A Conversation With a Single Mom Living on $40,000 a Year

Mike: Why don’t you introduce yourself.

Single Mom: I’m 42 years old, divorced, and a single mom of three elementary school-age kids. I work in the administration of a non-profit. I live in a Maryland suburb of D.C.

M: How much are you currently earning at the non-profit?

SM: I earn $40,000 a year, and that is supplemented with child support that I receive from my children’s dad—about $1,500 a month.


M: Do you also have benefits?

SM: I have health insurance. It was a hard decision to make on whether or not to get insurance for myself. My employer pays two-thirds of the premium, but even the one-third I pay takes a significant bite out of my paycheck. I have it for now, but I may have to drop it. I don’t have any retirement benefits or anything.

M: There aren’t retirement plan options like a 403(b) or anything like that at the non-profit?

SM: No, nothing. I work for a very small non-profit. The budget and staff are both very small so the insurance isn’t even a group plan. I had to find my own insurance and I submit my premium bills to my employer.

M: How long have you worked at this particular job?

SM: I have been there since last August. I was working in the private sector prior to that, earning a bit more in salary and benefits but I was laid off. I was unemployed for just under three months before finding this job.

M: Do you have full custody of your three children?

SM: No, I do share custody of the kids. But I am responsible for paying all the child care costs, which has translated in practice to me paying all school-related costs: lunches, field trips, equipment, as well as the before and after care costs.

M: I’m sure that’s very difficult to do as a single mother living on your salary. How do you make it work?

SM: It is very difficult. I definitely live paycheck-to-paycheck and that’s not an exaggeration. My bank balance by payday is often $0. I have no savings at all. My priorities as far as bills go are rent and childcare. I am lucky that I don’t have a lot of credit card debt, but even without that I can’t always pay all my bills. I have a very strict budget that I stick to. I can’t always pay utility bills in full, but I have figured out how much I have to pay to keep the utility companies from shutting off my service. My gas usage is higher in the winter, but goes way down in the summer so I am able to catch up on that bill by the next winter. I rent a very rundown house in a good school system and pay below market rent. Even then I have negotiated that rent to keep it low—not asking for a lot of work to be done, doing work on the house myself, etc.

I have really learned to negotiate a lot. For the summer, I simply could not afford the cost of full-time care for all three kids—it was more than I earn! So I contacted the child care provider and was very frank about my situation and was able to work out an arrangement for payment that allows me to keep them in child care. Then there are bills that I just can’t pay. I was saddled with a large debt in my divorce and I have just no money to pay that with—I know it will catch up with me eventually but for right now my priority is keeping my kids sheltered, fed and cared for.

I can’t always pay utility bills in full, but I have figured out how much I have to pay to keep the utility companies from shutting off my service.

I stick to a strict budget as far as groceries. I make menus, never shop without a list and rarely have “treats” for the kids. Our big night is when I order pizza and watch a movie on Netflix. My kids are growing so fast and I really can’t keep up with buying clothes for three of them so I have learned to swallow my pride and ask for donations. I belong to a listserv of single mothers and just put it out there that I needed clothes and received a lot of donations which got us through the winter.

I don’t take vacations—alone or with the kids. We rarely go out and when the kids are with their dad, I don’t go out. It’s very isolating because not having any “extra” money means I can’t go out and socialize.

M: Can you break down some of the numbers for us? How much do you allocate toward rent and utility bills, child care, and things like gas and groceries?

SM: I pay $1,480 per month in rent, $1,386 per month in child care, and I usually pay about $75 to gas and electric, though as I said, my bills are often higher than that. I keep my groceries to $400 per month, and that includes things like toiletries and household supplies. One of my children has some medical issues so I pay around $100 in medication for him per month, I do have Internet and phone and basic cable, which is bundled and has recently gone up in price to $130 per month so I will most likely have to cut back that service in some way..

I try not to drive too much—I take the bus and metro, but that can even be expensive during peak hours. I have a prepaid cell phone and only pay $25 per month for that. My phone is very old but I am planning on keeping it for as long as possible because the plan will increase by $10 if I get a newer phone. I pay about $150 per month to credit card debt. One is a card that I have closed and I am paying off the balance. I am almost done paying it. I negotiated with the bank that issued the card to pay a lower monthly amount in but it has taken longer to pay off

M: Do you have student loan debt or other debt besides the credit card?

SM: Well, that’s complicated. I personally do not have actual student loan debt but while I was married, my husband and I consolidated our loans with the Department of Education. Since I had the loan with the DoE, we consolidated in my name. He got his master’s overseas with private loans so he had a lot of debt. In the divorce, that debt landed with me since it was in my name. So there is a $48,000 student loan debt that I have for an education my ex-husband got. I have been able to put it in forbearance and even deferment when I was unemployed but it’s in repayment now. I have not been able to pay one penny of that debt. I have to deal with it but it seems so daunting, I am just incapable of figuring out a solution.

M: Your ex-husband is not making an attempt to pay off that loan?

SM: No, he is quite happy that he doesn’t have to pay it!

M: That’s terrible. Is the loan sitting there accruing interest?

SM: Interest and late payments. I have been getting calls from the company recently and they offer to “help” me figure out a payment, but the reality is that I don’t have anything to give them. You’ll be happy to hear that the master’s my ex got has allowed him to earn a great salary, though!

M: It’s really unbelievable. Have you looked into legal help with it?

SM: I am in the process of looking into that. I have been trying to find the a copy of the original paperwork I submitted to consolidate, which would list the loans and prove that they are not mine. I no longer have that paperwork and the loan has been sold so it’s hard to figure out where that record is. I’ve also looked into Chapter 7 bankruptcy because I’ve recently read that in spite of popular belief, it can be possible to dispatch student loans through Chapter 7. But as I said, it’s so stressful and daunting—I’ve ignored it for too long. I’ll add that I only have a B.A. from a state school.

M: I’m glad to hear there’s some hope of getting that loan discharged. What did you study, and how much was your college education?

SM: I have a degree in theater—very useful, I know. But I started college at 17 and wasn’t ready so I dropped out. By the time I figured I better get a degree, I was so close to the theater degree and, since I was paying my own way, I figured that was better than nothing. I don’t really remember how much my education cost. I got a combination of grants and loans but it wasn’t much, as I said, it was a state school and I had in-state tuition.

M: You’re living paycheck-to-paycheck now, but has it always been like that?

SM: When I was married, things were definitely better. We were pretty solidly middle class. We had our financial struggles, but were doing fairly well. I used to have a savings and a small retirement fund, but I had to cash out and spend it during the divorce.

