Hi Mama! CONGRATULATIONS on investing in YOU. Whether you have been a single mom for years, or are exploring what solo parenting is all about, the fact that you landed on this page is huge.
If you are new here, know that Wealthysinglemommy.com, and its founder Emma Johnson are committed to the following principles:
- Single mothers are capable of leading happy, abundant lives and families, regardless of how their families are structured.
- Today, most single mothers were never married, or had at least one baby outside of marriage. We’re so over the presumption that all single moms are divorced moms.
- Financial autonomy is not only attainable for single moms, it is necessary for you to live your fullest life.
- You are free to explore all romantic pursuits your heart desires. In other words: Dating does not hurt your kids, and in fact, a mom who is fulfilled in her dating and sex life is a better mom. Rushing to get married is a bad look (and get real: marriage probably didn’t work out for you the first time, so why the rush to repeat that model?!).
Are there any programs for single mothers?
This page is your go-to guide for all the resources, tools and support you need to blow this shit UP! Here you will find everything from ways to make quick cash, to how to build a sustainable career from home, caring for your mental health, the financial tools to protect you and your kids, and more.
- $500 Weekly Kickass Single Mom Stimulus Grant
- Millionaire Single Moms Facebook Group
- FREE Guide—15 Steps to Thriving as a Single Mom
- Take care of your mental health
- Buy life insurance
- Create or update a will / estate plan
- Set financial goals
- Declutter and sell your stuff for cash!
- More single mom resources
Apply for my $500 Monthly Kickass Single Mom Stimulus Grant
Started during the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak, this weekly grant supports single moms doing it alone. Apply here >>
Join the Millionaire Single Moms Facebook Group
First, if you’re not already a member, join Millionaire Single Moms on Facebook. Rules include: No bitching, whining, man-bashing or being mean.
Not a week goes by when I do not receive an email, Instagram or Facebook message from a member of the group who says that the support of other single moms with similar goals of living a joyful life of financial independence, happy romantic life, and thriving family and self changed their lives.
All income levels and points in your journey are welcome. See you there!
Join the newsletter and get my FREE GUIDE
My emails are full of inspiring stories, tools, tricks and instruction on how to build an incredible single-mom life.
Sign up now and get the FREE Guide—15 Steps to Thriving as a Single Mom:
Everyone experiences stress, and millions of people struggle with emotional and mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, couples and relationship hardship, parenting questions, sleep issues and career and money woes.
Take care of your mental health
Online therapy with BetterHelp is a wonderful asset for single moms, as it is a fraction of the cost of traditional, in-person counseling, and that you work with a licensed therapist through text, email, voice or video, you save the time of travel, or the need to hire a babysitter.
BetterHelp has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. Prices start at $65/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Financial assistance available. Use this link to get 10% off and get connected with a therapist immediately >>
Need medical help, or prescriptions from home? Learn about online medical care and pharmacies.
Buy life insurance
I don’t care how broke you are, single moms need life insurance. Chances are, your kids are financially dependent on you. While you may not have a lot to invest in the future now, you can find life insurance for a very small sum — and protect your family
Bestow promises you will never have a medical or lab exam. With plans as low as $10 per month for coverage up to $1.5 million. Bestow policies are issued by North American Company for Life and Health Insurance®, a carrier rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best that was founded in 1886.
Create or update a will / estate plan
Every parent needs a will and estate plan. Not only will this ensure your family is taken care of in the event of your passing, but you enjoy peace of mind now.
Set financial goals
What you put out there comes back to you. Your prayers, hopes, gratitude. This is especially true of manifestations put out during tumultuous times when energy is being stirred up and tossed around.
Write down those goals and dreams. Sit with them. Feel how it will feel when they come to fruition. Picture what your life, your family, your heart and body will look like when that comes true.
Aim for a low-conflict, low-cost divorce
Whether you are dissolving a marriage, or ending a relationship with someone with whom you share kids, the less time, money and toxic energy you spend now means more time, money and positivity going forward.
