Single Moms Living Well—Yes You Can!
Many single mothers are raising their families on one income. Often that income is small to medium, and often child support is iffy at best. But single moms can live well, manage stress, and instill in their children a sense of self worth and stability.
Following are some tips on how to save money and build self-confidence in the family’s ability to cope on one income.
Five Guidelines for Managing Money and Stress
- Attitude matters. How you think about the facts of your life will affect how much stress you experience
- What you say (and how you say it) to your kids will affect the way they view you, themselves and their family.
- Budgeting is a process that will build stability by showing you what you have and what you don’t.
- There will be activities and supports in your city, town or community that do not cost money.
- Demonstrate to your children that you believe in them and in your family.
Nine Tips for Managing Stress and Money and Helping the Kids Cope
- Build a budget that is a firm but flexible. Organize and stick to your budget. View it as a tool to build structure, rather than as a punishment. As children’s ages become appropriate, include them in information about the family budget. Living within the budget in a way that is firm, but flexible where necessary, creates stability and predictability children need, and gives you the confidence.
- Believe in your ability to manage within your budget. Keep your thinking from dipping too often into anger, fear and frustration. Trust in your ability to manage even when you don’t have what you wish you had. Believe this and tell this to your kids: “Many families live within a budget, and we can too. If something special comes up that is not within our budget, let’s talk about whether it is something we can manage. I love you and I will do my best to see to it that you have what you need, even if sometimes our budget may not allow you to get everything you want.”
- Find activities in your area that fit within your budget. Participate in school programs and projects that your child’s school offers; utilize free or low cost city or town recreational activities; attend free concerts, and library programs. Depending on where you live, enjoy parks, beaches, wooded (safe) hikes, and other outdoor activities. Show interest in the ways your children play. Your love and caring does not require buying or spending, but your attention will build self esteem in the kids
- Explore ways to cook nutritious low budget meals. Recipes for low budget and nutritious meals can be found on-line. If you don’t have a computer in the home, try the library. If you do not use a computer, call the home economics teacher in your local high school and go for a consult. Share recipes for economic and healthy meals with other mothers, single or not.
- Shop wisely. Apply for food stamps, clip coupons, and locate food banks through churches, community centers or other community agencies. Shop in the recycle stores. These stores often benefit worthy causes and sell much of what you need, including toys, at very low cost. Avoid thinking negatively about using food banks or food stamps. These resources exist to help you manage, not to make you feel bad about yourself.
- Refrain from burdening your children (or yourself) with resentment. While you may have negative feelings toward the parent who does not come through with support, expressing these feelings to the children can burden them with fear about the family’s ability to manage. Use adult support to work through your resentment. Stay as positive as you can about your life. If you think of yourself as poor, you will feel poor. Worry less about what you think you should have, but rather deal with what you do have. Believe this message and tell it to your kids: “What you have in your wallet does not equal your worth as a person.”
- Learn how to stretch your food to save a bit of your budget. Consult with a home economics teacher or look on line for tips on how to stretch your food. For example, a cooked chicken can provide several meals. You can make casseroles, soup, or salads that offer balanced nutrition and taste. Put the bit you save into your rainy day fund. The pennies accumulate!
- Establish supportive relationships with other single mothers. There is strength in numbers. You can take turns watching each other’s children in order to have some cost free reenergizing time. You can share meals. (Sometimes four or six can eat as cheaply as three.) You can trade toys as the kids’ ages change. You can organize joint savings clubs that make provisions for members to share resources if there is a “rainy day.” You can form support groups where you and other single mothers can share your own management experience, as well as express the fears and insecurities that are best not discussed with the kids.
- Help your kids make sense of the family’s financial situation. Believe this message and tell it to your kids in age appropriate words. “We are doing our best with what we have. There are many families today who have to pay attention to what they spend. Remember, It is not what you wear on the outside, but what you are inside, that is most important. There are people who will be able to see beyond the surface into the deeper worth and meaning of you as an individual. These are the people you may want as your friends.”
Following these guidelines and tips, while believing that you have worth that goes beyond money and things, can put a mega investment into the fund of self-esteem and self-respect for yourself and your kids.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association of Social Workers.
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