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Single Mom Jobs: Working for Yourself or Someone Else

If you’ve seen my book or heard me speak, you know I am all about helping to empower single moms to find jobs that will not just provide a good livelihood for their families, but will give them fulfillment and time to spend with their kids. I don’t know about you, but when I became a mom everything changed and while I am still a very goal-driven person, my desire to be “mom first” superseded everything.

Being able to find a career that serves your financial needs is so important. Beyond that, we have to find careers that understand that we want to make a field trip or help throw the class party. Just because you are single doesn’t mean you can’t provide financially and still be there for your kids.

I managed to do this as a writer, working from home on my own schedule and on my own terms. There are so many opportunities like this in the gig economy. Then there are flexible jobs that you can get paid benefits at as well. It’s up to you as a mom to determine exactly what the best route is for you and your family. Here are some things to consider and places to look for that perfect single mom job. 

Monthly Budget as a Single Mom

Raising kids isn’t cheap. As a single mom, you’re often the sole provider making sure they have a good place to live, ample food on the table, and all the extra little things that makes childhood amazing. You also need to make sure you have medical care and are ideally planning for your own retirement to one day enjoy a break or two.

Understanding your monthly budget means having the honest talk with yourself about what your necessities are and what you really want. Everyone wants to make more money, have nice things, and go on more vacations. But you have to understand what you are willing to give up at times to get certain things. For me, while we lived in a good neighborhood and had nice things, I didn’t make the type of money I was probably capable of for many years simply because it would have taken time away from raising my son. That was a personal choice.

I knew what my monthly budget was to afford the lifestyle I wanted to give my son. It wasn’t bare minimum but it wasn’t everything I couldn’t have made. The tradeoff: I was there every day after school to see him, didn’t miss a field trip, and could take him to any after school activity without a hiccup. For me, my budget was a middle-of-the-road budget that fulfilled my monetary needs and mom desires.

Sit down and determine your budget to see exactly what you need and what you really want. 

Single Parent Careers

Of course, there is no career that is labelled “single parent careers.” In fact, one would argue that all parents want the same good money with the flexibility of time that single moms want. The difference is that single moms often have a bigger burden of trying to deal with sick kids without extra help or manage unforeseen things without a shoulder of support. For me, flexibility was that much more important to me as a single mom than as a married mom.

The key thing is to remember that we are only limited by our own goals and beliefs. Going to work for long hours away from your child isn’t enticing for many single moms no matter how much money there is involved. Of course, you want to provide the best but that life balance is critical.

Some great jobs for a single mom to consider include:

  • Freelance anything: Writers web designers, and graphic designers are in demand and make a great living from home.
  • Teacher: Educators often work the same hours as when the kids are in school. This is especially ideal if you are able to teach at the same school that your child attends. 
  • Sales: Great sales positions provide excellent commissions with benefits but a flexible schedule. Managers are often most concerned with sales numbers, not office hours. 
  • Daycare: Nanny, babysitter, and daycare providers are often able to care for their own kids while getting paid to care for others. 
  • Network marketing: Don’t scoff at network marketers. More women are making more money and maintaining a great social support system at the same time. 

Employee or Business Owner

More and more single moms are going into business for themselves. This could be freelancing from home with a toddler on your lap as I started out years ago or opening an insurance agency (which I also later did when my son was older). Both allowed me strong control over my schedule, each with their own financial opportunities. 

But not every mom wants to be in business for herself and there is nothing wrong with that. Having a reliable paycheck with set benefits and vacation time has a lot to be said for it. Figure out what you feel best suits you and make your decisions from there. You don’t need to do what everyone else is doing; this is about you and your family.

Finding an Understanding Boss

If you choose to get a job, make sure you are comfortable with how the boss views your role as a single mom. Of course, you don’t want to walk into an interview stating that you need to be able to get the day off if your child is sick, but you can get an idea of how understanding a boss might be with flexible scheduling.

Most employers want you to be your best when in the office and many will even allow you to take work home where pertinent if you have to take care of a sick child occasionally. You can get a sense of whether a boss if understanding or not when you ask them about their own children or talk to others in the office while waiting for an interview. 

