Need a Mechanic? Automotive Advice for Single Moms (and Everyone Else)

Ever feel like a mechanic is just horsing around with your car? Maybe he knows what he is doing and identified the problem within a few minutes.

Buy by poking around under the hood for an extra 10-15 minutes he can charge and extra 20-50%. After all, you don’t know what those diagnostics say or mean.

Finding a great mechanic is like finding your soul mate – don’t expect to replace them if the relationship just doesn’t work out. Seriously.

I loved my Audi. It was a fun car to drive. Sporty with tons of power and control but not over the top where I looked like I was trying to race through the Malibu Canyons. After all, there was a car seat in the back for many years.

Makes for real sexy momma driving when the teddy bear has his head out the window catching the wind in his fur.

But that car had some issues. And those issues seemed to know the day that the warranty had expired.getting automotive advice: lady fixing car

How to Find a Good Mechanic

A good mechanic and a cheap mechanic are not the same thing and there is no correlation to quality and cost. Meaning, you can pay a lot for a lousy mechanic or find an amazing one who is reasonable.

Some great places to seek out good mechanics are:

If you are searching for a mechanic, ask the cable company driver who is always fixing your cable (because nothing works as it should) where they take their fleet vans and trucks. Pretty much anyone company with a fleet is a good place to start inquiring about a good mechanic.

Worry about price later. Get a list of good ones first.

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Another place to check with your insurance agent. Ask who is on their approved repair list. AAA also has an Approved Auto Repair Network. These mechanics go through extreme vetting and must maintain high standards of quality and customer service to remain on the lists as insurance carrier vendors.

Definitely find out who your local agent uses.

Look for the ASE Certified Master Technicians when looking for mechanics. This is a designation that means they are trained extensively on diagnostics and all those crazy new electronics that new cars have. Did you realize that some new windshields have sensors that could tell you the temperature on Mars?

They really don’t, but they are seriously high tech and cost thousands to repair and replace.

Determining Costs and Negotiating

Get ready to negotiate. It might seem like a fruitless endeavor, but you are a strong woman who gets things done. Shady mechanic tricks start with getting under the hood and trying to tell you there’s more to the repair than there really is.

It could mean replacing more parts or the hours of labor involved. Get the quote in writing and start Googling girl! Check prices of auto parts online. If you can, take that quote down the street to choice number 2 and see what he has to say about the same issue.

You don’t need to be an expert to be savvy. You might not know what a high-velocity intake barotolocimeter is because I just made that up. Shady mechanic tricks include making up new parts, new diagnostic issues. Guess what, all that is a few cell phone clicks away.

Let your fingers do the negotiating via smartphone.

Ask for the Single Mom Discount

Don’t be shameful. If you had a husband or any man doing the negotiating for you, chances are you’d already have started 20% lower in price. Play whatever card you can because you’re sitting there being called Honey, Sweety and Dear as if your being a single woman means you instantly fodder for mansplaining and sexist comments.

My Audi had been in the shop three times in the past 12 months. It wasn’t an old car nor did it have a ton of mileage on it. But somehow my fan kept breaking to the point of charcoaling my car’s internal hose system. Seriously fire hazard and never did a warning light come on until I was stuck on the freeway.

I was on my second mechanic. This one came from a friend’s recommendation. He’d dutifully show me the charred car parts. I swear it looked like my car lit up the 405 with flames. It would only be another $2700… or more.

It’s that or more that gets you. I quickly ran an Edmonds value via my smartphone.

“Take it off life support. Pull the plug.” My Audi was going to die.

My mechanic nodded his head. He understood that you can’t just keep pouring money into a car. “I tell you what. I’ll give you $1,800 for it. My cousin will buy it after I fix it.”

Seriously, that was the game. Make it impossible for me to afford to fix it so he can turn a profit from his cousin who has told him to keep an eye out for certain cars. You have to love networking.

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Are There Any Female Friendly Mechanics? actually certifies mechanics to work with women in an honest, easy-to-automotive advice from women trusted mechanicsunderstand way. Being certified Female Friendly means that your mechanic has sought to be better at communicating what is going on with that beast of a car you call Bill.

There are actually more and more women getting into automotive repair. While that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the best service or results, it does give us hope that more women can find someone who understands where another woman is coming from.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Learn a few things about your car. You don’t need to be an expert or be able to do the work. But you’ll feel less anxiety about walking into a mechanic’s shop if you have some basic information.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

Tax Tips Single Moms Should Know

Being Head of Household grants you greater exemptions than claiming Single status on your tax return. I wish I could say it was as much as filing Married Jointly but that is what is called “the price to pay for freedom.” Okay, maybe that isn’t exactly what that phrase is referring to, but it does fit.

Exemptions mean you get more credits against taxes paid which means you either get more money back or save what you would otherwise pay.

Couple things to keep in mind when selecting filing status. If you are still technically married, you cannot claim either. You must choose to file jointly or separately. Keep in mind that filing separately will kill many exemptions, deductions and thresholds on your tax return.

If you have a spouse that just up and left, you can file for an exception. Check with your local tax preparer to get the right forms in place to get the IRS benefits of Head of Household status.

Tax Tip #2: Child Support Vs Spousal Support

Don’t count what you don’t need to when it comes to money you get from your ex. The IRS is very clear on this matter. Child support is not counted as income and doesn’t need to be listed anywhere on your tax return. Spousal support you receive is counted as income for you and deducted as an expense for your ex.

Thus, spousal support could affect your tax rate, your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA or get certain credits.

