The Ups and Downs of Raising a Child as a Single Mother

Natalie Newman profiles the daughter of a single mother who shares how it was to grow up with just one parent. Nearly a quarter of U.S. families are with single parents.

In this photo, Jenn (right) and her mom are joining friends from the Postal Union at the Silver Legacy in Reno for a fun night out. This photo was taken in 2019.

A One Bedroom, Single Parent Household Full of Love

Due to many different circumstances, many children grow up with only one adult in their household. According to official statistics, out of 11 million single parent families with children under the age of 18, 80 percent are headed by single mothers.

For some families not having two parents in the household can be very difficult but for others it brings the mothers closer to their children. For 31-year-old Jennifer (Jenn) McAdams this was the case. After Jenn’s dad left the family when she was 3 years old, she says not much changed in her life. Jenn and her mom became close and worked as a team to continue their lives as normal as possible.

Statistically it can be hard for single mothers to make enough money on their own to support themselves and their child. An estimated 59% of single mothers, according to government statistics, use a form of government assistance called SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which used to be commonly known as food stamps. There are also many other types of assistance programs that help families, including grants for single mothers in Nevada and additional resources.

A portion of mothers are able to make it without government assistance. Jenn’s mom was one of these people. Jenn’s mom worked for the postal service as a mail handler and was able to work overtime to support her family. With the extra hours Jenn’s mom was able to pay for an after school babysitter until Jenn was about 11 years-old and able to stay home by herself. Jenn and her mom stayed in a one bedroom apartment for almost all of Jenn’s childhood. “She has always been a good role model independently and being able to make sure we always have a roof over our head, food in our bellies, clothes on our backs,” Jenn said.

Jenn’s mom also made special time for the two of them to be together doing fun activities. “[My mom] always made time, we would go to the movies as an outing a lot, go out to dinner a lot, we spent a lot of time together,” Jenn said.

Jenn and her mom captured a special moment on one of their outings together. This photo was taken in 2015 and was one of the many times Jenn and her mom attended a Giants game together.

The Usefulness of Support Systems

In some scenarios extended family, like grandparents, aunt and uncles or even siblings to the single parent reaches out to help how they can. This help can come in many forms, from child care, to making food, to help paying bills when times are difficult.

“My grandparents [from her dad’s side] lived about 40 minutes to an hour away and I would go to their house every other weekend maybe. They wouldn’t give my mom money or anything but they were a good support system,” Jenn said.

Sometimes having small breaks as a single parent can help the mom’s mental state, just knowing that your child is in good hands can relieve some stress as a single mother and allow the mom to have energy to keep moving forward.

Additionally, other parents may also reach out and support where they can. This can be about having other friends who only have one parent as well or friends who have both parents.

“My best friend, her dad was more of a dad to me, he would be like hey if you need a ride anywhere, if you need me to pick you up, like let me know,”Jenn remembers. In this case Jenn did have an example of a positive male figure in her life. Unfortunately, not all children are lucky to have friends with parents willing to look after them as well when needed.

Because of how Jenn grew up she says that “ it would have been nice if I actually had a dad that was around and I hope to do that for my kids one day.” Jenn says she hopes to one day have a family of her own and be able to do everything with her kids that she was unable to do as a child.

Reporting by Natalie Newman for the Reynolds Sandbox

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Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.