The Entrepreneur’s Life

If you decide that you want to control your own destiny and go into business for yourself, the sky is the limit. With so many ways to start a business, many of which allow you to work from home, there isn’t a reason for a single mom wanting her own business to be successful. Find something you are passionate about and get a mentor to help guide you. I’ve coached many single moms on starting a writing career; it actually helps me find great talent to outsource extra work to. 

Single Mom Caring for Kids

Here’s the thing, caring for kids is either done by you for free or by someone else you pay. Unless grandma is retired and able to watch the kids, you probably don’t have free child care. This includes time after school. When making that budget and determining your overall costs, factor in what childcare expenses you will have. These are above other expenses like art classes or sports. Then, of course, there is the college planning roadtrip that you’d love to have when they are older.

When Kids Are Sick

Whether you work for someone else or work for yourself, you will find that sick kids are a normal part of parenting. Having a set plan in place for the days your kid can’t go to school (or you get a call from the school to pick them up). Some single moms are a little luckier than others with family close by to help. Others keep a babysitting fund available just in case.

Either way, have a plan. You don’t want to miss too many days of work because school is a petri dish and kids are always sick. At the same time, if you work for yourself, the work still needs to get done. Sick days don’t really happen for the self-employed. You know the kids will be sick at some point so have a plan even if that is making an agreement with a friend or family member to help you out for part of the day. 

School Activities and The Single Mom

Being a freelance writer meant I never missed a school or afterschool activity. That was important to me. When getting back to work as a single mom, figure out what activities are most important to you to attend and plan for it. This might mean putting your name on the chaperone list for a specific field trip well in advance or making sure your schedule allows you to make all Friday basketball games. 

Kids will adapt to your schedule but do appreciate mom being around. Include them on which events are most important for them to have you at. Plan as a family to make the most of your schedule and time off. 

Balancing It All As a Single Mom

I’ve heard it said that you can have it all, just not all of it at the same time. This means setting priorities to make sure the most important things are done, paid for, or attended. Only you can do this. In the process, don’t forget to take care of yourself too. It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working so hard to be present for your kids and make a living. 

Find a support system that lets you vent and lifts you up for everything you are doing. Remember, it can seem easy for society to put you down for what you can or can’t do. Only you know what your priorities are; no one else lives in your shoes. It doesn’t matter if you return to the workforce to do something you did prior to kids or start something new. Just make sure your single mom job aligns with your single mom priorities. Everything else will fall into place.

If you need a group of women who just get it, join the Single Mommy Tribe. We love to laugh but embrace a good cry too. And if you are looking for a way to break into freelancing, check out my book, Stay At Home Single Mom. I’d love to show you how to avoid the mistakes I made.

stay at home single mom book cover
single moms supporting each other

Single Mom Support Groups: What To Look For

As a single mom raising a son, I know the isolation that can happen when you are doing your best to balance it all. You can be surrounded by a group of loving friends, but it’s hard to find that group that truly relates to your situation. The last thing you want is for people to feel sorry for you. Instead, you want a group where you can vent and really be heard. It’s why I created the Single Mommy Tribe, a private online single mom support group. 

The Stress of Single Parenting

Single parents juggle it all from making the money to keep the household afloat to every aspect of discipline and entertainment. The balancing act leads to extra stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and often depression or feelings of isolation. Many single parents are also concerned about finding the right role models, either male or female, to offer positive influences on the kids as they grow up.

As a single mom, there are simply things that I can’t teach or show my son. The same is true for single dads raising girls. It’s not as easy one would think to find the right role models that you trust with your child’s upbringing, after all, they likely have already been dealt a bad deck with mom and dad not being together. Extra care and concern is natural. And while family is a natural surrogate, it isn’t always feasible when families live hundreds or thousands of miles away as was the case for my son. 