Tax Tip #3: The Child Tax Credit

The Child Tax Credit was doubled with the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This means you are eligible for up to $2,000 per qualifying dependent. It seems a bit complicated since there are income thresholds to maximize the credit and part of it, $500, is refundable while the other part is non-refundable.

Don’t get caught up in the minutia. Refundable simply means you can earn it as a refund where non-refundable can only take your tax liabilities to zero.

Here is what you need to know:

  • Child must be under age 17
  • Child must be yours by birth, stepchild or foster child
  • You provide more than half of his support for the past six months
  • Must be your dependent meaning lived with you for more than half of year
  • Child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident alien
  • Your Modified Adjusted Gross Income must be less than $75,000 to get full credit

If you are wondering about the support and dependents component, check with your court order or divorce decree. It usually stipulates what parent can claim the dependency for tax purposes if you split custody.

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Tax Tip #4: The Earned Income Credit

The Earned Income Credit is a refundable credit for low-income households. As a refundable credit, someone who wasn’t required to file or have paid any taxes can get this entire credit as a refund. For example, if you file your taxes and owe $500 but receive the full Earned Income Credit for $5,716 (a household of you and two children), you will receive a refund of $5,216 even though you never paid those taxes.

For Single and Head of Household Filers, the maximum income thresholds are $40,320, $45,802 and $49,194 for 1-3 children in the home respectively. Remember that while spousal support is counted as income it does not affect the wage limits of this credit.

Tax Tip #5: The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

If you have a child or children under the age of 13, you may be eligible for The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. This credit will give you a percentage back of childcare costs paid up to $3,000 ($6,000 for two or more children). This is a non-refundable credit which means it can only reduce tax liabilities to zero.

To get The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit:

  • Children must be under age 13
  • Have valid childcare costs with valid tax identification numbers for care providers.

Tax Tip #6: Fund That IRA

Trust me, I know that money gets tight when you are a single mom. But if you can, fund that IRA. If you don’t have the money right now, check to see what contributing will save you and what your refund will be. The IRS actually allows tax filers to fund IRA accounts with their refund.

This means you can take the deduction, lower your tax liability, increase your refund and not have funded the IRA until the refund check hits the account. The IRS actually has a program where you can have your refund go directly to the IRA to make sure you don’t get tempted to take a few spas days instead.

It’s nice to know that the IRS is looking out for you, at least in that little way.

Final Thoughts on Tax Tips for Single Moms

Divorce is complicated. Single parenting is complicated. Taxes are complicated.

Obviously, these are just a few things to keep in mind when doing your 2018 taxes in 2019. Many tax software programs are inexpensive and will walk you through what you are allowed and not allowed to do.

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In fact, Credit Karma allows you to sign up and file your federal and state taxes for free. No catch! Don’t be afraid of the big old IRS dude.

Take the time to understand how your court orders read and what filing will benefit you the most. Maximize exemptions and credits so you pay as little in taxes as possible and ideally maximize your refund.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

Getting Over Emotional Trauma: Abusive Relationships Take a Toll

The tolls of emotional trauma in an abusive relationship leave the abused feeling everything is their fault, they are crazy and wrong and even evil. Everyone reacts differently to emotional trauma depending on their life history and the extent the abuse. Getting over the scars of emotional trauma from one or more abusive relationships takes time and work. It isn’t easy, but there is hope.

It was a bad day. I sat in my therapist’s office, wanting to cry but the tears just wouldn’t stream. I wanted to talk, but I really felt what I had to say was dumb. My mind raced through the pages and pages he wrote in our divorce declarations accusing me of just about anything and everything you could. He’s a seasoned litigator; he understood how to present a case. None of it was true, yet it sounded like it was simple fact and I found myself wondering if it really was me.

“Narcissists are masters at making you feel nuts. It’s crazy making. They feed on it.” Those words woke me up.

I hadn’t ever defined my ex as a narcissist. Quite frankly, I had never thought about what a narcissist was or did. But what she said hit a nerve deep inside. We were months into what would be a two-year divorce for a marriage that barely hit the two-year mark. When I left, I couldn’t have even told you that my favorite color was purple.

I was a mess and it scared me because I had to pull things together to provide for my son, to protect him. But there was a ton of work I’d need to do in getting over the emotional trauma. Sadly, I wasn’t alone.getting over emotional trauma is difficult

What Is Emotional Trauma

Emotional trauma is defined as the result of experiencing extremely stressful events in which you have little, if any, control over. Those who experience emotional trauma may feel helpless having lost a sense of security in the normal day-to-day life experiences.

An abusive relationship, whether a domestic violence situation or long-drawn-out emotional abuse, shatter egos and create traumatized shells of the people we once were. Even removed from the situation, the emotional pain and scars linger through many aspects of life. The brain and body remember even when we aren’t thinking about it. Healing isn’t easily achieved.

Signs of Narcissistic Abuse and Emotional Trauma

After that day at my therapist’s office, I started to research more about the patterns of a narcissist. My story sounded so much like that of other women, afraid to leave, convinced they were worthless.

Signs of emotional abuse from a narcissist include:

  • Verbal abuse: This ranges from belittling, sarcastic remarks, undermining, threatening and ordering demands. While this is common in many relationships, it is significantly apparent in abusive relationships with narcissists.
  • Manipulation: This is covert aggression. It is disguised in the cloak of something nice to later alter it. It can also be “moving the goal posts” meaning you do one thing to get my affection and once it is accomplished, there is a list of others.
  • Gaslighting: This is extremely common in narcissistic relationships where you are meant to feel that your sense of reality isn’t correct and you are mentally incompetent.
  • Emotional blackmail: Many refer to this as the “fog” of shutting down after threats, warnings, intimidation and punishments for non-compliance.
  • Sabotage: Sabotage often happens with other relationships in your life or trying to build your career or other self-improvements.
  • Lying: Lying and thinking there is no consequence for it. Sometimes as blatant as changing answers within a few sentences.
  • Withholding: Keeping money, sex, affection, and other things from you to push you into more compliance.
  • Negative contrasting: Comparing you to others to put you down or comparing themselves against others to build themselves up.

