Success as a Single Mom

by Patricia Renard

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When your husband or significant other has moved out and you are alone in the house with your kids, a feeling of fear grabs the pit of your stomach. Relax. You can survive on your own, with your kids, and no money. I have done it with one child, three children, and five children, so I know what I am talking about. It isn't going to be an easy road, but you and your kids will come out of this just fine.

The first thing to do when you are a low-income mom is to reach out to other moms in your situation. There are numerous single-parent or single-mother groups around, and you will find that it will really help to reach out to other mothers who are in a similar situation. Banding together with others gives you a support network that you will find you really rely on. I know from personal experience. My friends have been the most valuable assets I have.

Also, it helps to be around other people in the same financial straits, especially when you all have kids. It makes it easier on the kids because they won't constantly be surrounded by kids who have a lot of things that they don't. It is very hard when your kids want stuff and you can't give it to them. It doesn't matter whether or not you would actually give it to them. Just the fact that you can't bothers you. So if your kids and your friend's kids are all in the same boat, it makes it a little bit easier to deal with.

Also, there are times of the month which are harder than others. The few days before check day usually are pretty horrible. That's when it is so helpful to have a support network. My friends and I used to get together the last couple of days before check day. One of us would cook spaghetti for everyone, and the next night, someone would cook soup. The point is to share with others so that nobody goes without. From my experience, people with very little are much more open to sharing what little they have than those with a lot. And it's so much more fun when you have a few adults and a bunch of kids together; even if you are all just eating spaghetti, it seems like so much more fun.

Some recipes are inexpensive and filling, like spaghetti and sauce. It is a smart thing to buy a lot of pasta when you grocery shop as it is filling and cheap. Potatoes too are inexpensive and filling. There are a lot of different things you can make with potatoes, and they go into a lot of things as well. Soups are a good way to feed your family cheaply. Split pea soup is very filling, easy to make, and inexpensive. If you learn what to do with dried split peas, beans and lentils, you will stretch your food dollar further. They are all very inexpensive and can give you some very tasty meals.

If you can't afford a cookbook or don't have any interesting ones, you can go down to the public library where they always have a large selection. If you go through the different nationalities, you will get different ideas on how to serve the same thing. It is amazing how adding a few different herbs or spices can totally change the taste of something.

Spices are useful, and if you buy them at the dollar store, they are cheap as well. They may not be as fresh as the ones at the supermarket, but they are fresh enough. At the very least, you should have garlic, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, chili powder, and cinnamon. You can add to your collection of spices as your finances permit. After a while, you will figure out which ones you use the most.

Finding clothing for your children usually isn't a problem, especially when they are small. This is another time it is a lifesaver to know other low-income mothers. We all swapped kids' clothing. When someone outgrows something, there is almost always someone else who is the right size for it. When your kids are teenagers, it is more of a problem because they get more particular. My daughters got their nice clothing from their father. I was not able to go out and buy them brand new clothes, and he could, so they went with dad. Most ex-husbands don't mind buying clothes for their kids, even if it is just to rub Mom's nose in the fact that he has money and she doesn't. Suck it up for the sake of your kids and try not to let it get to you. Clothing for myself always came from the thrift store. Every community, be it large or small, has a Salvation Army store with affordable prices. Or the local women's center sometimes has clothing as well. They can be a wealth of information, so get to know the local women's center.

Living on a low income with your children is not an easy life. You are doing the hardest job in the world, that of being a parent, and you are doing it all by yourself. Learn to pat yourself on the back, as you deserve it.

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