Rebecca Lookingbill knows the bills are important. But her children are important, too.

“[Justin] has been asking about basketball, but I’m trying to figure out, will I have enough money to put him in a basketball camp and still afford the bills?”

The mother of two — a 12-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son — has spent the last six years providing for her family by herself. The years have included tough choices — choices such as spending on things her kids need to survive or spending on things her kids need to just be kids.

“There’s a lot of, what’s the old saying, ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul,’” the 32-year-old Frederick resident said. “There’s a lot of that, definitely juggling a lot to figure out what bill needs to be paid over another one.”

Living in Frederick is not easy for single-parent families — like Lookingbill’s — and the population in the county is growing.

Local family structures are shifting slower than those across the United States. According to census data, more than 1 in 4 households in 2017 were single-parent homes. In Frederick County, the ratio was about 1 in 5, but the prevalence of single-parent homes has grown in the last 10 years.

Single parents face a variety of challenges that households with two incomes and two adults present are able to weather more easily. A lone parent must balance the role of provider, disciplinarian and fun caretaker. Shari Ostrow Scher, founder of Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership, works with families who have been separated by the criminal justice system. One of the biggest challenges for single parents is finances, she said.

“When you’re the only one responsible, it can be really tough,” Ostrow Scher said. “You’ve got to be working. You’ve got to find your child care. You’ve got to be responsible for that child’s homework at night. You’ve got to get the dinner on the table.”

Lookingbill became a single parent in 2012, after the birth of her son. Even with a job at United Healthcare, she could not pay all her bills. She and her two children moved in with her parents. They have been living “on top of each other,” which can be stressful and force discussions about what the family is going through.

These discussions usually happen between mother and daughter. While the conversations are not easy, Lookingbill said, she tries to teach her to be grateful for what they do have.

“She recognizes now that just because her friends have all the nicest things doesn’t mean that she is going to get those things,” Lookingbill said. “I’d rather her know that her mom is working her butt off to give her what she does have.”

In Frederick, single parents are more likely to be financially unstable. The United Way’s recent Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed report found that 74 percent of single-female homes and 55 percent of single-male homes in Frederick County cannot afford a basic survival budget. A single parent of one school-aged child has to make $51,852 a year, or $25.93 an hour, to meet the local cost of living.

Financial struggles have not always been tied to single-income homes. American families survived for decades on the income of one adult. In 1960, 70 percent of married couples with children lived off just the income of the father.

Today in Frederick County, 7,654 homes are led by a lone female, according to 2017 census data. These female leaders earn 1.29 percent less — or $17,300 less a year, based on an average local salary — than their male counterparts and are less likely to own their home. The most recent census data found 59.5 percent of single-female households owned their homes, compared with 68.6 percent of single-male households and 86.7 percent of married households.

When Lookingbill began looking for a house, she found market rates nearly twice her budget. She was angry, she said. She had spent years building up her credit and got approved for a loan, but still could not afford to live in the place that had been home for decades.

According to a 2016 report, Frederick County has 11,000 affordable housing units less than the county needs. Lookingbill looked for available programs to help first-time homebuyers, but did not qualify for many of them because she earned more than the various guidelines many social programs use, such as the federal poverty line.

Lookingbill did qualify for Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County’s requirements, which the organization changed this summer to respond to growing local needs. The maximum income for its home-building program moved to 80 percent of the average median income, or up to $77,450 a year for a family of four. Participants help build the house, which they purchase with a low down payment and a low-interest loan.

Habitat for Humanity is not the only local organization reevaluating its services to meet changing needs. When the Marriage Resource Center of Frederick County opened in 2005, it focused its services on improving communications and relationships for engaged or married couples. Shelley Aloi, executive director, said the center has seen a change in the types of families needing help in the community in the past few years.

“We have since adapted our services to meet the needs of the changing demographic by adding programming oriented toward healthy relationships [for single parents],” she said.

