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Finding Your Single Mom Tribe: The Right Support Group

Finding Your Single Mom Tribe: The Right Support Group

Cheers was the record-breaking sitcom of the 80s and early 90s because it touched on what every single person wants: a place to belong. Your tribe accepts you, all of you. The hysterical laughter, the urgent crises and the ugly cries are all greeted with hugs, wine and lasting conversation. When you find the right single mom tribe, you know you are home.

But, finding your tribe as a single mom can be difficult as old friends just don’t have the space for the single lady among their couples’ nights or may take sides in the divorce equation. Taking the time to find the right support group is a game changer for single moms trying to rebuild their lives.

Looking for your single mom tribe? Consider these tips:

Deliberately Think About Who You Want and Need in Your Life

Think about the type of people you want in your life. Obviously, previous choices didn’t work out but don’t let emotional turmoil or confidence issues dictate the new people you bring into your life. This goes well beyond new love interests. For both your sake and your children’s, you must bring in people who lift you up, enhance your life and provide emotional support.

I can’t think of any other time in my life that felt as lonely as the first few years as a single mom. What made it so difficult is I felt that I should be stronger than succumbing to the problems associated with a man and my divorce. Isolation is an easy answer, but that really didn’t solve the problem. I needed people in my life and in my son’s life.

Find Like-Minded Moms That You Connect With

finding your single mom tribe

Seek out groups and people who share your core values. That doesn’t mean they need to think exactly like you on every subject; healthy disagreements are essential for growth. Look at the forest, not the trees when finding a tribe. You’ve already got enough on your plate. You don’t need to be banging your head against the wall with every conversation trying to explain yourself.

Crunchy moms might not do so well in a tribe of silky moms. The hiking tribe might be a bit different than the tennis club tribe. That isn’t to say you can’t be part of both or fit into very diverse categories, but don’t feel like you need to make yourself fit in.

I found my tribe when I became the PTA president of my son’s elementary school. The women I met inspired me. Some were single but most were happily married. We all had one thing in common: improving the lives of our kids. We volunteered together, had playdates together, had mom’s nights together. These women saved me in every way, many of which they will never know.

Desire to Be Challenged by Your Tribe to Grow

Moving on after divorce puts many challenges in front of us. It can seem odd to seek people who challenge you. Don’t overlook the value of a tribe that makes you think, forces you to consider and reconsider your actions. A great tribe does this in a way that makes you feel secure and loved the entire time.

It’s like challenging your children to step up and be better people. It comes from a place of love and is for the best. People who just “yes” you all the time aren’t really there to help you. You want friends and a tribe that calls you out for making bad decisions and tells you when you are wrong – especially when it comes to moving on.

I was lucky to find an online tribe of people overcoming divorce. It wasn’t strictly moms and had a very diverse age group. The wisdom of that group was seeded in the fact that some people were new on the path while others were farther down the road. Having a group that would listen when I needed to vent and then lovingly give me a reality check helped me take the next steps to healing and growth in your family life.

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Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Meeting new people is never easy. Having to meet people while going through a very emotionally tumultuous time only makes it harder. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. You need to step out of your comfort zone to avoid falling into the isolation trap. Even if you find a single mom support group that meets your needs, it can be scary to share yourself.

Lissa Rankin, MD points out that her, “ego had created this separation story that distanced [her] from the very belonging [she] craved.” We all have a preconceived picture of ourselves in our heads. Divorce can shatter or skew that extensively. Until we take out ego out of the picture, we will continue to struggle to find our tribe.

Don’t Worry About Kids’ Ages in the Tribe

Kids are funny when it comes to kids that aren’t their age. As parents and single moms, we want a group of people that mirror us. That doesn’t happen and your kids will be fine without it. Older kids often love being a big brother to smaller ones while the littles love to try to keep up. This isn’t always the case but it is good for your children to interact with other kids that can relate to their own feelings of isolation.

Through the PTA, my son met kids from all grade levels and was forced to work with them as the moms were working on volunteer tasks and activities. There were times all the kids hated being at school on non-school days, but for the most part, friendships formed. My son started thinking about activities we did and asking to invite PTA kids to do things with us.

