We all know single moms—and single parents, in general—have it harder.
And tonight, “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert“—a documentary film produced by Maria Shriver, chronicling the heroic struggles of one single mom of three—will air on HBO.
The film is one spoke in Shriver’s multifaceted report, “A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink,” and her overall societal push to help single women raising children to shore up their financial status. That’s an effort we can get behind.
And, because today there are 10 million single moms making it work, day by day, we decided to profile and celebrate four who were willing to share their tips on how they’re doing it. Read on and get inspired.
“I group-text my support system for any tiny ‘mom win’ … or ‘mom fail.’”
Who: Brooke Randolph
Occupation: Mental health counselor and VP of social services at an international adoption agency
I am a single mom via adoption. My nearly seven-year-old son, born in Samoa, joined me a year ago. A schedule and routine is essential, even though I once would have resisted a stringent routine. Lots of hugs, high fives and teamwork keep us on the same page.
It helps that the after-school program at his school is wonderful when I need to use it. It can be a struggle to get dinner on the table by 6 p.m. every night so he can be in the bath by 7 p.m., but scheduling the Y and dinner plans in my phone helps keep me focused. I also rely heavily on grocery delivery from GreenBEAN and Amazon, especially since we have food allergies.
My parents are so helpful when he is out of school. I have paid babysitters only twice and mostly depend on my parents, my brother, my son’s godfather, or trading child care with friends.
I am so, so thankful for a scholarship to my son’s school because it truly is the best environment I could imagine for him. We buy used uniforms. I shop sales and Amazon Subscribe and Save.
Because of our allergies, I don’t scrimp on food, but I do watch for sales and stock up. My freezer is full of frozen meat, blueberries we picked together, and applesauce made from apples we picked together at an orchard. I don’t buy clothes for myself, and I am lucky that I have several friends who can pass down clothes from their kids.
As for my advice to other single mothers: Make sure you have support! I intentionally sought “mom friends” while in the midst of the adoption process. While I don’t meet up with them as much as they’d like, I can group-text them for any tiny “mom win,” stressful moment, question, or “mom fail” to get support, encouragement and advice. Sometimes you just need to vent.
One of the toughest parts of this job is being the only one to determine what is best for your kid. I talk to my mom frequently as well; sometimes you just want to hear other opinions or get validation. In my case, specifically with adopting an older child, my son has to be my top priority. He is extremely smart, so I have learned to talk to him about things and even be honest about what things stress me out and make it hard to be a good mom. Working as a “team” works for us because he is so compassionate and because he knows that he matters more to me than anyone else in the world.
“From life insurance to prepaid college tuition, I’m making sure she will be taken care of.”
Who: Yvette N. Harris
Occupation: Owner of a lifestyle public relations company
I am a single mom of a beautiful, amazing, spirited little girl named Nya (Nya means “purpose”). Nya is a huge part of my daily life. When she was born, I made a decision to make sure she would be a part of my life and not just included in it.
I own a lifestyle public relations company, so my daily schedule can be a bit hectic. She is currently in a home-school program that allows her to expand her mind in a more creative manner. I have Nya involved in everything from African dance, gymnastics, French heritage and science to a weekly dose of playdates every weekend. With that said, I am grateful for my single-mom community collective that comes together to help with car pool.
Working for yourself can be a bit challenging; I have changed my business model of who I do business with because I am the sole caretaker of my daughter’s needs. Finances are something that weigh on my mind. But I’m working all that out to make sure I will be able to afford all of the things I want to expose her to. From life insurance to prepaid college tuition, I am really looking at ways to make sure she will always be taken care of.
I sometimes have to take Nya with me to my meetings if the babysitter gets sick. I remember having to take her to a presentation for a grant for a client when she was about four months old. I breast-fed and she fell asleep in her carrier for the whole presentation. The funny thing is that everyone kept asking me questions about her and saying how adorable she was. I never really made it through my presentation, but my client got the grant.
My daughter is amazing and has such a go-with-the-flow spirit. When we go to Starbucks, she will ask, “Mommy, is this a meeting, or are we just here for chit-chat?” She knows how to govern her behavior accordingly.
I am always working to make sure I have some balance that includes quality time with her, quality time for myself, and working on my business and personal development. One of the things we like to do together is our vision board and our gratitude jar. It’s important that I teach her about hard work and that we can’t just go to the ATM machine without Mommy actually working to make the money to put in the bank. I have finally reached the point where I am limiting the work I do on the weekends. It’s a work in progress, but I am getting there. Now we make time for movies, trips to the farmers’ market, and riding our bike to the beach.
I think because I had my daughter at an older age (I was 41 when I gave birth), it allowed me to have maturity and really be present for her. I love being a mother and I savor every moment. It’s all about the balancing act, deciding you can do anything you set your mind to and having the community around you. It really does take a village.