I’d read the list over and over. Incident after incident fit.abuse and getting over emotional trauma

  • Verbal abuse: One of the most notorious was saying “I looked like I was one step above Goodwill and one step below the maid” in referring to me wearing sweats after giving birth to our son.
  • Manipulation: So many examples. Telling me we had to get rid of one my dogs because we couldn’t have four and mine was a problem only to later find out that one of his was his ex-wife’s who still had the right to claim him at any time.
  • Gaslighting: Did I say I didn’t know my favorite color?
  • Emotional blackmail: During our honeymoon period when we were supposed to be happy with a new baby, he would say he was going to retire and “he didn’t know what I was going to do cause I needed to earn my keep.”
  • Sabotage: We opened a business for film production on our (his) ranch. When I marketed it and got the first client, suddenly they were not allowed to film where they had contracted to film, making me look like an idiot and killing the deal. (Of course, I was the reason the business failed.)
  • Lying: We were broke despite the Bel Air home, a weekend ranch, his 4 cars, horses, fine art and a thousand other playthings. No, we couldn’t afford $100 for me to get my hair done.
  • Withholding: He canceled the one credit card he gave me because I bought a pair of pants. My mom had to send money for me to buy formula for our son.
  • Negative contrasting: Didn’t matter if he knew the person or not, the perception of success was what mattered. Like when we were driving in traffic and the Range Rover mom with a child in the back had to be balancing a $500,000 career, making dinner, taking care of the kid and having tons of energy for sex too. Maybe we should have stopped to ask her what her life was really like.

How did I get there?

Even understanding all the signs that lead to emotional trauma, I found little solace. My head still spun with every decision I made, wondering if I was a good person, smart, capable. Most of all, I questioned whether or not I was a good mother, the one thing most important to me. My son was everything I was fighting for.

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The Effects of Emotional Abuse

The effects of emotional trauma resulting from an abusive relationship with a narcissist are widespread. Survivors tend to shut down and don’t have the ability to cope with conflict. It takes healing time to trust in relationships again and pull out from being withdrawn. Depression is common with behaviors triggered easily by similar events or conversations.

For a survivor co-parenting, the road will be long and difficult. Every interaction, text and email is an opportunity for conflict. For the narcissist, this is what they thrive on. For the survivor, this sets off traumatic memories and a visceral reaction. That reaction goes right back to the crazy making. Forcing yourself to stop interacting and reacting to the situation is hard, but the only path to sanity.

Years later when our son refused to go to his father’s anymore, we entered into group family therapy. This was the last place I wanted to be on a Thursday evening. But for the sake of my son, I did. I will say that no matter how far removed I am from my ex and how much stronger I have gotten in my healing, it doesn’t take much to be in a room and get triggered from something.

It never occurred to me that post-traumatic stress disorder was something that could happen to people not involved in a physically traumatic event like an accident or incident. My troubles couldn’t possibly compare to the experiences of a soldier coming back from Iraq. They have a right to claim post-traumatic stress disorder.

Over the years, I have realized that each of us has a path and our perceptions are based on our own realities. I’ve seen more and more women (and men) talk about the negative emotions, flashbacks and emotional pain – all of which meet the description of post-traumatic stress disorder. Sure, that is my Bachelors of Psychology, Google degree speaking. I’m not a professional. But it seems to fit for many.woman showing signs of emotional trauma

Symptoms of Emotional Trauma Survivors

Emotional trauma leaves both mental and physical scars. The symptoms are sometimes hard to recognize. Plus someone may have had physical trauma or experienced domestic violence on top of it that can increase symptoms and reactions. Left untreated, symptoms remain for the course of your life. Survivors can live without healing or can choose to rebuild their egos, self-worth and overall happiness.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of emotional trauma include low energy and chronic fatigue. Survivors experience insomnia, nightmares and even night terrors. A physical response to trauma is being on edge and easily startles. They hold a ton of tension in their muscles, always waiting to react. Survivors also experience a racing heartbeat, aches and pains and difficulty concentrating.

Mental / Emotional Symptoms

The mental and emotional symptoms of surviving an emotionally abusive relationship include depression, mood swings and anxiety. Often survivors state they feel helpless and worthless. They are easily confused and don’t trust others or themselves. Often, they are riddled with guilt and shame, feeling like they should have known better. Many become disconnected with the world around them, withdrawing from normal social and emotional interactions.

I could certainly relate to many of the symptoms. It was inconceivable to friends and family that I ever became involved with the man. Many confiding in me years later that they didn’t like him but didn’t want to ruin my happiness. Truth was, I was never happy with him. But once I was sucked in, I really never knew how to get out.

Reaching out for help was even more difficult. How could I? I was a strong, successful woman who screwed everything up with one relationship. My choices led to years of misery.

The thing is you can own your choices and even your mistakes and not be 100% responsible for the end result. Forgiving yourself can be the most difficult thing, but necessary. It’s the only way to find happiness again – that is the only way to beat the narcissist.

Coping with Emotional Trauma from Abusive Relationshipscoping mechanisms

People’s response to trauma is different. We all have our own ways to cope and deal with anxiety and stress.

