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Staying Home

Options for Single Moms

From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 6, November-December 2007, pp. 270-271

"Staying Home" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Mother's Situation

I'm a single woman expecting a baby in about six months. I never expected to find myself in this situation, and have always wanted to be home with my children when the time came. Is it possible to be a single stay-at-home mother? Are there other mothers who have managed it?

Mother's Response

During my pregnancy, I found myself facing single motherhood due to divorce, so I understand the difficulties facing an expectant mother in a similar circumstance. Wanting to stay home with your child is a natural desire, one you should actively pursue. My parents saw my situation and knew my son needed to be with me during the day. They welcomed me home again with open arms prior to his birth. Maybe your parents or another supportive person or family would allow you to live with them for free, or for a small amount, or for trade in caring for their home or children while they work outside the home. Maybe there is an elderly individual in need of care and companionship who would welcome you into his or her home.

When my son was first born, I sent out for a lot of information from work-at-home companies. I found most of these to be scams, wanting me to send in money for a catalog or supplies to get "my business" started. Rather than doing so, I budgeted my child support money carefully, shopped at second-hand stores, and found other ways to lessen my expenses. I also pursued a part-time job in the evenings, when my son reached the age of about a year. My mother was willing to watch him while I worked 15 to 20 hours a week. I was very comfortable leaving him with her, which helped with the separation. In addition, I cared for another child during the day. This income, coupled with child support, helped us maintain a modest living. There are many opportunities to sell things online if you are creative and can make a product at home that is in demand.

Most importantly, as a single parent, you need support and encouragement whether you have to work outside the home or not. Actively seek a support group for single parents at a local church or community center. Other individuals in similar circumstances are an excellent resource!

Rachel Schwendinger
North Branch MN USA

Mother's Response

I was a single mother and split my time between exclusively staying home and going to school part-time until my daughter was 18 months old. Like you, I also always hoped to stay home with my baby and didn't expect that I would be in the situation of raising a child without the support of her biological father. I am incredibly thankful for the help of my friends and family, who at different times allowed me to live with them while I cared for my little one. In addition to providing shelter and helping with transportation, they also provided emotional support and companionship.

When my daughter was a baby, we had a really strong mutual need to be together. I am glad I was able to stay home with her almost exclusively until she was 10 months old. This is due in huge part to friends who were willing to let us share their living space without paying rent. I did contribute in other ways, including doing data entry for a home-based business and cleaning. Frugality was essential. Since I was breastfeeding, I avoided the cost of formula. My expenses were primarily food for myself and diapers for my daughter. One resource on frugal living is the book The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzcyn.

During my daughter's six through 10 months of life, I made progress toward finishing my undergraduate degree by taking a transferable "self-paced" class at a community college. Essentially, I only had to read the book and take computerized exams, which I could plan around my baby's naps. When she was 10 months old, I moved to family student housing and went back to school for my last nine hours of classes. I found a woman I trusted who could watch her while I was in class. My daughter would nurse before I left, and again when I returned home, eating some food and drinking water from a cup while I was gone.

We all need help as we're raising our children -- no one does it entirely alone. Other support people become even more important when there is only one active parent. I enjoyed going to La Leche League meetings and playgroups put on by other parent support organizations. I also realized it was important to me that my daughter could form bonds with people who would have lasting relationships with her. This inspired me to move back to the town where my parents live when my daughter was 15 months old. I had a couple of months exclusively at home before beginning a full-time but somewhat flexible graduate program.

I managed being a single stay-at-home mother for a while. Living with friends and family wouldn't have worked forever, but it helped me with the important first two years of my baby's life. In the beginning I certainly didn't know how it would all work out. I adapted so I could continue to meet my daughter's needs as well as my own.

Emily Ragan
Manhattan KS USA

Mother's Response

You have several options for staying home as a single mom. First, you have to decide what kind of lifestyle you want. Do you require a home of your own, or could you live with family members?

One option that some of my friends have chosen is to find a live-in position caring for a senior citizen or person with special needs. There are places where you can live and work with people with special needs in exchange for room and board. Work may include cooking, cleaning, crafts, or farming. I used to live in such a community. You could also look into being a caretaker for a house, a camp, or an apartment building. Whatever you choose, you will want to make sure that you can have enough time and flexibility to meet your own needs and the needs of your baby, especially in those first few months.

Stephanie Rivers
Janesville WI USA

Mother's Response

I've known a number of mothers who have been able to stay with their children throughout their childhoods, and were single the whole time. There are many ways to do this. Some moms have opted for running home-based businesses (a bit difficult to have up and running profitably in six months), relying on the kindness of friends and family for a time, or taking their babies with them to work.

One mom I know was an "in-house" chef for a couple of families. Elderly couples with huge homes they want to stay in but can no longer manage sometimes have the funds, but not the family, to make it possible. They sometimes arrange things so that they get the companionship and the youthfulness of a young family, and the young family gets the benefits of free or extremely cheap cost of living (and to "give back" to a generation that has helped them a lot). Live-in nannies can sometimes arrange to have their babies with them while they care for other people's children.

What helped the most for these mothers was believing that it was possible to create a working life that didn't require childcare or a partner to make it successful.

Linda Clement
Victoria BC Canada

Mother's Response

I found myself in your situation about eight years ago. The thought of having to leave my baby to go to work when he was a year old terrified me. I knew that I didn't want to drop my baby off at day care, but was not sure what other alternatives I had. I checked into every possible "work-at-home" ad in the newspaper, but quickly found out that they were not legitimate. I had a friend who was running a home child care business, so I decided to do the same. I found it to be a wonderful opportunity for me to stay at home with my son, do fun activities, and earn an income.

I don't think that moms should have fewer options about staying at home with their babies when they are single. For me, I found that I had to make choices to prioritize what was important to me. Staying at home with my child was what had the most value to me.

Depending on where you live, there also may be a lot of government support for single parents.

Riina Jessel-Grant
Cambridge ON Canada

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