Employment problems cause some of most serious difficulties

Work is the most serious problem for single mothers, who are often not qualified for well-paying jobs. «There are mothers who feed their children daily through charity,» Stefanidi says. «There are mothers who go to hospitals daily to get milk for their children.» Kogkidou gleaned a considerable amount of information about the state of single mothers during research for her book «Family Policy Issues.» Here is a selection of a typical single mother’s perspective: «I worked before I gave birth. Afterward, everything changed fundamentally in my life and my work, because now I had to take care of a child. Government day-care centers dealt with me in the worst possible way and, at some point, I stopped taking my child there and started taking various odd jobs.» The child-care system does not cover the needs of single-parent households, Kogkidou writes. As another single mother in her book says: «Who is going to take care of your baby when you need to be at work? Day-care hours don’t coincide with work hours.» Tsitsipa says many single mothers who do work are underemployed – and therefore still not earning enough money to take care of their family. They work as baby-sitters, clean homes or do sewing at home,» Tsitsipa says. «They don’t even have healthcare. They also have a lot of problems with their children. Several women leave their jobs when they get married, because they believe they have found the perfect spouse. As life goes on, they see their mistake, but it’s too late to re-enter the workplace.» Stefanidi gives another perspective. «There are also divorced women who are supported by their parents,» she says. «An elderly father works in construction, a mother cleans staircases and the daughter walks around dressed to the nines and takes her daughter to ballet.» The standard of life for single mothers can improve or plummet based on the mother’s relationship with her family. But the support isn’t limitless, Kogkidou emphasizes. The same point of view comes from Stefanidi and Tsitsipa. «The immediate family doesn’t always support the single mother, even when she has serious problems,» Tsitsipa says. «It supports the institution of marriage. And when the woman leaves a marriage, she has to deal with the loss of a husband, increased responsibilities, an economic burden and the absence of a family environment.» A Greek woman who divorces and has children can only rarely rebuild a life for herself,» she continues. «Men have a hard time accepting a woman with children and getting involved in their problems. The situation is even harder for an unwed mother. There was a divorced man who liked a woman in our group, but the woman was an unwed mother, and he said ‘If she was divorced I would have asked her out. But because she was an unmarried mother, I didn’t do it.» Stefanidi adds: «I want to emphasize that single-parent households don’t mean there is an absence of family. A single-parent family can, when there is support, establish itself – with great effort, courage and spirit. Every child needs both parents. But how? When the parents are healthy, stable people who will give their children positive examples that will help them as they grow up. Why should a child watch one of his or her parents get beaten up? On the other hand, it’s not healthy to have a parent completely dependent on a child, and not look after her or his own life.»