This is a topic that has long been on my “To Write” list, but I find it so complex that I never know where to start.  The issue of single parenting is a beast.

I recently found out that someone I know of had split up with her husband and is now on her own to care for four children, all under the age of thirteen.  All I could think about was, “Four kids!” and started experiencing minor shortness of breath – empathy stress, I call it.

I think often about the single moms who are living in what is known as “priority neighbourhoods” in Toronto.  Single parent households are not uncommon in those parts.  These moms have to work full-time, and some are likely to study part-time in order to better support their kids.  I can’t help but wonder how they muster up the energy to live life.

The common refrain: when you don’t have a choice, you always find a way.  But in a country as rich as ours, does it need to be this way?  Let’s leave the circumstances that led to to the single parent situation out of the conversation for now; it’s too easy to judge. (You’re raising your eyebrows.  I know, I know: me, who is always talking about accountability and taking responsibility for your choices; blah blah blah…)

Without a support system, how could these mothers properly raise their children?  If a child falls ill and mom has to stay home, losing a day of income for her is not insignificant.  She doesn’t have any other options.  Meanwhile, her daycare will still charge her for that lost day.  In order to continue to afford that daycare, she has to take courses in the evenings in the hopes of getting a better paying job.  She has to leave little Michael at her mother’s for the evening (if she’s fortuitous enough to have that support).  She’ll pick him up when he’s already asleep and then she’ll barely have twenty minutes to spend with him the next morning while rushing to get him back off to daycare.  On weekends, she has to do coursework and study.  She’s lucky if she can find half an hour to make a stop for milk, bread and eggs – if she can even afford it.

If Michael is up at 4 in the morning because he’s not feeling well, she doesn’t have the option to have her husband get up and tend to him because she has to be up for work in two hours.  She can’t consult for a second opinion if symptoms get worse.  There’s nothing more stressful and worrisome than a child who becomes progressively more ill – that’s when I count on FuBu the most to help me determine what our next course of action should be.  I’m not qualified to make that decision alone, under duress.

While we have come to accept that a “family” in the conventional meaning is no longer that common and can have different compositions, it’s clear that it does take a village to raise a child.  One parent cannot do it alone.  Of course I don’t always like the stories behind how a single mom came to be a single mom, but once a child is involved, how can we let that child go hungry, live in poverty, go uneducated and go unloved?  So while we boast about the foster children we support in Africa, let’s not forget our own.

Coincidentally (really coincidentally; this post wasn’t intended as an advertisement!), United Way recently kicked off its annual fundraising campaign, setting a lofty goal of $116 million, to support worthy community organizations such as Women Moving Forward that help single moms get a better education and overcome poverty to better their children’s lives.  I think it’s important sometimes to step back and look in our own backyards.

Do you know any single parents with inspirational stories?