Finding a Tribe

I never found a great tribe early in my divorce. That isn’t to say I didn’t have friends who supported me, took me out to have drinks, and listened to what was probably incessant venting. I thank God for them but the truth is I was the first in our Moms Club to get a divorce. For whatever reason, the other single moms I’d run into at school had completely opposite schedules than me.

The one place I did find solace was an online chat room, long before Facebook created groups and messenger. I’d show up there for hours and made friends from around the world, all struggling with breakups, but at different parts of the journey. Not everyone was a parent, but everyone was dealing with divorce – usually an ugly one of some sort. Today you can Google or find online and local support groups where you can have a place to share with people who are or have gone through something similar.

single definition pillow

Choosing a Support Group

Be selective about choosing a support group. You don’t need to attend one just because it’s there and for single moms. You have to feel like you belong and the people there are ready to offer you love and support. Sometimes these groups do collective things with the kids; that means your child must feel comfortable with the people there too. You may find a co-ed single parent group such as Parents Without Partners or be more comfortable with only single mothers. Test the waters to find out.

A supportive environment is critical to making you feel comfortable and trust that what you share is not going to leave the group or be criticized. As the years have gone by, I’ve found more single moms and certainly have a little tribe that I can vent to though we aren’t an official support group. We’re just single mothers who have found each other and can relate. Some I see more frequently than others, but all are considered part of my community and tribe. 

Kid-Aged Support Groups

As single mothers, the feeling of isolation is normal. But we must also consider the isolation our children may feel at times. I know there were family parties we didn’t get invited to because we were only a part family. It’s weird to be the fifth wheel and people don’t do it intentionally, but it happens. And while we mothers can understand it, our children miss out on playing with their tribe at times and can feel singled out.

When you find a good real life support group (not online), you may consider one that has kid-aged activities with moms. This not only provides you with the emotional support you need, but gives your children other kids that relate to them. It can also make for great exchange times where you can swap watching the kids so you can get some ever-needed “me time.” Remember that a community is needed to raise kids and a group where you are able to gather as a family without feeling like a fifth wheel is important.

International woman's day

Activity-Based Support Groups

Activity-based support groups can be a fun way to get out of your comfort zone. This type of community schedules regular activities such as hikes, spa days, and even rock climbing. One of the most empowering things single mothers can do is to find ways to succeed out of their comfort zone. That sounds like it is really a daily life goal and it is; everything is somewhat uncomfortable as a single mom on most days.

But if you want a group that will challenge you to rise to the occasion and reap the benefits of confidence from it, find an activity-based support group. Taking the time to do fun or challenging activities will show you that you have more strength than you realized. My son became really active in mountaineering and rock climbing. I’m afraid of heights yet I found myself rappelling down 100-foot waterfalls to be an active part of his life. Not only did it help us bond, it helped me overcome mental challenges I faced. 

Therapy-Based Support Groups

Therapy-based support groups are a great way to save money on therapy for yourself during difficult single mom times, meet people struggling as well, and find the psychological resources to get out of the muck. You can often find therapy-based support groups through local churches or community centers. Some family therapists also advertise groups or workshops for single parents.

This isn’t the type of group that goes out to the park for the day, but you may find one or two people in the group that you really relate to and gel with. Don’t hesitate to take the friendship outside the group and grab coffee with the kids. In the group, you can get the emotional tools needed to grow while building positive relationships outside of the group.  

Balanced Life Goals

When you get divorced, imbalance is the first thing that happens. It takes time and work to rebuild the life that you want. It might not look like the life you dreamt of before you got a divorce simply because marriage didn’t work out and now you’re a single mom. However, you can find a fulfilling life if you focus on your priorities and goals. Building the life that you want starts with setting your priorities first.

For me, it was a huge priority to build a career and buy a home for my son. This took time and the reality is I didn’t prioritize dating because I wasn’t where I wanted to be personally. Every time I stepped into the dating world, it felt like someone wanted to come in and rescue me and my son. That didn’t feel empowering. Now that my son is older and my career is doing fine and we have a nice home in Hawaii, my priorities are changing.