While a divorce lawyer may be necessary in a minority of cases (those involving abuse or where there are many millions of dollars of assets involved), most couples can agree to settle their divorces amongst themselves, and usually file online — saving tens of thousands of dollars in divorce lawyer fees
Our #1 Online divorce service is 3StepDivorce provides all the legal documents you need for a divorce in your state, and detailed instructions for filling them out and filing them online or in your local courthouse. Allows you to share documents with your spouse or an attorney (for final review), and store them online.
3StepDivorce has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. Get started for $84, and qualify for a $50 rebate. 100% guarantee your papers will be accepted by your local court.
Learn about the benefits and how-to of DIY divorce: Top 10 DIY online divorce apps for 2021
Declutter and sell your stuff for cash!
If it is an engagement ring, wedding ring or other estate, inherited or fine jewelry like a watch, necklace, bracelet, earrings or brooch, go to Worthy.com to sell your jewelry. Worthy is an A+ Better Business Bureau rated online auction, that insures all your jewelry for up to $100,000, tracks your item by Fedex, and provides each seller a FREE GIA lab report. Sell your jewelry with Worthy now >>
Worthy only works with sellers whose items will sell for $1,000 or more.
If you have gold, silver, smaller diamonds, as well as gold coins and bullion worth less than $1,000 unload these items for quick cash at the highest price with CashforGoldUSA — which has a BBB rating of A+ was found by a Fox Business investigation to pay 3X its competitors. CashforGoldUSA pays within 24 hours.
Get a free estimate immediately now with CashforGoldUSA’s online calculator >>
Build your career / side gig
If you’re building a side gig or crave a career you can do from home, or with a flexible schedule, my #1 favorite resource is FlexJobs online job search, a huge website started by a mom who wanted to help women find careers that make sense for their families and lives.
Increase your income
Of course you want more money. Read my posts on how to ask for a raise and negotiate a salary increase or promotion, as well as career-level at-home jobs, and side gigs — plus how to sell things you already have for cash.
Grants and scholarships for single moms
While there aren’t many grants and scholarships for single moms specifically, there are thousands of ways to pay for college. This list on collegescholarships.org is a great place to start, as is singlemothergrants.org.
Track your money and set budgets (get real, mama!)
MoneyPatrol is our recommended budgeting app. Synch all your accounts, set budgets, get free alerts about spending and charges, and get a grip on your finances! FREE for 15 days. Try MoneyPatrol now >>
Credit score, credit repair, and paying off debt
The Credit People offers an excellent program to clean up your credit score, remove errors and late payments, and get your credit score up ± for fees starting at $9.
Savings & checking accounts
Check out CIT Bank’s online Money Market account for 0.50% APR (as of February 5, 2021).
Invest your money
Betterment is one of the leading robo-advisors, which use machine learning to offer superior investing tools, for very low fees.
Benefits of Betterment include:
- $0 minimum
- Fees starting at .25%
- Tax loss harvesting
- Better Business Bureau A+
- Get a free financial plan
- Access to human advisors
- New member promo: Up to 1 year managed free
- Socially responsible investing funds
- Betterment savings and checking accounts
Aim for healthy co-parenting
While you may be really, really, (really fucking) angry at your ex now, it is so critical to focus on equally shared parenting whenever possible, and civilized, collaborative co-parenting.
OurFamilyWizard is one of the oldest, and most widely used co-parenting portals, mandated by judges in all 50 states and chosen by tens of thousands of divorced and separated families.
Our Family Wizard has a dynamic calendar, tools for sharing expenses, keeping track of school and medical information, and offers military discount, FREE 30-day trial, and fee waiver for low-income families. Plus you can add your lawyer, kids, grandparents, step-parents and others for no cost. Check out OurFamilyWizard now >>
Learn more: Best co-parenting apps of 2021
Whether you are looking to meet new people after years of dating, or just dipping your toe in the romance waters, online dating has been my own BFF when dating.
Our No. 1 recommendation is eHarmony, which is consistently rated the most trusted dating site, and is designed specifically for those looking for meaningful, long-term connections. A+ Better Business Bureau rating, and claims, “Every day, an average of 438 singles marry a match they found on eHarmony.” 3-month free guarantee.
