A new survey of 2,279 single moms explored income, work, and co-parenting. Here's what it found.

By Maressa Brown
January 15, 2021
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Research shows that when a couple splits, their kids do best when they spend equal time with both parents. In fact, 60 peer-reviewed studies have come to this conclusion. It's a message frequently championed by Emma Johnson, parenting activist and founder of the site WealthySingleMommy.com, and now, she has even more concrete proof of the downstream benefits of equal parenting. This week, Johnson published a survey of over 2,000 moms that looks at the connection between single moms' income and time-sharing. Here's what you need to know.

What the Survey Found

Johnson surveyed 2,279 single moms about their income, feelings about work and income, and their time-sharing arrangements with their kids' dads. The main takeaway: "There is a direct correlation between single-moms' income and overall well-being and time sharing-equality with their children's dads," says the activist.

Additionally, the survey found that moms who had a 50/50 parenting schedule were:

  • 54 percent more likely to earn at least $100,000 annually than moms whose kids are with them most of the time (with “visits” with the dad). 
  • More than three times (325 percent) more likely to earn $100,000 than single moms with 100 percent time with their kids.
  • More than twice as likely to earn $65,000+, and nearly three-times as likely to earn that sum than moms with 100 percent parenting time. 
  • 34 percent more likely to say they feel “awesome and proud” of being a mom compared with moms who care for their kids 100 percent of the time. 

It's no wonder that nine in 10 single moms said they could earn more money if they had more equality in their parenting time.

Unfortunately, only 1 in 8—or 13 percent—of single moms Johnson talked to had that oh-so-helpful 50/50 arrangement. And a whopping 98 percent of them reported being content with it. Meanwhile, 51 percent of single moms surveyed have their children 100 percent of the time, and about 70 percent of those moms feel parenting gets in the way of self-care versus just 50 percent of moms with 50/50 schedules.

mother hugging baby sitting on kitchen sink
Credit: Getty Images

Why These Stats Matter

Everyone wants to be able to provide more for their family, but Johnson's findings prove that 50/50 parenting could make a real dent in some serious systemic economic issues for moms in particular.

As she points out on her website, mothers overall suffer a pay gap of 29 percent, earning an average of 71 cents for every $1 earned by a dad—or an average of $16,000 less per year, according to the National Women's Law Center. And the motherhood penalty is worse for single mothers, as their pay gap is 35 percent. Johnson points out that according to Pew Research, single moms with a household of three earn just $26,000 per year on average, compared with $40,000 per year for single dads.

The Big Picture

Johnson's findings might come as no surprise to anyone who understands that unequal domestic responsibilities quash a woman's—and especially a single mom's—ability to work and earn. But many emotional and psychological factors are at play. For instance, when Johnson first began her work as a parenting activist, she heard from so many single mothers who felt an obligation to have majority time with their kids, yet, like her, resented all that time with and responsibility for their kids.

She notes, "I also saw that the moms who had more egalitarian relationships with their kids' dads, in that they each earned their own money, and shared parenting responsibilities more equally, were more likely to be thriving in their careers, and happier overall."

That said, Johnson hopes her findings and activism will promote equal rights and equal responsibility. "It is impossible to have one without the other," she says. "After all, no one asked me if it was convenient for my work schedule or social life to be the 80 percent mom—attorneys, society and the law all assume that is my job. We need to change that."

How You Can Get Involved

If you want to help create positive change for single moms, Johnson recommends joining forces with the shared parenting movement in your state, talking about empathy and equality for both men and women as well as amicable splits, and raising your voice on social media and to your reps about equally shared parenting.

"Focus on a positive message of love and equality that flies in the face of everything they've heard about divorce and parenting," says Johnson. "It may take them time to get there, but this is how change happens. It works."