My single mom tribe, my community is there to help me stay focused on what is important and what is just the noise of the world. Everyone heals in their own time and there are parts of you that may heal faster than others. Realize that and rely on your community to support you emotionally as you grow. Keep in mind that support groups are there to help you grow, venting is okay when something is fresh, but if your tribe isn’t helping you grow, seek out a new one.

The Single Mommy Tribe is a private Facebook Group where we allow venting, offer resources, and support single moms in their growth. We are a group from around the world who are at different stages of healing. Some are remarried for years while others are fresh in the throws of separation and custody issues. Join us so we can help support you.

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Single Mom Grants

Many single moms want to go back to school to be able to get a better job or start a small business and the only way this is possible for many is through single mom grants. Figuring out where the grants are is the first step to then determine if you qualify or not. The entire process can be overwhelming.

Grants are financial awards that don’t need to be repaid. In that way, they are different than student loans, business loans, or other financial aid. Be sure to review all the terms and conditions of the money you are getting to be sure it is a grant that you don’t need to repay.

The Decision to Go Back to School (or Open a Business)

The desire to go back to school or start a business may be something a single mom wants to do very badly but they can’t see how to afford it. It’s hard enough to grasp the amount of time and energy necessary to balance being a mom, studying, and even working all at the same time. The thought of getting a grant could mean the entire difference between a dream and a reality. 

Finding Grants for Single Moms

The type of funding you seek (business or educational) will determine where to seek a grant. Most colleges offer assistance in locating local, school, or field of study-specific grants. The financial aid office at the college or university will walk you through your options. In addition to tuition assistance, women may receive child care aid or housing grants as increased assistance to make the college dream possible.

Local SCORE or Small Business Administration (SBA) offices have resources to help business owners locate grants they may be eligible for.

The Pell Grant is available to students across the nation. The maximum amount of the Pell Grant for the 2019-2020 school year is $6,195 for full-time students who qualify. Full-time students get more than part-time students. Pell Grant eligibility is determined when completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in the fall of the year before you attend college.

Your chosen college or university will also be able to tell you if there are any state or university grants you are eligible for. There are also organizational grants that support specific fields of study, helping women pursue specific career paths often in STEM studies or social development fields.

woman holding school books

Soroptimist International is a women’s philanthropic organization that grants thousands to women seeking to go back to school each year. Soroptimist International has local chapters in most major cities that you can contact to see what deadlines exist for what grants are available.

You can also find business grants such as the Halstead Grant that provides up to $7,500 for a female jewelry designer to start a jewelry line. In addition to the $7,500 in grant funds for operational costs, the recipient also gets $1,000 in merchandise. Grants like this are a great way to launch a new business for an aspiring single mom.

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts also has grants ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 for those who are artists, writers, or otherwise curate contemporary art. This is not for school, but instead for professional artists who already have a track record of being published and are looking for ways to fund additional works. 

Applying for Grants

When applying for grants, be sure to read through all the applications eligibility requirements. Many private grants will require an essay, business plan, or portfolio showing why you are a good candidate for the grant. Private foundations may have a very specific set of rules and requirements. Don’t waste time with lengthy applications for grants you are not qualified for. Your time is better spent finding the grant you are best suited to get and make your application as strong as possible. 

Financial Aid and Student Loans

If you are looking to attend college, a grant may not be enough to pay all your tuition and fees along with your living expenses. Ask the financial aid department about student loans and scholarships. Find out what you are eligible for based on your field of study, background, and financial circumstances.

Remember that grants don’t need to be repaid and most scholarships are contingent on academic excellence. Neither of those need to be repaid. However, student loans do need to be repaid. While federal student loans don’t require repayment while you are still in school, make sure you are only borrowing what is necessary to get your education. You are better served by grants and scholarships where possible. 

Your Tribe There to Help

Join the Single Mommy Tribe Facebook Group to brainstorm about what you want to do, how to get it done, and get the help to find the resources you need. As a tribe we will all succeed.

kangaroo toy punching beaker toy

Co-parenting and Divorce Dos and Don’ts

Getting out of a toxic relationship is hard, but co-parenting with a toxic ex can draw the burden of emotional abuse on for indefinite periods of time. Courts expect everyone to get along, but trying to reach agreements or have existing agreements maintained is nearly impossible with a toxic ex who insists on using the situation to maintain a power edge over you.