Books for single moms
Check out my #1 bestsellers: The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children (Penguin)
The New York Post called the book a ‘Must Read’ and it was featured on The Doctors, Jenny McCarthy Radio, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Oprah.com and more than 150 other media outlets!
— and —
I’m proud to say both books are multiple-category #1 Amazon Bestsellers!
Resources for lower-income single moms
If you are struggling to make ends meet, take comfort in the fact that many, many single moms have been there — including highly educated women who previously enjoyed high incomes.
Here are some resources to help you get on your feet:
How do single moms afford housing?
But with the right tools, organization, and support, you can become exceptionally efficient when it comes to managing day-to-day tasks.
Because let’s get real: YOU DON’T HAVE A CHOICE!
By using apps, outsourcing, budgeting, and automating, you can organize your busy life regardless of whether you have multiple children, a demanding career, and a desire for more quality time with your family.
HUD housing for low-income single moms
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) works with landlords to offer affordable rent to low-income families, including single moms, the disabled and senior citizens.
Learn how to qualify for HUD housing, and search for a HUD apartment on the program’s website.
HUD also has various state-sponsored housing programs throughout the country. Learn about these state housing programs for low-income moms.
HUD public housing for low-income families is another option. Contact your state’s Public Housing Agency directly to learn more.
Section 8 vouchers for single mothers
HUD Section 8 vouchers are coupons given directly to low-income renters who use them to pay part of their rent to participating landlords. Apply for Section 8, and find participating property owners.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps low-income families and individuals with energy costs, energy crisis hellp, weatherization and energy-related home repairs. Find info for your state here.
Buy a home as a single mom
Even if your income is low, you may qualify for special home buying programs for single moms, and those with limited income. The blog Single Moms Income has a great resource page about home-buying programs for single moms.
Use New York Times’s excellent tool to see if you should rent or buy a home: Rent or Buy Calculator
Live in a house you can afford
One of the most important things you can do to ensure a sense of control and abundance is to choose a home you can easily afford. So many moms stretch their budgets beyond comfort in order to avoid relocation, to stay in a large home, or the best school district in their area.
As a result, they are constantly stressed about paying bills, losing their home, or otherwise home instability.
Other moms report downsizing from a home they own to one they can afford to comfortably rent — and being thrilled by their sense of financial empowerment. Other single moms say that the best thing they did was to move from a large, fancy home, to a smaller, more modest house — and being proud of their savings accounts, as well as the wise financial decisions they model for their children.
Remember: Once you free up unnecessary financial stress, you create positive energy to attract positive professional opportunities, grow your wealth, and save up for any home that you crave.
Create a single-mom budget
One of the easiest ways to effectively manage your household is by outsourcing.
However, you can’t hire help until you know how much money you have to spend. That’s where budgeting comes in.
Creating your first budget as a single parent can be challenging, especially if you’re used to having dual incomes.
However, with enough tracking and organization, you can find a way to maximize your money time and energy to live the most kickass life you can — and be an awesome role model for your kids (and anyone else who is watching).
How to make a household budget
In How to make a single mom budget you will stick to, I elaborate on budgeting steps. These include:
- Choose a budget strategy — Zero-sum, or 50-30-20
- Track all your spending
- Track your income
- Consider child support
- Slash extras and cut bills
- Focus on growing your income and wealth!
Household budget spreadsheet
When creating a budget, the first place to start is tracking your spending.
MoneyPatrol helps you create a budget, then get alerts regarding your tracking, spending and charges. Try MoneyPatrol now for free for 15 days >>
Household budget template
Here is an example of a single-mom budget template:
Categories for household budget
Once you start tracking your spending, you can create budget categories, keeping in mind that you should have a zero-based budget.
A zero-based budget is when you allocate every dollar you earn to a specific category, including a savings category.
Take some time to think about the budget categories that would make your life easier.
As a single parent, you might need to allocate more to outsourcing certain tasks, like babysitting and housekeeping, while cutting back on some extras like going out to eat.