M: And I’m sure you’re really caught up living in the day-to-day, but do you also think about things like retirement? Do you no longer believe that’s an option, or are you figuring out a way to do it?

SM: I just can’t think about it. I know that I will be one of those people who works until they drop dead. It’s just not my reality. My priority is my kids and making sure they have a better future than I have. I feel like I’ve kind of just given up any thoughts of having a better life for myself, and really just try to focus on my kids.

M: What kind of life did you have growing up?

My priority is my kids and making sure they have a better future than I have. I feel like I’ve kind of just given up any thoughts of having a better life for myself, and really just try to focus on my kids.

SM: I was raised in a pretty typically middle class environment. My siblings and I weren’t spoiled but we never really wanted for much. I have learned in my adulthood that my father was not very good with money. He spent what he had and was no good at saving, which has left my mom in a less than great place since his death. I worry that I have inherited that trait. I mean, sometimes I wonder if I should be making my finances work better—if it’s not that I have a low salary and high expenses, but if it’s also that I am just no good with money.

M: But I think raising three children on what you are earning is quite an accomplishment and deserves recognition. Do you not agree?

SM: I do feel a sense of pride that my kids don’t know the struggles I go through. I am particularly proud of the fact that they never knew I was unemployed—nothing about their lives changed.

M: After your father passed, your mom was left in less of a great place because he wasn’t good with money. How is your mother now?

SM: I mean, he always managed to pay the bills, but he was a very generous guy too—he just didn’t plan and save for retirement. So my mother, who is in her early 70s is still working.

M: Are you close with your mother? Do you talk about money with her?

SM: I am very close to my mom (though not physically—she is in the Midwest with the rest of my family). I try very hard not to discuss my financial situation with her, though it comes up because I am not able to take the kids to visit, etc. We do discuss her finances a little and I know she’s not in a horrible place but just not in great place. I don’t like to discuss the extent of my financial struggles with her because I don’t want her to worry, and I don’t want her to feel the need to give me what little she has and needs.

M: Do you also worry about her? Since she’s still working?

SM: I worry, but see some of her problems as solvable, she is just hesitant to do things like sell her house and move in closer to my sister. That would be a big help for her. She is fairly good with money. I think she just never took charge while my dad was alive, and she seems to be doing OK. I do think she would prefer to stop working and she is trying to figure out a way to make that happen.

M: You said something pretty bleak before in that you have given up on having a better life for yourself, but talking with you so far, you seem like a very resilient person. I know that your income is the biggest barrier at the moment. Are you thinking about ways to earn more money? Do you have the spare time to look for a better-paying job?

SM: Yeah, I guess I am resilient. I feel like I have to be for my kids. I am always thinking of ways to earn extra income. I have often in my working life worked a part-time job in addition to my full-time work, but that was while I was married. It’s tougher to find the time now that I have blocks of time without another parent around. I would be working just to pay for babysitting. I would love a better paying job but have concerns about my tenure at jobs. I was not at my previous job very long (about 12 months) before I was laid off, and I haven’t been at my current job for a year yet, I want to build experience and a bit of longevity because I think in the longer term, that would help me get a better job or advance my career.

M: Do you have the sense that the situation you are now is not permanent? That you believe that there will be a time when you are no longer living paycheck to paycheck?

SM: Honestly, I don’t. I think about where other people my age are financially—home owners, retirement accounts, college funds—and the amount of catching up I would have to do just seems impossible. I do tend to think of my situation as just the way things are for me—not in a “victimy” way, I take responsibility for the life choices I have made that have put me here—but I think I am just too far behind in terms of financial health to ever be in a significantly better place.

M: You mentioned that things were easier when you had another parent around to help with parenting duties. Do you think having another partner to help out in the future is something that could happen?

SM: No, I don’t. For a variety of reasons. One of which is my financial state. I feel that I would be bringing someone down if I partnered with them, financially I mean, and I don’t want to do that. I mean, there are other reasons I’m not really looking for another marriage or partner, but the financial reasons are something I definitely think about.

M: What is your social life like? Are you able to do simple things like meet a friend for coffee?

SM: I don’t have much of a social life to be honest. It is a struggle to do even little things like meet for coffee or lunch and definitely no money for a night out. I live in the suburbs and my single friends live in the city and among my friends who are parents, I am really the only single person. So I’m kind of in a gray area in terms of friends and not having the means to go out doesn’t help.

I don’t have much of a social life to be honest. It is a struggle to do even little things like meet for coffee or lunch and definitely no money for a night out.

M: Because of this gray area, does that mean you’re lacking a support system that could help you do certain things? For example, having a friend who could look after the kids while you went on an interview or a networking event?

SM: For the most part, that is the case. I do have some neighbors and friends who have helped out on rare occasions, but really no one who could help on a regular basis. I don’t have any family in the area, as I said before.

M: Do you ever consider moving back to the Midwest to have a better support system of friends and family around?

SM: I would love to! I want to! But, because of custody laws, I am not able to relocate unless I gave up custody of my kids, which I would never even consider. I would love to be in the Midwest. It’s much cheaper to live there and I would love to be closer to my family.

M: That sounds like it would be ideal for you—to be able to move to the Midwest where things are cheaper and to have a family support system and your children with you. Is there no legal pathway to make this a possibility?

SM: Unfortunately, no. And I spent a lot of time and money trying to make this happen when my husband initiated a divorce. But the laws are such that unless my ex consented, I cannot take the kids out of the area to live. And my ex will not consent so I have to stay in the D.C. area.

M: So if your ex wanted to move, he’d have to get your consent as well?

SM: Yes, that’s correct.

M: I imagine it’d be difficult to convince him that moving would be good because it’d mean providing your children with a better situation?

SM: I really tried that approach during the separation/divorce process, but he was adamant that he wanted the children to remain in close proximity to him. And I do think it is important for the kids to have regular time with both parents, so I can see the point. But it was very difficult because I didn’t want to move to this area, but did because he got a job here. I mean that while we were married he got a job in D.C., I had no desire to move here, but did so to support him.

M: It just seems totally unfair that it appears like he gets to have things the way he wants them to be (though I know you already know this).

SM: Yeah, it was an eye-opening experience for sure. I try really hard not to be bitter about it.

M: I know you have to go pick up your children soon, but I would love to know if you see some tiny bit of light at the end of the tunnel—because I do think you are resilient and resilient people figure out how to get to a better place, even if there’s a bunch of hard tiny things you have to do along the way to eventually get there.

