Being a single mom is HARD. It’s probably the hardest job you’ll ever have. Seriously.
For the majority of single moms I’ve known, making ends meet can be a struggle. Not only are you fighting against a glass ceiling that keeps you paid less than a man with the same qualifications, but now you have kids in the mix that you have to take care of. It doesn’t matter whether you have 1, 2, 3 kids or more, it’s always going to be difficult raising a child on one income. (Although the more kids you have, the harder it gets.)
And if you don’t have a college degree, finding a job where you can make an actual livable wage is like finding a needle in a haystack.
When I was a single mom, I can’t tell you how many times I cried myself to sleep at night thinking – why is living so hard?
A lot of divorced women – myself included – went through a period of time while they were married wondering if it was easier to just stay in a loveless marriage with someone you weren’t right for, just so you didn’t have to struggle financially…
I’m gonna be honest with you.
The answer to that question isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Those who have never been in that situation think “of course you shouldn’t stay married!” or “what a ridiculous question – woman-up and leave!”
But the fact is, struggling financially as a single mother can break even the toughest of ladies.
Not only are you battling a problem that millions of others struggle with, but you’re doing it alone.
When you can’t afford to keep your lights on, when your vehicle gets repossessed because of non-payments, when you find yourself digging a grave of credit card debt just to pay your bills… Life can feel hopeless in these moments. It’ll make you wonder if you made the right decision. It’ll make you wonder if the depression and affairs would have been better than this financial despair.
But it is worth it. And you can do it.
And when you make it through this challenge, you’ll be so proud of yourself.
You are a strong, resilient human being who took it upon herself to find her own independence, away from the abuse, away from being controlled, away from the depressive circumstance, or WHATEVER the reason was you walked away. And you will make it.
It’s going to be long, it’s going to be hard, you’re going to want to give up at times… but if you’re determined and optimistic, you can give your children a better life.
And here’s how.
How to Survive as a Single Mom
You are not alone.
As a single mom, one of the worst things you can do is isolate yourself. DON’T DO IT! I know as a fellow introvert, this can be a natural reaction to adverse circumstances in life… You get depressed, you isolate yourself, now you’re even more depressed.
You need friends. A community. You need a TRIBE.
You need MOM friends, friends who can sympathize with your situation and help you through it. Moms who have been in your shoes, who can relate, who can offer guidance and assistance free of charge!
Whether you find them through church, work, local mommy groups, or even through social media – having other women to talk to can feel like a beacon of hope. So wipe those tears from your eyes and start building life-affirming relationships!
Family is another vital resource when you’re dealing with being a single mom. But for some of us, this isn’t always a stable group to turn to.
A loving family is there for you no matter what, even if they don’t agree with your life choices. And trust me, there are plenty of people out there who will look down on you for that divorce, or for whatever it is they think you did. (Not just old-fashioned family members.)
But you know what?
Their opinions don’t matter.
[bctt tweet=”Their opinions don’t matter.” username=”kandyapplemama”]
If you have family nearby who are eager to help, by all means accept it! Do NOT let pride or stubbornness stand in your way of accepting help from the very family who loves you.
But if you don’t have family around to lend a helping hand, turn to friends! The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” has more than one meaning. And one of them, is that you shouldn’t go it alone. Not completely, anyway. You need support, a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand, a sympathetic mentor. Being part of a community (or TRIBE) is vital for not only forming lasting relationships, but in helping you keep your sanity, as well.
#2. Role Models
Whenever you’re aiming for your dream job in a certain field or industry, it’s a great idea to find mentors or role models in said industry, who’ve already made it to their destination. The same goes for single parenthood.
I don’t care if you know someone in real life you can look up to, a famous speaker, or a mommy-blogger who shows how she makes it all work online. Find someone you can look up to, someone who shows that success as a single parent really is possible.
The best kind of role models are ones that start out the same way you have. Alone. And scared.
Look at these role models not as someone you should compare yourself to and wonder why you aren’t there yet, but as someone who proves that your dreams are possible. Raising kids alone doesn’t mean your goals have to fly out the window. Ending that relationship or marriage does not curse you into a life of poverty.
With hard work, determination, and a positive outlook on what could be, you can be a success story just like them.
#3. Get a job
You’re a single parent. Your family depends on YOUR income, alone.
I don’t care if you’re divorced, separated, your baby daddy’s a deadbeat, he walked out on you, or you don’t know who “he” is. It doesn’t matter.
If you’re a single parent, it’s time to woman-up and support your family.
