I am not even one year into single motherhood and although I have already experienced a wide range of emotions and frustrations, I know my journey has just begun. My number one goal is and always will be to look out for the best of interests of my daughters.
I’m not perfect, I’m not a super hero, and I know that I have already made many mistakes. But before I make any major decisions I try to think of my how it’s going to affect my girls or what the best way to go about the change will be. Change isn’t easy, especially to a two and four year old. But you can’t erase the past and you can’t change people. All you can do is move forward and be the best you can be.
Before I get too emotional and start crying through this post, in honor of Women’s Money Week I want to talk about setting a good financial example as a single mom.
There Will Be Struggles
Through the comments and emails that I have received from other single mothers, I know how hard it is for a lot of single mothers to stand on their own two feet. I was fortunate enough to come out of my marriage without any debt and a little bit in savings. My expenses have been fairly low and up until now I have brought in enough money to meet those expenses without touching my savings. I’ve been kind of lucky.
I have not been a single mother for very long. One thing I am almost certain of is that I will have some sort of financial struggle at some point. Women still make less money than men do, and as single mothers we are relying on ourselves.
Struggles are a given. It’s the way that we handle these struggles that will be the good example. Once again I haven’t yet been in the position that some of you are in and I can only plan how I will react.
- Not let the kids know if you’re struggling financial
- Save grown up talk for grown ups
- Get an extra job
- Accept government assistance if needed
- Scale back the budget in every way possible
- Low cost, high fun, activities for the kids
- Love and enjoy every second with the kids regardless of the financial situation
Planning Ahead & Making Budget Cuts
One of the smartest ways to avoid a financial struggle is to plan ahead – if at all possible. I never wanted to live in a trailer – although I don’t mind it now, but I realized that I needed low cost housing. I also had my girls in mind when making this decision. I was not only financially protecting us but I was keeping them very close to their Grandpa and Uncles.
By incorporating short term sacrifices in your financial plan you can help free up some extra money and with time the sacrifice gets much easier. I still don’t have cable TV, we just have our TV and DVD player. I had originally budgeted to get cable when me moved to the trailer but truth be told we have done just fine without it. The girls have enough DVD’s to choose from. When they are ready for bed they get to pick one and watch it. It works.
Make a plan and cut back slowly if you are struggling financially. Several small budget cuts are a lot less noticeable than one large one.
No matter how stressed you are about money, don’t let your kids know. Let them be kids – carefree, creative, and fun. Talk in a positive tone about money. Show them the value in working and saving. Ultimately cherish and enjoy every moment with them.
How do you set a good financial example for your kids? Any single moms have tips or thoughts to share?
You can read more Womens Money Week posts on family and money here.
[email protected] Credit Cat says
Keeping your chin up at all times is a must! Just remember work hard and it always gets better!
I LOVE this post. You are a great mom. My dad would also shield us from anything negative, and I will always love him for that.
My mom on the other hand didn’t shield us from anything, and would always make me and my little sister feel bad. She would take any money that I earned and always made us feel bad if she couldn’t buy something that she wanted (she would blame it on us kids).
Let me just say that I remember all of this, and to this day I still hold her accountable for not letting me live an actual childhood to where I could be carefree. Starting at the age of like 8 I was constantly worried that I wouldn’t be able to eat (my parents were divorced and my mom moved us 6 hours away from my dad to get back at him, so he never knew how bad it was).
I think there are certain things that we never forget that happened to us as kids. There are a few things that I try to forget, but still affect me to this day. Kids so worry so much about their parents’ problems and they need to be protected.
It really sucks holding a grudge against a family member, especially a parent.
I agree. And yes it does suck holding a grudge, but she has done SOOO many things that are just horrible that there is no way to forgive.
I am very proud of you! I am the child of divorced parents and my mom became my primary caregiver. Your post made me think about how to allow children to be children but to let them be an empowered part of your household. I SAW that my mom was struggling. I wish she would have talked to me about it in a way that was age appropriate so that I could understand what was going on. She wanted me to have a childhood without stress….and I did and didn’t. Because she was worried I noticed. So, just remember your kids notice everything. They might not be able to articulate what they are noticing…but, they will notice. If you do things such as: grow veggies/herbs, family meal planning on the weekend with the kids helping out with the menu, practicing saving $ from chores, the turn off the lights game-get a star etc. Then approaching frugality and finance will be empowering, fun, and not scary. My mom did the best that she could with a scary situation and I’m really proud of her. Know that your kids are proud of you too 🙂
Yeah that is how I feel. My kids are young but I give them chances to be my little helpers and I try to put a fun twist on things. But you are right kids notice everything! They are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for.
The Happy Homeowner says
I think it’s amazing that you have the clarity to realize the importance of planning–and fighting through this with your head held high. Your children are lucky kiddos to have such a fantastic role model/mom. 🙂
Thanks so much!
Canadian Budget Binder says
I think there is a time and age to talk to kids about financial struggles. I don’t have kids so I can’t really comment much but what I do know is that when the time is right kids need to learn about finance and why it is so important.
