Sunday is Mother’s Day and according to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend an average of $180 on mom this year for a national total of 23.1 billion. Hallmark says 133 million Mother’s Day cards will be exchanged this year and the U.S. National Restaurant Association reports that Sunday will be this year’s most popular holiday for dining out. Indeed, Mother’s Day is an opportunity for families to acknowledge the private sacrifices made by our moms.
But Mother’s Day should also be a time when we consider the plight of mothers who are struggling and re-affirm our commitment to women’s equality and social justice. At any one time, about two thirds of single mothers work outside the home; despite a booming economy, only half are employed full-time all year long, and a quarter are jobless the entire year. Among those who were laid off or looking for work, only about 22% receive unemployment benefits.
If by some miracle, a single mom is able to find both affordable child care and a steady job, her earning power still lags significantly compared with men’s – about 78 cents on the dollar for the same job – leaving a sizable wage gap that grows even wider for women of color. African-American women earn only 64 cents, while Hispanic and Latinas fare worse, being paid just 56 cents on the dollar.
The poverty rate for single-mother families in 2017 was 34%, about five times the rate for married-couple families. More than half live in extreme poverty with incomes less than $9,900 for a family of three. One third of single mother families were “food insecure,” one seventh (13%) used food pantries, one-third spent more than half their income on housing.
Spending more than half your income on rent and a third on child care leaves little for educational expenses, which is why 40% of single parents are employed in low-wage jobs. Only one third of single mothers receive any child support and the average amount these mothers get is just $430 per month.
Being a Mom isn’t an easy job, but it’s even harder for those who are struggling to do it on their own, for those who are recent immigrants and for those who have survived violence. On this Mother’s Day, let’s make sure we are giving all moms – and by extension, their children – the same unconditional love we enjoyed from our mothers.
Better yet, let’s do that for all women.