Advice for Widowed Parent

Widower with Young Daughter

As a recent widower with grade school daughter, I am very worried about the loss of of of our family's second income...which was also the larger of the two. I am working less productively,..because child-rearing takes a LOT of time, and the income is barely enough to make ends meet. A smaller home, taking in a boarder...are these things realistic considerations?? Also, am I not entitled, like so many many working moms, to request fewer hours at the old 9-to-five, so that meals and preparation for school can be accomplished? What's a poor daddy to do? Thanks for any insight.

Apply for Social Security

If this reader is in the US, I hope he has applied for Social Security benefits. If his wife worked long enough to be covered the child will be entitled to monthly benefits until age 18. The widower should also be entitled to monthly benefits as long as the child is in his care and he has not remarried, but his benefits could be reduced, depending on his earnings.
Alicia P

Two Options

Will your home accomodate a family in similar straights? See if you can find another single dad who needs to economize and needs a place to live. You can share errands, child care, etc.

Will your job allow you to telecommute? You can save a couple hours each day in interruptions at work and transportation time the days you don't have to go into the office and apply that time to your home. Anne P.

Find a Nanny

While moving to a smaller house may help you financially, you must also think about what this may do emotionally to both you and your daughter. I wonder if you could find an older lady to be a housekeeper/nanny in exchange for room and board? This would provide a regular female influence for your little girl and I bet she would have some frugal home cooking ideas and have a hot meal on the table for you all to share. This could be a welcome arrangement for all concerned, So many older people need to feel useful and connected .

Work at Home

Considering a smaller home and taking in a boarder are viable ways to help, but I will suggest something you may consider radical. Why not start a home based business and homeschool your child? Homeschooling is a cheaper way of life (elimination of school clothes, school lunches, fundraisers, gas money if you drive, etc.), you could spend more time with your child, and often home based businesses are more profitable than most 9 to 5 grinds.

Time Suggestions

A smaller home could possibly help save some money. Please be careful, and get references if considering a boarder with a young child in the home.

Instead of requesting fewer hours at the old 9-to-5, why not plan your time more effectively? Weekly meals could be prepared in advance during the weekend, refrigerated or frozen, and used as needed during the week. Another alternative is using a slow-cooker or crockpot. Dinner could be cooking all day while your at work, and be ready to eat when you get home.

After dinner you and your child could set about getting everything ready for the next school day. Be sure that clothing, homework, lunch, backpack, and whatever other school supplies needed for the next day are all set out, packed up, and ready to go for the next morning. Get your daughter involved with some of the responsibility.

Give her age appropriate tasks that she can accomplish with little or no help from you. This will help to ease your burden a little.
Deb T.

An Able Assistant

For the last 5 years I have taken care of a family 4 days a week. I cook dinner, tidy up, do laundry and help the kids with their homework. I started when the youngest was in kindergarden and am still there so my hours and what I do has changed over time. The family is like my own family. I began there when I was newly married and wanted to change what I was doing so when I had my child, she would be with me rather than in daycare. Because I had a couple years with the kids first, we had an opportunity to build a strong bond that helped them to welcome my daughter rather than see her as a "busy baby". Perhaps you should consider hiring someone who wants to have kids and plans to stay home with them. This way you wouldn't have to take them in to live (Aren't you're going through enough without dealing with a boarder). Also, you can take a houshold help/childcare deduction. Also, some high schools have job boards that you can use to find a housecleaner at a reasonably low price.

Another idea is to have someone deliver homecooked meals. I also own a home-style meal deliver service. We cook once a month and deliver frozen, vacum packed meals. We charge what DSHS says would be in the moderate range so it's not expensive. I just know we help a lot of people who are busy and not eating healthy!

Meal Suggestions

Here are some suggestions for the meal preparation portion of your question, which should also help with time and budgeting as well. Many recipes that fall under these guidelines can be found right at the Dollar Stretcher Web site.

Invest in a slow cooker and learn how to use it. Many recipes are easy enough to put together in the morning to have dinner ready at night.

Forget the notion that you kid(s) need meat at dinnertime. There are many vegetarian meals that kids enjoy, and opening a can of beans or creating a big pasta salad takes a lot less time than cooking meatloaf or chicken. As an added bonus, beans are healthier and cheaper than meat.

Set aside one day a month as a cooking day, and get your kid(s) to help. If you cook up and freeze enough food for at least 10 meals, that gives you 1/3 or your month free of cooking. Plus you can take the time to cook and debone a chicken, rather than buy skinless boneless breasts which are more expensive.

When you do have time to cook, double the recipe and freeze the rest for another meal. It only takes an extra five minutes or so to double the ingredients, and the time saved is really substantial.

Be creative and perk up convenience foods. Cook up macaroni from a box, but throw in a can of tuna and some peas. Pop a frozen pizza in the oven after adding fresh broccoli and mushrooms.

Remember that a healthy diet is an average of everything you eat. If you are pressed for time and have to throw together pancakes from a mix for dinner one night a week, no one will suffer permanent damage.

Family Can Help

This may seem drastic, but since you are getting in so few hours at your job and your child is young, why don't you move closer to family? I presume that you are not living close to any. Living nearer to relatives could prove beneficial to all parties; you might move in with family members (or them with you) for a few years until you and your child have developed a routine for "doing it all." Wouln't it be nice to have her come home from school to someone she knows? Wouldn't it be easier to share the food shopping/preparation duties and the housework with someone? As difficult as this might seem, you would be amazed at the positive benefits for all.

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