Here are three negative ways survivors seems to cope:

  • Withdrawal from People
  • Substance Abuse
  • Sexual Promiscuity

As for me, withdrawing from others was the easiest. The stories being told about me to our common relationships made were enraging and embarrassing. My sense of shame and guilt within my own circles made me want to hide under the covers.

The only thing that brought me out was my son. He needed a social life and that was my entrance back into society. From MOMS Club to PTA and playdates, the friends I made saved my life. They’ll never know how deeply their kindness over the years to me and my son have impacted my life. Accepting me as a hot mess, hugging me and reassuring me that I wasn’t nuts.

It’s the little things in life that mean a lot – like the simple phrase, “I want to see you happy,” can mean so much.

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Getting Over Emotional Trauma

Recovering from trauma takes time. I’ve thought a lot about why women (and men) remain in abusive relationships. The only conclusion I have is that the unknown is scarier than the known. Part of it is the buy-in to what the abuser is saying. Part of it is the shame of feeling like you failed yourself and your child.

To get over emotional trauma and escape the patterns of an abusive relationship, you have to step outside your comfort zone.

Here are some tips for recovering from emotional trauma:

  1. Find your tribe. We have a great safe space in our group, Single Mommy Tribe.
  2. Force yourself to be with people. Join a club, volunteer or just call old friends.
  3. Learn to exercise in a way that helps you focus on your body and control anxiety like yoga, weight training or rock climbing.
  4. Limit drinking. It’s a temporary solution that leads to other problems.
  5. Eat well and fuel your body with food that strengthens you to fight fatigue.
  6. Find someone you can talk to and relate to or go into therapy to work through things with a professional.

Getting over emotional trauma is important in finding fulfilling relationships and being the best parent you possibly can be. Remember that you might always get triggered if you are co-parenting. Set boundaries, use tools like email and co-parenting apps to limit contact.

Becoming emotionally healthy makes you a better parent. Your kids are worth it and so are you!

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

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Disciplining Your Child: Co-Parenting Rules

“I can’t make you do anything.”

I can still remember the first day I said it to my son. He got in trouble for not being nice to his friend who was over. When the playdate was over, he was sent to his room to sit on his bed without toys. It wasn’t the harshest punishment in the world but enough for a four-year-old to throw a fit over.

“When you do something, there is a consequence. That means something else happens. It can be good or bad.”

In my head, thoughts of physics laws tossed around along with the very real fact that I was in the midst of a custody battle with a full-blown custody evaluation. You know, the type of investigation into your parenting style that makes you wonder if giving your child a Happy Meal is grounds for losing custody.

I was a bit stressed to say the least. In my head, conflict thoughts bounced around like a ping pong ball smacked by an Olympic ponger. Pap pap pap pap pap.

Disciplining Your Child and Conflicts in Co-Parenting

There are so many schools of thought on disciplining your child, disciplining a toddler to be exact. They are a tough crowd to say the least. From gentle parenting to corporal punishment, the parenting styles vary. It’s hard enough to stay the course in discipline.

The one time my son got a “hand spanking” from me left him crying and me sobbing in my bedroom. I’m not a spanker. It truly did hurt me more than it hurt him. A kids time out would be much easier on me.

It’s harder when parents don’t agree. Co-parenting rules vary from case to case and those who co-parent with a narcissist can have bigger conflicts that result. The courts will ask you to agree to basic things but the reality is you can’t control how the other parent disciplines your child when they aren’t with you.

With all going on, I questioned my own actions.Disciplining your child

Styles of Disciplining Your Child

Parenting experts say to pick your battles and do what you can to prevent situations where you child will be tempted to misbehave. At the end of the day, parenting experts agree that disciplining your child, regardless of the style you choose to discipline your child, gets the best results with clear and simple communication.

Child discipline methods must have a foundation that includes:

  1. Set rules and be willing to follow through with them.
  2. Keep rules simple.
  3. Define consequences clearly
  4. Be consistent and don’t back down.

It can be hard to discipline your child in front of his friends at the part with all the other mother’s watching, often judging your parenting skills.

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Not Disciplining Your Child: Raising Kids as Co-Parents

My direction in raising my son and disciplining him was founded in not creating more conflict. There was plenty of conflict running around the family as it was. You see, my son had a choice to not be nice to his friend. I had a choice to punish him. He had every opportunity to ignore my punishment which could lead to another punishment.

Essentially the kid learned very early from me that he had choices to do the right thing and learn what the consequences of his actions would be. Someone once told me that the best way to instill respect when raising kids is to instill the fear of God in them. That’s the idea behind, “Wait ‘til your father gets home and grabs his belt,” right?

As I explained to my son that I can set rules and he will have to live with the result of his choices, I could hear the disagreements from his father. I was being easy on the kid and encouraging bad behavior. I had no rules.

Not Disciplining Your Child or Offering Choices

To be clear, there were consequences in my house. And things would escalate if punishments weren’t “adhered” to. What the heck does that mean? I have a certain level of control when my son is small. I can literally pick him up and place him in his room and then tell him to stay there. Kids’ time outs are nice but there needs to be some agreement for it to work. Star wars figures parent throwing child

I can’t make him. I can go back and re-do the pick-up, place and tell but I can’t make him. But instead of forcing the issue, my choice was to not force discipline on my son. It was to find his motivating factors. If he didn’t adhere to the punishment, a bigger one would happen, one that I could control like not taking him to his friend’s birthday party or a movie he wanted to see.

