Learn how Solo Moms who work for themselves combat the many child-care challenges
The average child comes with a lot of expenses. From diapers and formula ($72 and $144 per month, respectively) to the cost of child care, which averages $972 a month according to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral agencies, it’s no wonder Solo Moms are having a hard time making ends meet.
Comparatively, the median income for Solo Moms is $34,000 a year, and 49% of them have never been married, so we can eliminate child-support assistance there. Nearly one-quarter of Solo Moms are jobless the entire year, and almost the same percentage of them receive unemployment benefits.
As a Solo Mom, there are limited options for child care in those pesky situations such as having to go into work early or stay late, when your child or caregiver is sick, or your child’s school decides to close on a Monday because of a solar eclipse. What, exactly, is a Solo Mom supposed to?
Is it easier to just work for yourself?
From struggling to maintain any semblance of a work-life balance to scrambling for reliable care during a business trip to actually paying for child care, Solo Moms around the country are considering working for themselves and eliminating the need for child care completely.
Most work-from-home Solo Moms will tell you that it isn’t always easier on this side of the equation, but it certainly is more enjoyable. Even those who work for themselves out of the home find they have more flexibility with child care than traditional employment was able to offer. There are several ways to balance working at home without full-time child care. Here are some of them:
The home office. Working from home, with your children right there beside you, is probably the most popular option for Solo Moms who are done with the corporate child-care battle. Of course this scenario is still a challenge, but with some planning, it is very doable. Suggestions from work-from-home moms include getting up early or going to bed later and working during those times, learning to work with distractions, and not trying this until the kids are school-aged.
Kid swap. Picture this: You and a close friend have babies about the same time, and she is now a stay-at-home-mom. She comes over once or twice a week for a few hours and cares for both kids in your living room while you work in the home office or leave the house to work. Maybe you do the same for her so she can go to a doctor’s appointment, or maybe you pay her a little bit for her time. Either way, you’re getting in a few really productive hours each week.
Working playdates. Gather up the children and some other working moms who need some help with child care and head to a playground, Chick-fil-A, or trampoline park. Let the kids go wild while you mamas get to work! Moms rotate, each taking a turn watching them (or at least glancing up every few minutes to count bouncing heads), and you’ll get at least twice as long to work. Bonus points goes to the mom who brings the teenager who is willing to keep an eye on all the kids.
Bring kids to work. Wouldn’t this be nice? I mean, it’s not always practical, but there are times when it could work. Maybe just on those sick days or the random Tuesday in the summer when you haven’t lined up an activity. There will be times and situations when it’s not OK, but how do you know if you don’t try it? My mother used to bring me to work, and I’d hang out in a pack ’n’ play. Everyone wins! Of course, this is easier if you’re the boss, and you can help make the practice more acceptable for your employees.
Build a day care at work. Bringing your kids to work is just the beginning. For Solo Moms who are starting their own businesses in physical locations, consider building in child care. Offer ways to make Solo Moms more successful by allowing them to work remotely or at odd hours to offset child-care costs. Wouldn’t it be so nice to have your new baby just a few doors away while you’re working?
Seek help from family. If you’re lucky enough to live near supportive family members, then consider using them for some child-care needs. My cousin is a teacher, and between the help she gets from her mother and mother-in-law, she requires only one paid day of child care a week! Even if family members can’t help every day, having them as a backup for sick days, late meetings, or even business trips will save so much time and money, and help alleviate stress.
Mother’s Day Out programs. These free programs, in which you can drop off your littles for a few hours, are favorites of working and nonworking Solo Moms alike. Some are offered once a week and others, once a month, but no matter how many hours are offered, take advantage of them! A lot of these programs are offered through churches, but if you’re not a churchgoer and/or don’t consider yourself religious, don’t let that be a factor. Their focus is to give moms a break, and you deserve one!
Whether you are working from home, starting your own business, or stuck in a 9-to-5 job, consider the ideas described above. Perhaps you may even want to start your own day-care center. For additional suggestions on child-care solutions, read Stephanie Land’s “How I Found Folks to Care for My Daughter.”
Rebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. Her writing experience includes military-family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY magazine and a regular contributor to several online publications, including the Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, and ESME. She also has been published in Ms. magazine and the Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com and on Twitter and Instagram.