Is Being a Single Mom Bad For Your Health?
Being a single mother is definitely tough, but is it also bad for your health?
A recently released 30-year study on single mothers showed that women who had their first child outside of marriage reported being less healthy in their 40s than women who had children after marriage.
As a single mother approaching 40, this is soo not the news I need right now.
The study researchers see this as a potential public health problem because about 40% of newborns in the U.S. are born to single moms, compared to just 10 percent in 1960, so there could be a looming health crisis as these single mothers enter midlife.
I see it as a wake up call to single mothers like me, who may, like me, let their own health issues take a back seat. Between working and looking after two children, I really don’t have the time to devote to doing the things like exercising regularly and having de-stressing activities on any consistent basis.
And I must admit, when it comes to making time to get the kids to the doctor and making time to get myself to the doctor—the kids always go. Me? Not so much.
The study also said that even marriage after motherhood didn’t fully remedy the health situation, unless she married the biological father, remained married to him, and was white or Hispanic. Sheesh!! There was no beneficial effect of later marriage for black mothers, the researchers said.
Which sucks for me. Especially since I am a black woman who had my first child out of marriage, married the biological father, and then had a second child after marriage, and am now divorced.
Although the researchers didn’t determine why single mothers had poorer health, the researchers speculated that it may be due to the stress and financial strain that comes with single motherhood.
Being a single mother is very stressful. Especially if you're coming into it after the financial implications of a divorce or don’t have the family support to help your sanity. In fact, I’m sure the strong family networks of Latino women is the reason why their health is less impacted among women of color.
And stress has been proven to lead to all sorts of health problems—including the ulcers I developed, and more life threatening problems such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
The tragic irony is that with little support and being the primary caregiver, the children of single mothers need their moms as healthy as possible. They are doing the job that typically two people struggle with and if that single mom falls ill, there is very likely no back up person. That is why the best advice for single moms like myself, and trust me, I’m a work in progress here, is to remember the old airplane adage. We have to put our own masks on first, if we want to take the best care of our children.
I hope the study on the next 30 years of single moms will yield different results.