women had mixed race children.
Single mothers generally enjoyed being the heads of their households, but financial and
t h e cons?aints made being the sole breadwinner and child rearer very difficult. The participants
were asked about the choices they made when they became pregnant and when they became
single mothers. Some women became pregnant intentionally while others became pregnant
uninteniionally as a result of failed b i control. Al1 participants chose to become single
moihers because of problems in the relationship with the child's father. For some participants this choice was fuaher constrained by an abusive partner or their own sexual orientation. Many of the participants and their children experienced discrimination based on their belonging to a
lone-mother household. Inadequate child support payments as weli as sporadic involvement by the children's fathers contributed to the stress experienced by these single rnothers. Additioaal
constraints were experienced by the participants who were exchded h m the dominant culture.
These constraints further reduced these mothers' choices. The participants requested more beneficial socid program such as higher daycare subsidies, diable child support payrnents, and consistent involvement of the children's fathers.
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