Life is not easy at all for single mothers in Turkey
MELIHA YILDIZ- Traditional family structures in the world re changing rapidly, and the number of single-parent households are increasing. In Turkey, 22% of children in single-parent homes live with their father, and 78% with their mother. There are 2 million households consisting of mothers and children.*
2 million mothers and children have to cope with the problems of living alone. Divorce is the leading cause of single-parent homes. Mothers are getting divorces to protect themselves and their children from the physical, psychological, and economic abuse of their husbands. Fathers often desert the family for new partners. What kind of problems do mothers and children have to deal with after divorce, which is traumatic in its own right, and what are the consequences of separation in the long run?
Statistically speaking, the biggest problem faced by single-parent families is economic difficulties. Single-parent families are poorer as mothers cannot enter the labor market due to childcare responsibilities or they have to work in a job according to the child's care. It is very difficult for them to balance work and life. They are more worried about their child while they are at work. They are exposed to higher rates of mobbing in the workplace.
Mothers have to deal with many psychological problems. These include intense feelings of guilt, loneliness, anxiety, and stress. They constantly feel inadequacy about raising their children and experience anxiety surrounding many issues related to their children. They have a lot of stress about reestablishing a relationship with the father during or after the divorce.
The time that mothers are able to spare for themselves is getting shorter and shorter, just as the time they can spare for their children. They cannot pay attention to their personal care and face more health problems. They do not have time to socialize. It becomes more difficult for them to maintain relationships with both-parent families and single female friends alike, and they maintain more comfortable relationships with single mothers like themselves.
LESS FINANCIAL OPPORTUNITIES
Life is more difficult for children living with a single parent. They benefit less from material opportunities and are poorer overall. Their educational achievements are lower. They have more problems psychologically, and this is reflected in their social relationships. They have stronger bonds with their parents but have more problems with their parents than dual-parent households.
So, what are fathers doing as mothers and children try to cope with these problems? Roughly speaking, “When the father abandons the home, he also abandons the child.” After the divorce, almost all the financial and emotional responsibilities of the child fall to the mother. The laws do not protect the mother and the child, and the state does not apply the existing laws. In Turkey, fathers are parents who hardly spare any time for their children, even in marriage, and mothers are responsible for all the care of the child. The situation worsens when the father leaves home. Meeting times arranged by court decision are not followed or these times are not used efficiently. Neither does the father fully share the financial responsibilities of the child. Alimony allocated to support the partial needs of the child is not paid. The alimony paid for the needs of the children is turned into a weapon wielded in the divorce and turned into a tool to discipline the mother.
Single-parent families are alienated by society and vulnerable to social pressure. Mothers are blamed for being divorced. Divorced women are seen as a threat, especially by their married counterparts. They are also harassed by men.
The state has no procedures to support single-parent families. Only if they are very poor can they benefit from social welfare programs of non-governmental organizations or municipalities.
The traditional family structure is rapidly changing in Turkey and in the world. Of course, the aim here is not to preserve the traditional family structure; family structures may change, and family types may diversify. The important thing here is to create healthy environments for children without crushing the parents under overwhelming responsibilities.
* These figures do not include mothers who have to live with their families.
*Meliha Yildiz: She was born in 1975 in a negligent and negative home where sexual abuse, among other things, was experienced. At the age of forty-four, she recounted her sexual abuse in a video-interview, which marked the beginning of her journey from victimhood to activism. In 2021, she wrote “Sacred Isolation,” the first book in Turkey in which domestic sexual abuse is narrated from the perspective of the "victim.” She continues to share her work on child sexual abuse at https://melihayildiz.org/.