The Life of a Single Parent

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Ashlee Stutts Ms. Kao East Carolina University 5 November 2018 The Life of a Single Parent Introduction- In the early 1900's, the united states was not a very preferable place to be living for many different reasons. Hunger, poverty, worry, and passion are the perfect words describing what it was like in the 1900's. Many people struggled living distressed, never knowing what the next ""step"" for their families would be, whether it be for the better or worse. In the 1900's it was rare to see a woman raising her kids alone, or a man providing to his family without a wife. In modest terms this would be called ""single parenting"". People in that time era would view single parenting as incredibly brave and valiant for one to do.

Thesis Statement

Reflecting back on single parenting in the 1920's, it has changed for the parent and the child in their social, mental and living conditions making it harder on the parent to insure their child grows up to meet the highest standard. Once single parenting started to become rather common, parents began to struggle to keep their children fed, including their selves. In most cases this caused them to work in mills and sacrifice their life for the lives of their children. This was a very audacious action to take for the circumstances they would be in.


In this essay, I am targeting single parents, not only that but also current parents who are still married and maybe thinking about getting a divorce. Explaining the effect that it has on the children with their social interactions and mental developments. I will also be explaining the effects it has on the parent. Often people feel more sympathy for the child, but in most cases the parent is the one suffering because of the drastic change they have to go through and the new responsibilities they gain. I would like this to be an eye opener so parents who maybe thinking of getting a divorce, rethink and work things out with their loved ones.


The importance of my essay is that every family should look at morals and how they have drastically changed over time, whether it be single parenting or the divorce rates rocketing. It is very obvious that parenting is not easy but single parenting is no joke. The argument I am trying to persuade is something that should not be argued against, this is our future and we all want to see a change. Ella May Wiggin's Experience of Single Parenting- Ella May is the big reason I chose to use the word passion in the description of the 1900's, to me she shows how much passion she has for giving her family the best life she could. She was so willing and ready to see a change in what she called hers. In this paper, we will be looking back at the different ways of life and how they went about the trials and tribulations they faced. Just as Ella may having to raise her children by her lonesome, knowing that the dependence was all on her. We will also be focusing on single parenting and the way it is viewed in modern day. Single parenting in the 1920's- Single parenting in the 1900's wasn't a very common thing. In early times most, people were all about tradition, and of course single parenting was not part of the ""tradition"".

Single parenting did not earn that title until the late 1940's according to Linda Gordon (Single Parenthood, 1900, p 2). Single parenting in the early 1900's wasn't as hard as it seems to be now, no papers had to be signed, child support didn't exist, it was just a different gist than what we are used to in modern day. In the 1900's single parenting was more common for African Americans rather than for Caucasians, and this statistic is true because they would get beaten to death when in slavery and they were more prone to catching a disease. Single parents were usually single ""mothers"" because fathers in the early 1900's, leave their wife and children for one women. Women would very well struggle simply because they would have to go out, find a job, sacrifice their life just to make sure their children had food on the table. Single parenting was definitely a struggle in the 1900's and also a situation you wouldn't want to find yourself in. Single Parenting in Today's society- In today's society single parenting is just another ""thing"" It is rather normal than not normal, and it is rather common than non-common and that to me is awfully sad. For numerous reasons such as the family is being broken, the child is made to learn a new routine, the person who was left is broken. So much is changed for the parent and the child and sometimes it can't be changed. Meier stated that in modern day society single parent households increased from 9% in 1960 to 28% in 2000 (Meier, 2016, p 2).

