|Gary Foreman is a former Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who currently writes
about family finances and edits
The Dollar Stretcher website
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Do you think it is realistically possible for a single Mom of a 15,
12, and 6-year old to stay home with her children? I do not have a
profitable skill, a degree or money in the bank. All I know is that
a tired, stressed-out mother is not what I want for my kids. They
deserve more of me.
I currently hold a temporary job
that has lasted over a year so far. It covers the monthly expenses,
including car payments for a pre-owned car I just purchased this
past November. Their Dad kicks in his share, but not enough for us
to live on alone. Any suggestions?
Sue has plenty of company. Over 1
million couples get divorced each year and roughly one third of all
families are headed by a single parent. According to Raise the
Nation, an advocacy group, there are over 13 million single parent
households raising 20 million children. They also estimate that only
1/4 receive full child-support.
So is it possible for Sue to get by
financially without working? Probably not. Studies indicate that
financial problems are one of the biggest hurdles for single
parents. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly
one half of all single mothers have more than one job. Talk about
With a little work Sue can determine
whether it's possible to survive without a job. If she doesn't
already have a budget, she'll need to create one. Having a budget is
a good idea whether she tries to stay-at-home or not. It's important
to know how much income you have and where it's going. And Sue's
stress level will go down once she knows that her expenses don't
exceed her income.
The next step is to adjust her budget
as if she wasn't working any more. How much income would she lose?
And, how many of her expenses could she reduce if she were staying
at home? The exercise isn't exact, but it will give her a pretty
good idea of whether there's any possibility of staying home.
Chances are that she'll find that staying home isn't financially
But Sue shouldn't give up if she
can't stay home. There are other ways to reduce stress.
The first step is to guard against
depression. A divorced person is three times more likely to suffer
from depression. Fortunately, doctors are better at identifying and
treating depression than in previous generations.
A single parent must stay organized.
There simply isn't time to look for lost keys. There are many
resources that can show you how to get things under control.
Organization can bring a sense of serenity to a home.
Train your children to help. Even
preschoolers can learn their colors by helping to sort laundry.
You're not cheating them by teaching them to cook and clean. In
fact, you're preparing them for adulthood. And, sharing tasks is
often the real quality time that they'll remember years later.
Also remember that children aren't
damaged because they don't have everything that their friends have.
Despite what the advertisers or your kids say.
Sue will be well served by spending
time with other adults. A lack of adult friends breeds depression,
fatigue and fear.
A mentor could be valuable to Sue.
Someone who has been a single parent and knows the challenges.
Same thing with a good friend.
Knowing someone in similar circumstances puts your own situation
into perspective. Being able to help them, and be helped by them can
be beneficial, too. And don't limit the friendship to talking.
Cooking an extra meatloaf to share with your friend will relieve
their mealtime stress one day!
If Sue finds that she's still
overwhelmed, she might want to consider sharing housing with another
single mother and her children. By sharing cooking, cleaning and
shopping chores the two mothers regain some of the advantages of a
two parent home.
Finally, an editorial comment. In
recent decades people have laughed at the notion of 'staying
together for the children'. After hearing of the struggles of single
parents like Sue maybe it's time to reconsider the idea. That isn't
to say that people should stay in an abusive relationship. But
perhaps trying to tolerate a troubled marriage is less painful and
takes less effort than trying to raise children alone after a
Hopefully Sue will find the resources
to live comfortably and enjoy the years she spends raising her