Don’t give me that “he should be paying child support” crap. Yes, if you have sole custody of your kids, it sure would be nice if the guy who helped create them offered a little financial support to take care of them, especially when he isn’t lifting a finger to actually help raise them.
Stop it. Stop thinking of what should be, and take charge of what is. Supporting your family on one income can be possible. It ain’t easy, but it’s possible. So let’s figure out how to make it work.
Finding a job that offers an entry-level position on a livable wage for a single parent with no degree is hard, but not impossible.
At minimum wage working 40 hours a week, you’re making $15,080 a year and well under the federal poverty line. Even at $10 an hour working 40 hours a week ($20,800/year), you’re still eligible for medicaid. But the fact is, I don’t know ANYONE who could make $15k work for 2 people (1 parent, 1 child), no matter how well they budget, unless they were in section 8 housing, given a free (working) car, had no debt, the stars and planet aligned… etc.
We’re aiming for LIVABLE wages here, people. A job with benefits. That will allow you to get OFF government assistance.
A good place to start would be online job search engines, like Indeed. This is where I found my big-girl job that changed my life.
Glassdoor is also a good option. Not only can you search for jobs, but also company information, check potential salaries, and read reviews from past and present employees.
For all you need to know about applying, preparing for and consequently acing an interview, and everything in between, check out our ultimate guide on How to Land Your Dream Job.
Jobs with Livable Wages
To start you off on the job search, here are a few companies that have a history of starting you off in an entry-level position at an hourly rate you can actually live off of. (Ones that I can personally vouch for.) It can be tricky balancing work hours with family life, but this rings true for most jobs out there. Good jobs expect a lot from you, but they can be a serious game changer for single parents.
GEICO, to be more specific. Their advertisements are EVERYWHERE. It’s hard to have never heard of this auto insurance company, unless you live under a rock. Their marketing strategy is to be well known – and they’re good at getting in your face.
What I really like about GEICO, though, is that they offer entry-level positions at excellent starting rates. They have great benefits, including a flex spending account option that can help you pay for childcare, and a program to reimburse your college tuition if you’re going back to school for a business degree. Plus, they don’t require licensing to get the job. While it’s said they pay less than most insurance companies out there, they’ll actually pay for all your training and licensing to become a licensed adjuster – an expense many auto insurance companies want you to handle yourself. You can check their current openings here.
Corporate wireless companies.
Communication companies are another option for single parents. Verizon Wireless, especially.
I’ve had several friends work for many different wireless companies out there, and Verizon seems to be the running favorite. Benefits start right away, including vacation time. The one aspect that’s most impressive about Verizon, is their dedication to employee development. They have many programs that help develop certain skills, including but not limited to sales. They also help you pay for college so you can go back and earn that degree. The hours can be long and hard on your feet, but if you get into sales, you can turn your “livable wage” into a comfortable living. Check their current openings here.
Opportunities for city jobs vary greatly depending on the cities near you. And each job description dictates different requirements for experience and education level. Many cities have secretarial positions, 911 operators, drivers, and many more jobs available that don’t require more than a high school diploma and a couple years customer service experience. Read the requirements for each job carefully to see what they want in an applicant. The job descriptions also usually have the salary or hourly wage range listed, so you’ll know what to expect if you get the job. In Plano, where I live, the jobs I found that didn’t require a bachelor’s degree, paid anywhere from $14-25 an hour, and with benefits! Just Google “____ city jobs” and fill in the city you’re looking for in the blank.
Working From Home.
As a mom, I love the flexibility working from home provides me. When I realized how ridiculous it was going to be to afford childcare for my little ones if I went back to work full time, I immediately started looking for ways to make money from home. If you’re like me and would rather be able to stay home and work, the search for a job is going to get a little more intense. But it is doable.
Have you heard of flexjobs? It’s a pretty awesome job placement company I heard about from the Work at Home Wife. They do the dirty work for you, making sure each company is legitimate before allowing them to post open positions available. You’ll find lots of telecommuting and work-from-home jobs with different companies. They don’t all pay much, but there are a lot of opportunities available. Use the code FRIEND30 to get 30% off when you sign up.
Elna, from TwinsMommy, did an interview with House of Brazen and shared how to become a freelance writer here.
Angie from The Work at Home Wife interviewed Cynthia Stine on how to be a great FBA (Amazon) Seller here.
And Ashlee from Work from Home Happiness shares How to become a Virtual Assistant (for beginners) here.
And if you’ve never worked from home before, Angie has a huge list of work-from-home jobs for beginners. If you sign up for her newsletter, she’ll keep you updated with all the different from-home job leads she hears about. (That’s how I heard about FlexJobs.) She also has a list of 40+ businesses you can start from home, here.