Household budget categories might include:
- Housing (rent, mortgage, insurance HOA, PMI, real estate taxes)
- Utilities, including electric, gas, garbage, and water
- Cell phone
- Child care
- Health insurance
- Out-of-pocket health care costs
- Car payments, insurance and gas
- Retirement and other long-term investments
- Charitable donations
- Kids’ extracurricular activities
- Gym membership / fitness classes
It will likely take a few months for you to get used to living within a budget.
However, once you have a strong budget in place where you assign every dollar to a category at the beginning of the month, you’ll start to feel empowered with your money.
If you are strapped, get real with yourself a slash all unused services, expenses and subscriptions.
TrueBill is a free service identifies any recurring subscriptions, and on your behalf will cancel or reduce recurring bills like iTunes, Hulu, SlingTV, cable, Amazon, Internet, cell phone, BlueApron or even Plant Fitness (face it—you never go!). TrueBill is 100% free unless they negotiate down a bill, in which they take 40% of the savings.
TrueBill’s ‘Lower My Bill’ program works like this:
- Create an account at Truebill.com
- Upload a recent bill for one of the more than two dozen service providers they work with.
- TrueBill then reviews your bill, contacts the company to negotiate a lower rate.
- TrueBill then charges you 40% of the savings.
I used TrueBill to negotiate her utilities. TrueBill saved me $16 off my monthly AT&T bill while also getting me a bigger data plan, and $23.20 from my TimeWarner / Spectrum Internet bill.
Check out TrueBill now >>
Birthdays and holidays for single moms
You know you’ll have to attend a million annoying kids’ birthday parties throughout the year.
So, stock up at once to save money and headache.
If you see a great sale on a toy appropriate for your child’s age group, buy several.
Gender-neutral gifts too like books, puzzles, science and cooking projects and outdoor toys streamline this mess.
Then, buy gift bags. Dollar Tree is one of the best places to buy gift bags and cards.
Again, when you go to buy one, buy several.
This eliminates the pre-party stress of needing to spend time buying a gift and wrapping it.
You can start the school year with several wrapped gifts in your closet ready to take to the next kid party.
And don’t forget about the best time and money saver: REGIFTING!
Birthday parties for children are way overdone.
Instead of trying to plan a Pinterest-worthy party, opt for experiences instead.
Tell your child they can choose a friend to bring to a theme park, a movie, the aquarium, or some other fun experience.
It will be less expensive for you, and your child will be more likely to remember it.
Save for the holidays year-round
To have enough money for holiday gifts, save a certain amount every month in a high yield savings account.
The average parent spends $422 on Christmas gifts per child for kids ages 8-14.
To hit that goal, you have to save about $35 per month from January-December.
Decrease household debt
Credit card, student loans, medical debt or other bills you can’t afford? Here is my guide to paying off your debt for good. You will likely want to improve your credit score so you can qualify for debt consolidation loans, or transfer debt to a low-interest credit card.
A great first step is to apply for a 0% balance transfer credit card, which can save you thousands of dollars in interest and help you pay off debt quicker.
Choose the right bank accounts
Make sure you have the best free checking accounts, online saving accounts, and investment accounts for you.
As a single mom, managing your money to the best of your ability is extremely important.
So, you should work with trusted banks who don’t charge exorbitant fees. That way, you can keep more of your hard-earned money for you.
Check out CIT Bank’s online Money Market account for 0.50% APR (as of February 5, 2021).
Charities that help single mothers
Get a free car, or help buying a car as a single mom
Free Charity Cars gives away donated cars throughout the United States to those in need, including:
- Domestic violence victims
- The medically needy
- Victims of natural disasters
- Families transitioning from public assistance to work
- Families living in transitional living shelters
- The working poor
- Non-profit organizations
- Military families
Working Cars for Working Families helps those in need find a donated car.
Find a food pantry near you using Food Finder, which will connect you with free food given away through local churches, community programs, charities in all 50 states.
The Women Infants and Children program for families with children aged 5 and younger offers food coupons you can use at grocery stores, markets and bodegas, for qualifying food. Learn whether you are eligible for WIC, and how to apply.
TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, is the new name for cash assistance once called ‘welfare.’ Today the program requires participants to work part-time or prove that you’re looking for work. Learn more about TANF.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program loads financial credit to low-income people on a debit card, that you use at your local grocery store and market. Learn how to qualify, and apply online for SNAP.
