Everything We Need:

Handling financial concerns as a single parent

I knew I had it easier than most single mothers. I never worried about a roof over our heads, I managed to pay the electric bill each month and there was always food on the table. Yet, worries crept in like a bandit in the night stealing my peaceful sleep. I couldn’t escape my troubles at night, but I could at least keep the stress out of my young children’s minds. Finances are adult problems, and I firmly believe children shouldn’t be expected to deal with adult problems.

After my divorce I had returned to graduate school and finished my Master’s Degree. I had a job I loved as a Case Manager for medically frail and low-income elder adults. My job involved arranging home services to enable the elderly to stay in their homes as long as possible. It was a job that required a Master’s Degree and one that was vitally important. Yet, as with most social service jobs, the pay was so low that one day as I was filling out forms for one of my clients to receive food stamps, I realized that if I didn’t receive child support, my salary would have qualified us for the same entitlements!

I was lucky that I had the basics covered for me and my daughters, but it was the unexpected costs that kept Mr. Sandman from being a regular guest. If something broke in our home, it was probably going to stay broken. Questions circled my mind like a great white shark: What if we needed a new roof? What if the air conditioner went out in the 100-degree Oklahoma summer? What if the car needed repairs?  My children’s father provided health care insurance for them, but I had no insurance and just couldn’t swing the premiums to obtain health care. I was very healthy, but I knew one medical catastrophe would financially destroy me.

Then there were all the things I wished I could do for my children. Their friends were usually off on exotic vacations in the summer while I scrambled to make a picnic and trip to the zoo feel like a real vacation. I wished we could decorate their rooms and they could have furniture that didn’t either come from a garage sale or was handed down from a cousin. I longed to buy cute clothes and all the latest gadgets for my kids. Oh, the list of wishes was as long as the Amazon River.

I thought I was doing a good job keeping my children unaware of my financial concerns but obviously, I wasn’t. Children are very sensitive to their parents’ moods, and they are often listening when we’re not aware. A neighbor had been pressuring me to share the cost of a new fence and I was talking to my sister on the phone, worrying how I would magically make money appear to cover the cost. After I got off the phone, my six year old daughter approached me and said, “Mom, please don’t worry, we may not have everything we want but we have everything we need.”

That statement, made by an innocent but very wise child, forever changed my perspective. Whenever I found myself giving into my anxieties concerning finances, I would remember her words and focus on gratitude for shelter over our heads and food on our table.  I’m so thankful we had everything we needed and a child that was smart enough to remind me. From the lips of a child often comes great wisdom. If we listen, we will learn from them.

Categories: Single Stepping