Service providers said that while the financial help available to single parents is stretched, there is often little help for the emotional needs of parents. Raising a child is more than a financial burden, Ostrow Scher said. Parents pay for the gas to transport their children, but the stress of balancing schedules also takes a toll. A parent on their own faces that burden alone.

Lookingbill credits her family and friends for getting her through the difficult moments of being a single parent. Her social network was a benefit of living in the place where she grew up.

“Without them, I don’t know where we would’ve been,” Lookingbill said.

In October, Lookingbill and her two children will move into their new home in Brunswick, which they helped build. Finally having a home of their own “means everything,” Lookingbill said.

“It’s finally a stable house for the kids, our own space,” she said. “We’re counting down the days.”

Follow Wyatt Massey on Twitter: @News4Mass.

(60) comments


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There was a time when young girls got pregnant and gave up the baby for adoption. It happened because the young couple were not ready for marriage and in many cases could not support children, even if they get married. Many had not even graduated from high school.

But there were adoption agencies and couples waiting to adopt babies that they could raise in a loving family.

That doesn't happen very often anymore and that too is part of the problem.


I find it interesting that the writer never takes up the key issue which is WHY, when it should be clear that going it alone is so difficult, do so many women continue to go down this path


You mean the path of falling in love with a man that says everything she wants to hear until she gets pregnant and he dumps her?


She appears to be a nice lady with cute kids. Where's the father (s)? No mention of the kids father (s)? Dead, Prison? She managed too have two kids 6 years apart with somebody. Why is there no mention of the Father(s)?


Sorry, how is that our business? (rhetorical question)


If the fathers are alive, they should be supporting their children. The article also mentioned some are separated because they are in prison (then they should be working in prison and sending their paychecks to support their children). It should be our business to know that the parents are doing all they can to take care of their children before asking others to do so. There are many reasons to help out others in need, but supporting deadbeat parents (male or female) is not one of them. The article makes no attempt to provide information as to how many fall into the different categories (i.e., parent dead, parent in prison, parent not paying child support, etc.).


When I saw the number of comments on this article I knew the shamers would be out in force and you all haven't disappointed. Judge not lest ye be judged. And also, there but for the grace of God go I. Keep those things in mind, eh?


"There but for the grace of God go I."

I prefer the obverse: There by the mercilessness of God go they.


God IS merciful. If you knew Him, you would know this.


You haven’t read your Bible, have you?


Proper planning goes a long way to reducing or eliminating the "there but the grace of god..." argument. Better "life skills" education in schools would be a good start.


Yes; if people would train their sons not to leave their children then this would be a good start.


It may be mostly sons, but it is daughters too. They also need better financial education including making decisions about current consumption to satisfy a want versus the saving for future needs. Don't buy a cup of starbucks coffee a day (satisfying a want) but save it for housing, food, health insurance, education for children you may want to have in the future in which education then becomes a need, etc.).


CD, I have to say your 8:38 A.M. comment is hilarious. You are a brilliant writer and a great wit. I burst out laughing heartily at the line re "...letter of apology." I haven't had a great week and I needed a real laugh. I mean it, seriously. And, to call you "subhuman" is just so ridiculous and uncalled for. The trolls don't have any bounds.


Glad I could help with a laugh, sue. [thumbup]


it's all pretty pathetic. just childish insults from both sides. such a waste.


This from one who participates in the childish insults. Yep, pretty pathetic.


It was pretty nasty, but, yah, funny. Glad that Sue laughs sometimes.


phydeaux994, now you know to explain all of which you ask would take at least 2 pages to describe completely and adequately, which this forum is not design for that. Forums are to peak your interest so that you would investigate on your own. But then I forget, Americans are lazy. They want you to lay it all for them so as to get the webmaster mad because the forum was flooded with a 2 page white paper on the subject.


And what fine nation do you hail from that allows you to pass such judgement? ps - as far as lazy, only speak for yourself.


Yes, lazy. Too lazy to learn to spell "pique" ...


My interest peaked a while back.