We were at Disneyland with a group of other moms. It was supposed to be a day to relax and enjoy time with my son and our friends. Of course, a message came through from my attorney. After nearly two years, there were still accusations being thrown by my ex. So much for a day at the Happiest Place on Earth.

disneyland at night

Everything becomes a trigger when co-parenting with a toxic ex. My therapist had already explained to me the concept of crazy-making and much of what my ex did was just that. Even being on my own, I was still in a bad situation because my ex wasn’t interested in co-parenting, he was only interested in gaining an advantage where he could. He wanted things the way he wanted them when he wanted them.

That didn’t matter if it was a change in the schedule he wanted for the holidays, he’d simply say it was his holiday even when the court order clearly stated otherwise. Accusing me of being a negligent mother because my son wore a scarf knit by my grandmother around his neck, my ex claiming it was a choking hazard. 

Getting Through a Difficult Divorce

Getting divorced with a toxic ex starts with setting your real set of boundaries. This can be hard because you may be emotionally torn for a variety of reasons: a broken heart, wanting to protect your child, or wanting to believe they will agree when there are lawyers and judges involved. A difficult divorce is one that even the smallest of things can’t be agreed upon.

My son and I were finally in our new home, small but ours. My ex insisted on coming over to assess Matthew’s living arrangements. I shouldn’t have let him, but I felt I didn’t have anything to hide. On my list was a washer and dryer for the garage. My ex offered to get it for us. Three months later he demanded repayment for something he willingly gave me. There was no way to prove what he said.

Divorce can take a long time when conflicts exists and conflict will almost always exist with a toxic ex. Everything you say will be refuted, every accusation about you will be made, every opportunity to argue will be made. When you try to ignore the craziness, you’ll be accused of ignoring the situation. My divorce process was my life for two and a half years. I thought co-parenting would be easier once the case was settled and we were officially divorced.

wall mural of girl letting heart balloon go

Setting a Custody Schedule

Getting a custody schedule in order as soon as possible will be the first thing you need to do to co-parent with a toxic ex. The advice given to me was that once the schedule is set, don’t ever ask for adjustments to it. That opens the door to the other party not needing to follow it. Keep in mind how important the custody schedule is to your child, too.

Even with a 50/50 split in time, my son hated the back and forth of the schedule: Mondays/Tuesdays with mom, Wednesdays/Thursdays with dad, and alternating weekends to create a 5-day custody window regularly. This type of back and forth is hard enough on a child; start changing them because you want to go out with the girls only adds stress to an already stressful situation. Don’t misunderstand me, wanting to be with adult friends is good and important. But do your best to make that on your off days.

He fought two and a half years for joint custody and won. The first phone call I got from him the day after our divorce was finalized was to take his custody weekend because he was busy. That was the start of hundreds of declined and missed custody days.

When you don’t alter from the schedule, at least on your end, you can always go back to the schedule as your point of power. If my ex wanted to switch days, I’d say no but that I was happy to take or son if he didn’t have the time to watch him. I’d always simply say, I preferred to stick to the schedule and our regular planned activities. It was true whether it was set playdates or sports, I didn’t want to lose time with things my son valued and his father wasn’t likely to take him to. 

Legal Custody and What That Means

Legal custody is the right to make decisions about how your kid will be raised. It gives a parent the right to choose things like schools, athletics, doctors and medical care, and can even define social activities or hobbies. It is possible to not have your child live in the house and still have legal custody – meaning your child can live with you full time but your ex may still have input and the rights to state how your child is raised.

My son was turning 16 with a car already waiting for him in the driveway. I hadn’t thought about the requirements before I tossed him the Hawaii driver’s education book. He was living with me 100% of the time yet we quickly realized that his dad would need to be there in person or get a liability waiver notarized because he still had 50% legal custody. The waiver never came and the car sits in the driveway waiting for its owner to become a licensed driver.