SM: Well, I guess the light is that my kids are fantastic and I really believe that they will have great lives and do the things they want to do. I struggle a lot, I do, and I think about what might have been or what I could have done but I guess at the end of the day if all I manage to do with my life is raise great, good people, then that’s a pretty big accomplishment.

M: I’d love to follow up with you maybe a few months or a year from now to see how you are doing if you are open to that.

SM: Yeah, that would be cool. I tend to hope for the best but expect the worse—so you never know, things could be better in a few months or a year. I’m sorry that this was so bleak.

M: Not everybody’s story comes with a tidy, happy ending. This is the reality of things, and I think it’s important that we can show that. So thank you for being so open and taking the time to talk to me.

 

Previously: Living on $15,000 a Year

Interested in having a conversation about what you do, how much you earn, and how you make it work? Get in touch.

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126 Comments / Post A Comment

BananaPeel (#1,555)

I am seething about the ex leaving her on the hook for his student loans. Best wishes for a good resolution on that and in general! It sounds like you really care about what’s best for your kids and I admire your spirit.

City_Dater (#565)

@BananaPeel

Me too!
This woman sounds great and I hope she figures out some way to out from under her ex’s debt.

No one likes to think about this stuff when they’re getting married, but pre-nups are not just for rich people. If a woman puts all her eggs in her husband’s basket (say, by moving away from her own support network for his work or being primary breadwinner while he is a full-time student), it makes sense to have a binding agreement for what might happen if the marriage ends.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@City_Dater the more I read and talk, the more I have decided that this is a good idea.

Catface (#1,106)

@City_Dater Another fine option, if it’s right for you: don’t get married, and pay a good lawyer to memorialize any financial arrangements you need to. I hear stories like this and my guts clench up. I wish the Single Mom’s ex a world of ill.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@Catface me too. This is why I simultaneously believe and don’t believe in karma. Like, good people who are trying their best get screwed. But maybe there will be vengeance in the future. We can only hope.

Megano! (#124)

@BananaPeel HOW HAS SHE NOT SET HIM ON FIRE!?

Also, $1500/a month does not seem like NEARLY ENOUGH child support for THREE children. :/

ThatJenn (#916)

@theotherginger @City_Dater I am writing a pre-nup right now. I’ve thought about writing about it here if my intended consents and if Mike & Logan think it would make good reading. We teeter back and forth between middle and upper-middle class based on how many hours he gets at work, I own a house, and we each have some cash inheritance, so I guess in some sense we are “rich people,” but not in the sense that people usually mean when they talk about pre-nups being for rich people. If you have or intend to acquire either assets or debts that you wouldn’t want the other person to get/assume upon divorce, it’s worth doing.

It IS hard to talk about, though. I tried to talk to my ex-husband about one when we got married and he was immensely resistant, saying he was certain we could be civil if we ever, God forbid, split up, and that this meant I didn’t trust him to be reasonable if we ever split. (Then, of course, he was immensely UNcivil when we did split up.) My fiance, meanwhile, said, “Well, I don’t especially feel like I need one, but if it’ll make you happier, then we need one.”

theotherginger (#1,304)

@ThatJenn do it! (as long as your fiancé is ok with it, obviously)
also: i really like the final line – this guy obviously cares about you – and what’s important to you!

ThatJenn (#916)

@theotherginger Yeah, that’s really one of my many, many “green flags” for him (to contrast with the red ones from my first marriage). Not specifically that he’s down for a pre-nup, but the whole attitude. Honestly, I think the way people are willing to talk about legal documents, money, and the slim possibility of divorce prior to marriage is an important diagnostic tool, uncomfortable as those topics may be.

piekin (#3,711)

@BananaPeel I totally agree! I also want to chime to recommend that this lady look into Income-Based Repayment for the student loans until she hopefully figures out a legal solution. If you’re approved for IBR, your payments can be as low as $0 a month depending on your income/number of dependents. The loan will still sitting there collecting interest, but it will stop collectors from calling you and won’t do any more damage to your credit score.

SterlingCooper05 (#2,529)

At $58,000 (including child support), she’s making more than the median household income in the U.S. Her rent is about 30% of her gross income, which is high but manageable. But, the child care is outrageous for school aged kids. She needs to find a different job that offers flexibility with child care or find a cheaper latch-key option. A teenager or college student after school should be an option at about $500 a month. Also, her lawyer dropped the ball on that student loan. No way should she be responsible for the entire amount, half at most.

highjump (#39)

@SterlingCooper05 She’s still a bit below the median income for the metro area which is around $80k. The good school district and metro hint makes me believe she lives in Montgomery County: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest-income_counties_in_the_United_States

This really, really affects the price of child care. $1300 a month for childcare for three children in the DC area doesn’t surprise me at all. You couldn’t find a teenager or college student to do before and after care for three kids (almost certainly more than one school) for $500 a month. Last year I made $200 a month doing just school drop off for one kid to a school in DC less than 10 miles from my home. And that was a break I was giving a recently-divorced friend of a friend who was paying $300 at her old set up.

The legal stuff does sound screwy, I agree with you. Maybe we don’t know the whole story.

ellabella (#1,480)

@SterlingCooper05 Do you have any ideas on how to get cheaper childcare? I think it would be hard to find a babysitter for three kids for less than $15/hour, and if she needs 4 hours/day (ie 2:30pm-6:30pm) that’s $1200 a month. And that’s a best-case scenario that’s not far from where she’s at. I think $500/month for 3 kids is probably wishful thinking, but obviously if you have ideas for how that’s possible, I’m sure people here would love to hear them!

theotherginger (#1,304)

@ellabella yeah. the last time I did childcare it was at about 10$ per hour, but I think I undercharged, and that was for 1 day a week for a super easy kid to play with (one child, one, only). This was 4 years ago.

EM (#1,012)

@SterlingCooper05 You think she should leave three young children with a teenager? Dude. Do you have children? What are these magical jobs that provide lots of child care options?

blair (#1,962)

@SterlingCooper05 Fresh Air did a really interesting interview about the cost/quality of childcare in America the other day: http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=13&prgDate=04-17-2013

I knew less than nothing about it before and ended up completely outraged at how expensive (and dangerous) US childcare can be. Don’t know how much of this translates to the situation at hand, but it’s definitely an interview worth listening to (as is the article written by the interviewee)

SterlingCooper05 (#2,529)

@Michelle If they are school aged kids, I see no problem with it. In fact, it is exactly what I do with my 3 kids at $25 a day for after school care. We hired a high school senior that is a certified babysitter with experience. She picks them up from school and watches them in my home for a few hours. For the girl, it pays more than any retail or restaurant job would pay.