CDReid, your comment, "Who are these liberal communist socialists, fido?" Well, I don't call people names like fido but to answer your question, in Frederick City, at least, I suspect most people only have to look into the mirror to see who these liberal socialists/communists are.


you must have missed the class on political science. liberal socialist/communists? lol.


No Sammy, I think you're the one who missed that class;


Oh yeah, lol Sammy. [lol]


thank you, seedless.


No thanks necessary, Sammy, it's always a pleasure proving you wrong. [thumbup]


don't get your panties in a twist, seedless. i was just being polite. you familiar with the concept? besides, as usual, you are incorrect. i just don't feel like dealing with you and your smarminess. it's boring.


What was that you said about "childish insults," Sammy?


I would think the “Pro Life” community should be spending all their money and energy supporting poor women and their children, rather than trying to ensure that there are even more.

Come on pro-lifers. Time to step up. This is what you wanted.


Your lack of empathy speaks volumes. Regardless of circumstance, these women are trying their best. And this is the best you come up with? So depressing.


Hey, I’m among the people who actually contribute to programs like Habitat.

Where are the pro lifers?


This is a valid point. Right to Life is such a huge political item in this country. If all the pro lifers were part of the process raising kids from birth to 18 then there should be no need for any child to live in poverty or have unmet needs.


Vladimir, I'm a male chauvinist, eh? That such a American socialist term. I tell you what. If this country is so determined to go socialist, then it ought to do it right and adopt the Soviet style of socialism. Where men and women are guaranteed jobs from the State. And the Russian men weren't as naive as American men appear to be. In glorious Bolshevik revolutionary Soviet Russia, the women got all the heavy manual jobs and the men got jobs that allowed them to sit on their butts all day. Now, that's a socialist system, eh Comrade?


Sorry, typo. That should be, "that is such an American socialist term."


I believe that's just what the libs are shooting for, riccicc, they've been fixated on Russia for two years now.


Trump will be too, shortly, CD.


I was going to ask about the father (fathers), but MD beat me to it. I also wondered about the statement in the article, "Lookingbill became a single parent in 2012, after the birth of her son. " I never knew that having a son lead to the loss of the father. Maybe I missed something in the article.


Maybe he died. Maybe he left. What would the importance be of stating the reason in an article that has nothing to do with that reason?


If you cant feed them dont breed them! Plain and simple. SMH




This article falls short on many levels. First, I think there is a typo and the statement "...These female leaders earn 1.29 percent less — or $17,300 less a year, based on an average local salary..." should be 12.9% otherwise we're talking about salaries around $1.3 million. Even the 12.9% doesn't seem right because we'd be talking about an average salary around $134,000 for males and $116,700 for females. Next, to make the numbers more meaningful, how about a comparison to the total population or a comparison to people (single or married) with no children and percentages that own their own homes? What about account for any age differences? Then there is the statement from "founder of Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership." Well, how many of the single parent house holds have this problem? How many have had the other parent die or incapacitating illnesses? If neither of these are the case, why isn't the other parent paying for the child or children they created. Then there is the obvious questions for the specific example given in the article. The mother became pregnant at nineteen. Hardly smart unless she or her partner is mentally mature and wealthy. Generally speaking, by having a child at such a young age, the parents haven't really become financially secure enough to take care of all of their own expected needs and have money for unplanned (but sometimes frequent) events (car failure, temporary job loss etc.). No mention is made of where the father(s) is/are in this case and why aren't they paying for the children they helped to create? Maybe there needs to be more requirements before people can have children if they want others to help support them.


There are many single mothers in the world these days because there are a lot of men you should never be parents and are merely sperm donors. My family takes care of each other and will do anything for each other and the children that are in our family are loved by all. The corrupt vulture capitalism that's been going on in our country for years has created many of these problems. I'll take love over money any day. I grew up trailer trash two parents and love me and all four of us never felt deprived. Make America Love Again!