School Breakfast and Lunch Programs
This national program helps families with food through their local schools and daycare centers by providing free breakfasts and lunches to students. Learn more.
Special Milk Program
If your school does not have a free breakfast or lunch program, they may qualify for the special milk program. Learn more.
Summer Food Service Program
The federal Summer Food Service programs helps families who depend on school lunches and breakfasts to access nutritious foods during summer breaks. Learn more.
Free cell phone
Lifeline Assistance is a government program partners with major wireless companies to provide qualifying families with free phones and cell service.
Safelink Wireless is a free government cell phone carrier serving 4 million customers in 31 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Safelink provides a free mobile phone and up to 350 free local and domestic long-distance minutes monthly, and unlimited text messages every month if you qualify.
Assurance Wireless provides a free phone and up to 500 monthly minutes and unlimited texting in the United States to qualifying members.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state medical insurance program for low-income families. Find out if you qualify for Medicaid, and learn about your state’s benefits.
Help paying for child care for single moms
Public assistance day care programs
Each state’s Health and Human Services can help you find grants for low-cost or free daycare, based on your need, income and program availability in your area. Learn about your options at the Office of Childcare Website.
Head Start day care
Head Start and Early Head Start is an established federal program that has proven successful in providing educational readiness for low-income children under age 5 from low-income families. The program’s goals are to help all children get ready for school, as well as provide affordable child care to their parents.
State child care assistance subsidies for single moms
Each state has child care assistance programs that can help you find quality day care centers, and pay for them. Find programs in your state and town with the Office of Child Care’s website.
Single-mom household management can be intense.
Recommended investment accounts
I am on a personal mission to get women to save and invest more.
There are some fascinating studies that find that women are actually better at investing that men, but they save and invest far too little, too infrequently, which puts us at a huge disadvantage.
The wealth gap is a terrible issue, as women have far less invested and saved than men, and we need those long-term assets even more than dudes since we live longer than men, and as single moms, are far more likely to be responsible for children, grandchildren and aging parents long-term.
I wrote this post on how to get started investing for single moms, which explains all the basics, in plain language, that anyone can understand.
Remember: You are a brilliant person raising children alone. Do not be intimidated by all that financial jargon that was written by rich white men on Wall Street.
My investing advice for single moms
- Prioritize retirement investing far above your kids’ college education. An Allianz survey found that Americans over-save for their kids’ college fund when compared with retirement, and guilt-ridden single moms are especially prone to this mistake. Remember: the best gift you can give your kids is your own financial health. This makes you a less-stressed, more secure mom today, and relieves your children from the worry and resentment for caring for you in your later years. There are countless ways to finance college, but no Pell grants or loans for retirement!
- Believe that you are worth it. You deserve to have a fat wad in the bank, peace of mind and confidence that you can have a comfortable, joyful life and financial future!
- You are not dumb or lazy because you have not started investing — or not saved enough. The system is stacked against you. You are smart and you can do this. When you succeed in your finances, all women succeed. We lift each other up, set great role models for one another, and together we are going to close the pay and wealth gaps!\
Single mom quotes on overwhelm
My most cherished part of the day: “Mommy!” my 2- and 4-year-olds rush to greet me with glowing faces and hugs when I pick them up from daycare.
Two seconds out the door: Checking my iPhone for a message from a potential client. Guilt ensues.
Another highlight: Sitting down to the hot breakfast I proudly cook each morning, answering my precocious 4-year-old daughter’s questions about NPR’s report on Afghanistan.
Simultaneously: Thinking through the story I will write in my home office as soon as I dump these kids back at said daycare. Again, that guilt!
8:04 p.m.: Heart melting as my toddler son asks, “Hold hand, Mommy?” as I sing him “The Garden Song” at bedtime.
8:17 p.m.: Sprinting down the hall to set up interviews for the next deadline. Ditto. And I’m not even Catholic.
[Feel like therapy could help, but you are short on time and money? Online counseling is a great option that helps hundreds of thousands of people through text, email, video and phone therapy. I evaluate the top online therapy companies in this post.]