SterlingCooper05 (#2,529)

@Michelle I didn’t mean jobs that provide child care, I meant jobs that offer flexibility in terms of hours to reduce the child care expense. Plenty of employers offer work from home options or allow you to come in early or leave later to adjust to the children’s schedule.

EM (#1,012)

@SterlingCooper05 $25 a day to watch three kids? That is insane.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@SterlingCooper05 I’m guessing this one doesn’t because of how small it is – but I would also encourage her to keep looking for another job that might – IF and these days that’s a big if, it were possible to get one! and I add – I would only do this if they were my friend, and I knew their situation. Stranger on the internet, it sounds like you’re doing the best you can.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@Michelle yeah – it sounds like this commenter lives in a non-metro area. i charged that amount when I was in high school in a small city over a decade ago.

highjump (#39)

@SterlingCooper05 Wow, $25/day for three kids? You’re really lucky. I still do some childcare in the DC area (and I used to do a lot more when I was a barely-paid intern) and I could tell you I would not price myself that low here unless there was some other friend/family factor at play. Especially with pick-up involved!

ellabella (#1,480)

@highjump Yeah, I’m glad @SterlingCooper05 has such a great setup but I think it’s pretty unrealistic to assume that’s the norm or even feasible. I wonder where they live, maybe it’s not as bad outside metro areas? I don’t know ANYBODY who would EVER babysit for that rate (as someone who did/does lots of babysitting throughout my teens and currently), but I’ve been in SF/Chicago/NYC.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@SterlingCooper05 Just curious . . . Are you a dude? There is a heavyhanded and mansplainy tone to this note. “Look, I solved all your problems! Your life should cost way less because mine does! Did you ever think of this obvious thing?”

SterlingCooper05 (#2,529)

@ellabella My setup is for an average of 2.5 hours, so she’s making $10 an hour which is 25% higher than my state’s minimum wage. I just refuse to believe that $350 per week for latch-key is the ONLY option in DC. There’s room for improvement in her child care costs, especially if she lives in a nice area with reliable babysitters. She could cut it half at $700 a month! I live in a low cost of living metro area, so child care is cheaper here. (My day care in the public school was $22 a day for 3-5 year old pre-schoolers)

eagerber (#1,958)

@highjump Unless I’m wrong, I think @SterlingCooper05 meant $25/afternoon. If that means the job’s just from 3:00-5:00pm daily, $25 is kinda reasonable, I think. I mean, a bit low, but not outrageously low for this area. That’s $12.50 an hour for a college student, which is pretty decent pay. (FWIW, I regularly babysit through SitterCity and see jobs like this with similar rates; I live in DC.) $500/month is a far cry from the $1386 SM actually pays, so I’m willing to bet we don’t know the full story.

SterlingCooper05 (#2,529)

@eagerber Yes it is $25 for afternoon and I agree that we must not be hearing the whole story. Daycare and after-school are much different and vary greatly in cost. Her $1400 total sounds closer to day care for at lease one of three kids.

eagerber (#1,958)

@eagerber Also, SM, if you’re reading, I’d be willing to babysit your kids some Friday or Saturday night, free of charge, because it sounds like you could use a night off. Thanks for sharing your story today; it must have been hard to write.

highjump (#39)

@eagerber Yeah I’m sure we don’t know the whole story either. Given the mention of health issues for one of her children things could be a lot more complicated than they seem (not that I’m asking the OP to share her kid’s medical details).

The assumption I’m making, which could be wrong, is that the $1300/mo includes either drop-off, pick-up, or some kind of structured before/after care program. That kind of time-sensitive transportation-involved childcare is very in demand in DC and very expensive, given that school schedules and work schedules overlap in inconvenient ways.

As I mentioned upthread I used to take one child to school in the morning which was technically “only” an hour of work but it involved uniform compliance, making sure she had her school stuff and lunch, helping her put on shoes and outwear, redline metro, and a ten minute walk. It wasn’t curing cancer or anything, but this stuff can be stressful for adults and children. If SM’s kids go to different schools or have different start times that is an added layer of complication.

The aftercare provided by most DCPS schools is pretty expensive and usually only runs until 6:00pm. There are also lots of “optional” add-ons like swimming or yoga offered periodically. Since SM said she doesn’t like her kids to know about her financial struggles maybe she’s signing her kids up for these things so they can be with their friends? Lots of possibilities…

daysgoby (#3,610)

@aetataureate Yeah, I agree.

MissMushkila (#1,044)

@SterlingCooper05 I do after school childcare, for one elementary-age child in the Midwest (in a much cheaper metro area than DC) and my pay is $15 an hour plus gas reimbursements. Most families I know offer at least this much, because high school/college students here don’t usually have cars – so you need someone more established who generally expects more money to make it worth their time. At lower pay, it is hard to keep consistent familiar childcare.

squishycat (#3,000)

@highjump As a 16-year-old sitting for neighborhood kids in MoCo ten years ago, I generally got paid around $12/hr (I usually did not set my rate – most parents offered this). I didn’t sit for any particular kid on a regular day (though I had regular customers) or provide any of the kind of care one would expect from an after-school babysitter, like homework help. For just that, now, a decade later, I wouldn’t expect a teenager or undergrad to accept less than $15/hr.

The idea that she should just magically get a more flexible job is making me laugh until I choke.

ilovetobudget (#913)

@SterlingCooper05 I live in D.C., lots of friends with kids. You are simply mistaken about the costs of childcare in this region. It’s cripplingly high. I know lawyers who stay at home with their kids because day care would more or less eat their whole salary. I have so much sympathy for this woman!

DrFeelGood (#401)

@SterlingCooper05 $15 an hour for 3 children is criminal. Nannying in most metro areas, especially DC, is $25 per hour, more for more kids, perhaps a little less for older kids. I love people who support an under-class of underpaid nannies and illegal immigrants who raise their children for pennies. Ask yourself, what would you charge to do the same job? I bet it ain’t $15 an hour.

celeec4@twitter (#3,713)

@squishycat There just also often isn’t a supply? Fellow MoCo kid here, but I used to get inquiries as to whether I’d be willing to babysit since parents knew me/my family, and I’d generally just have to refuse because I had some sort of extracurricular activity 4/5 days of the week.

squishycat (#3,000)

@celeec4@twitter Yeah, that’s a good point. I had fewer extracurricular than a lot of other kids I knew, and I was still reliably booked at least 3 days a week. Plus if she needs someone to pick the kids up after school, there’s possible scheduling conflicts outside of extracurriculars – students in the magnet program at my school had an extra class every day, and got out around the same time as the elementary schools.

celeec4@twitter (#3,713)

@squishycat *nods* So, so many things that make childcare in MD/DC/VA suburbia crazy difficult. In retrospect, I was very lucky in that my family runs a little business of our own, so I spent my afternoons until high school pretty much hanging out at the shop/doing homework/reading my giant pile of novels from the library each week.

