single mom on the phone and working on laptop while sitting at the table with her kids

There Is No Single Parent Hall of Fame

There are no “single parent of the year” awards. There should be. I can’t think of a group of people I respect more than single parents, because the challenges of raising children alone are monumental. 

Almost a quarter of US children—23 %—under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults. That is more than three times the average share of children around the world who do so, which is 7%. Millions of single parents do their best, juggling all of the responsibilities that are challenging even with two parents.

According to, the five biggest challenges of single parents are loneliness, disciplining children, self-esteem, guilt, and finances. All of those are tied to emotions and money. And with both time and money often in short supply in a one-parent household, essential self-care for that parent tends to be last on the list. It is hard for many single parents to even be in touch with their own needs. There are so many money scripts and so many emotions around this that can suggest self-care is selfish.

At the same time, it’s so important that single parents balance their needs with their kids’ needs. Because if the parent does not get adequate self-care, it puts the whole family at risk. It is crucial and it often takes a lot of creativity to come up with ways that single parents can take care of themselves as well as their kids. 

If you are a single parent, here are some suggestions that may help you cope.

1. Create a spending plan that prioritizes expenses for yourself and your children. There are many apps that can help you track spending. Put aside something out of every paycheck, even if it is only a small amount, to build up an emergency fund.

2. Save time by setting up automatic payments for fixed recurring expenses.

3. Research community resources and free fun things to do. Our town, for example, offers a variety of opportunities for kids through the local library and an art center. 

4. Put saving for your own retirement ahead of saving for your children’s college education. Why? Because it will cost your children more to take care of you in old age than it will for them to put themselves through college. There is also research showing kids who put themselves through college have higher grade point averages and less college loan debt than those who don’t work their way through. 

5. Do your best to avoid debt. Have a goal to only use credit cards for convenience or emergencies when you know you can pay off the balance at the end of the month. If you need help with a debt payment plan, reach out to your local consumer credit counseling service.

6. Surround yourself as much as possible with support from family and friends. Network with other single parents to help each other in ways such as trading childcare and passing on outgrown clothes and toys. 

7. Reframe the way you think of living frugally, which is so often a necessity for single parents. Making the best of limited resources as you provide for your family is something to be proud of. It may help to remember that the one common denominator of building and accumulating wealth is frugality. 

If you are not a single parent, chances are you know someone who is. (They may even be your employee.). Offer them support, encouragement, and practical help. It may do more for their wellbeing and that of their children than you realize. 

Check out The Financial Therapy Podcast by Rick Kahler concerning this topic.

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