Join Non-Mom Activities

While it is great to find a tribe that fits your everyday mom-lifestyle perfectly, this might not be what happens. In fact, you might have people who totally fit your tribe-mojo in unusual places. If there is something you always wanted to try, go for it. Even without experience, go for it. A new hobby or sports activity can yield to great connections.

single mom gardening

You might join a gardening group, a book club or take a Salsa dance class. Mixing up your activities allows you to expand your support group as well. While I had my PTA moms as a core part of my tribe, I also spent time learning beadwork and jewelry making. It was a creative outlet that had nothing to do with being a mom or a single mom that made me feel like I was just another person in a class of women.

In-Person Versus Online Tribes

Many single moms find the greatest amount of support from people they may never meet in real life. The internet has opened up the world of interaction and helps more people find the right support. With that being said, don’t rely exclusively on online support groups. They are fantastic for finding your tribe who can collectively provide support, answers and advice. At the same time, making an online tribe your only tribe will lead to more isolation.

I’m still friends with many who were part of my original online tribe. This was before Facebook Groups become a thing and there were “forums” people went to. I’ve met some of the men and women from my old forum and still consider many friends and key influencers in my inner tribe.

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It’s one of the reasons I’ve created the Single Mommy Tribe. A private support group with resources, advice and experience of others. No mom should ever feel alone because the truth is, you aren’t alone. Even those who remarry and move past being a single mom still feel a connection to those who are and are welcomed into the group to help show the rest of us that life gets better when we work on ourselves to heal.

I hope you find a tribe in your social circles and I encourage you to join the Single Mommy Tribe. You’re welcome here.

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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Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex

Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex

In the divorce process through the time your kids finally leave the house, you will hear over and over again, “Get along for the kids.” The notion that you once loved this person and the fact that you aren’t inviting them over to hunt Easter Eggs as a family is a negative reflection on your ability to be a mature adult. Single parents have to find a way to raise healthy children. Co-parenting with a toxic ex can make everyone less healthy.

While effective co-parenting can make everyone’s lives easier and healthier, it isn’t always possible. As a single parent, you must determine if you are able to find middle ground as a co-parent. If you are dealing with a toxic personality, such as a narcissist, chances are co-parenting is impossible. It sucks but the reality is the attempt to engage in mutual agreements ends up becoming another series of arguments, lies and broken promises.

Who Gets Hurt in Co-Parenting Conflicts

Your child deserves to have both parents in their lives but they don’t deserve to be in the middle of high conflict scenarios all the time. That is exactly what happens when you are co-parenting with a toxic ex. Your child’s ability to make it to soccer practice is impeded because there is conflict. Sure, the stress and anxiety take a toll you as well, furthering the dysfunction your child experiences.

I had a high-conflict divorce. In fact, that is an understatement. We had a bi-furcated trial: part one over financials and part two over custody. I was married for approximately two years. My custody battle ensued for two-and-a-half. It was expensive, with my ex holding all the cards – meaning the money. To say this was a difficult divorce is an understatement. I didn’t understand nor did I have effective techniques to deal with the barrage of lies and misdirection constantly being exploited to the courts, our friends and to my son.

Custody Schedules and Parenting Plans

schedule

You already know you can’t get in the way of your kids seeing the toxic parent. The courts will be on you harder than the toxic parent. This means you need to create a parenting plan and stick to it. Requesting a switch of a weekend is an opening for your ex to manipulate you. Think about the scenarios leading to the marriage breakup: were things you asked for used to get control or build an advantage over you? This won’t change as a co-parent.

Our parenting plan required us to use email to determine schedules, send notifications and manage all co-parenting tasks. Down to the minute of when I could call my son in the evenings at his dad’s, I stuck to the schedule. My ex, from the moment he got 50% custody was constantly dropping our son off early. My life consists of all the normal single mom duties, working and an extensive custody log of what I did and when and what my ex did (or didn’t do) and when.

Documentation, I was told, was critical if I ever had a custody issue. The missed pickups, the late drop-offs and series of things my son would tell me were all documented in the log. It was consuming and exhausting. There was no pattern of change in my ex even in the times I emailed to notify him he violated the court order. Of course, I was always wrong.

Be Careful of Parental Alienation Syndrome

Be careful what you say to your kids. We all know that kids are sponges and hear everything. In divorce, kids tend to internalize everything. You know the other party is saying a million bad things about you. Don’t fall into that trap. Not only will it become a problem for you in court if you end up back there (most I know dealing with toxic situations do end up back more than once), your child absorbs it.