RVA_TXN (#1,461)

Well this story cut very close to home. I’m single-mom myself with a household income of about $10,000 less than SM, but I don’t have childcare costs so my situation feels less precarious. I also got stuck with tons of student loan debt because I listened to my ex and took out the max amount in grad-school because I thought I’d have him around to help me pay them off. HA! I can only blame myself for that one.

My only advice is you MUST have a life outside of your kids so you don’t resent them when they get older and don’t need you as much anymore. Trust me. Try meetup.com I’m sure there are single parent groups you could join just for the human interaction.

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

@RVA_TXN Meeting other (single) parents, etc. may also help her find solutions for some of the childcare issues and such.

oiseau (#1,830)

This is similar to my aunt’s situation — except instead of saddling her with student loans, she is saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in private loans that were taken out to start a small business. Her ex pressured her to start the franchise, then dumped it all in her lap in the divorce. He has also lied about his income in divorce proceedings to avoid paying child support, yet takes lavish vacations with girlfriends, lives in a fancy condo, etc. This is why I am so paranoid about waiting to marry until I am 10000% sure that it will work.

I’m really sorry that this happened to you, SM, and I’m wishing you the best from here.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

This is devastating. The ex leaving her with his loans! A pittance in child support in a super expensive city!

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@LookUponMyWorks That being said, it sounds like she is making it work.

Renleigh (#2,110)

@LookUponMyWorks I want to set her ex on fire just a little bit. I mean, I understand she can’t just spend all of her time frothing with rage because she’s busy taking care of things, but this made me really mad on her behalf.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@LookUponMyWorks And she said she pays almost all the childcare costs. Ugh, I feel for her so hard. Also, Mike’s tone and questioning in this one was so compassionate and good, and Single Mom has such a realistic but positive attitude (somehow! a miracle).

celeec4@twitter (#3,713)

@Renleigh I think a lot of the commentors want to set her ex on fire. So much fire.

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

Wow, I hope the kids appreciate Single Mom because she sounds great! Am stunned by the ex’ behavior, though – seriously? Leaving her with all his student loans?

Wonder how old the kids are (she says elementary school, but there’s a wide range). If some of the kids are in, let’s say 5th grade now, then it may get easier in a couple of years re: childcare.

@CubeRootOfPi That’s true – once the oldest one gets to be about 12-13, he/she could watch the other two at least a couple days a week, especially for some money (it sounds like she’d be reluctant to make it an all-the-time thing, since she really doesn’t want her kids to feel limited by her financial situation). Even if she still has to pay someone to take them to/from school, it would still probably be cheaper.

fake coffee snob (#2,227)

@SarcasticFringehead Um, having to take care of younger siblings is actually one of the documented things that holds low-income kids from high extracurricular/academic achievement – I think that taking care of, say, a 9 year old as a 13 year old is neither safe nor wise, although at some age kids can take care of themselves more easily (especially in a place with good public transportation).

RVA_TXN (#1,461)

@fake coffee snob Funny those are the exact ages of my kids and I see no problem with this but I can’t speak for every parent. Both my children are highly self sufficient. Most of the parents in my neighborhood are hover parents and would never allow their kids walk to school, which my son does daily. I guess it all boils down to what SM is comfortable with. As a side note, the state of Virginia doesn’t have a specific age where a child can be left home alone (it is left up to the discretion of the parent)not sure what the law is in Maryland.

@fake coffee snob Which is why I said maybe a couple days a week, with someone who’s still paid to get them to and from school if that’s something the mom can’t do, which would still leave the oldest kid time for other activities while maybe saving enough money to pay for those activities (since I’m guessing another thing that holds low-income kids back from extracurriculars is not having money to pay for them). And I think that (depending on the neighborhood and the kids involved), a 13-year-old watching two kids who aren’t much younger for a few hours is fine.

And of course, this is all meaningless speculation, since I’m sure Single Mom knows a lot more about her childcare situation than I do :)

aetataureate (#1,310)

@fake coffee snob I think you can become a Red Cross-certified babysitter as early as 12 or 13, FWIW.

sventurata (#27)

@fake coffee snob Lots of high achieving poor kids do household chores or take care of their siblings. It’s not like OP’s pulling them from elementary school to plough the farm, for heaven’s sake.

Safari (#3,209)

@sventurata Yeah but like, can you comprehend that your “oh I’m sure it’s fine” does not outweigh actual facts and research? Anecdotes not being data, that’s a thing you’ve heard about right?

ThatJenn (#916)

@RVA_TXN When I was growing up (15 years ago), Maryland law allowed 13-year-olds to babysit and allowed 8-year-olds to stay at home alone. I haven’t heard of it changing, but it may have. But the thing is – each kid is different. Just because you’re legally allowed to leave kids of those ages alone doesn’t mean it’s safe to do so for your specific kid. (And likewise, some kids are mature/capable enough to be left alone or to babysit earlier.) This goes double if there’s a medical issue.

Megoon (#328)

Ugh. Even the mention of child support brings up memories of my parents and the problems it caused. I guarantee this woman’s husband feels that he overpays child support and that’s the justification in his head for sticking her with his loans. My dad had this whole idea in his head that his child support payments purchased my mom and stepdad’s (and by extension, my) house. Um, a house is more than six thousand dollars…

theotherginger (#1,304)

@Megoon yup. pretty sure that divorce often works out better for the man. in the case of one aunt and uncle, the aunt (unrelated) was hugely villified by my family – but honestly, the uncle still seems to be doing fine financially. If you can afford to maintain a huge house in some nice suburb with wife number 2, and have ex-wife and kids living in a decent house in a comprable suburb elsewhere you’re probably ok.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@Megano! I think it also has a lot to do with who gets custody of the kids – as the majority of single mothers are female, it stands to reason that they would not thrive financially. They have to make one income go much further, and it’s usually a lower income due to needing a job that offers flexibility (usually means a trade-off re: salary).
My poor mum was a single parent at a time when child support was hideously low (gee, thanks Dad, for the $14/week mum had to extort from you). It also sucks that after a few years he was raking it in, living off his business account and not paying himself salary; making his financial contributions throughout my teenage life almost zero because he didn’t have to pay support if he didn’t legally have an income. #rage

Megano! (#124)

@TARDIStime Oh yeah, it’s absolutely because women usually get custody. But women also usually don’t make as much money either, so all those things together kind of combine to make it even worse.