I can only imagine how much it has gone up since 2000, it has almost been 19 years. The reason I believe for most split-up families in modern day society would be technology. Technology has so much to offer such as pornography which is a vast reason for many breakups in today's society, there's also adequate amounts of dating websites that many married men may use, simply because ""it's at the touch of their fingertips"". Single parenting is the result in all of this. The Children's Point of View including my own- I can connect with the child's point of view of having a single parent. Divorce isn't easy for any person, it doesn't just affect the parents it impacts the children such as I very drastically. My parents got separated when I turned eight making both of my parent's single parents, and I am very bad with any change that is thrown at me, so this part of my life had to be one of the hardest/drastic things I have ever been through. It was hard because I never knew where I would stay next whether it be with my mom or my dad or my nanny or my papa, it's very sad because the child never signs up to go through such a drastic change at such a young age. It affected my academic and my social life simply because I was always worried about my ""mommy and daddy"". Lee Kimmons stated, ""Children have the strong belief that there is only one right family relationship, and that is Mom and Dad being together"" (Kimmons, 1986, p 2.). In this being said, that is what most children including myself felt. Through my experience I went through a hard time watching my sweet Mom cry every night, and me being only 8 years old comprehended so much during this time, it's not the child that only needs to be looked at through the suffrage it's the parent too.

Emotional Valence on Mother's

Single parent affects the parent more than you could ever imagine. Think about it They just lost their family, they are now a one income household, they're budgeting changes, and most importantly they worry about the custody of their kids. Meier states that ""Females are more likely to play a Role in single parenting than any Male"" (Meier, 2016, p 1). In this being said she also says that ""Single mothers report less happiness and more sadness, stress, and fatigue in parenting than partnered mothers"" (Meier, 2016, p 1). Mothering experiences are generally associated with high levels of emotional well-being, although single parenthood is associated with differences in the emotional valence. Emotional Valence of single parenting is essentially the ""good""-ness and the ""bad""-ness of the event or situation the mother or father may be in, ""rather known as the specific emotions of ones doing"". (Meier, 2016, p 1). In all of this being said divorce may be distinguished as being worse in terms for the child, but if you will focus on some of the statistics, the parent in the situation often times has it worse in the emotional state than people have gratitude for.

Divorce Rates & Why?

In the Single Parenthood article, it explained ""As of 2004 68% of children lived with two married parents"" (Single Parenthood, 1900, p 2). This has drastically changed in the past 14 years. The Population Reference Bureau explained ""In 2018 34% of children lived with two married parents"" (n.d., 2001, p 2). This shows us that morals have changed, especially since the 1920's such as when Ella May Wiggins was a single parent, it was very rare to hear of. But now it seems as it is perfectly normal. The reason it is more heard of now is the reason that it is more socially acceptable, and most women and men have higher expectations than should be of their spouse, instigating a separation of marriage.

Married Parents & the Outcomes

Couples that prolong their marriage usually end up having exceedingly successful children in school and it their future jobs and in their own marriages. Crouse explained ""A family that is united is better at giving their children unconditional love and a solid foundation of nurturing, training, and discipline that will enable them to reach their fullest potential"" (Crouse, 2017, p 3). This being said it may seem easy to conclude that marriage wields some vast power over a child's life, but in reality, the question often asked is why are children of married parents more likely to thrive? Crouse stated that ""A child learns from their parent's doings, whether how they budget, how they treat other (such as their spouse) and also how their attitudes are when being conjoined with one another"" (Crouse, 2017, p 1). Crouse explained that ""when it comes to children, it is really all about the basics of a mother and father within a committed marriage"" (Crouse, 2017, p 1). And in all seriousness single parenting doesn't allow your kids to fail, because any child has the potential to fail their parents and their self in a married household or not it is just factual that in most cases children in married households have a high potential to succeed in things than children in single parent households.

The absence of Father/Mother figure as far as one income

The absence of a Mother/Father figure can really hurt the child but also the parent who may still be present in the child's life. The ""Absence of a Mother/Father"" essentially means that the parent has abandoned his or her child and has failed to come in contact with them. According to Dlugonski, he stated that ""An absent parent refers to non-custodial parent who is obligated to pay partial child support and who is physically absent from the child's home."" (Dlugonski, 2017 p. 7). Thinking about the child in this case would struggle emotionally, simply because the child may feel unwanted, and often times very questionable about the situation they may be in. The parent who is still present in the child's life has it harder financially, simply because often times people who are due to pay child support either get behind, or don't think they owe the parent anything at all since they have no contact with the child But it isn't true, single parents struggle financially because they are depending on their paycheck to pay for their bills. Their needs. Their child's needs and whatever else may be thrown at them. Ella May is an example of this, she was a single mother of a one income household knowing that everyone depended on her. Absence of the parent as far as one income becomes very stressful at times, making it very reliable to believe that the parent has financial issues with being the only one present in their child/child's life.