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What Parental Alienation Syndrome Is

Parental alienation syndrome occurs where one parent is preventing the other from seeing their kids or is manipulating them in ways to turn against the other parent. It is real and it hurts kids more than just about any other emotional abuse in my opinion.

Statements that lead to alienation syndrome include:

  • You should live here full time because Mommy can’t take care of you
  • Mommy (or Daddy) is dumb
  • I think your Mommy’s boyfriend is a criminal. Aren’t you scared?

You’ll hear people talk about “poisoning your child against the other parent.” This is the core of parental alienation syndrome. It confuses kids, but they ultimately realize the reality of the situation. If you don’t engage in the same type of behavior, know that kids are smart and see the truth. It’s hard to watch them struggle with it and even buy into if at times, but the truth is on your side. Take the high road.

There was a policy I made very clear to all family and friends: we don’t discuss my divorce where my son can hear me. I didn’t care if he was napping in the backseat, totally passed out after a day a Disneyland. Even my closest family would be taken aback as I would enforce the policy regardless of how enraged I might be about the situation.

Learning Parallel Parenting Skills

co-parenting with toxic ex

I didn’t have a partner in my marriage and it was crazy to think that I would have a partner in divorce. It had nothing to do with what was in the best interest of my son. Towards the end of the custody evaluation, having dealt with the mind-changing demands clearly caught lies in testimony and constant aggravation, my attorney advised me to the concept of “parallel parenting.”

What Parallel Parenting Is

Parallel parenting is a type of co-parenting where divorced parents disengage from each other. This doesn’t mean you don’t follow the court order. You simply have to agree that you aren’t going to have a say in what happens at the other person’s house. You can outline things in the court orders and parenting plan and go to court if you feel it is constantly being violated.

Parallel parenting plans mean you don’t agree on things like:

  • Bedtime for the kids
  • Meals and dietary restrictions
  • Television shows, movies and video game use
  • Homework habits

Don’t expect parallel parenting to be easy on you or your child. It does beat the alternative of constantly fighting and never getting a resolution. The other parent is going to do what they want anyways – accept it. Of course, if your child is in danger take action.

My son was in kindergarten and desperately wanted to join the basketball program at the YMCA. His best friend was in the program and he was excited to try a sport. I signed him up and emailed my ex about the schedule. He was upset that I was infringing on his parenting time by signing our son up and refused to take him. I didn’t try to enforce it and my son missed every practice and game when he was at his dad’s.

Of course, he didn’t improve as a player and hated the experience. My intention was good and I was within my rights to sign him up. I didn’t ask my ex to even pay for half. I’d show up at the games on my off weekends, just in case he was there so I could cheer. Mostly I sat there feeling like an idiot even though I was cheering for his team and our friends. My job was to show up even when my kid wasn’t showing up – usually through no fault of his own.

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Tips for Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex

If you are in a co-parenting scenario, you’ll need to develop coping and parenting skills to deal with the situation. Separation or divorce with kids requires you taking time to heal and process your own feeling. That’s the only way you get into a new healthy relationship later on. Engaging with a toxic ex will only delay your healing.

Here are five tips to help co-parent with a toxic ex:

  1. Mind your tongue: keep your beliefs about your ex to yourself and ask all around to do the same.
  2. Get joint Google calendar or Co-Parenting App: Apps like Our Family Wizard allow you to email, schedule and record all events for your child with the other party. It even allows accounts for the kids and stepparents. If needed, the system links as evidence to courts.
  3. Stick to the parenting plan: deviation not only confuses your child, but allows the toxic parent to start bartering, controlling and manipulating. Unless an emergency, keep your end of the parenting plan on track always.
  4. Respect your kids’ relationship with the other parent: This is hard but they have a right to know and spend time with them. Leave it up to your kids to learn the truth about why Mommy and Daddy got a divorce.

Taking Time To Heal

As a co-parent, I’m not perfect but I’ll hold my head high knowing that I did the best I could. I set rules in place to no engage in negative talk about my ex, even when my son was asking why Daddy was saying such bad things about me. A difficult divorce takes time to work through negative feelings. Honestly, there are still triggers for me.