DrFeelGood (#401)

@Megano! I was very lucky and grew up in a stable household, but my mom had several friends whose stories were so similar, they worked shit jobs to put their husbands through Med/Business school, then stayed home with the kids, then their spouse leaves them just when they have zero job skills after a combo of low level admin jobs and being stay at homes. So sad that this crap still occurs.

I’m also a single mom in the DC area. I wonder if she could share the name of the listserv she’s on. I want to join!!!

cashcow (#3,700)

I have so much sympathy for this woman. She could be describing my mom’s life. My mom ended up paying off my dad’s student loans after he passed away and it was a huge burden (also payed off a mortgage on her own). As a kid I definitely remember knowing that we weren’t well off (especially at birthday parties), but it makes me appreciate my mom so much more now that I know how hard she had to work to raise my brother and I. The one thing that my mom had was a stable group of friends that she would see at least once a month, which I think kept her from resenting us (her kids) too much. Eventually she got better and better paying jobs and by the time I left high school we were pretty comfortably middle class. I hope that things turn out just as well for this poster.

qui_c (#2,226)

@cashcow Hear hear. My mom managed, with the help of a very determined lawyer friend, to free herself of the tens of thousands of IRS-owed back taxes my dad generously left her, but she/we never received a dime of child support. My sister and I both graduated from top notch colleges, were able to take advantage of so many opportunities–all because of my mom.

It’s so hard out there. Lots of respect and good wishes to you, Single Mom. I second the commenters who suggest using the internet to find friends in a similar situation; I know my mom’s church and work communities (she’s a teacher) were immensely helpful to her financially and emotionally.

KimO (#2,021)

Oh man, this was really hard to read. One thing that really stuck out to me was her isolation. She mostly hides details about her financial situation from her mom; she kept her job loss a secret from her children. I think she should consider being more honest with the people in her life and also reaching out more to her friends. Shouldering all that worry and stress alone is just too much for one person. In my experience, at least, talking to people helps not just in terms of the perspective or practical support they might be able to offer, but also just in terms of having a sounding board. Like there is just something in the sheer act of saying something out loud that can help a problem seem less daunting. And, conversely, there is something about hiding a problem that gives it undue power.

I’m impressed by this interview–fantastic job, Mike. I’m also impressed with this mother. She should give herself more credit.

pernickety (#2,057)

Is there a way to get the child support increased? It seems like she’s calibrating her expenses on her children to the child support she receives very carefully (3/8 of the rent + 1/2 the childcare + 3/8 of utilities + 3/8 of groceries + 1/2 medication + 3/8 internet/cable = $1524.88), but clearly that’s not enough to pay for presents, clothes, summer childcare, etc. The mere fact that she has to ask for clothing donations seems like a powerful fact to to cite when asking for more child support. I also wonder if there are organizations that would help her negotiate the legal system so she wouldn’t have to pay for a lawyer.

pernickety (#2,057)

@pernickety
Also — I don’t know much about divorce law/loan consolidation/bankruptcy, so I’m speculating, but if she can’t find the original loan paperwork that lists these loans, what if she made the argument that: (1) this is a Department of Education-consolidated loan; (2) therefore the original loans were education loans; (3) the education she has is a B.A. from a state university, which would only cost $x, maximum; (4) her ex-husband has more much costly education; and (5) since the amount of the loan is greater than $x, the loan is not from her education. Maybe this only shows that some portion of the loan is from the ex, but better than nothing. Is there a way to make this argument?

Sloane (#675)

@pernickety The Department of Education only cares about whose name is on the promissory note. When couples consolidate their loans during their marriage, the DOE just looks at whose name ended up on the paperwork and holds that person responsible. Typically, couples handle the division of the loan in their divorce settlement.

So if the wife’s name is on the promissory note with the DOE and she and husband divide the responsibility in the divorce agreement, she is on the hook for the debt as far as the DoE is concerned. If he doesn’t pay, she has to, but she can turn around and sue him for non-payment (in state court).

So for SM here, if there is nothing in the divorce settlement, wife is still responsible.

(N.B. be careful about consolidating loans with a spouse and seriously, cover every.damn.thing in the divorce settlement. Never rely on someone’s goodwill.)

RVA_TXN (#1,461)

@pernickety They have joint custody, which plays a huge role in the amount of support given.

tuntastic (#2,769)

This is not a conversation with someone living on $40,000 Mike Dang. It is a conversation with someone living on $58,000. There is a serious difference.

@tuntastic Actually, four people living on $58,000, if you want to be picky.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@Green Tea Ghost Story And if she’s paying off her ex’s loans, does that make it more like 5 people being supported on $58,000?
I want to burn person #5 with the sweet, sweet fire on her behalf.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@TARDIStime yes. on the pin there’s been an image of a dinosaur breathing fire. that’s what I want.

lapgiraffe (#1,336)

@tuntastic She can’t really bank of child support, especially considering the upper hand her ex has had in all the divorce situations, what’s to stop him from halting payments on a whim, or even just being a dick and paying late? Getting back child support is just as big a legal headache and can take months if not years, I know so many single mothers who don’t even pursue it because it nets out to a loss. She has control over her salary as much as any other person, but she has no control of whether that child support comes in.

tuntastic (#2,769)

@lapgiraffe @lapgiraffe I’m not saying she has an amazing A+ easy-going middle class life; I’m just saying the headline is wrong. Which it is!

msmelrichard (#7,147)

@tuntastic My situation is nearly identical to hers…in fact, so much it was almost creepy. And no, child support isn’t something I bank on every month when I make my budget. He’s been late and not paid at all and I can’t wait or depend on it to pay my bills.

j-i-a (#746)

This is such a good piece. I would say more but I am busy writing a grant to explore the neurological basis for the comment-section evolution of normal nice people into Clarissa Explains It All

j5459 (#3,351)

http://www.bgca.org
http://www.bgcgwmd.org/

Please look into local Boys & Girls Clubs for after-school care for kids 6-18… depending on where you are, the kids may be able to ride the school bus to the club. The annual fee for a member in the Greater Washington/Montgomery County branch of the club is $20/yr, higher fees apply for summer day camp.

Best of luck to you!

SterlingCooper05 (#2,529)

@j5459 How dare you suggest a cheaper alternative for this poor single mother…don’t you know that ALL aftercare in DC is $15 an hour, no exceptions?!

