Tomorrow is Mother’s Day; a day set aside to recognize mothers everywhere. Most mothers will do anything to help their children. They nurture, love, provide and protect. Sometimes it is not easy.
Many mothers end up raising children on their own. They may be divorced, separated or widowed, but they are the sole parent in the home.
According to a single mother Statistics website, approximately 40 percent of children living in the United States in mother-only families were living in poverty in 2016.
Poverty is an equal opportunity affliction. Nearly two in five (38.8 percent) Black female-headed families lived in poverty; Hispanic (40.8 percent); White (30.2 percent) and Asian (29.9 percent).
Among all other ethnic groups, Native American female-headed families with children had the highest poverty rate. More than two in five (42.6 percent) were impoverished.
One third (31.6 percent) of single-mother families were “food insecure,” one-seventh (13 percent) used food pantries, and one third spent more than half their income on housing.
Across all income levels, single mothers make up the group most likely to lack health insurance.
Childcare subsidies, if the mother is eligible, are hard to obtain. In 2016, 20 states had wait lists or had frozen their intake for childcare assistance, with wait times ranging from 90 days to two years.
The majority of single mothers in the United States work more hours and yet have higher poverty rates than single mothers in other high-income countries.
The reason for this is that many employed single mothers are earning poverty wages.
About 40 percent of U.S. single parents were employed in low-wage jobs and often had no access to paid leave.
Closer to home in Radford, 18 percent of the total population does not have health insurance. About 35 percent of children live in single-family households.
In Montgomery County, it is 16 and 26 percent, respectively. Not all live in poverty, but many do.
In the NRV on this Mother’s Day, a lot of mothers may not have that special breakfast in bed, go to a fancy restaurant, or get a big bouquet of flowers.
Who is hurt when the administration in Washington rails against raising the minimum wage? What happens to families when health care affordability is cut?
Who is harmed if the state senate refuses to allow needy families to have access to Medicaid?
How can single mothers get to those poverty wage/minimum wage jobs (and sometimes two jobs are necessary to stay in an apartment and feed their children.), when they can’t get or afford childcare? How do they attend classes to improve themselves or their job opportunities?
What is it like to be a mother who is poor? They want their children to have the same opportunities as other children, but there are many things they can’t afford.
They know their children can’t get the trendy clothes others have. Their children can’t get the cool toys. Their children can’t get ice cream with friends, have the Internet or a lot of other luxuries that most take for granted.
Many mothers who are poor know how their children feel because they grew up living in poverty themselves. They couldn’t do or have those things, either. Poverty has a habit of repeating itself in consecutive generations.
Now, however, the HUD director has proposed extreme changes to federal housing subsidies, tripling rent for the poorest households. About 712,000 families would see their monthly rents rise.
Most would work if they could get a job and could afford childcare. How will they pay additional housing costs? It’s hard to pay more when you have almost nothing.
Additionally, the president recently signed an executive order directing federal agencies to expand work requirements for low-income Americans receiving Medicaid, food stamps and welfare.
These recommendations all go back to the belief that poor people are just freeloading. Some may be. Some may be acting fraudulently.
But millions of poor women and children aren’t, and to them, these measures come across as punishment for being poor and will lead to more homelessness, hunger and poverty.
Why can’t our government deal with the fraud, but help our neighbors who need it?
This Mother’s Day, some moms will have chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and will lovingly understand the mess, while others may have some toast with a little jelly but no butter or margarine because there isn’t any.
Some mothers will get expensive Hallmark cards, while others may get a card made from folded over notebook paper with penciled wording.
Some moms may go out for dinner at a favorite restaurant, while others will have the dinner staple of hot dogs and mac and cheese, although those moms might also get some chocolate ice cream at the encouragement of the kids for Mother’s Day.
Mom figures that it’s Jimmy’s birthday next week and by stretching the ice cream out to then, too, it would be okay.
The only concern is paying for part of the groceries with SNAP (food stamps) and having the man next in line scowl, shake his head and comment crossly to his wife, “Look at that. We’re paying taxes so they can buy ice cream.”
It’s not easy being poor.
Here’s to the millions of single moms who work hard, sacrifice things themselves so their children can have more, and model the virtues of perseverance, character and a good work ethic that will help keep their families together and create a brighter future for their children.
And, you know, in all those Mother’s Day scenarios, well off or poor, there is a common thread.
The kind of flowers or card isn’t what matters the most. Wildflowers or a penciled card will do just fine. It is the loving hug. It is the, “I love you, mom,” that means the world to any mother.
The love between a mother and a child transcends socioeconomic levels or circumstances. It is a common denominator that all moms around the world share.
So, Happy Mother’s Day. Know that all of your hard work, sacrifice and love is appreciated. You are often the rock of the family, and although the days may sometimes be long and the road difficult, cherish all of the tender words and small acts of love expressed by your children.
They need and love you more than you will ever know, or they may ever be able to adequately express.
Steve Frey is a writer and CEO of Ascendant Educational Services based in Radford.