Don’t be afraid to get seek assistance with mental health professionals. They’ll be able to help you discern what is reality and what is the “crazy talk” resulting from your situation. Know that you can still develop positive parenting skills as time goes on. While your kids feel conflict, they also feel love. Just make sure that is the most prominent thing you show them.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with the situations and emotions involved with co-parenting with your ex, join us in our private group, Single Mommy Tribe. We’re supporting, caring and, at times your reality check on moving and becoming a better single mom.

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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International Women’s Day: Single Mom Style

International Women’s Day: Single Mom Style

It is that day where we celebrate how far we have come. Welcome to International Women’s Day and make it great. You’ll see it all over the internet with people saying “Happy International Women’s Day,” with cute meme and emphatic, “Yes, we can.” For me, I can’t think about how far women have come without think about my own journey and the journey of the women behind me.

While I can appreciate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world, I wonder about where we are going.

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day (IWD) is an annual event on March 8 going back to the first gathering of triumph in 1911. It’s a celebration of accomplishments and growth. It’s about making a positive difference for women. The annual celebration has grown into a call for action to work harder towards gender parity.

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Get your mom swag on by ordering your mommy tribe gear today!

The History of International Women’s Day

First held in Copenhagen in 1911, more than a million men and women gathered to rally for women’s right to vote, hold public office, receive training and ultimately to try to end gender discrimination. The United Nations’ General Assembly adopted a resolution calling the day a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.

Over the years, IWD has evolved and grown. Today, the day earmarks what has been accomplished but serves as a reminder to the next generation that the work isn’t done.

Single Mom Stigmas and The Need for Change

I hardly consider myself an activist of any sort. At the same time, I don’t mind creating a bit of a frenzy when necessary. As a single mom raising a son, I feel the struggle every day of raising a strong young man who will be a contributor to society. There are a couple stigmas I feel we fight every single day as single moms.

I know that single moms are the first-place society looks at when there is a young male issue going on in a community. This along with the stigma that single moms are just freeloading women who keep having kids to take advantage of the welfare system.

As I have taught my son, stereotypes exist because there is some truth behind it, so I can’t ignore the facts. Boys raised without dads have a higher propensity for finding trouble and not being well-adjusted. There are women who openly take advantage of the system.

Not Every Single Mom’s Truth

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But just because there are stereotypes with stats to back them up doesn’t mean this is the truth for every single mom out there. More so, it doesn’t have to be a brand labeling every single mom, dooming them to some life of desolation.

My life as a single mom has had its ups and downs emotionally, financially, and socially. But when I look at the times that I’ve struggled, they were the result of my own personality traits and unexpected things happening.

What do I mean by that? I’m a risk taker, entrepreneur. I’m also very steadfast in how I want to parent my son. The result has been times where I chose to make less money so I could be more present with my son as he grew up.

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What’s the Reality?

I’m a firm believer that we have more control over our lives than ever before. I have it within me to make as much as any man out there, if not more. It’s our own limiting beliefs that often get in the way. Get out and just get it done has been my philosophy my entire life. It’s worked well for me.

That isn’t to say that I don’t feel there is a need for advocacy and cohesive thinking to create better solutions. At the same time, diving in and focusing on your own solutions is the best starting point to launch bigger ideas of equality and success.

It’s up to us ladies. It starts with how we build our own home, the choices we make and then making the right advocacy choices to get things done. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I happen to feel that we are closer to equality than we think.

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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Buying a House After Divorce

Buying a House After Divorce

Buying a house after divorce was my number one personal goal aside from caring from my son and getting back to work. I knew what it would take but it all seemed so far out of reach. For as much energy as my mind worked on this goal, it took a long time. There were many obstacles I had to overcome in the homebuying process. Here’s how you can buy a house after divorce with less headache.

Define Your Goals

Don’t just say you want to buy a house. Define why it’s important to you and understand what it will take. You may not be able to afford the same size or city that you owned a home while married. Get clear on your priorities so you can focus in on the goal.

For me, real estate was a huge trigger. Before I got married, I was already a homeowner. In fact, I was closing escrow on a second property to move into and rent my first one out when I got engaged. There was a minor problem at the end of escrow and my soon-to-be fiancé gave me his two-cents as an attorney: get out of the deal. I regretfully did.