The one downside to working from home and/or starting your own business, is often the lack of benefits. This isn’t always ideal for single mothers, but if your children qualify for medicaid, I know plenty of moms who do without healthcare for themselves. While I wouldn’t recommend this, sometimes it’s necessary.
*On a side note: Snag the job you’ve been dreaming about by handing in the perfect RESUME!
Budget. That. Money.
This is a must for ANYONE – not just single moms! Keep track of what goes in and out of your bank account. Sit down and write out a budget for all your needs.
Rent, water, electric, car payment, car & renters (or homeowners) insurance, health insurance, gas and tolls, life insurance (hopefully you have this, but if not we’ll talk about that more another day), cell service, groceries, debt repayments, monthly savings contributions…
Write it all out. These are your bare necessities, the things you need to pay for first.
IF you have the money, you’ll also need to focus on contributing to your 401(k).
Internet, cable, Netflix or other services, money for entertainment and outings – these are all secondary. Only set aside money for these if you can absolutely afford it.
If you need help, check out our tips for mastering your budget.
And please, mama please, keep track of those expenses each month. If you have every bill set to auto pay, good for you! But I’ve seen vehicles get repossessed when those auto payments didn’t go through a couple months. And it could have been prevented, had they just been checking their bank account to make sure bills were paid.
#5. Apply for assistance.
If, for whatever reason, you’re trying your hardest but still not able to make ends meet – seek out help. There is NO shame in applying for government assistance when you really need it.
You can check out Benefits.gov to see what benefits you might qualify for.
When filing taxes, take advantage of the Child Tax Credit which will give you $1000 tax relief for each child that qualifies. You might also be eligible for the Child and Dependent Care Credit, which can reduce your taxes depending on how much you earn and pay for child care.
The Head Start and Early Head Start programs support school-readiness of young children for little ones up to the age of 5. They help with early learning, health, and family well-being. You can look for local programs near you here. My daughter was in a program similar to this when she was 4 (right after the divorce). It was a preschool program at her future (now current) elementary school, but it was free for low-income families. She was lucky to be chosen, because they only had so many slots.
If you’re looking for healthcare help, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Children’s Medicaid, helps low income families keep their children’s medical expenses covered. You can see if you qualify here.
And if you live in Texas like I do, and you’re looking for any government assistance, visit this website. You can learn about and apply for SNAP (food stamps), TANF (cash help for bills), CHIP (Medicaid) and other support services.
#6. Save as much as possible.
If you’re able to pay your bills – with or without welfare help – start saving. Ideally, it’s best to start saving before any other expenses. You know, the “pay yourself first” mantra. But that’s not always smart if you can’t even afford to live. Here are some tips to save money on your everyday bills.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to pay all your bills and have even $1 leftover – don’t spend it!!! SAVE, MAMA, SAVE! You never know when an unexpected bill might pop up.
Medical bills you thought were covered, tax audits from years ago, that pesky vehicle registration you need to renew every year, a tire needing replacement because of a random blowout… all manner of things can happen where you’ll need money at the last minute. Save yourself the heartache and try to build an emergency fund.
If you have trouble saving, there’s a really cool app called Qapital that can help.
With Qapital, you can set a goal for anything from going on a trip, to an emergency fund, to paying off debt, and more. I’ve actually been using it, myself, to help build our emergency fund.
Before, I didn’t like having a set amount deducted from my checking account each month because it felt like such a big chunk… So I turned to Qapital.
Decide how you save by choosing what “rules” to follow.
I like the “round up” rule. Each time a payment is made from my account, Qapital rounds the number up to the nearest $2 and pulls out the difference. I’m literally saving change at a time, so I don’t feel the hit like before.
You can also set other rules like the “spend less” rule, where you save money any time you spend less than your budget.
Or the “guilty pleasure” rule, which will pull money any time you buy certain items you’re trying to resist. This would be especially helpful for any habit you’re trying to break. (Starbucks addict, anyone?)
The “set and forget” rule is much like your normal monthly savings allotment, but with Qapital you can actually have money pulled daily, weekly, or monthly. Which I guess would be cool if you wanted to save $1 a day, or something like that.
There’s also an “apple heart” rule, which is supposed to sync to the apple health app and reward you by saving money each time you hit a goal.
“IFTTT” rules can make ANYTHING a trigger to save, from tweeting, to playing music, when the weather changes, when you post to Instagram… That one’s pretty interesting. I didn’t originally see this one when I set up my rules. I’d probably be saving a little too often if I synced it to my twitter account, haha!