I agree and disagree. I think kids need to learn about financial struggles in hypothetical examples. I beleive it’s very important to teach kids about basic finances, importance of working and saving money, and things along that line. However, I think that kids worry far too much if mom or dad is having a tough time. I think letting them know if you are barely scraping by they will be worried about adult situations that they are not mature enough to be involved in.
Heather Stephens says
Wow, what an amazing mom you are! I don’t know how hold your girls are, but as they grow they will come to realize the sacrifices you’ve made to keep them near family and keep their best interests at heart and love you all the more for it.
You bring up great points about not letting them see you stressed and making sure you have other grown ups to talk with. When money is tight, it really makes it easy to see where our priorities are. We think we “need” certain things, but like your cable bill, you’ve done just fine without it and I would even go out on a limb to say your life is better for not having it that it would be if you did.
I think there’s a difference between sharing with your kids the truth about the financial situation you’re in compared to Michelle’s mom (a few comments above) who put the kids on a guilt trip, making them feel they were the reason for the challenges.
I come from a family that didn’t share a whole lot regarding money. My parents were generous and we always had everything we needed, but growing up without really getting a hands on education into how to manage money was difficult for me and led me to to make many mistakes.
We led most of our kids’ lives (my kids are almost 15, 11, and 4) trying to protect them from money stresses, but recently my husband and I have chosen to involve our kids as much as possible (age appropriate of course) with our household budget and finances. It’s our hope that we’re giving them the skills necessary to be successful in this area of life. It’s interesting that we both blogged about this today, from different viewpoints. I enjoyed your post very much.
Your girls have a great mom!
Thanks so much Heather. My parents never shared anything financially when I was a child either. I sometimes find myself giving my mom advice now. I think kids should be involved in a postive light and in an age appropriate way. As long as there is no negativity in the teaching it’s great. That will do wonders for them as they get older.
Mrs. 1500 says
You mention that your daughters are four and two. At this age, they really can’t relate to money, but they can totally relate to stress. You have a great handle on things, by acknowledging that you will make mistakes, and you want them to have a childhood free from worry, you are that much ahead of the game.
Kids that age want your time more than things. Establishing a routine where you read to them before bed, or play a game with them that only you can play (at our house, Mr. 1500 plays a game called Vacuum Cleaner Salesman, inspired by a vacuum cleaner salesman who came to our house two consecutive weeks at the exact moment that LOST started – ARRGGH!) or spend time with them in some other way that reinforces that you love them.
I read somewhere that at this age, you should listen to everything they have to tell you, because to them, everything is important right now. And if you listen now, they will continue to talk to you when they get older.
Also, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to say “we can’t afford that” to frivolous things they ask for. And if a trusted friend or relative offers to watch them for a few hours, take them up on it! Take a few minutes for yourself to regroup, to get things accomplished without “helpers” or to just relax for a small amount of time without hearing little voices who need something. Just because you love your children doesn’t mean you don’t need some mom time for yourself.
Finally, a tip for spending less money. At this age, your girls don’t need new things. Thrift stores and garage sales provide lots of cheap toys, art supplies and clothes. I bought my 6-year-old daughter’s entire size 6 wardrobe at a garage sale for $25. And since they are both girls, you can pass along clothes from the older to the younger, meaning you really only have to buy for one child. I buy everything except food, socks and underpants at thrift stores and garage sales.
They can relate to stress. My oldest daughter asks me all the time if I still love daddy or if we are still friends, mainly because I think she is so worried about him. He tends to talk to them a little above their age level so she knows a little more than she should. I want to keep them from worrying about mom and dad to much, they are to young to have to think about this stuff.
And oh yes, everything is definitley important to them! I do try to establish routines with them especially when it comes to reading and bed time. As far as the hand me downs that probably won’t happen. They are seventeen months a part but the same size! They weigh exaclty the same. My oldest daughter is pretty petite. It would be nice to have the hand me downs though.
KK @ Student Debt Survivor says
My mom was a single mom for several years when I was growing up and it was really tough (on her-I never knew of course because, like you, she was a superwoman). She never talked about money (or not having any) and always found creative ways to get me everything that I needed/wanted. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how hard she worked, or how bad our financial situation was. I’m sure your kids will say the same about you when they grow up!
My Money Design says
This was a very beautiful post. I’ll be adding it to my round up this week.
I often think about how hard life would be if I had to do everything myself without my wife. I REALLY can’t imagine how you do it.
“My number one goal is and always will be to look out for the best of interests of my daughters.”
– I might not have any specific advice, but I can say you’ve certainly got the right overall goal.
Teach your kids about money! I grew up in a single parent home and I think my mom was so concerned about money she never bothered to teach us about it- if that makes any sense at all?! I WISH someone had taught be about the responsibilities involved with money. Start now when the kids are young, they’ll thank you when they’re adults.
[email protected] says
I have never been a single mom, so I really have no idea how I would handle things if that were the case. I think you have a wonderful perspective. When the kids are older, I don’t think it’s wrong to involve them in financial matters, but you’re right, you don’t ever want them to feel like they are causing you to be broke or are responsible in some way. I think by having the plans you already have in place, you are many steps ahead of most people.
This excellent website certainly has all of the info I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.