We got engaged and married, and I rented out the first place until he decided that was too much work. I sold it – just before the real estate boom. Meanwhile, he owned the home we lived in, made sure to close escrow on the 18-acre weekend ranch before our nuptials to make sure I had no right to the property, ever.

By the time our divorce happened, I was a stay at home mom. That meant no income and when I got a divorce, prices had sky-rocketed. I could have done one of those “stated income” deals when they were still around and everyone was doing them, but I chose to be responsible. That meant the numbers weren’t in my favor.

Get Pre-Approved

When you have everything in place, get preapproved for the loan. A preapproval is different than a prequalification. Prequalified is a ballpark approval loosely based on your income and a few details you provide. Preapproval means the lender has looked at your credit, your income, your debt and all the factors to define how much he is willing to lend you. The only part left of the approval is the appraisal on the home in many cases.

As long as your situation doesn’t change, you should be good to go with the loan after a preapproval. Don’t mess it up by quitting your job or financing new furniture for the new home before the loan is closed.

This step was critical for me. I was self-employed. This is a traditionally difficult career type to get loan approval for. Working with a great lender is critical to figuring out how to meet the guidelines as a freelancer with one income.

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Know What You Can Afford

Affordability is the big reality check for homebuyers. After a divorce, you are getting used to all sorts of changes in financial status. Often what you could afford during a marriage isn’t what you can afford after a divorce. For me, it wasn’t even what I could afford before marriage. Yet, it was important to me.

My son, though a toddler, had a certain lifestyle. We had a dog. We spent a lot of time in our backyard. I didn’t want that to change. I also didn’t want my son growing up living in a tiny apartment with Mom and bouncing from Bel Air to a country ranch with Dad. I’ll admit, it was a bit personal, especially since my ex made sure I had liquidated property long before the divorce.

Finding out what I could afford was depressing at first. I couldn’t afford anything in the Southern California housing market during the boom. Not even a small place in a less-than-desirable area. Realistically, my savings was paying for my divorce and that quickly became debt as we fought a two-and-a-half-year court battle. Though the house was a priority, affordability wasn’t there. Not yet.

Determine Your Location

When you know what you can afford, you can start to narrow things down to location. Finding the right location that you feel will be a good place to raise your children and call home is important. If you can’t afford the perfect spot, you’ll need to be picky about schools and community safety. It doesn’t make sense to buy a home in a place you don’t enjoy living or people don’t want to come to visit.

My court order required me to remain close to our marital home. That was fine. It was close to my friends and my son’s playgroups. Even though I was renting at first, I lived where it would be conducive to my son’s upbringing and somewhere I hoped to buy. It wasn’t Bel Air but it was in a nearby community with great schools and close to friends. I felt safe with my son and my dog even though it wasn’t perfect.

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Think About Costs Beyond the Mortgage

Buying a home comes with costs beyond the mortgage. Keep these in mind as you shop. Sometimes a condominium isn’t a great deal if the HOA fees are several hundred dollars per month. Find out what the yard maintenance costs are as well as anything like pool maintenance or home repairs.

Remember that when you are the homeowners, you don’t call the landlord when the toilet gets clogged. Either you are the plumber or you call and pay for one. There is no other way around that. These were all thoughts centered in my mind as time went on and we still were renting. I’d go to open houses, watch DIY shows and price out projects. It seemed like a silly habit considering I wasn’t yet close to realistically buying.

Take Care of Credit

Your credit score will be the foundation for qualifying for a mortgage and getting the most favorable, thus affordable rate. Learn your credit score (as scary as it might be) and then learn to build it back up. You’ll need at least a FICO 520 to qualify for most FHA or government-backed loan programs. Work with a credit repair agency if you need to. Just start taking care of it.

Things happen that we sometimes can’t change. I had a costly divorce and continued to be taken back for various things over the years. It put me in debt. And as Murphy’s Law often points out, what can happen will happen. As I started to get a handle on debt and grow my freelance career, an unexpected spine surgery popped up. It broke me – at least financially.

Save Up Cash

cash

It is really hard to buy real estate without cash. I know there are a lot of real estate investment programs telling you that you can buy with no money down. When it comes to residential, owner-occupied home buying, you will need cash. There is a down payment that can be as little as 3.5% or as high as 20%. There are inspection fees and closing costs.