Cue heavenly choral music as I receive an email from my friend Laura Vanderkam offering me a free time makeover. Laura is a fellow mom and freelance writer who seriously changed my life with her first book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.
The gist is that many of us blow our most precious commodity (time) by not spending it on our core competencies, and not thinking critically about how we while away hours. For me, core competencies include my work and mothering. These are what I do best, so there is no reason to spend my precious time, say, cleaning the crud that accumulates under my dining table each week. Instead, Laura argues, I should outsource everything that I don’t enjoy, which makes time, money and emotional sense.
Case in point: Laundry. Laundry is Laura’s pet peeve. “Laundry is the biggest time suck,” she said over a wine-filled dinner a few years ago. What?! Wasn’t laundry just a part of being an adult? But in my Astoria, Queens, New York neighborhood, I learned to pay someone about $25 per week to pick up my dirty things, wash, dry, fold and sort them and return them to my door the same day. Doing the same task myself would cost two hours and save me $15 in quarters. In two hours I make way more money writing stories for this and other fine publications. I like writing these stories. Plus, I have to write them so my family can eat. I don’t like laundry.
The thing with Laura and her books (she has a similar one on money management) is that they can be a bit sanctimonious. For me, it took a lot of time, practice and emotional growth to sign on to the notion that I cannot afford not to pay someone else to clean my house. At first I felt guilty that Sandra, my amazing house cleaner, visited once per month. But I have gradually inched up to outsourcing this loathed task every week. I love it.
It’s a stress relief that no doubt translates into a less harried and more fun mom.As this order has benefited my home life, my financial life has benefited, too. It’s impossible to quantify the correlation, but in the past couple of years as I’ve implemented Laura’s edicts, I’ve increasingly made more money. I’ve started outsourcing other things: at tax time this year I breezily paid my accountant to sort and tally my business receipts, and when a closet full of cast-offs wouldn’t take care of itself, I hired a nice woman from TaskRabbit.com to haul it all to a local charity. I think I should be creating more single mom memes on my Instagram account about this!
That’s the back story.
Single mom inspirational stories
Laura Vanderkam’s book, Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, might just change your life. It changed mine.
Upon hearing about this theory, my knee-jerk reaction was to say, “Before breakfast I’m sleeping! Because as a single working mom of two kids who are up and down all night I’m exhausted, you sanctimonious whore!” But I shut it and accepted Laura’s generous offer to give me a time makeover, which she also wrote about on her CBS MoneyWatch blog.
For one week I logged every hour of my day in an Excel spreadsheet. One thing I felt good about: My days were indeed full. From the time I woke until the kids went down were chockablock with work, exercise and the personal tasks I simply cannot do without childcare. But the evenings were often squandered as I either dithered it away on the Internet or as I lay motionless on my bed in an exhaustion coma.
In my email to Laura I laid out a few goals: Spend 20 minutes of one-on-one time with each kid each day, find a chunk of alone time regularly, tackle the marketing and strategic planning that a business requires and get a grip on all the little household projects that pile up. Oh, and remove the sense of chaos from my life.
In our phone consultation, Laura started out with some heavy petting: “First, congratulations,” she said. “Your schedule is amazing. You have a lot of professional success in not a lot of work hours [the kids are in daycare between 30 and 35 hours each week], and you’re spending a lot of time with the kids as well.” Okay, I thought, keep talking.
After 30 minutes I got some great suggestions. But the general takeaway was to have more fun and meaning in life. Happy people are more engaged and better doing whatever it is that they do. Also, I remember how long it took me to sign on to Laura’s other time-saving edicts, so while I clearly have a long way to go, I am hopeful.
Time management for single moms
Here is a summary of our consultation:
Suggestion 1: Create a buffer time before I pick up the kids from their daycare, which is a two-minute walk from my apartment. “There is a reason people have commutes,” she said. “It gives people transition time between work and their professional lives, and working out of a home office you don’t have that decompression time,” which contributes to my sense of harriedness. “When you’re toggling back and forth, you’re not doing anything fully, which is not efficient.”