See, I knew that at some point the kid would be too big to man-handle. At some point you just can’t pick them up and put them where you want them. Ideally, in raising kids, the child gets to the point of wanting to do the right thing. They understand the value of being nice, kind and good. They also see the motivation for both good and bad behavior.

Co-Parenting Rules About Discipline

After a long court battle over the course of three years, the co-parenting agreement was something like 50 pages. Boiling down the punishment aspect, there is really just one line, “no corporal punishment.”

That leaves a lot of interpretation to what can and can’t be done. Over the years, I stuck with my choices method of discipline. Dad’s house was a bit harsher. Punishments were excessive from the moment a bad behavior was done. Say a mean thing and lose your toy forever type of stuff. It was dad’s choice and nothing I could do about it even though I didn’t agree.

The thing with co-parenting is you find liberation – freedom – when you accept that you don’t have control. That being said, my son absorbed what mom was doing and what dad was doing. It got to the point that at my house he would self-punish.

He knew the rules and if he broke it, I’d ask what the consequence was or should be (if it was a new type of incident). I can’t count the times my son walked up to me and handed me his most prized possessions to relinquish them forever.disciplining your child hourglass

My advice to those in the midst of creating those co-parenting rules:

  • Understand your parenting style and your ex’s
  • Think about it from your child’s perspective
  • Be specific on the most important aspects
  • Keep the rest general – it might get ignored anyway
  • Be very aware of the differences
  • Accept you can’t control what happens at the other house
  • Don’t judge what happens at the other house, stick to your style.

You’ll find that you can put just about anything you want into a court order. You’ll also find that enforcing parenting styles is nearly impossible. The courts just don’t have time for the bickering (and that is how they see it).

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Taking Ownership and Learning About Consequences

While it made me proud to think that my son learned to take responsibility for his actions, it broke my heart to think that he held every little rule to such a high standard that breaking one meant the harshest standards.

This is the danger in co-parenting, the toxic nature of kids starting to absorb all bad things and their responsibility. It shouldn’t be that way. I’d let him set the punishment theme but usually would adjust the time. Sometimes you just need to keep talking through things.

I feel lucky because my son is an extremely respectful young man. I get complimented on his behavior at other’s homes often. It makes me feel good that he chooses to make the right decisions and treat others with respect.Teen boy

I don’t know that my parenting style and discipline choices are the perfect way to raise a child. When I look back, I certainly see how he is a product of both households. His relationship with me is strong and he hasn’t fallen into the teenager mode with disobedience (at least not yet). We have mutual respect. His relationship with his father isn’t the same; it’s actually the opposite.

Parenting is hard. It really does take a tribe and we really are always experimenting with ways to be better parents. Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

Hiring a Handyman: Single Moms Savvy Advice to Hire the Right Guy

You have a honey do list but no honey. Trust me, honey, I know the pain. But with no honey, there are three options you have to fix those pesky things needing attention around the house. That might also mean you need some attention, but let’s stick to the house for now.

Your three choices when trying to tackle that honey do list with no honey are:

  1. Learn to Do It Yourself
  2. Find a Honey
  3. Hire a Handyman

Before you can really start to evaluate which of these choices are most appropriate, you should evaluate your skills and see what you really need done and what you can really do.

Hey, remember, you’re a mom and that makes you super-woman, at least in your kid’s eyes. But the reality is not all of us are ready to crawl under the house and fix the leaking pipe. (The pipe is probably less of a problem than the spiders, snakes and other creepy crawlies under there.)wonder woman

But that list…

The Honey Do List Summarized

This is probably the moment you realize there is a benefit to renting a home over owning it; landlords take care of that honey do list. They have to. It’s okay, there are a lot of great things about home ownership, the fixing everything just isn’t one of them. Think about all the things that need to be done. Then start thinking about resources.

If you have recently purchased the home, stop to think whether or not you have a home warranty. If you don’t, think about getting one in the future. Sure, you spend a bit on the monthly premium but it will fix things like appliances, plumbing and electrical issues without needing to do it yourself or find yourself a honey.handyman painting fence

For those of us who might have no thought about getting that home warranty, look for warranties on appliances or invoices from service providers. You might be surprised to find what you have covered for free and free up some of your time.

And for all else, the little bits of painting that is chipping on the garage door, the squeaky window sill in your son’s room or the mounting of the flat screen television you indulged with over Christmas … all these other things may require some work. That’s work from you as the do it yourself mom, a honey or someone you can sweet-talk into helping or hiring a handyman.

Learning to Do It Yourself: The DIY Mom

I’d like to think of myself as a true do it yourself (DIY) mom. But the truth is when it comes to my home that I worked my tail off to buy, well, I’m pretty chicken about doing more harm than good with my DIY skills. I know others who excel at this and probably are better at shimming a new kitchen cabinet than Tim Allen in Home Improvement. (Word has it, he really can’t wield a hammer anyways.)

But be daring and learn what you can. From YouTube to Home Depot workshops, there are a ton of resources for moms like us to learn how to do a lot of things on our own.

I have actually changed out the entire interior part of the toilet – you know, the do-hickies and thing-a-ma-bobs. Yep, did it myself.

I’d consider myself a better painter compared to the professional dude I hired at my last house who didn’t bother to tell me the extra can of paint I bought didn’t match the original wall color. Instead, he just painted and wanted his $25 / hour for the entire 8-hour day.

But when it comes to the seriously heavy lifting or potentially fire hazard, house exploding items on the honey do list, I usually call in the big guns. That usually means asking if anyone can help.