@SterlingCooper05 There’s a pretty big difference between j5459 suggesting a place where she can find competent, cheaper after-school care, and you suggesting “find cheaper child care! Or a new job!” like maybe she hasn’t thought of that yet.

Safari (#3,209)

@SterlingCooper05 God you sound like an asshole. And not a smart one either. You don’t even seem like you read the interview, because I have no idea how you think a woman who plainly states she has no savings and frequently sees her bank account hit zero could afford to switch jobs. Even the couple weeks downtime before the new paycheck kicks in could financially devastate a family living on such tight margins. And childcare DOES cost money, quite a lot of money, and we don’t even know if perhaps her kid with medical issues needs a specific level of care. Random teenagers off the street can’t necessarily be trusted with administering medications, for example.

I always dread these articles because armchair quarterbacks like you always come crawling out of the woodwork, especially when the interviewee is a woman. I can’t imagine how you go through life having so little awareness of the basic facts of it, but good jobs don’t grow on trees, and flexible jobs usually offer that flexibility to compensate for things like low pay or lacking benefits.

How about, before the next time you open your ugly mouth and start shitting all over a perfectly decent person you don’t even know, you take a second to remember that other people are not stupider or worse at making decisions than you. Pretty much everyone makes do with the best options they have available to them, so rolling in on your smugtruck and saying “well just find some different options then” isn’t blowing any minds with your superior insight, it’s just revealing you to be the nasty, uncharitable, small-minded and self-absorbed person that you are. So shut up when the grownups are talking, and maybe punch yourself in your small parts just for good measure.

hallelujah (#802)

@Safari *slow clap*

Safari (#3,209)

@MilesofMountains But don’t you seeeeeeee MilesofMountains? This single mother is a GIRL and therefore STUPID.

SterlingCooper05 (#2,529)

@Safari I don’t think she’s stupid, I just think she’s desperate. In my experience, desperate people (men or women) can become paralyzed with fear. Life becomes so overwhelming for them and they become afraid to do anything different. If her childcare costs are non-negotiable, then she can’t afford to stay at her current job. I think she has the ability to improve her life. She’s proven the ability to manage a full time job with 3 kids, it is time to be rewarded for it.

squishycat (#3,000)

@SterlingCooper05 j5459 is giving a specific suggestion for a place to look at for after-school care that *may* meet her needs (at least, for after-school care and summer day care, not necessarily her other childcare needs) for a lower price than she currently pays. They are not simply saying “you pay too much, you should pay less and find a new job”, which is not advice, it’s admonishment, and not helpful. If she pays what she currently does for childcare, it is probably *not* because she is unaware that there may be lower-cost options available. It’s probably because she knows what her needs are and they may not be met by lower-cost services.

Safari (#3,209)

@SterlingCooper05 Nice backpedaling jackass but absolutely nothing you’ve said up to this point conveyed any of that, it was just your typical asshole monologue about how a stranger’s life is full of obvious options that they simply aren’t taking because they aren’t as gosh-darn intelligent and bootstrappy as your lovely self. Fuck off, and fuck right off with your sarcasm for the people who actually ARE trying to help too. And give your babysitter a raise you stingy piece of shit.

ellabella (#1,480)

@Safari Nope @SterlingCooper is a David Ramsey devotee who put $30,000/year toward his (that’s what we’ve decided, right) debt, HE DON’T HAVE A SINGLE EXTRA DOLLAR TO SPEND ON THE PERSON WHO CARES FOR HIS CHILDREN.

Oopsendaisies (#3,706)

SM, if you’re reading this: I live in DC and would gladly watch your kids for a day or an evening so that you can go out with friends or attend a networking event or just do anything other than your normal life. I’m sorry this is your situation, and would be more than happy to help. Also, my boyfriend’s big deal law firm is always happy to help pro bono clients – if you want help figuring something out about your ex’s student loans (I, like other commenters, want to set him on fire) or trying to get a better child support sum, I can refer you.

r&rkd (#1,657)

@Oopsendaisies
Re the student loans, I just cannot believe that SM getting stuck with all of them is correct.

Hold on a second… a person who works for a small non-profit doesn’t make a lot of money? What’s next, a tragic story about a coal miner who got dirty at work?

The meager wage could have been offset by birth control as well. Three kids? After the outrageous expenses for the first one were clear – what compelled this person to have more?

ellabella (#1,480)

@Jasons_Johnson@twitter Help billfolders/hairpinners, is this trolling on our small island of not-awful comment sections?
HAAAALP

ETA: Who thinks this is Single Mom’s ex???????

Safari (#3,209)

@ellabella Well according to his twitter he’s a talking penis so…

Oopsendaisies (#3,706)

@Jasons_Johnson@twitter I really didn’t think there was someone involved in this that I would want to set on fire more than this woman’s ex, but congratulations, you just won that contest. What the hell makes you think that you’re entitled to comment on this woman’s decision to have (a perfectly normal number of) children? If you were paying attention at all, you’d realize that those children were conceived when she was married and had an adequate financial situation to cover their needs. Now that her situation has unexpectedly changed, she’s struggling. That’s not exactly shocking or irresponsible.

Some other things you should perhaps think about: birth control is (was) expensive, even for people with health insurance. Now thankfully it’s covered with no co-pay under the Affordable Care Act, but birth control (which also has substantial side effects and is definitely not an option for everyone, health-wise) is not an option for lots of people. And sure, condoms.

But really, just screw you and your sanctimonious “maybe she shouldn’t have had kids” message – you don’t get to judge someone for having or not having children, regardless of their financial situation.

This breaks my heart…do you know of she has a paypal account so we could help her financially, even a little? She sounds so depressed.

zippydoo (#3,712)

I can’t believe she only gets $1500/month in child support! My partner pays $800/month and he only has one kid! Her ex must have had a great lawyer, and it sounds like he was the one in the marriage with more money. It’s just terrible when the more financially stable partner uses that money to get out of providing well for their children.

Am I the only one noticing that he was the one who filed for divorce? Given that and his apparent vitriol at her, I’m left wondering if she cheated or did something else heinous. Why is everyone jumping on the dude? We don’t know the full story. There could be *reasons* for him being angry at her and reacting that way, but the one thing we do know for sure is that he wants to be involved in his kids’ lives and is committed to that. But no, everyone jumps on him.

We don’t know the whole story. She could be a horrible person too, you know.

EM (#1,012)

@Amanda McNeil@twitter It’s sweet that you assume there could be a justification for dumping one’s student loans on someone else that would absolve it of being a total dick move.