They even have a “freelancer” rule – how cool is that??? Qapital will save 30% for taxes every time you get paid, so you don’t have to worry about it come tax-time.
And last, but not least, the “52 week” rule. You’ll save an increasing amount each week, $1 on week one, $2 on week 2, $3 on week three, and so on until you hit 52 weeks. You’ll end up with $1378 you never thought you had!
Seriously, this app is better than finding that $20 bill in your jean pocket after the wash.
And if you sign up using this link, you can get a free $5 just for signing up. Woohoo!
#7. Go back to school.
Even if you don’t think you deserve a better life (YOU DO) I’m sure you believe your child(ren) do, right? If you guys are ever going to be better off than you are now, going back to school to earn (or finish) a degree is a next-best-step.
Here’s the ultimate guide to the college application process to get you started.
Not only are there many grants and scholarships to help low income families or single parents, many employers also help pay tuition if you aim for a degree in their related business field. I know for a fact corporate wireless companies like Verizon, insurance companies like GEICO, and other companies like Starbucks, all have tuition help or tuition reimbursement programs for their employees who have worked for them a certain period of time.
Here are a few links to get you started:
The FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) – always fill this out first. It’ll let you know if you qualify for government grants or loans.
#8. Mommy and Me Time
Now with all the long hours you’re working and all the worrying about money, you may not have a lot of free time. But when you do? It’s time to take advantage of it and spend some quality time with your little ones.
No matter how much money you make, your little ones love you almost as much as you love them. Well, maybe not. A mother’s love for her babies is by far the greatest love I’ve ever experienced… But the point is, they love you and want to be loved by you. You may show your love for them in many ways (including providing for them!), but children experience love the best when you’re spending quality time with them. It makes them feel special. It makes them feel wanted.
I don’t care if you go to a mommy and me yoga class in matching outfits and sip rainbow smoothies after, or just play a simple board game in your PJ’s on your concrete floor. Just do something – together.
You’ll love it, they’ll love it, and you’ll be so much better for it.
#9. Alone Time
Once you’ve checked quality time off your list, it’s time for some much needed alone time. Once the kids are in bed and the dishes are done, use the quiet time to catch up on your favorite guilty pleasures and recharge.
Catching up on your favorite Netflix episodes while making tomorrow’s to-do list, reading the latest Game of Thrones installment while sipping a hot toddy… (Oh, is that just me?) Talking on the phone with your best friend for over an hour, writing all your worries out in a journal… Whatever your poison, you deserve it, mama.
Take this little piece of time, and make it yours.
#10. Let it go
Now that you’re being all introspective in your mommy alone time, here’s another one for ya –
give yourself permission to let it go.
And by “it”, I mean anything and everything you don’t have control over.
Don’t obsess over things you can’t control. This only leads to undue stress (stress you don’t deserve!!!), which can greatly, and adversely, affect your overall health. Be mindful of when you do this; try and distract your mind with thoughts of acceptance, shift the direction to any silver lining you can find in the situation.
Your baby daddy doesn’t want anything to do with his kid? Well, this also means you don’t have to share time with them! And all the mess that entails.
Is that ex-family friend giving you the sneer and evil eye? Well they probably were never much fun, anyway! Good riddance!
Did the interviewing manager at a job you really wanted, never call? Then maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. Something even better could be just around the corner.
For as much as you take charge in life and as many things as you have to manage, it will feel good to let uncontrollable things go.
So breathe. Accept it. Move on with your life. And try really hard to not let it keep bothering you.
#11. Don’t Compare
My favorite number – 11 – Don’t you dare compare yourself or your life with ANY other mom you think is “better off” than you.
You are not her, she is not you, your journeys are not the same, and it’s just unfair to both of you to think you should be alike!
The next time you catch yourself comparing?
Recognize the reaction, and internally reprimand yourself. Your “punishment” should be listing 5 things you love about yourself, 2 areas you feel blessed in (not just looks, beautiful!), and 5 goals you’re aiming for.
You are beautifully and wonderfully made, you are blessed and oh-so thankful, you are ambitious and absolutely worthy.
I truly hope this booger of a post helps SOMEONE out there struggling. I wrote it for you, and only you.
“The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.”
And when you get to the top, I want you to remember…
I knew you could do it.
PS: Struggling to put your feelings aside and work with your ex to do what’s best for your children? Co-parenting is no walk in the park – trust me, I know! BUT with a little help and guidance, you might just surprise yourself.