People Told Me Being a Single Stay at Home Mom Was Impossible
This is an unsponsored post about the number one question I get asked as a single stay at home mom. This is not financial advice. I only feature products or ideas on Peaceable Mom with which I have personally had a reliable and positive experience. This post includes affiliate links.
Q: If you’re a single mom AND you’re able to stay home with your daughter AND you’re able to homeschool her – how do you earn money?
That is a great question, which I will try to answer today in some detail.
Allow me to preface my answer by saying that I seem to have a relatively high tolerance for risk and uncertainty. I advise you to seek out professional advice if you’re considering any major shift in your employment or financial situation.
An Empowered Relationship With Work
Any kind of empowered relationship with work has to first start with identifying what’s important to you, so you know what kind of work to look for. Your vision will inform all of the other pieces of your puzzle.
Do you envision quitting your full time job and being home with your child? Do you envision working from home? Do you envision a part time hours with a flexible work schedule? Do you envision working outside of the home during school hours only? Even within the realm of stay at home motherhood, there are a litany of options to consider.
Moving From an Office to WFH
Several years ago I was working a full-time job in an office. I dropped my daughter off at daycare at 7:30 a.m., went to work, and then picked her up at 5:30 in the evening.
After doing this for a while – and even though I loved my job – I was pretty grumpy. I was exhausted, and didn’t have a lot of energy left in the evening to be a good mom. I would just dump a box of something in a pot, cook it up, and we would both collapse into bed only to do it all over again in the morning.
After some time I realized that this was not the way that I wanted to live. I didn’t want to be so stretched thin, living in a way that was hurting me, or was detrimental to my home life and family. In the end, feeling so terrible helped me consider what was important.
I spent some time in meditation and therapy, working through my priorities and values in life. When I did that, I realized that being a present and available parent is at the top of my list.
Once I identified my desire to be a single stay at home mom, I didn’t know how that was going to happen. I didn’t even know if it was possible at the time. But I let it be known to everybody I would meet that I was looking for work – work that I could do while being a mom. For example, work after bedtime or work during the day that I could do on my own schedule like during nap time.
With time those offers started coming in.
Working Outside of Your Professional or Academic Wheelhouse
Since my daughter was born 10 years ago, I have done all kinds of jobs – NONE of which have rested within my specific professional speciality. Do you know what WAS important – actually being professional. So, the professionalism I bring to any situation has trumped any specific training or skills I may have.
The goal of the work I looked for shifted from forging a career path of prestige within a predefined speciality to simply having work that allowed me to enjoy my chosen lifestyle right now. In a nutshell, I want to work to live rather than live to work. My work now must always support my chosen lifestyle as a stay at home mom.
To this day, that is the first criteria I look for in any job that I will take. If yes, I’m interested and want to learn more.
Specific Job Examples
The types of jobs available to support you being a SAHM are only as limited as your imagination and courage. This is a short list of work I have done over the years:
Sustainability Manager | This job presented me with one very simple task. A local corporation dropped bins of mail at my door, and I was to eliminate any junk mail they received. This job paid me as well as my office job. I did it in the evenings after bedtime, and didn’t need to pay for daycare, gas, business attire and was available when my daughter needed me.
Stuff Flipper | I’ve earned money flipping items or selling things for other people. Americans have so much stuff, and a lot of them are eager to get rid of it. So, I’ve taken on some of that stuff, sold it, and earned a commission.
Childcare | This is the job most people will suggest to moms who want to earn money. But I encourage you to exercise caution when considering this. If you’re already overwhelmed and have too much on your plate, it’s my opinion adding more kiddos to the mix isn’t the best idea. But I’ve done it on occasion. The key is making sure you’re fairly compensated. And, if you’re an introvert, getting enough alone time to recharge your batteries.
Tutoring | If you have a background in education or desirable skills, this can be a great way to earn money. Again, make sure you’re being fairly compensated and that your schedule aligns with your vision.
Blogging and YouTube | Both this blog and my YouTube channel make me money. It can take time to begin earning in these ways, but if you’re patient these efforts can pay off.
Of course, you may not enjoy the gig economy or uncertainty. In today’s labor market, however, there are more options than ever to work from home full-time as an employee. The point is, your job is an important piece of your puzzle.
I will take any work that fits into my chosen lifestyle and supports my vision of being present and available for my daughter. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t get any consideration.
Another really big part of being a single stay at home mom, is cutting down on my expenses or saving money. Now, I am not talking about your latte. Heaven forbid, mamas, right? We don’t want to cut that out, for sure.
One of the ways I instantly saved money by quitting my full-time job was on daycare expenses. My daughter’s daycare at the time – which is about eight years ago at this point – cost $1250 a month. That was a third of my full-time salary overall. So, just by deciding to stay home with her, I could work a third less. Incredible.