Plus, you have negotiation leverage when you make an offer with cash in hand. Sellers see you as a more serious buyer and lenders value your ability to save. How much cash is contingent on the home price and these vary not just from state to state, but from neighborhood to neighborhood.

A House Vs A Home

buying a house after divorce

Anywhere you live with love and joy as a family is a home. We had moved a lot due to landlord issues. One was an elderly woman whose home was put into conservatorship. Another was pricing us out so they could develop condos. The last evicted us because he wanted to sell the place. It was never our fault, but it’s hard to have your home at the discretion of others people’s agendas.

The final eviction was the motivating force behind jumping in. There was a lot of stress in the process because I wasn’t quite ready financially. It was simply time to figure out a way. The market was hot and I got outbid on more properties than I can count. It still seemed so far away.

There was one day where my son was in his room and I was so frustrated and scared about our next move that I just started to sob. My head against the mantle trying to stifle my sobs so he wouldn’t hear. But he did. He came in, hugged me and after hearing why I was upset simply said, “Mommy, you always said that as long as we’re together, everything is fine. You’re here. I’m here. Arky is here.” Somewhere along the way, I still managed to keep his priorities aligned properly.

The Feeling of Winning

It took a long time for me to buy my home after divorce. The buying process was chaotic and I was a nightmare emotional mess. The day came; escrow closed. I was a homeowner again nearly a decade after leaving my divorce.

My real estate agent arranged for me to pick up the keys from his office; he was already in meetings for his next deal. I cleared my morning, grabbed my new house keys with a car full of my own little “housewarming” gifts to myself: a new comforter and sheet, some kitchen items and photo frame.

Pulling up to the driveway was surreal. All the years of dreaming about this and every little thing I did to make it possible with every obstacle that came my way were over.

One imagines winning with a big gleeful smile and doing the happy dance. Maybe I would have done that if someone else were there. My son was in school. Everyone I knew was working. There was no one to snap a picture of my standing in front of the house, putting the keys in the door or walking in.

It was just me. I entered. Everything was still and quiet. I walked through the house slowly, running my hands on the granite countertop. I made my way to my new bedroom, completely empty. I sat. I cried. Tears of joy. Contently alone. My son and I had our home.

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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Self-Care for Single Moms

how to add self careEvery mom should have a plan for self-care because it simply makes us better moms. But self-care for single moms can feel more overwhelming at times than therapeutic. While that may be the case, it is important that single moms (and dads) take the time to recharge and relax. It makes us better parents and sets a good example to our children.

Trust me, I’ve read all the blogs, articles and books. I get it. We need to take care of ourselves. But even those experts who are single moms and dads can make it seem simple. The reality is that sometimes there are conflicting priorities or emotions and that makes it hard. This is a significant struggle for me and has been since I became a single mom.

Here are some ideas to think about as you are trying to find some alone time:

Understand Your Priorities as a Parent

Most parents have conflicting desires when it comes to children. They want to spend as much time as possible with their kids but also want to earn as much as possible to give them a good life. Paint as clear a picture as possible to give your children what you desire for them. Quite frankly this means different things to different people.

For some it revolves around getting back to work and making as much money to send their children to top schools and have the funds for a ton of extra-curricular activities. For others, financial sacrifices are gladly made for the sake of making it to the afternoon baseball games and dance recitals.

Some parents don’t have a choice and simply need to go to work and pick up their child when work is done from childcare, school or family help.

My choice was clear for me: I wanted to spend as much time with my son as a stay at home mom. That meant finding a way to earn enough money to provide us a good-but-not-perfect lifestyle while he grew up.

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Build Routines that Care for You

Self-care means so many different things but all boils down to doing things that help improve or maintain one’s health. Health could refer to either mental or physical health. It’s a proactive approach to knowing what you need to feel good about yourself, find joy and alleviate stress for overall longevity.

Taking care of you doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either. It would be easy for people to look at me and think that I didn’t take the time to care for myself. I work from home and am happy with a good Netflix binge or spending time on a nice long walk with the dog or hike with my son. I may work long hours at times, but extended hours for me usually mean I’m creating something of my own. Expressing my creativity is as much of self-care as getting a massage for me.

When Building Self-Care Routines

Life moves at a pace we can’t keep up with. There is always something a parent needs to add to the to-do list. Starting your day with the same routine sets the tone for the day. I’ve always found that I’m more productive with my work and more grounded as a parent when I start my day early in the morning before the house stirs.

