Managing as a Disabled Single Mother
June 12, 2010 2:55am CST
I was 36 when my daughter was born so she is still a teenager now that I am 52. It has been a struggle for me because as a mother I was determined that she would come first in my life and I didn't want strangers raising her. Fortunately she was born three years before the welfare "reform" forced mothers to put their babies into childcare and go out looking for work full-time. As reluctant as I was to put my daughter into childcare, the stipend I received from the welfare office barely covered rent and utilities. I had to get creative and start supplementing my income. I chose menial tasks that I could take my daughter with me to. I babysat, took in sewing, cleaned houses...anything to be with my baby. I have always lived by the motto: Where there's a will, there's a way! When my daughter was just about 18 months old, I had one lady who hired me to come and help her with the house on a semi-regular basis. One day she turned to me and asked me, "You are so intelligent and articulate, I know you could easily get a good job at the State. Why are you doing this?" I smiled and pointed to my daughter sitting on the floor watching TV. She understood immediately and actually increased my hours. It did help that I was living in my hometown and knew my way around. Another venue I used to supplement my income was crafting. I crochet and had access to some craft fairs that brought in a few dollars. One of the things I learned about crafting, though, is that it is very regional. Of the many places I have lived, some actually put me in the hole with the crafts while others made me pretty good money. When selling your handmade products, you have to really watch your expenses. It doesn't pay to purchase a booth at a market if you don't sell anything over the purchase price of the booth. Likewise, when looking for online places to sell your stuff, be very cautious about paying for space. I have found a great site that doesn't charge you anything to list your items. It's called "shophandmade.com" and I'm hoping that eventually I'll be able to get enough traffic to my store to start pulling out of the red and into the black. I've always been creative about budget cuts, as well. Can't afford cable TV? skip the cable, get an antenna. Okay, so you don't get as many channels. Is it necessary to life and limb? NO! I have lived for the past ten years without any kind of television at all. Electric bill sky high? That is easy. Switch your incandescent bulbs to the btus. The difference between 15 watts and 100 watts really adds up. One of the best investments I made early on in my daughter's life was a sewing machine. I took a cue from Dolly Parton's song, "Coat of Many Colors". If I didn't have full yards of cloth, I would piece together the dresses from smaller pieces. I patched and mended shirts and pants and even cut up sheets that I bought at yard sales to make clothes out of. I rarely bought new clothes other than socks and underwear. If you can be creative, you will be amazed at how little you can actually live on. When my daughter was three, I started driving school bus. It was only part-time seasonal but I managed to make it driving school bus during the school year and collecting unemployment during the summer for six years. When my daughter turned twelve, I took a full time job at the state. I thought she was old enough that I could leave her on her own for that amount of time. After less than two years, though, I realized that it was not working and was not worth it. I thought of going back to the school bus but my health was beginning to fail on me and within a matter of months I became too disabled to work anymore. I have moved several times over the years looking for a better life for us. It is not easy and definitely not a role I recommend, this single motherhood. Still and all, I have no regrets other than the time I was actually working full time. It has actually become a source of pride for me...kind of a contest to see just how little I can get by on. When you really get hard-nosed frugal, you will be amazed.
12 Jun 10
Wow, you have such an inspiring story. I am impressed and awed by your determination and goodness of heart. That is why you are able to do what you do because of that inner goodness you have in you.You are really worth emulating especially in these times of crisis. Keep up the good work!
• United States
12 Jun 10
Thank you. I have often thought that it would be awesome to have an organization of mothers who could help each other...nothing big, but like a co-op sharing childcare and housing, etc. I had a hard time early on because my rent was $600 and I was getting barely over $800 a month so had to take in roommates. The trouble was that keeping roommates was hard. I must have gone through six different roomies in two years! I also spent some time homeless...living in a van. Being Alaskan and the daughter of a strong mother(she was a vet in WWII) went a long way toward the strength I found within myself. I truly believe that we all have the strength within us to make things work as long as we remain flexible. I remember when we were homeless, it was kind of fun because we were camping out like the old pioneers. As long as the weather stayed warm we were okay. Usually by the time the weather turned cold we had found housing. I really believe we had angels watching over us...and still do.