I don’t save in ways that would hurt me though, or make the whole thing seem not worth it. For example, if you have seen my grocery hauls on YouTube, you’ll know I’m not going to buy unhealthier foods in order to save a few dollars. It’s more important to me to take care of my health, than to buy the cheaper foods. I would rather use a food pantry for fresh produce than buy foods that would damage my well-being.
However, if I have the option of paying $10 to go to workout at a gym or walk the three mile loop outside at the lake, I’m probably going to choose walking the lake. If I have the choice of going to see a new movie for $35 with my daughter on a weekend or going on $5 Tuesday, you can bet I’m going to choose the $5 Tuesday.
We make use of free days at local museums and the zoo. We take advantage of specials and offers in any way we can. I used to drive a nicer car – a much nicer car – and now I drive an older car that’s reliable, but doesn’t look like much.
For years, we rented a 500 sq. ft. one-bedroom apartment. I slept on the couch while Sophia enjoyed the bedroom. This gave me greater room in our budget, and it was well worth sacrificing living space in order to have time. Time.
In essence, I do my very best to keep our expenses low, which allows me to breathe easier and feel less pressure every month.
Non-Monetary Creativity and Resourcefulness
Being creative and resourceful can come in many forms. Generally, it entails being open to unconventional or unusual ways of earning or allowing resources in.
Specific Ideas for Non-Monetary Resourcefulness:
Product Testing | I made a couple of videos a while back about the Target “Hey, Bullseye” program or Social Nature. These are just a couple of programs that will send you free items in exchange for an honest review. But don’t discount individual companies here either – I received a free $1000 mattress with white-glove delivery in exchange for a review for one mattress company.
Craigslist or Nextdoor “Free” sections | I’ve gotten furniture or books for homeschooling in those ways. I’d wager you can find most things for free if you’ve got a bit patience.
Bartering | I’ve exchanged childcare with other moms, hosted clothing swaps, and traded tutoring services for photography sessions to name just a few.
The Library | I use our library, which seems very simple, but many people seem to forget that it exists. Many libraries also have a Library of Things and the ability to “check out” passes to local museums and attractions.
Focus Groups | I participate in multiple focus groups yearly. These groups usually pay very well and in gift card form. Don’t be discouraged if you are rejected from groups after applying. It can take many applications to land one of these. Use auto-fill to make the application process faster.
The list goes on and on.
Being open to unconventional, unusual, or non-monetary ways to supplement your quality of life or support you on your path is important.
The next piece of my puzzle is child support. Child support undeniably forms a very important and basic part of our financial picture in our house. I hope that, if you are a single parent, you are receiving a fair and adequate amount of child support. It’s just another piece of the single parent puzzle.
Does It Take a Village?
It does take a village. Do not hesitate to use those resources that our communities have set up to support you in your single parenthood. There is no reason to be a martyr. There is no reason to suffer. If something is available to you, and you need it – use it. Your child’s school, food pantries, SNAP, Medicaid, are all resources your community has available to help you if needed.
Take Baby Steps
It can be a lot to change one’s life from working a full-time position outside of the home to being a single stay at home mom. I suggest taking small steps toward your goal. You can work on any of the areas mentioned here independently of one another. You can meet with a financial planner. Or you can simply research your options without taking action. Pick what feels safest or easiest as a starting point and take baby steps from there.
Of course, I didn’t take baby steps. I quit my job and haven’t looked back. A lot of your journey will depend upon your priorities and risk tolerance.
Dealing With Naysayers and Thriving Privately
This isn’t a post claiming that being a SAHM is better than being a working mom. It’s simply better for our family in particular. If it’s better for you, too, perhaps the information here can help you on your path to that goal.
However, over the years I have had people tell me that being a single stay at home mom is a luxury I do not deserve. I have had other moms try to convince me that daycare is the best option. And I’ve met MANY single moms who claim I am just lucky (rather than simply decisive and willing to take a risk). I’ve met many moms who do not feel deserving of living a life in accordance with what they would truly love to experience. And I’ve had people give me stern talkings-to about my economic responsibilities. (Funnily, every other responsibility a parent might have seems to get lost in our culture when economics are in question.)
For a long time, I’ve been careful about sharing my life with others for these reasons. I’ve learned to thrive privately. Our culture sees it as an obligation to leave one’s children in the care of others in favor of money. They often see single parents as lesser – especially if finances are an issue. If you aren’t barely hanging on or just surviving they will question your commitment to giving your kids a better life.
If you do decide to become a single stay at home mom, I encourage you to exercise caution when it comes to sharing until you feel settled on your path.
Do you have a question about being a single mom? If you do, leave it in the YouTube comments and I may choose it to answer in a future video.