The mental health of single parents, a public health issue

by | Health & Wellness | Oct 12, 2022 0 comments

This Monday, October 10, 2022 began the 33rd edition of the SISM, or Mental Health Information Week. The opportunity for Noo Family, a platform specialized in the support of single parents, to focus on the consequences of single parenthood on mental health.

According to the latest figures from INSEE, today one family out of 4 is a single parent in France. Even if the "traditional" model of the nuclear family is still dominant, it has experienced a decline between 2011 and 2020. This is not the case of the so-called "solo" families, which have experienced a significant increase.

While widowhood used to be the main cause of single parenthood, the explosion of divorces and separations has contributed to the sharp increase in solo parenthood.

Those who live it know: being a single mom or a single dad is a daily challenge. Putting the burden of educational and financial responsibilities on the shoulders of a single parent, reconciling professional life, school schedules, household chores, errands, homework, medical appointments... It's a belief that the energy, stamina, and mental strength of solo parents are limitless. Wrongly, of course.

The risk? Exhaustion, sometimes to the point of parental burnout. The situation concerns more than 3 million children. It is therefore a real public health issue!

This is a reality that public and private institutions are (slowly) beginning to consider, and that it is urgent to put forward. Within the framework of a necessary prevention of psycho-social risks for single parents, it seems essential that adapted support actions are developed.

The reality of single-parent families

Solo parent:
between increased mental workload and isolation

Being a single parent does not only mean being a single parent in the administrative sense of the term. The single parent allowance granted by the Caf only concerns families where the other parent does not participate at all in the child's maintenance (widowhood, or absence of recognition for example).

In many cases, especially when the parent has sole custody of the child, the isolation is just as real. Even if child support is paid, it does not always balance the loss of income due to the separation.

The parent who has primary custody (in 80% of cases, the mother), therefore, often faces an increased financial burden.

But above all, if we are to believe the many testimonies expressed in self-help groups for single parents, it is the mental burden, the lack of time for oneself, the multiplicity of tasks and responsibilities that weighs most heavily on a daily basis.

And for good reason. In the case of primary custody, a single mother will only be able to breathe, to have a little respite in her hectic daily life, every other weekend and half of the school vacations. That's not much, very little, when you have to juggle alone between the bills, the short days, your work schedule and the daycare schedule...

Not to mention insufficient sick days for children, or the lack of a relay in case of health problems of the parent.


Insufficient aid and lack of relay

Financial aid exists to support single parents, particularly in terms of childcare costs. However, depending on the situation, the support in terms of daily organization is either weak or non-existent.

The same goes for psychological support, or taking into account the situation of single parenthood in the workplace.

To these deficiencies is added the emotional fragility that a separationand the possible conflicts to manage with the other parent. It also appears that a separation can create social isolation. The single parent must therefore also face, in addition to his or her overloaded daily life, the difficulty, because of the constraints, to to maintain a social life.

It is also difficult to take care of one's mental health when one no longer has time for oneself. Especially since single families do not necessarily know where to turn for help. Or that the injunction to be a "good parent", increased in the case of single-parent families, makes them feel guilty, and encourages them to hold on, alone, whatever the cost.

But at what cost?

The impact of single parenthood on mental health

Parental burnout: an increased risk for single parents

According to the WHO, "health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

A state that is sometimes difficult to achieve when you are under almost constant pressure every day. Excessive stress can have definite consequences on health and mental health. These consequences can lead to what is called "parental burn-out", or maternal exhaustion.

Studies have confirmed that the risk of parental burnout, a form of depression, is increased in single parents.

A 2015 study of 25,000 women by researchers at Harvard University, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, confirmed that the stress caused by single parenthood not only increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, but also mental health disorders.

This stress induced by single parenthood is multifactorial:

  • precariousness
  • isolation
  • lack of time for oneself
  • exhaustion
  • mental load
  • lack of organization and psychological support

The psychoanalyst Liliane Holstein, author of the book "Le burn-out parental", confirms the results of this study. In her daily practice, she has noticed that the number of cases of parental burn-out affecting single mothers has exploded.

" For me, they are the heroines of the 21st century. They don't have any backup and are on deck 24 hours a day. They have to take care of their work and can't count on anyone: neither the grandparents who don't necessarily live next door, or babysitters who are too expensive." .

" Paradoxically, they are not necessarily those who consult the most. They are in burn-out but do not express it. For the simple reason that they have no choice. They do not say anything. Some of them may somatize it by developing serious pathologies that they pass over in silence" .

A flash survey conducted by the UDAF among 250 single parents goes in the same direction. Thus, 9 out of 10 single parents declare that raising their child alone has an impact on their health.


Noo Family, designed by and for single parents: offering concrete help

Co-founded by Marina, a single mother, the Noo Family platform aims to be a key player in the global support of single parents on a daily basis.

The site offers video consultations 6 days a week from 7am to 11pm with experts in single parenting (75% of them are, or have been, single parents!).

A solution that takes into account all aspects of a single parent's daily life:

A welcome support in the face of the lack of real and concrete support offers for single-parent families.

Other companies seem to be aware of the issue, for example by signing the single parenthood charter. Some are going further in their actions to support single parents. For example, the Uber platform recently joined forces with Noo Family to offer support sessions to its vulnerable employees.

👉 Need help?

Lawyers, psychologists, social workers, parenting coaches, life coaches, our experts in the field of single parenting are here to support you! 

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