“No meat, no fish. These are the first words that come out of the mouth of Anita*, mother of a 4-year-old boy, to describe the consequences of the rising cost of living on her daily life. According to an INSEE report, food prices increased by 14.8% between February 2022 and February 2023. The French are hit hard. And single mothers are on the front line. This surge in prices exacerbates the consequences of the health crisis, which has caused a real impoverishment of single-parent families. 82% of them are single women with children, according to the Observatory of Inequalities.
Anita and Sandrine are among those women who, despite their jobs, have seen their purchasing power plummet further with the general rise in the cost of living. Testimonials.
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“You can eat and fill your stomach, but eating healthy is difficult”
The inflation of food products does not have the same consequences on all households. “The wealthiest – who never looked at the prices – now pay a little attention to it, the middle class is a little more limited and the most vulnerable, who were already counting their expenses, have entered a real spiral of precariousness”, explains Sarah , 36, president of the Collective of single mothers in Montreuil. This spiral worries the associations. On March 13, Secours Catholique called on the government to put in place “rapid and structural action, by increasing the resources of people in precarious situations in a sustainable way”.
“You can eat and fill your belly, but having a healthy diet is impossible. This morning I wanted to buy a zucchini, it was two euros,” says Sandrine, 37. Like Anita, the 30-something raises her three-and-a-half-year-old son alone. She has been training as an early childhood educator since September 2022. A training that gives the right to a state scholarship of 477 euros. The equivalent of an RSA. “In all, if we count the aid from CAF, I live on 1,100 euros, including a rent of 750 euros. If we withdraw all my charges, I have 200 euros left to live with my son, ”she explains.
Like all single mothers in a precarious situation, Sandrine analyzes the prices before the slightest purchase: “I do my shopping on the internet to have time to compare. Every euro counts. “I buy a lot of potatoes and sweet potatoes, these are foods that hold up well, says Anita in turn, then when possible, we add a little bit of cheese, like feta” . She currently holds a temporary position in a training company and admits having “always been in precariousness. “But Anita felt” a real precariousness in the fall of 2022 “.
The financial difficulties described by the two mothers are corroborated by the words of Olivia Barreau, president of the association My children and me: “Since the start of the school year in January 2023, the precariousness of the mothers we follow has really exploded. They are increasingly turning to food banks and solidarity grocery stores. Sandrine would like to have the time to attend these free food distributions “but they take place during my training hours”, she regrets.
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A life of sacrifice
Restrictions are part of the daily life of these women. Even more since the resurgence of inflation which pushes them to “save on the slightest pleasure” that they could have. “I don’t have the life of other parents: I don’t go to the movies, I don’t buy myself beauty products and I don’t go out”, enumerates Sandrine who recognizes that an “isolated mother puts her life between parentheses for an indefinite period”.
But these savings go beyond activities or small pleasures, they also affect food. “Sometimes I cook meat for my son, but I don’t really eat it anymore, not out of conviction, but out of necessity,” says Anita. She deprives herself: “I save on my consumption to be able to feed my child well. The temporary worker tries as best she can to limit her heating consumption, she only activates it at strategic times: “I turn it on in the morning while we’re getting ready, and in the evening before bedtime, but I remember to turn it off before sleeping and dress warmly. »
Despite their great difficulty in making ends meet, the two mothers make sure to keep “a bubble of sweetness” around their boys. “My precariousness is not part of his story. For the moment, it’s mom who manages, ”insists Anita. The two mothers are aware of the tunnel of sacrifices in which they find themselves. “Because of my training, which lasts three years, I know that my financial situation will not change for at least two and a half years,” says Sandrine. But it is a sacrifice that she is ready to make: “I do not intend to be in precarious life and always count my money to feed my son.”
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Solidarity between mothers
Anita and Sandra are part of the Collective of single mothers. This national association has several branches across the country. In Montreuil, after a long struggle, the women succeeded in obtaining a reduction in canteen costs for single mothers. “Women on the RSA benefited from a discount, but not those who are around a median income. It’s now done,” proudly asserts Sarah. “We hope to obtain the same victory in Montpellier”, launches Anita. She pays 4.65 euros per meal, “it’s not cheap,” she breathes.
In addition to initiating procedures to help precarious mothers obtain more rights, the collective also allows them to develop a fairly solid support network. “We pass on the clothes for example, it makes us a less expense item,” says Sandrine. The Montpellier branch, to which Anita is a member, is based on the same principle of mutual aid.
Their strength is intense. “In the common imagination, we are seen as being poor girls who have missed their lives, but no one suspects the strength we have”, affirms Anita, with confidence.
*This name has been changed