It gives me the time to find clarity in my thoughts and set the momentum of the day for success. A frantic morning routine sets a tone for stress and anxiety. The long-term effects are not worth it.

Use the Custody Schedule to Your Advantage

schedule

Co-parenting and custody schedules will always be a trigger point for many moms and dads. You want to spend time with your child. You want routine every day, not three days this week and five days next week. Custody schedules can be as hard on parents as they are on kids. Use your off-parenting days to get a little extra self-care in.

Free days offer you the time to meet friends for dinner or have that date with the cute guy you met at the coffee shop. You don’t need to worry about babysitters and you can’t change the schedule so use it. It will help you keep or rebuild the healthy part of you ready to experience the world. After all, getting lost in the single mom world can feel isolating often.

Know Your Child Understands

Single parenting is hard and can consume us. Don’t forget: our children are strong. They want to see us healthy and happy. It’s no fun for them if we are always stressed and moody. Struggling with mom guilt is real but doesn’t have to be the norm. Set your priorities and develop routines then communicate with your children the plan.

Since my divorce, I really haven’t dated. Like at all. Friends encourage me to jump back in. People tell me I just need to trust in love. It has nothing to do with that. I haven’t dated because I set my priority as my son and building a stay at home work life. Mixing dating in, at least the times I’ve tried, felt like work. It felt like something in my top priorities would break.

Then it just becomes sort of the norm. But I remember when my son asked me about what a good candidate would be for me. It was cute. He wanted to see Mommy happy. Of the description, I gave, “athletic” stood out to him. It was the next day when we were walking to a local restaurant that he pointed to a homeless man with his bicycle. “He’s athletic. How about him?” Oh, the sweet words of a seven-year-old just wanting Mommy to be happy.

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Self-Care for Single Moms is More than Balancing

If you’ve ever taken a self-help program or talked to time management and wellness experts, you’ll hear a lot about balance. They have wheels to show you where your time is being spent and how unbalanced you are. The goal is to make sure you are devoting the right mix of time and energy to things like family, financial, health, love, education and a myriad of other important things we need.

I pretty much get lost after family, financial and health. I see this lopsided wagon wheel cripple itself down a dirt road because it has no rounded edges for love, personal growth, spiritual fulfillment or career. I know they are important. But I can barely get the dishes done let alone take a class on jewelry beading. Angst sets in immediately.

What’s a Single Mom to Do About Self-Care Time?

Be patient with yourself. For some moms, it is easier to say, “I’m doing this for me and I don’t care what anyone thinks or says.” Others, like me, are more inclined to say, “I need to set certain priorities before I add a lot to my plate.” We all get to the end of the road on different paths.

For single parents, this path is a bit crazy at times. That’s okay.

I will say this, try things even in a small-scale way. You might find that taking that cooking class on the Friday when your kid is at your ex’s is the time you fulfill your creativity, build new skills and get excited to share something with your child. It gets you to meet more people and engage in the world again. It is important.

You will find that as you add new little things to your routine, you’ll start to look forward to them and your overall demeanor and mental health will improve.

Your Health as Self-Care

self care woman exercising

Make your health a priority no matter what. We don’t need to go into study after study talking about the benefits of taking care of your health. A healthy parent is present and able to provide for their children. When you are unhealthy, everyone feels the pain.

Here are a few things to consider about taking care of your health:

  • Exercise reduces anxiety: walking briskly around the block, doing yoga at home, or hitting the gym releases endorphins which make you feel good.
  • Good diets fuels life: fresh, healthy food gives you energy for long days and creates good eating habits in your children too
  • Drinking water helps body and brain: we dehydrate ourselves with coffee, soft drinks and alcohol. Your body and brain need water to function and help you feel better.

Final Thoughts on Self-Care for Single Moms

Self-care is important for every parent, every mom and dad regardless of whether they are single or not. If you feel like you can’t find the perfect balance that someone else seems to have, do a personal evaluation of what is most important to you. Focus on those things and slowly start to include other ways to improve and maintain your mental and physical health.

This is important for your long-term happiness. It is also important to show your children that you really are that strong mom who deserves to be happy. Taking care of you takes care of everyone.

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.

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?

AskPatty.com 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.

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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.

hiring a handyman

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.

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.

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