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4 Ways to Master Being a Single Working Mom

Being a single parent with a job isn't easy — here's how to make it work

By Michele Weldon

When my sons were 7, 5 and 2, I was single and working full time — and when the phone rang at 6 a.m., it was never good news. I knew that a phone call that early might be from my child care provider canceling for the day. That meant my workday as a university adjunct lecturer, freelance writer, author and public speaker had just imploded.

Luckily I have two sisters — one an attorney, another an insurance executive — who had child care in place at their own homes that I could take advantage of. I also begged friends to watch the boys before and after school — and I always returned the favor. Sometimes, I took my youngest with me to campus, where I begged the secretary to watch him while I was in class. (There was no on-site child care.)

And so for the better part of 10 years, I panicked about being able to get my work done.

Managing and mastering your career as a single working mother has those moments, but you also have the satisfaction of maintaining ambition and a meaningful work life while raising children alone. You serve as a role model of persistence and strength — not just for your kids, but for other parents as well. Here are some tips on how to do your best as a single working mom.

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1. Find your tribe

Single parenting does not mean you have to feel alone in the community. For support from a like-minded tribe, try Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere, founded two years ago by Marika Lidholm. She explained the inspiration for her business in the New York Daily News. “My own divorce drove home the additional emotional toll of single motherhood. Just when single moms need the most support, friends tend to take sides or drift away. My own post-divorce loneliness inspired me to build a community in which solo doesn't mean alone.” 

Having this community means you can rely on each other to, for example, swap child care duties. Be reliable so you can expect others to be reliable as well.

2. Calculate child care costs and plan accordingly

Unless you are lucky enough to have a family member who can watch your child for free, have a free on-site child care facility at your place of work or can co-op duties with friends, you will have to pay for child care. This is likely your biggest expense and budget worry, so take care to get it right.

Personal finance expert, author and broadcaster Farnoosh Torabi writes in Mint Life, “The latest government figures show that for a middle-income family, parents can expect to spend close to a quarter of a million dollars to raise one child through high school. This includes food, housing, health care and basic necessities. The average cost of child care has been climbing over the years. Day care, for example, now costs an average $200 a week according to Care.com. A personal nanny can be $15 to $18 an hour in some areas.”

3. Know what’s available & possible at work

Lauren Smith Brody, former executive editor of Glamour and a mother of two, is the author of The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Success, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby. She offers resources, workshops and training for new moms to go over what happens for you at work once you become a mother. "Back to work? Back to normal? Not quite, but you will be fine, promise,” Brody proclaims on her site.

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4. Try to work for a parent-friendly company

There are many places around the country where working mothers are respected and valued. The National Association for Female Executives is one of the largest associations for women professionals and business owners in the country. Each year, they work with Working Mother and come up with a list of the best places for executive women to work. This year, the list includes Procter & Gamble, MarriottDeloitteAccenture and many more.

If you work for a smaller operation without big resources, have an honest conversation with your boss about flexible hours, occasionally working from home and potential child care solutions. Volunteer to research ideas and to make it happen. It’s a winning proposition for everyone involved.

Originally published on Fairygodboss.

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