How Workplaces Can Help Single-Mother Colleagues

Native American mom and daughter in front of a computer.

Photo Credit: Fly View Productions

Being a parent can already create a difficult work-life balance, but even greater difficulties and conflicts are faced by single parents. Employers may know their colleagues are single mothers, or these mothers may intentionally choose to withhold that information in a job interview or at work out of concern of conscious or unconscious discrimination. Regardless, employers should always cultivate and maintain a welcoming and inclusive culture for employees of all familial backgrounds. This Mother’s Day, we’d like to discuss how employers can better the work environment and overall wellbeing of their single-mother colleagues.

Provide/Advance Childcare Options and Resources

Single parents work two jobs: one that funds their household and one that maintains it. To make it easier for single parents to show up and perform well for your organization, it should be a priority to provide and/or advance childcare options and resources. This could include maintaining contacts or forging deals with local childcare providers, providing childcare vouchers, allowing for remote work, and having a dependent care flexible spending account to financially accommodate children’s needs.

Provide Accommodation for Nursing Employees

Previously, we’ve written about ways to support employees wishing to become or currently pregnant employees, but their health needs continue after they return to the workplace. Employers are required by law to accommodate nursing employees at work. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health encourages the following considerations employers can take to treat their nursing employees equitably: providing adequate break time to pump and ensuring any immediate duties be covered by someone else under their employ during that break, offering basic amenities, space, and privacy for pumping, and an area/refrigerator to store breast milk.

Consider Allowing a Flexible Work Schedule

Children of all ages have a varying set of needs, with younger children and children with disabilities being more likely to need an at-home presence. Single parents may not have another adult in the household to accommodate those needs, which is why it’s so important for employers to take the time to discuss with their single mother employees how their work schedule can be adjusted to ease the at-home work of parenting.

Normalize Resume Gaps

In recent years, more women have started to speak out about how re-entering the workforce is difficult when employers frown upon resume gaps that were necessary due to parental responsibilities. Whether it’s the the ever-increasing cost of childcare, the renegotiation of family dynamics after separation from a partner, or something else altogether, the circumstances surrounding a single mother’s resume gap likely do not represent their skill or ability to fulfill a job’s work requirements. In fact, motherhood is a job in it of itself, and involves skills that are transferrable and worthy of consideration. Encourage hiring managers at your organization to keep all of this in mind when considering a single mother for a new position.

Speak Directly with Single Parents About Their Needs

Perhaps the most important thing an employer can do for single mothers is to not presume they know what their needs are. Every mother, and every household, comes with their own needs and dynamics. Make clear to prospective single mother employees, and those already under your employ, that you are more than prepared and willing to provide reasonable accommodation for them.

Make the Company Culture More Inclusive

In addition to the employer-employee dynamic, companies should also work to ensure everyone who works alongside single mothers contributes to a culture that is inclusive and welcoming to them. Emphasize that accommodations for single mothers are not special treatment, that no one should ask invasive questions about their home life, and that no inappropriate comments about them nursing should ever be tolerated.

Ensure Your Pay Practices Are Equitable

In the past, we’ve discussed how pay disparities impact women and gender non-conforming people, as well as people of color, but those wage gaps are even more stark for single mothers (particularly single mothers of color). This year, we hope to see more and more employers dedicate their policies and practices to be geared towards equal pay.

This Mother’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate mothers and mother-like figures of all kinds. This Mother’s Day let’s all commit ourselves to creating workspaces that truly celebrate the single mothers who add incalculable value to where we work!

RALIANCE is a trusted adviser for organizations committed to building cultures that are safe, equitable, and respectful. RALIANCE offers unparalleled expertise in serving survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse which drives our mission to help organizations across sectors create inclusive environments for all. For more information, please visit


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