Find a Honey for the Honey Do List

hiring a handyman for that honey do listSweet talk can often get a lot done. Not something I’m really good at and not something that has regularly gotten me anything done in my home. Yeah, I’m not really prepared to pay the price of getting a temporary honey to help with the honey do list.

That being said, if you happen to be in the market for a honey or have a friend who is willing to rent out her husband for the day in exchange for their date night babysitting (just to pour salt in your dateless wounds), then maybe you have something cooking.

Should this fail, it might be time to actually call the handyman.

Hiring a Handyman

Before we get into hiring a handyman for your honey do list, I want to say this: if you are a single woman, expect a lot of mansplaining and sleight of hand dealings. I might venture to say hiring a handyman is more difficult than finding a new honey in some cases. handyman tools

Let me put it this way. I have some idea of what things cost. I can price things out at Home Depot just like anyone else. I also have family that are general contractors who can give me a pretty good idea about the timeframes for any given job. When I get a quote for a handyman to build 16 feet of fence and the materials are twice the cost of what I bid and the labor cost is three times the amount of time I could do it in … let’s just say I’m not a happy momma bear.

In fact, people find me downright bitchy.

How to Hire a Handyman

When hiring a handyman to take care of all those items you just aren’t comfortable in a do it yourself scenario, keep these things in mind: plan, negotiate and prepare.

Plan: Take the time to review what is entailed in the job. If it’s mounting that flat-screen television, watch a few how-to videos on YouTube. It will give you an idea of the materials required, the time it should take and what questions to ask the handyman.

If you have more than one project to do, take the time to bid them out separately before you ask for a bundled bid. If you ask for the bundle first, you might not be getting a discount. But you should because the handyman doesn’t have to make an extra trip and should be able to pick up all materials (if you aren’t getting them) at once.

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Negotiate: Packaging several items on the honey do list should be the start of negotiations. But don’t leave it with that. Get several bids and don’t hesitate to play one bid against another. Most handyman work within the same price ranges so differences in price are often because of the time estimated for the job. That’s the other thing – don’t pay hourly. Get a bid on the job and set that as the price.

Prepare: Know the state laws and requirements for handymen. Some states don’t allow unlicensed tradesmen to charge more than $500 for a job. Charging more requires licensing and often a bond and even insurance. Make sure you know when the handyman will be working and prepare your home to keep it clean of dust and debris. Don’t expect most handymen to do a good job on the clean-up.

If you find a handyman that does, keep that number, put it in speed dial and refer him to your friends. He’s worth it.

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Protecting Yourself and Your Children

When a handyman comes to fix something, he is coming on to your property and often into your home. Make sure you and your children are safe and secure. The United Handyman’s Association offers a service to help homeowners find and hire a handyman that has passed a background screening including a criminal background check.

Our friend, Flash Shelton is the founder of The United Handyman’s Association. His mission is to make sure fewer people, single moms and homeowners in general, don’t get the short end of the yardstick when it comes to using general handyman services.

Ask a handyman for insurance. Accidents happen. You don’t want him trying to install a new ceiling fan only to have a fire start because he accidentally crossed the wrong wires. That shouldn’t be on your homeowner’s insurance policy. It is his liability and he should have insurance to cover it.

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And always, as a single mom, if your kids start to feel uncomfortable with the handyman around, make sure you ask them the right questions. Never accuse someone of anything without substantial reason or evidence but do set boundaries to keep your family comfortable and safe.

If you are looking for help finding a handyman, feel free to check out our trusted partner’s resources at The United Handyman’s Association.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

Dating with Kids: Is He Ready for Your World?

You’ve made the decision to get back into the world of the living and that includes dating. Being afraid of how your kids will factor into the equation is normal and natural. Take the time to decide on how you will deal with date nights, talk about your new friend and whether or not he is really ready for dating someone with kids.

It doesn’t matter if your children are little or teens getting ready to leave the house soon. Dating with kids is hard and requires a game plan. Things can get even more complicated if you are co-parenting and dating. Be flexible throughout.

Here are the best tips we could find to help you jump back into the world of dating:

The Start of Dating with Kids

The start of dating again can be exciting, scary and overwhelming. It’s just the way things are. Be patient and know that time is on your side. He might need to figure out dating someone with kids too. It’s going to be a process.

Slow Down Before Jumping Into Dating with Kids

Double check your own readiness before you really start going out to meet people. Think about your own healing. The last thing you want is to get yourself in a bad relationship simply because you felt lonely. Do the work on you to get over your ex and determine the big things you want in your next relationship.

Know Yourself and Figure Out Your Needs

We are all different. Some of us just need to get out, be with adults and feel attractive. We want to date but aren’t looking for anything serious. Others don’t want to spend a lot of time and energy on things that have no potential. Know where you stand on this. Neither is wrong; it’s about taking care of you in the long run.

Keep It A Secret at First

It can be exciting to meet someone who really makes you feel wonderful. Be giddy with your girlfriends but don’t start sharing things with your kids until you know something meaningful is in the works. Meeting the new man in your life is stressful for kids. If this happens a lot, stress can increase and it can also lead to kids having a poor understanding of long-term relationships.

Calm Your Kids’ Fears

Kids from divorced parents can be concerned that one parent is being replaced. When you realize it is time to start letting your kids know that you are dating and maybe even getting a bit serious, be diligent about explaining that no one is getting replaced. Mommy and Daddy will always be Mommy and Daddy – bottom line. Repeat as necessary.

Avoid Searching for Mr. Perfect

We once heard Dr. Phil speak about looking for Mr. Right. A paraphrased version of his advice: Go find someone that meets 80% of what you’re looking for. No one is perfect. Go look for Mr. 80 Percent and then learn to compromise and accept the other 20% as we are all human. We took note of this – who wouldn’t, it’s Dr. Phil.