I can’t count the number of times that legal joint custody has created a problem in a choice I was making for my son, whether it was travel decisions or him getting his driver’s license. Co-parenting is a way to share the big decisions, but when you disagree it requires court action or simply no action as in the case of my son getting his driver’s license. It’s been a year and he’ll wait until he’s 18 to get his licenses despite being a responsible, A student.

Physical Custody and What that Means

Physical custody is simply where your child lives. You can have a co-parenting agreement where the child lives with one parent 100% and the other parent has 100% legal custody. While it is possible, the more likely scenario is shared custody of some sort. Physical custody does affect things like taxes. If you share 50% physical custody, make sure your court orders state who gets to claim the child on tax returns.

While my co-parenting agreement was originally 50% physical and legal custody, the orders stated that I could claim my child for taxes and thus get head of household rather than single. It helps save on taxes big time and not something you want to overlook.

“As your son gets older, he will dictate where he stays and for how long. Kids want to spend less time with their parents and more time with friends as they get older. Physical custody becomes less of an issue.”

That’s what my attorney told me as we discussed the outcome of the court case. At the time, my son was so young that the thought of the custody schedule one day not mattering was little solace to the fact that he wouldn’t be with me half of the time. Physical custody and custody schedules are one of the hardest parts of co-parenting. 

Co-parenting Dos and Don’ts

It may seem simple, follow what the court order says and you’ll be in good shape. However, as detailed as the court order is, there are so many dynamics to a parenting plan that it gets hard to keep emotions in check if you are still healing from the divorce. 

Co-parenting Dos

Here are some things to do when co-parenting to keep conflict down:

  1. Follow the court order as much as possible including pick up times and scheduled days.
  2. Give the other parent plenty of notice for doctors’ appointments, school meetings, or changes to the schedule.
  3. Keep all formal communication to email or a co-parenting communication app so you have a record of what was said and when.
  4. Be acutely aware of how your child is feeling irrespective of your own feelings.
  5. Learn to use a non-accusatory or inflammatory tone. Be concise in communication and stick to the facts of what needs to be communicated.
mom holding toddler daughter in field

Co-parenting Don’ts

Here are some things to avoid when co-parenting to keep conflict down: 

  1. Don’t forget your child’s best interest ALWAYS.
  2. Avoid being demanding or accusatory to your ex; if there is a real problem regarding your child’s health and welfare, call your attorney or get a mediator.
  3. Don’t assume you have any control over who your ex introduces to your child, disciplining them, when they let them go to bed, and what type of food they eat when not with you. Unless there is a dangerous or negligent situation, the courts don’t care if the eat McDonald’s every day when with your ex; they’re eating.
  4. Don’t assume physical custody is in any way related to child support; even deadbeat dads are given rights to see their kids.

Dealing with Co-parenting Conflicts

It doesn’t matter how clearly you define a parenting plan, when you have two parties who don’t agree on how to raise a child you will have conflicts. Some may be innocent disagreements simply because you have strong but differing opinions about simple things like bedtime or what movies your child is allowed to watch. Other conflicts could simply become a means of control for one party or the other.

At the end of the day, you need to communicate with your child that what the rules in your house are exactly that. You must be prepared for the “fun parent” to get kudos from the kids for lax rules, if any. Whatever you do, be present in your child’s life when they are with you and don’t let the conflicts seep into your time. That becomes toxic parenting and can damage your relationship with your child, the person you are fighting so hard for.

When you realize and accept that you can’t control the other party in co-parenting and accept that parallel parenting is your best option (parallel parenting means the rules at your house are yours and the rules at your ex’s are theirs) you will find freedom. It doesn’t mean there won’t be times of frustration but you will begin to live your best life and your child will like how that looks and feels.

Find a place you can vent your frustrations. The Single Mommy Tribe is a private Facebook Group where you can vent, cry, laugh, and everything in between. Feel free to find us and join a group of like-minded women.