Scobie (#3,725)

@Amanda McNeil@twitter It sounds to me like you are fucking her ex-husband. That’s so you!

Am I the only one noticing that he was the one who filed for divorce? Given that and his apparent vitriol at her, I’m left wondering if she cheated or did something else heinous. Why is everyone jumping on the dude? We don’t know the full story. There could be *reasons* for him being angry at her and reacting that way, but the one thing we do know for sure is that he wants to be involved in his kids’ lives and is committed to that. But no, everyone jumps on him.

We don’t know the whole story. She could be a horrible person too, you know.

@fo (#839)

“it can be possible to dispatch student loans through Chapter 7″

Hate to be the one to say it, but you don’t qualify for a discharge of that, at least yet. If it’s actually a federal direct consolidation loan, tho, you *NEED* to get it into ICR or IBR plan (quite calc shows IBR payment would be $62.50). *NEED*. Ignoring it is the worst thing you can do. And, working for a 501(c)(3), you might qualify for having the balance forgiven in 10 years.

Seriously: MIKE DANG–you’ve *got* to tell this woman about this option. I realize that (if my calc is right) it’s $60/month she doesn’t really have right now, but she’s contemplating spending $1000 (or so) that she *also* doesn’t have to file a chapter 7.

Anonymous680 (#3,728)

@Amanda McNeil@twitter The point is he is making good money and letting his kids go without things that he could afford to provide them with. It doesn’t matter what kind of a person the mother is. And, in my own humble experience, it is typically the asshole who walks away from a marriage with kids anyway, so my bet is that this guy is a Grade-A asshole who thinks child support is money he has to give to his ex-wife. @Scobie you are right – this girl is talking like a girl who sleeps with married men because their wives “don’t understand them.”

dudeascending (#1,921)

@Safari Whoooooa, you need to slow your roll. I agree that SC’s advice is probably neither new nor appropriate for the interviewee, but your vitriol is completely uncalled for. Disagreement can be spirited, but civil.

BostonKaren (#3,831)

Wow. That woman’s life sounded just like mine; and I’ll bet it is really familiar to other single moms out there. Two points: we need to over-haul the child custody laws in this country! And second: your kids will really appreciate your struggles, and value all you’ve given them. Advice? Don’t shut them out completely from the reality of your situation.

This woman doesn’t have a income problem she has a spending problem. Where do I begin? $1,480/month in rent? My budget would look completely different then hers. This is an example of someone who grew up in a family who didn’t teach her how to manage money and as a result she will be living from paycheck to paycheck for the rest of her working life and on government programs thereafter and blaming everyone but herself. Whereas I would have a large savings account and be traveling and enjoying myself during retirement.

@fo (#839)

@Joe Pierson@facebook

Joe: Do you have 3 kids? Do you have a suggestion for a DC suburbs with good schools where you can get a 3 bedroom (I’m assuming the 3 aren’t all boys or all girls) apartment for enough less than $1480 to make sense?

Once she gets rid of her *DEADBEAT* ex-husband’s educational debt, and has some time to financially recover from that trauma, she’ll be fine.

jmp (#4,402)

This article and most of the comments are infuriating. My daughter’s mother ran out on us over two years ago. She literally left one night and didn’t contact us for a little over a week. Since then, I’ve been a full-time, 24/7, 365 days a year single parent… a male parent… a father… with full legal and physical custody.

Yes. Take a moment to let that sink in. WE DO EXIST.

My ex has no involvement in her child’s life and hasn’t paid a dime in child support. This lady gets $1500 a month in child support and people in the comments think that’s not enough? Really? I get $0. Maybe the husband mentioned in this article doesn’t pay his education bills because he’s broke from spending a month’s rent on child support in addition to his own rent.

My rent is $800 a month. My daughter and I live a small one-bedroom apartment (my daughter has the entire bedroom to herself and I have a twin size bed a few feet from the kitchen table.) We don’t own a television, don’t have cable, don’t have a smartphone with included data charges, I own one pair of pants and five t-shirts, I have the lowest cost internet plan I could get, my computer is a $200 Chromebook, I don’t own a car, and I never go out. OK… maybe I’ll take my daughter out for doughnuts once a week or out to dinner once a month, but that’s pushing it.

We live off of financial aid. I’ve been in community college full-time since 2011 and I’ll be finished by next year with an AS transfer degree in Computer Science. I won’t be able to afford going to a four-year university, but I’ve decided to earn the AS to keep that option open. I figured if I could earn at least $30,000 a year and work my way up, my daughter and I would be fine. I could pay $1000 a month to rent a slightly larger apartment and pay utilities. The remainder would go toward food, something fun for my daughter to do (like soccer or ballet), household items, and my dream of owning more than one pair of pants. Even then, we’d probably still end up receiving food stamps anyway.

This article reeks of first world problems. “Waaaah! I only make $40,000 a year and my ‘deadbeat’ husband only pays me $1500 a month! I might have to cut down on my $130 a month cable bill!”

@jmp THANK YOU! After reading this article I have to agree, how is it that this woman cant afford to pay her entire electric bill every month but can afford cable, internet and a landline. I haven’t had the luxury of a landline in about 5 years. Priorities, SM, priorities..

dani (#4,637)

I am coming to this conversation late. I could be this mom, but fast forward 10 years. I live in the same area of the country, I have about the same amount of money/income she does, and instead of childcare for 3 kids, I have 3 teenagers with their own types of heavy expenses.

I just want to say, each family situation is different, the choices we make are different, and we should not be condemned. Single parenting is hard, and most single parents focus on the well being of the children. If the prior situation was married, two incomes, middle class life, then the concerned and loving single parent wants to keep things as stable for the kids as possible. It is hardly ever possible to keep it the SAME, but you want to do everything you can (live in a safe, more costly neighborhood with good schools) to lessen the impact on your children. You have to walk in these shoes to know what it’s like. And it is different, having 3 children, than having one. Not saying it is harder — we all have hard lives in various respects. But I just find that well meaning advice from married people, or people who have never had children, or who have young children, or fewer children, just does not apply to me or my situation very well.

And there are misunderstandings. I have had friends from my “former” life tell me that I have “distanced” myself from them. But actually no… I have such little time these days, and very little wiggle room with the finances. It really limits me. I cannot just “go out for coffee.” I think about that $2 very hard.

Anyway, this article strikes me as honest and also that she could have said many negative things about her ex-husband, but chose not to. Her experience mirrors mine, in the level of difficulty and the commitment to the children and the realization that there are very few moves available to her, at least while she is raising the children.

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