In practice: Yesterday, my first day of the rest of my life, I did just that: took 20 minutes before pickup to straighten up my bedroom/office and do a bit of yoga—things that felt good and improved my physical and mental wellbeing. Guess what? During my afternoon with the kids, I felt a little more engaged and only checked my email four times. A feat.
Suggestion 2: Designate an hour each week for marketing and making a list of household tasks, and tackle one per week. “When you set time for things, you can dismiss the nagging feeling associated with them by telling yourself, ‘Now is not the time to do that.’”[Lies that keep single moms broke, stressed-out and alone]
In practice: Created an electronic sticky note on my computer desktop with an intimidatingly long list. After the kids went to sleep yesterday I straightened out the kitchen junk drawer. It took all of seven minutes and felt awesome.
Suggestion 3: This one surprised me: Get up an hour earlier than normal and do some creative writing. I hadn’t mentioned any lack of creative fulfillment, but when she said that I immediately got very excited. Somehow she intuitively tapped into this unmet need, and I loved the sound of it.
In practice: Today, I climbed out of bed a half hour after the beep, made a coffee and cranked out 1,000 words of this story. When the kids woke an hour later, I felt excited and happy, and my phone was on the other side of the house and I didn’t even miss it. This may change my life.
Suggestion 4: “Create pockets of happy time. This is fun and relaxing stuff, not just stuff that is meaningful like raising children and meaningful work,” Laura said.
In practice: Last weekend I unexpectedly found myself alone for two hours when my kids were with their dad and I normally spend precious time with my boyfriend, Larry. Instead, I sat quietly eating a dinner of leftover corn chowder and reading the Sunday Times. Bliss. I need to do this every week, Laura said. Today I wrote on my to-do list to tell Larry that from now on I’ll be arriving two hours later on Saturday nights.
Suggestion 5: Give myself a bedtime routine. Limit my Internet dawdling to half an hour, then designate another half hour of magazine reading or movie watching to unwind. Go to bed at a set hour.
In practice: Last night I read half of March’s issue of More magazine before dozing off. No idea what time that was.
Suggestion 6: Let some of it go. Laura and I brainstormed ways to get a little one-on-one time with each of my children, and nothing made sense. She gave me permission to park that idea for a year or two.
In practice: Done.
Public assistance helped this professional single mom get on her feet
I often struggle with this platform, where I speak primarily to women like me: Educated, professional single moms. The number of unmarried mothers is increasingly affluent and educated, as women gain power in business and earning. But the reality remains that about half of kids raised primarily by a single mom live in poverty (a figure plummets for kids raised by single dads).
I don’t pretend that what I write about here speaks to every single one of the 10 million U.S. single moms, or financial challenges that I face as an educated white woman are the same as someone who grew up with the challenges of generational poverty. However, I often hear from women facing single motherhood and find themselves in financial straights — very real, scary financial straights — despite having had every perceived advantage, a fact that only adds to the shame and fear around their situation.
A couple years ago I had this Facebook instant message conversation with Jennifer L.W. Fink, a single mom to four boys in Wisconsin. She separated five years ago and has been divorced for two. When she separated, Fink worked part-time as a freelance writer and homeschooled her children. She turned to public assistance.
Today Fink makes a living as a full-time freelance writer. She blogs at Building Boys.
EJ: In launching this blog I started researching the economics of single moms, and it actually depressed me for a few days. I don’t need to tell you that the numbers are dire. When I realized I would become a single mom, I just kind of put my blinders on to the roadblocks in my way and plunged ahead. So far so good. That is what I aim to preach on Wealthy Single Mommy.
But I also try to appreciate that I am a white, educated middle-class woman who had a career before I had kids and got divorced. No ignoring that.
JLWF: That’s a big point. I’m white and educated and relatively middle class. But I married at 20 and didn’t exactly have a career before that. But I still have a leg up that a lot of other single moms don’t have in that I have a college degree and had some professional experience.
But there’s the thing: raising kids takes at least as much time as it takes money. I don’t think we, as parents, do ourselves any favors by glossing over that fact. Ideally, you have two parents working toward that goal.
Jennifer L.W. Fink
EJ: I agree 100 percent. But that isn’t our story now. So what do you suggest?
