Single Parent Playbook
I was 21 years old when I officially became a single parent. I was a sophomore in college working two jobs (Target and work-study at the Library of my college). My son and I shared a small room at my grandma's house. I had a car but I needed a place for my son and I to stay. I needed direction, a plan, clear advice on what to do next to get on my feet and take care of us. If you're a single parent looking to do the same this is my advice to you:
Evaluate exactly where you are in life so that you can figure out what your next best move needs to be. Are you working? Do you have a place to stay? Do you have reliable transportation? Do you have a reliable babysitter and a backup babysitter? Do you and your child have health care? These are the things that you really should be asking yourself in order to figure out how to prioritize and plan for getting on your feet and becoming independent.
In my opinion, you and your child's health comes first so my advice to you is to explore all available resources including your county’s Department of Social Service (DSS) office where if you qualify, you can apply for every type of assistance you’re eligible for (e.g. Health (Medicaid), Food (Food Stamps/EBT), Childcare (Daycare assistance), and living (Section 8) if it's available. I realize that this option may be an uncomfortable one for some, however, when faced with dire life circumstances such as stressing over not being able to afford groceries to adequately feed yourself and your children, or you and your children not being able to see a doctor because you do not have health care plan or the finances to pay for an urgent care visit, you have to get very clear on what is more important... maintaining your pride or filling your child’s stomach with food and nutrition and having the peace of knowing you all are covered for medical expenses. When faced with those types of decisions, YOU & YOUR CHILDREN'S NEEDS should ALWAYS WIN! That said, NEVER be ashamed to get help from the government programs who are there to provide those services to those who are eligible for them. As a PARENT trying to SURVIVE and keep your head above water for your child, you just cannot afford to be ashamed of being IN NEED and NEEDING help!
Next, I would do my best to land a decent job or two that helps bring in reasonable income. I'm not saying start out the gate with two jobs. Most single mothers only work multiple jobs when it's needed. As far as job options the possibilities are endless! Just make sure the pay is worth your time! I left target & work-study at my school's library to work at a call center out of town for more money. This was great for me because I was making more money at one job working fewer hours. When that wasn't enough I left the call center for a better paying job at a pharmaceutical plant. This was more money but more hours on the weekend which was a sacrifice I just had to pay.
After I had a decent income flowing in, I began to look for a place for my son and I to live. My goal was to find a decent and affordable living space. After searching for weeks, I finally found a 2 bedroom apartment for $390. Talk about affordable! I was so excited, yes, it had its pros and cons but it was decent and I could afford to live there on my own. A WIN WIN!!
At this point, I already had a car but life happened and I wrecked it. To get reliable transportation again I purchased a used car from a “buy here pay here” car lot. I wasn't looking for the hottest car on the lot either! Again the goal here is to purchase things you can afford at this stage of your life (not what you see others have on social media) so I purchased a used Honda that had decent mileage. I chose a Honda because I knew they were dependable cars.
Now if you are able to secure all or most of the above, that is half the battle and things should be looking better. You have your government assistance, your job, your place, and a car! Hunny you are on your way to independence! At this point in life, it's easy to get distracted by relationships and friendships. DON'T! You just got on your feet and this is not the time to drop the ball! I'm not saying you cant date and have a girl's night out. NO, you can let your hair down a little but this is still your grinding season and there's still work to be done. You and your child/children MUST BE your main focus and TOP PRIORITY!
Time Management & Budgeting
Now is the time to sit down and reevaluate your schedule, money flow, and bills. Buy a planner and notate the days you work, your appointments, the days you will need babysitters, the days your bills are due.. .everything! Your time is so precious in this stage because your kids are growing and you're spending so much time working. Every free moment you get to spend with your child or yourself for some "me time" is essential. It's also important for you to stay on top of things you have going on in your day-to-day.
Budgeting is key to avoiding living paycheck to paycheck. Not having enough money can stress anyone out. Write out all of your bills and your monthly income and create yourself a comfortable budget that includes saving! Yes, single mothers can save too!! It doesn't matter if you're married, single, haven children or no children saving money can be very hard to do as an adult.
Here are 9 tips that have helped me save over the years:
My next step after you've done all this is to take a look at your future, your education, and your career. Where do you want to be in the next five years? Begin to take baby steps towards making those things happen! Do you want to go back to school? Do it, but with an educational program that allows you to be flexible and move at your own pace. You want to begin working in the field of business you're qualified for? Do it! but make sure you take steps that will allow you to have a smooth transition for you and your kids.
Being a single parent is not for the weak but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Patience, discipline, focus, faith, and God will see you through. I really hope this has helped someone. If you know a single parent please share this with them. To any of my single moms and dads, you are not alone! We've all had to start from the bottom to find our way. As always please like, comment, share and subscribe.