Being a single mom isn’t for wimps. Despite strides toward equality, they still earn less than their male counterparts, which is all the more unfair when you consider the added expenses child-rearing entails. Perhaps most outrageous is that they have to juggle a career and family, all without a single paid day off, per law — a predicament women face in only six other countries worldwide.
If you join their ranks, you need nerves of steel. You also need reliable information — the more tools you have in your arsenal, the better. What are the musts? Here are four things all single moms should know.
1. The Types of Activities Their Child Needs to Thrive
Raising children in the modern world is a bit tougher in some respects than earlier generations. While you might have fewer fears about a mule kicking Junior if he strays into their pasture, you have to compete with modern threats. Stranger danger is a factor, but lifestyle poses more severe hazards for many children of single mothers.
Hey, it’s okay — everyone occasionally uses the TV or iPad as a babysitter, and single moms may need such distractions to wrap up their workdays or get dinner on the table. However, childhood obesity rates continue climbing, and the weight doesn’t get any easier to take off as your child ages. Sedentary behavior drives much of the trend — taking your child outside to play is vital.
You also need to provide different activities to help your child develop emotionally, mentally and physically. Here are some of the various types of play youth need to thrive:
- Independent play: Playing alone teaches your child to self-soothe and solve problems without outside help.
- Group play: Getting together with others to share toys and play games instills valuable social skills.
- Structured play: Playing a sport or a board game where you must obey rules helps children follow directions and learn specific concepts.
- Free play: Unstructured playtime is vital for helping your child develop creativity and problem-solving skills.
2. Where to Turn for Financial Help in a Pinch
Single moms have the same expenses as partnered couples but only one paycheck. You’re not alone if you need a bit of extra help now and then. Here are some resources every single mom should know about when pennies pinch extra tight.
The Healthcare Marketplace
You can apply for the Children’s Health Insurance Program through the health care marketplace. Even if you don’t qualify for help, your child might. These resources can help you attend their necessary doctor’s visits, and many state programs pay for dental and vision care for those under 18.
You can apply for special housing for single mothers through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. You can also apply for Section 8 vouchers that provide housing assistance at scores of qualifying properties. The United Way is another resource if you don’t meet HUD guidelines.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can help keep food on your family’s table. Payments come via EBT, with a card you can use at nearly any grocery store for qualifying items.
211 is the United Way’s helpline to connect you with services. Whether you need housing assistance or merely help paying your utility bills, they can point you to resources that can help.
3. How to Pick the Right Providers
It isn’t easy to choose the right babysitter, daycare provider or school for your child. There are many factors to weigh, but you ultimately hold all the cards. However, there are certain universal questions you should ask before entrusting your precious little one to an outsider’s care:
- What training do you have? All babysitters should earn first aid and CPR certifications to know what to do in an emergency. School personnel should receive more intensive training in dealing with scenarios like active shooters — a sad reality in today’s world.
- Have you ever abused a child or suspected a child in your care was being abused? The other person’s answer will speak volumes about whether you can trust them to do the right thing.
- What is your discipline philosophy?
- How can I contact you/Can I check in on my child? Some daycares go the extra mile, installing “nanny cams” that let you check on your little one from your work desk.
4. How to Balance Career and Family
Who can forget the pandemic’s early days, when 100% of December job losses went to women who couldn’t juggle office demands with their new homeschooling duties? Finding work-life balance is more than preserving your sanity as a single mom. It’s the only way you can feasibly work while raising your little one.
Start by talking to your employer about flextime and telecommuting options. Frame your request in terms of benefits to them, citing statistics like the fact that WFH employees are 47% more productive than their cubicle-bound peers. Fortunately, workers made huge demands for such accommodations during the pandemic and liked them so much they’re becoming par for the course at many companies.
If you hit a dead end, start investigating your other options. Can you build a side hustle that can blossom into something more? For example, take your toddler with you pet-sitting. Can you dust off your resume and transfer some of your soft skills to a WFH role? For example, those who worked in the retail and hospitality industries — notorious for lack of telecommuting options — can make fabulous customer care representatives working by phone and computer.
Things All Single Moms Should Know
Being a single mom isn’t a job for sissies. You aren’t Superwoman — but you might feel like you need to make heroic efforts to survive and raise your family.
These things all single moms should know will help in your journey. With a little grit and perseverance, you can create a wonderful life for yourself and your child.