How I Stayed Home as a Single Mom — the good, the bad, and the surprising

When my former husband left me, my world ended. In so many ways. I’ve written a lot about how that affected me emotionally, but physically the changes were nearly as drastic. We sold our home, the only home my kids had ever known. I had to find a place to live in a ridiculously expensive area, figure out schooling, insurance, and every kind of logistic you can imagine. Not to mention, I had been a stay-at-home mom for nearly seven years and wasn’t sure how to make ends meet. My kids were 2, 4, and 6 — going back to work and putting them in childcare was the last thing I wanted to do (not to mention the logistics of that and the cost were prohibitive). So, after losing nearly everything I had known or been, losing my identity as a stay-at-home mom was just not an option for me. I begged God for wisdom and help to figure out how to accomplish that goal. So, here’s how God answered that prayer!

First, it is hard. I have worked six+ concurrent jobs at times over the past 18 months. I don’t get insurance because I’m self-employed so that can be a nightmare. It’s hard to get work done when I nearly always have at least one kid home and vying for my attention. It’s hard to make the mental shift from stay-at-home mom to work-at-home mom. I often feel a lot of mom-guilt for not being able to do the sorts of activities that I did when I “just” stayed home and parented all day. But, God has provided work to meet my financial needs and has filled in the gaps through generous friends and family. I’ve experienced so much generosity through my church, friends, and even complete strangers who’ve gone out of their way to lower expenses and cover costs for me and my kids. All that to say, I did not do any of this alone.

Freelance proofreading
This is something I’ve done off and on since I started staying home with Parker. I was able to add a few new publishers which really helped. The plus? I mostly get to proof amazing and inspiring books since I proofread for Christian publishers. They are books I’d want to read anyway and find myself getting paid to read them. That’s awesome! The downside? It’s unpredictable work. When it comes in it’s great, when there’s nothing it’s a bummer. It can also be really hard to get done when kids are awake so that means proofing at late hours.

Working for family
The bulk of my income was from this amazing blessing. I’ve been able to do some of the accounting for my dad’s business for the past six and a half years. This last year I also added on doing newsletters and other marketing tasks. Not everyone gets the benefit of working for family, but so many companies are looking for social media managers to write newsletters, blogs, etc. It’s a really great route for work-at-home moms. I like working for a company that I know I can trust and being a part of a longer family legacy. But the accounting work can be tedious (a minor downside) and your salary isn’t really growable.

Social Media Management
On that note, I’ve also started working for a company doing social media management. This was another opportunity that the Lord provided out of the blue when I needed it most. It’s easy work for the most part, it can be done from anywhere I have a computer and internet connection, but the hours are pretty rigid. For instance, I have to work at very specific times — so if a kid’s birthday party is scheduled during that time I have to say no. Or if it conflicts with any other activity I have to alter my plans. And sometimes the content of what I have to interact with can be frustrating — because people on the internet are rude, crude, and impatient. I also only get paid for the hours I work, so if I have to skip out for any reason that means a cut in pay.

Nannying
This fell into my lap in a way that only the Lord could arrange. The perfect family with the perfect need at the perfect time. I nannied two girls for about 16 months and they were just a delight. It was great because it was only two days a week and didn’t inhibit my schedule too much. This would be MUCH harder if it was full time. You don’t have the same freedom to take care of errands, do things with your kids, etc. BUT you do have the freedom to get things done around your house (especially since they still napped!), something that obviously doesn’t happen with most jobs. My kids loved these girls and that made it a super sweet time, but I can imagine if the kids didn’t get along it would be rough. The biggest downside is that when my kids were sick or if their kids were sick we’d cancel — which meant the income wasn’t always reliable. There were definitely some humorous logistical issues as well with picking my kids up from school and having to manage FIVE small kids in the snow.

Sewing
I’ve done random sewing jobs for friends for years, so I knew that was an option for increased income. I advertised on craigslist and local facebook groups and got a bit of business through that. Some of those were kind of weird (making a dog backpack?!) but mostly things like curtains, pillows, and hemming pants. I also worked on a few of my friend’s quilts which is definitely my favorite. This income was always a nice little surprise but certainly not reliable. If you were skilled in alterations I’d think this would be a much more consistent source of income. And again, you get paid for the hours you work and don’t get paid when there’s no work.