What kind of assistance does a single mom qualify for?
JLWF: I definitely suggest applying for and accepting as much help as you need. There is nothing wrong or shameful about that.
EJ: We’re talking public assistance?
JLWF: Yes. Most of the time, single motherhood is sudden. Even in families with two, educated, professional spouses, one spouse (often the woman) is working less outside the home to facilitate family life. And while many moms— most moms—can and will ramp up their income and earning potential, they can’t always pull that off right away. I would definitely urge these women to look into what’s available in terms of health benefits, food stamps or other benefits. You have nothing to lose.
EJ: Did you accept public aid?
JLWF: Yes, I did, and I’m OK talking about it.
I have a nursing degree, but I transitioned into a writing career while I was having and homeschooling my kids. By the time of my divorce, I hadn’t actively practiced nursing in 6 years. I made something like $21,000 writing the year before I divorced — not bad for a part-time job, but it’s not nearly enough to support a family of five.
When I separated I ramped up my writing work, but to fill in that gap I applied for every kind of assistance I could get. Health insurance was a particular worry since my ex had carried me on his policy. I qualified for food assistance for six months, health benefits for a year, and help with heating costs that first winter.
EJ: How did you feel about applying for aid? What went through your mind?
JLWF: I’m from a middle class home. I’m not supposed to be one of “those moms.” I felt angry at a world and a system and circumstances that put my children and me in such a position that makes it easy for one spouse to walk away, while another struggles to figure out how to feed and clothe her kids. But at that time, it truly was survival for me. It was the only way to make the numbers work.
EJ: What would you family’s life have looked like had you not gotten that assistance?
JLWF: I’m lucky and blessed to have good friends and family. No one would have let us starve, or land on the streets, but none of my family or friends could have afforded to subsidize us for long. We would definitely considered selling the house. But it would have been tough to find something more reasonable, and apartment living isn’t exactly a great option for four active boys.
EJ: Not at all! Do you worry that professional women — or at least middle-class women — struggle unduly because they’re too embarrassed to apply for public benefits?
JLWF: Yes. It’s very hard to whip out your state assistance food card at the grocery store when you’re used to using a credit or debit card.
EJ: You said you were angry. Are you still angry, and if so, what do you do with that energy – and how does that affect your financial life?
How to financially thrive as a single mom
JLWF: I am angry, but I try to channel that anger into writing and building a better life for my kids and myself. My goal is to earn enough to make it without child support, and to build a life in which my kids and I are comfortable. In many cases (my case), child support comes with strings and resentment, even though it is just supposed to be about the children.
So far, I am on my way. Each year as been better financially than the last.
EJ: That’s fantastic.
JLWF: There is also a chance that if I make too much, it will affect my child support.
EJ: Do you think that has held you back professionally and financially – that fear of losing your child support, and how unfair that might seem?
JLWF: It was a huge step for me to get over that, yes. Now my goal is to make enough so that if that were to happen, it wouldn’t eat into our comfort. I also made the conscious decision that nothing can stop me from succeeding – especially not my ex-husband.
EJ: I love that. What you are really saying is, “I will not stop myself from being successful.”
JLWF: Right. It’s recognizing and overcoming my own mental hurdles.
EJ: But it is easier, I think, to build a career and wealth and success — no matter how you define success — if you do it from a place of happiness and not from being pissed off — even if we deserve to be pissed!
JLWF: I think you’re right. It’s just hard to get there sometimes! That’s why I think assistance works best when viewed as a temporary bridge while you work through the professional and personal challenges of divorce.
EJ: And what do you have to say to women in similar situations who refuse to apply for assistance, and instead spend their energy trying to get their ex to fork over more money?
Reasons not to fight for child support
JLWF: I’d say:
1) You’re going to spend more in legal bills than you’d probably get; you’re not going to come out ahead.
2) You’re feeding the negative energy instead of trying to work through it.
3) See what you can do to improve your financial situation.
EJ: I like #3 because we can’t totally control how much the ex gives us, or how much we can get from the state. But we can control ourselves and our finances and our careers.
JLWF: We can’t totally control anything!
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