Vladimir, there are other factors involved, as well. The "corrupt vulture capitalism," as you put it, worked quite well for families in the somewhat distant past of approximately 50 or 60 years ago. There was a good home, good schools, plenty of food on the table and peace in the family. But then came the socialist/communists to create disruption and discontent making women feel like they don't want a man telling them what to do and so they divorce before they're actually ready to take on all the little details of supporting a family and being the only parent at home and all that goes with that. [surprise, surprise] The men sometimes would run into the "new boyfriend" who would, in some cases, be aggressive when the dad shows up for visiting rights. And, perhaps quite wrongly, would withhold child payment until court time to explain to the judge the situation. Most of the time the boyfriend would ignore the court order of allowing the dad to visit the children without any possible confrontation. That's just a few of the little "pesky" details that most liberal communist and socialist don't like to hear and will start arguing with me about other situations that cause this. Which are valid but they're not the only reason. Many are the reasons I stated above but, as I said already, it's just a few but it's a beginning.


Boy, that is pretty specific. Sounds like you've been there. And who are these liberal communist socialist that don't like to hear? You are not at all specific about them, except to blame them, for what you don't explain. Sounds like somebody done you wrong?


Who are these liberal communist socialists, fido? Are you asking for specific names? That would be like asking Comrade Vladimir who the corrupt vulture capitalists are whom he speaks of.


Sounds like you are a deadbeat dad male chauvinist Pig


Someone presents a valid point in their personal opinion, and you resort to cheap shot name calling, Comrade? Why aren't I surprised?


CD, just a general clue to the types he's talking about. Am I one? Do all the people commenting here that disagree with ricc fall into the "liberal communist and socialist" category? What do you guys want America to be? What are you so angry about? Why are you so bitter and unhappy? CD, the little tag team tirade you and user1 put on about John McCain and his daughter a couple of Sunday's ago was subhuman to me. You two took it way out of any human rhetoric. It was mean and cruel and degrading to a Patriot and his family. What is behind those kind of feelings you have toward any kind of human compassion?


"There are many single mothers in the world these days because there are a lot of men you should never be parents and are merely sperm donors," Comrade? As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango. Shy of being raped or the uncommon cases of birth control failure, there is no reason in this day and age for a woman to become pregnant if she doesn't want to.


Subhumans like Seedy & Jersey are a another good reason to be pro-choice.


So I'm "subhuman" now Comrade? This from one who's birth certificate is a letter of apology from the condom factory?


These comments are kind of depressing....we don't have a time machine, so debating what happened that leads to situations is moot...studies tell us, brains aren't "finished" until 26 and a lot happens before then that isn't thought out...and in my experience, adults in these situation raise kids quite aware of the single parent drawbacks. I was put up for adoption by a very sensible lady formerly engaged I have yet to meet. Love my family, but wish she'd had the support she needed, wish we'd lived in an era that allowed it but, no time machine. We can help in the present so do it or don't, if it's not your life.


CD; you have to keep in mind that the father can, and often does, leave. What can the woman do once she has the child that the father originally said he would support? Should she then give the children up for adoption?


Shiftless, I'm well aware that circumstances in people's lives change, Lord knows enough in mine have. But nowhere in my comments did I either attempt to condemn this lady for being a single parent or imply that being one is irresponsible. I am of the opinion, though, that far too many women (and girls) not only have babies when they are not mentally and financially prepared to do so, but also far too many have more babies than they can handle. Some are born in wedlock, some out of it but either way there are a lot of women out there who wouldn't be in such straits had they put more thought into planning. As for fathers who abandon their families, I know it's a drawn out process but child support is always a legal option (providing the farther is known, alive, not incarcerated , etc.) And as far as that goes, I know child support isn't an easy part of the system, but it still is a part of it. For single moms who child support isn't an option, all I can say is "Best of luck to you, you're probably going to need it."


CD, it is telling that you call out women for bad choices when they are only half of the equation. Maybe the guy is telling them he will take care of them? Who knows? He has left and THAT is the problem. Notice that "single fathers" isn't a big issue? Do you think that is because they make better choices or something? No, they leave the woman holding the bag, so to speak.


ummm..... LOVE it!! The child is getting 100% love and attention and children come first[smile][thumbup]

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