Direct Sales
Gasp! Something I thought I’d never do! Short of finding a place to live, signing up to be a distributor for Shaklee was the first big post-divorce decision I made. Given all the bad press with direct sales, I was definitely skeptical. I prayed about this decision so much and didn’t talk to anyone about it because I was afraid of what they’d think. But having a close friend who I trusted and fully knowing and loving Shaklee, I went ahead and made the leap. And it’s been the best decision I have ever made. But I can tell you from having a lot of friends in Direct Sales — not all companies or compensation plans are created equal. Shaklee happens to have a fantastic plan (with no catches, annual fees, or gimmicks), but not all companies are this way. Make sure to do your research.
It’s really the job that I enjoy the most (helping people find answers to their health problems and creating healthier lives for their families). And the most amazing thing is how flexible it is. I put in the hours now and will continue to get paid off that effort for years. It’s truly the only job out there that works like this. I can not work if I’m sick and not lose my job. I can work while my kids are playing at the library or park. I can go on vacation and still make money. Not to mention there is no limit to the amount I can grow my income. If I want to double my income, I can put in the work and know that it’s totally possible to achieve. But even more than the money, the investment that my organization had made in me as a person — wow! I’ve been encouraged, challenged, grown, picked back up, and propelled forward by the women I’ve met doing this. Truly, it has been a bigger blessing than the paychecks (which are also awesome).

So there you have it! My rundown on various ways to earn money from home even in the most unfortunate and unexpected scenarios. It’s possible! Even though I’m not a single mom any more, my husband does go to school full-time so my income needs really haven’t changed a whole lot. I’m so thankful for the opportunities to work from home — especially as we welcome another baby to our family in June!

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Pain is Gritty

For those unfamiliar with deep, painful grieving, it might seem that a year or two was enough. Enough time to really delve the depths of sadness, anger, and acceptance. Enough space to process all there is to know about loss and moving on. Enough. Oh, how I wish it was. I am so ready to be done with pain and grief. So, so ready. But much like the old high school knee injury that aches with shifting weather patterns, grief does not go away with passing time. It merely changes.

Wounds are weird. It has always amazed me how the body manages to heal itself. Of course healing can be aided by doctors, medication, or therapy — but the cells repair themselves over time and the bones bind back together after a break. And yet we all know that there are often setbacks along the way. A wound refuses to heal because of an infection, rehabilitation is halted by a tear in newly strengthened muscles, or over-exertion forces a patient back in bed after a bout with the flu. I believe emotional is healing is like that as well. Over the past two years I’ve found periods of immense growth, joy, and peace. I’ve also had seasons of darkness, depression, and anger. Each time I conquer the darkness it gets a little less powerful. The depths of pain become more shallow as the tides roll in and out.

The season of incredible joy and overwhelming feeling of gratitude and healing I felt this summer was followed by a season of sadness this fall. It wasn’t nearly as deep or as dark as in the past, but it was very real and very all-consuming at times. This setback came unexpectedly. It arrived with the surprising news of my pregnancy. This joyous, though unplanned, news revived old hurts from long ago. It served as a trigger to many wounds that I thought I’d laid to rest. I’m sure the hormones and incessant sickness didn’t help my state of mind, but I found myself pretty well mired in the pit of my pain.

So, I stopped writing for awhile. I like to write when things are cemented in my mind, and the unsettledness and the stuckness that I was experiencing didn’t fit that prescription. I didn’t feel ready to move on from the pain, I felt like I really needed to feel it and sit in it for awhile. I know for certain that I didn’t rush past my initial pain two years ago — any of my friends or family can tell you how deeply I grieved. But, I am the first to admit that this pain was dulled a bit once I met Johnathan. It didn’t feel as loud to me and the need to focus on healing didn’t seem so pressing. We’ve always both known there was more healing to do, but I think some of the immediacy of it was mitigated by our happiness with one another. So this time I felt like I needed to stay awhile. That I shouldn’t just rush past what I was feeling to the happy ending.

Beauty can come from pain, but that doesn’t mean that pain is always beautiful. At the height of pain it is just gritty. I don’t think God will ever leave us in a place of hopelessness, but that doesn’t mean we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel when we are in it. I am so thankful for those who just sat with me in my pain. I know they wanted to see me move past it, and yet, they didn’t force me to just “get over it”. They just shared in the pain with me, prayed with me (when I couldn’t), and reminded me of truth that I needed to hear.

I think we love happy endings and, by all means, my 2017 collage sure looks like the best case scenario for me. I am so grateful for the ways God is redeeming the painful situations I found myself in, but even in the joy there is lingering pain. Sometimes there are no happily ever afters, just seasons of joy mixed with pain — healing mixed with reopened wounds. As the pain and healing ebb and flow, I’m thankful for a permanent and perfect rest to look forward to in heaven. Until then, I put my hope in the Healer and trust him for the healing only he can provide here and now as I walk through life. He is Good.

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