Ella May Wiggins & Her journey of being a Single Parent

In, The Last Ballad, Ella May Wiggins is a Single Mother of four children, her husband left her because he did not like living in the poor black community, making her a single parent. She worked a miserable job at the local mill topping nine dollars a week. She and her four children lived in very rough conditions, a small shack in a mostly black community called Stumptown. While working in the mill Ella May had no one to take care of her children so the care taking was left up to the eldest child who went by the name ""Lilly Wiggins"", In chapter 2 of The Last Ballad, Lilly explained how their daddy left them, and said ""Mother with four children, had no time to look after, one already passed away working a full time job at the mill there in Bessemer City, which back then meant she worked six days a week, probably seventy hours, maybe more sometimes If they needed her and she needed money, causing me to work just as much as her with my siblings"" (Cash, 2017, p. 54). Looking back on what Lilly explained parenting was hard back then, but single parenting effected the child more than the parent. Such as Lilly, she was stuck with a full-time job just as her mother. In today's society it is very rare you see a child raising a child such as a sibling raising a sibling such as Lilly. She was a hard worker who put down her life for her siblings, this shows that single parenting in the 1920's (Ella mays time) was rather hard for the child but not for the parent in the ""parenting situation"". Who is it harder on? The purpose of this argument was to prove that in modern day society it is harder on the parent whether it be the Mother or the Father. Meier states on page ""Mothers are more often single parents than fathers, and there is greater variation in their employment hours, each of which is associated with greater demands at home"" (Meier, 2016, p 2). In this being said mothers are far more into their children's life than any father figure is simply because they feel they are not privileged to do anything that the mother may already be doing. Throughout this article it talks about the statistics of single parenting, the employment statuses of single parenting, their emotional well-being, and their time use.

Single Mothers and Fathers go through different stages according to Meier ""throughout a year of separation a single parent goes through or than 20 physical and mental changes"". (Meier, 2016, p 1). When Meier is explaining this, it puts things in perspective, single parents often have to adjust to new lifestyles because often time they can not financially afford the house their family was living in because they had two incomes, and often times when they di stay in that specific house, they suffer mentally from the memories they may have had. They often times have to worry about their financial state, how one income will pay for them and also their child's needs, they have to worry about their child being taken by the other parent. Single parenting Is just a big change that often times people don't realize until they go through it their selves, and it is something America needs to improve, the rates should decrease rather than increase and we would all see a change in our future, because our know what? Our future is our children, so make a difference. My View on Single Parenting- Single Parenting in my perception, will never be fixed at the rate I and the nation would like to see, simply because America will never be able to fix a rapidly increasing issue, unless it is made ""illegal"" which is very doubtful. No matter the time period, single parenting will always be an issue worldwide whether it be for the child, the mother or the father. It is time to contemplate on the actions of the children who are living in single parent households, and realize it is time to come together as one to develop a child with goals, discipline and the right role models to create a greater future for our nation.


Cash, W. (2017). The last ballad. New York , NY: Harperluxe. (Chapters 1-2,7-10) --Cash, W. (2017). Chapter two: ""Ella May"". The Last Ballad: A novel (pp. 45-61). New York, NY: HarperCollins. Crouse, J. (2017).

Children at Risk: The Precarious State of Childrens Well-being in America. Routledge. Dlugonski, D., Martin, T., Mailey, E., & Pineda, E. (2017). Motives and Barriers for Physical Activity among Low-Income Black Single Mothers. Sex Roles, 77(5-6), 379-392.

Kimmons, L., & Gaston, J. A. (1986). Single Parenting: A Filmography. Family Relations, 35(1), 205. Retrieved from --Meier, A., Musick, K., Flood, S., & Dunifon, R. (2016, May 05).

Mothering Experiences: How Single Parenthood and Employment Structure the Emotional Valence of Parenting. Retrieved from

Population Reference Bureau, (2001). (n.d.). Retrieved from --Single Parenthood in 1900. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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The Life of a Single Parent. (2019, Jun 26). Retrieved March 5, 2024 , from

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