Have What If Conversations with Kids

You don’t need to tell kids that you’re going off on a date. In fact, it’s better to not bring things up unless you really see a future. But ask your kids about what if scenarios like, “What would you think if mommy met someone new?” This gives your kids a chance to express themselves without the pressure of thinking they need to please you.

Don’t make what ifs about you, make them about your ex and your kids, like, “What if you won a shopping spree to Hello Kitty?” Keep it light and let your kids say what they think while also imagining new things in the world.

Balance Your Time

If you are co-parenting and dating, do your best to do your dating when your children are at the other parent’s home. If that isn’t possible, be mindful to not be out every Friday night or stop all those fun traditions you have with your children like Saturday cookie baking. This helps keep the crazy co-parenting routine as normal as possible for kids who thrive on continuity.

Relationships Start to Get Serious

When the rubber meets the road … (maybe not the best analogy here) but time has come to think about the next steps of the relationship. This might be a bit scary for you in many ways because you might not be ready to introduce him to the kids, but you might be talking about getting more serious.

Stay Tuned-In to Yourself When Dating With Kids

This goes back to slowing down and really assessing your own feelings, desires and needs. Remember that it is normal to have all sorts of feelings. Self-affirmation is important at this stage. This is where all that fun and excitement might start to feel like work. Keep those feelings in check.

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Talk to Your Partner

If you haven’t already started to talk about introductions to kids, this is the time to start planning. Both of you need to be ready and comfortable when the time comes. The more you talk about this, the more you move in the direction of building a family together. This is the time to talk about parenting styles in depth.

Don’t leave that up to, “well he’s just easy going.” You may be in for a surprise when his favorite loafers are doused in a soda-shine by your son.

Offer Soft Invitations to Older Kids

By now your children probably already know about him. At least they have a good idea even if you think they don’t. Kids are smart. If you have older kids, this might be a good time to give them the power to choose. Ask them if they want to join some casual date scenarios like grabbing a pizza or going for a hike.

Let Kids Express Their Fears

Giving children the chance to express their fears is important. Don’t forget to acknowledge those fears. Your children rely on you to be their protector. Let them know you realize they are afraid, maybe even angry at times. Reassure them that their feelings are important and you will always be there to listen to them and help them.

Introducing Your New Love Interest

It’s hard to say when that time will be, it’s different for everyone. But at some point, you will realize that your new relationship isn’t some fling and you want to start really exploring a future together. It’s time to introduce him to your children. And maybe it’s time for you to meet his.

Consider A Conversation with Your Ex

Co-parenting and dating is not very easy. Talking to your ex may not be feasible depending on how bad the breakup was and how much time has passed. With that said, getting your ex on board before you introduce the kids helps disarm him and could even help you gain his alliance when talking to the kids about Mommy’s new friend. Remember though, setting co-parenting boundaries is important.

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Keep the Meeting the New Guy Informal

Don’t make the first meeting between your new love interest and your kids a major event like a birthday party or holiday gathering. Those are stressful without meeting someone new that will have a huge impact on your life. Make the event something where no one feels restricted to sit at a table for a full dinner awkwardly.

Get Your Kids Feedback

A simple, “what do you think?” will open the doors of everything going on in their minds. Let them talk. Don’t censor it and don’t interrupt. Some of it might be hard to hear and you may feel defensive at times. Take a breath and acknowledge their thoughts and feelings. This goes a long way to reassuring them that they are your priority. There is plenty of time to talk about your side of the situation.

Give Everyone Space and Time

Don’t jump from the introduction to family dinners every night. That can overwhelm anyone. As much as you want to integrate everyone into one happy family, everyone might need a little time to make small adjustments to normal routines. Integrate families slowly when you are dating with kids.

Open Discussions for Problems

He might seem like the greatest guy in the world but if his jokes or the way he hugs make your daughter uncomfortable, she needs to know she can come to you about it. That’s an extreme example to illustrate the point that your kids need to know that if a problem arises from anything from inappropriate language to corporal punishment, you need to and want to know.

The End Game: Fully Integrated Families

That’s the goal, right? From dating to help you move forward to a fully integrated family where everyone feels good is what moms dream about. Though the road may seem a bit bumpy at times and it could feel like it will never happen, just remember to keep communication with your kids and your new beau in check.

Over time, what seemed awkward when dating with kids will become normal. Kids want to be happy but they also want you to be happy too. As time goes on, if you keep giving everyone opportunities to talk, your new family can grow into a wonderful example other single mom find inspiration in.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

Selling House in Divorce: Divorce Court Considerations

Emotions can be high in a divorce. Chances are that someone at some time wants to throw the kitchen sink at the other. The reality is, eventually emotions subside and we all become adults once again.

When it comes to divorce proceedings, the courts usually guide us to being adults faster than we are ready. Keep that kitchen sink intact because if you have to sell, you want top dollar. Plus, you don’t want you ex spouse to claim you damaged the property and have your portion garnished for the momentarily emotionally gratifying deed.

So, who gets the house in a divorce?

Sometimes it isn’t feasible for anyone to get the house in the divorce. Other times one spouse will buy another out based on agreement or court order. We’ve even heard of a few instances where the child gets the house and the parents go back and forth depending on their custody schedule.

Often the house will get sold per divorce court settlements and the proceeds split per the final divorce judgment.

