Spotlight on Single Moms

At just 16, Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas is the first African-American since Dominique Dawes to represent Team USA on the Olympic gymnastics team. However, in my mind, her mom, Natalie Hawkins, also deserves a medal. A lifetime achievement award of a different stripe.


Natalie Hawkins has spent the past two decades working the hardest kind of mom-job, left to fend for herself at work and on the home front, a stereotype whose realities often are ignored, scapegoated, and denigrated by the media, politicians, teachers, and other parents: the American single mother.


Lots of married moms - and a few dads - at times feel like they are single parents. Their partners are away at work or dealing with personal issues or inexplicably unavailable to share the burdens and joys of childrearing.  But there is nothing quite as tough as truly being a single mom. There is no one else to call when the school nurse tells you your child has a broken arm but your boss says you cannot leave work; there is no second opinion on the hardest parenting calls; no one to help shoulder the economic burden of supporting children financially.  Single motherhood is the distilled essence of parenthood’s endless responsibilities, pressures and stresses.


Which is why it is gratifying, for me and hopefully all parents, to see the presidential campaign focus on winning the votes of single moms. Single women make up one quarter of the voting-age population.  They constitute one of our country’s fastest-growing demographic groups.  Lots of these voters are moms, and most lean Democratic.  Their votes will matter mightily this November.


But it is also disturbing what the candidates are NOT talking about: access to contraception and abortion, equal pay for women, workplace gender bias (which studies show is far worse for single mothers than other women), and affordable childcare. Republicans dismiss these “social  issues” as unimportant compared to our current lousy economy.  “Rome is burning - our country’s burning,” Maureen Karas, southern director for the Nevada Federation of Republican Women told the New York Times.  “And you’re concerned about these issues?  Birth control pills are like nine bucks.  That’s like two lattes.”


Good God.  This woman equates risking an unwanted pregnancy with buying Starbucks coffee?


Having another child, watching a raise go to a male colleague at work, getting notice that your local daycare center is closing due to an arbitrary change in state licensing laws - all immediately rock a family’s economic stability, especially when the family is headed by a single mom.