Selecting the Realtor in the Divorce Sale

Choose a realtor that is prepared to handle a divorce sale. Don’t choose a friend because they will hold some level of bias. You need a real estate agent who understands divorce court, how proceedings and asset division work.

According to Grace Neiman of Keller Williams, “Ask your divorce attorney for a realtor who specializes in divorce. It’s a sensitive subject and you need someone who understands this is more than just selling a home. It’s releasing a lifetime together: memories, hopes and dreams. But it’s more than that. It’s a division of assets through a lot of emotions. It’s hard.”

Agreeing to Sell and Split Proceeds in Divorce

One of the common ways to split assets in a divorce, especially a house, is to put it on the market, sell it and split any equity equally among the two of you. This is common especially if there aren’t children involved. It simplifies things by eliminating a pending mortgage and if you can sell quickly, expedites the process. That being said, if the housing market is slow, this could drag things on longer than desired.

Talk to a realtor. Get an honest assessment for the home before you do anything. Find out what the current market is like and get estimated projections. Think about the return on investment for any upgrades or potential work.

Negotiate the realtor fees if possible to keep net profits as high as possible. Perform a comprehensive market analysis so you have reasonable expectations of the process and the sale. If you’re looking to move quickly but the market is slow, you might need to price the home accordingly.

Some common questions to consider when selling the house in divorce and splitting the proceeds:

Does the house need work before it is ready to sell?

It might be hard for both parties to agree what work needs to be done. One party might not want to invest any more money into the house, fearful that it will eat into the payout proceeds. Decisions need to be made, ideally in writing and implemented.

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Will one spouse continue to live in the home?

If one spouse remains in the home during divorce pending the sale will that one person being responsible for all upkeep and mortgage payments? Put everything in writing and even talk to your attorney about it before agreeing to anything.

Who is responsible for open house and sale preparations?

Real estate agents are not responsible for open houses. This means someone has to go to the house, clean it and get it ready for presentation. If one spouse is still living there, this is usually his or her responsibility. But if neither are still in the home, it might be easier to hire a cleaning crew to prepare the home for open houses and viewings.

The bottom line is you don’t want to ruin your chances of getting the most out of the home sale in divorce by not getting the property prepared. Money buys more than pride. Put your differences aside and get the house ready for sale.

House Buyout at Divorce: One Spouse Keeps the Pad

This option is more common when children are involved to keep a stable environment and consistency. It is a viable option in any divorce if parties agree. In a house buyout, you decide to buy the house from your ex-husband. He will agree to quit his interest in the property by completing a quitclaim deed. For his part, you agree to assume the mortgage and buy him out of his equity; he holds a divorce lien until paid off.

To buy him out of the mortgage, you need to contact the lender and explain the divorce scenario and request an assumption of the loan. Lenders will more than likely underwrite you as an individual to make sure you can afford the house on your own. Make sure you document all income you have, including spousal support.

If the lender won’t let you assume the loan, you need to apply for a refinance. If interest rates are lower, this might not be a bad scenario anyway. Again, this is a loan application. Meet all income and debt obligations to qualify.

Can I Pay My Spouse Off Over Time After the Divorce?

A house buyout at divorce is possible to do self-financing between your spouse and yourself. This usually requires a good relationship between the two parties. For your part, it’s co-owning the house with your spouse per completion of a purchase agreement.

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Are There Risks to a House Buyout During Divorce?

Risks to a house buyout in divorce usually have to do with appreciate and depreciation values. If the one spouse is buying the property from the other spouse, there may be the spouse getting the bad end of the deal may feel slighted. It can also be a financial burden for the spouse financing the property since it will affect the ability to obtain a mortgage for another home.

Can I Be Forced to Sell My House in A Divorce?

In divorce proceedings, if you and your ex cannot otherwise split all assets to account for the value and equity of the home, the court can order you to sell. The proceeds are then divided or debts are paid off per the court order in the divorce settlement agreement. The forcing of the sale in divorce can still potentially happen even if one spouse isn’t on the mortgage.

Prepare When Selling House in Divorce

Someone needs to prepare the home for sale. If there is a lot of tension in the divorce, this might not be something to agree to do together. But do your best as a couple to clean up the house and make it presentable for sale. If your best is agreeing that one person is responsible or that both will chip in to hire a cleaning crew, then so be it.

Remember you both have a stake in the successful sale. De-clutter and make it look like a happy family lives there. Continue to mow the grass and weed the flowerbed. If you’re doing it together don’t be surprised if he tackles that honey-do-list he just hasn’t had the time for. Consider it bonus antagonism in your divorce settlement.

You’ll scratch your head wondering why he was incapable of doing it before and he’ll know you just increased your sale value. Funny how you can win that way sometimes.

The Next House After Divorce Court

If you are selling the marital house and want to buy a new house, make sure to coordinate things with your realtor to ensure you time the purchase properly. Divorces get hung up in court and house sales get hung up for a million reasons. You don’t want to be tied into a new home mortgage when other components fall apart.

Being stuck with two mortgages or a home that didn’t sell for as much as you hoped along with legal fees is not a fresh start. Double check everything with realtors and divorce attorneys to ensure you have everything properly mapped out.

Be honest with lenders and start the process early. While you need to be prepared, don’t lock any rates in before you are really ready to pull the trigger. Constantly running credit for new approvals can hurt credit scores.

Final Thoughts About Who Gets the House in Divorce

Who gets the house in divorce is based on property division laws, how well you and your spouse can agree to terms and what the market will warrant if you sell. Remember that you are taking the first step to a fresh start with the rest of your life. Even if you have to sell the house against your wishes, you can use the proceeds to settle into a whole new you.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.