Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom in Canada: Making Money is not Easy

Two of my little ones
Two of my little ones | Source

Being a stay-at-home parent in a single income family is difficult to say the least, but when you are a single parent, it can be virtually impossible to work from home to have enough money to take care of you and your kids when you have very few skills and just a high school diploma here in Canada. I know this first hand because I was one myself.

The Internet is a wonderful place that is overflowing with information, but unfortunately for people in desperate need of money, it can also be a treacherous and deceiving place. There are opportunities online to make money, but after doing much research, the few sources that were legitimate didn't seem to offer enough money for anyone to get by, let alone a single parent with kids to feed.

This Hub is written based on my experience of being a single, stay-at-home mom for 5 years and the trials and errors I experienced so that I can spare others the frustration and setbacks that I experienced.

Pregnant with my fourth child
Pregnant with my fourth child | Source

Single Parent with Few Options

I was in my second year of university when I became pregnant. I had planned to spend the rest of my life with my daughter's father but that wasn't to be. When my daughter was 2 months old I became a single parent because if I had stayed with her dad it would have placed us both in danger.

So there I was, on my own, in my little one bedroom apartment with a 2 month old baby and still recovering. I went on Social Assistance so that I could afford rent and food since I was in no shape to work.

Turned out that my resume and education wasn't in much shape to get me a job later either. When my daughter was 2 and old enough to go into daycare I began to look for work. What I discovered was if you only have a high school diploma, your options for work are limited and the pay is sad to say the least. All the jobs that I could apply for were either retail or in restaurants, all of which required me to work evenings and weekends. This was a problem since I was on my own and because Saturday was a Holy day for me.

While my job search (with no car either) continued, my daughter got in to public daycare and was sick with something that required antibiotics at least three times a month it seemed. She had a perpetually runny nose, began regressing into temper tantrums and was just all out miserable. She hated daycare. Not that I blamed her. We were living in a sketchy neighborhood and the kids that went to her daycare all seemed to have snot permanently running all over their faces. I also didn't recall ever seeing anyone clean the toys, but what did I know?

To conclude, we were both miserable and when I sat down to do the math, it turned out that we were further ahead by me staying home and staying on social assistance and her not going to daycare than me working at a minimum wage job.

Me and my kids
Me and my kids | Source

Doing What is Best For You and Your Family

Ultimately you as the parent have to make the final decision as to what is going to be the best for you and your family, especially if you are a single parent.

I'm not advocating that a single parent should go on welfare or social assistance. What I am saying is that you need to assess your situation, do some homework and decide what will work best for you and your children. How important is their happiness and well being? How important is your own happiness? Your peace of mind? My sister's kids all love and thrived at daycare, my daughter didn't. I had to take that into consideration.

If you are like I was and only have high school, your job prospects will be limited, especially if working evenings and weekends are an issue. Even "some university" is really the same as "no university" when it comes to potential employers, trust me. I've been to enough interviews to realize this. If you have family or friends close by that can help out, make sure you find out specifically what they are willing to help you out with. Are they ok with watching your kids if you need to work weekends? Do you have 2 extra back-up sitters or help when they can't take care of them? What is the daycare situation like? Are your children happy there?

If you do the math and realize that staying home, even if you would be receiving a bit less is still the best option for you, there are some important things you can begin to do while your children are at home with you in those first 5-6 years. Consider welfare or social assistance a helping hand, a stepping stone to get you to the next step of your life once the kids are starting school full time.

The Reality of the "Make Money From Home" Websites

The vast majority of these websites are scams. Even if they don't ask for money from you for some sort of special "package," they may be harvesting your personal information for identity fraud purposes or otherwise.

I've even been to a few reputable financial blogs and websites where the author of several "legitimate ways to make money from home" articles believes that because he had written an article or did something for a certain website he raves about and nothing bad happened, it is therefore "legitimate" according to him. Be wary.

Even the few websites that are truly legitimate and do in fact pay you cold, hard cash for surveys (which I have yet to find), consumer reviews, mystery shopping, or how-to articles, the pay is so minuscule that you would need to be on your computer 24 hours a day just to make enough to buy a cup of coffee at the end of the month. Considering most places state you must have accumulated a minimum of $100 in pay before they release your funds, you may be waiting for a very long time. Some will advertise that they pay $1.50 per review but when you scroll through the fine print, it turns out they pay thirty cents or less.

I fail to see how someone can in good conscience promote these kinds of sites as a way for single parents to stay home and be able to afford rent and groceries. Clearly they have no clue and certainly have never tried.

I would also caution placing trust in work from home links, even from a reputable website because chances are, the person who wrote the article with the links to that website gets a commission if you join, or some sort of kickback. They are not telling you about these sites out of the goodness of their heart. Be smart and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!


What Are Your Options?

There are several options available:

  1. Get your support people such as friends and family on board and find a job that works for you and your family.
  2. Brainstorm and come up with work ideas that will work for you and allow you to make enough money to cover your expenses and still be at home with your kids such as starting a home daycare or babysitting.
  3. Do some serious research (online and in person) about what kind of funding is available for someone in your situation whether it is for paid training, money from the government in the form of a cheque or money for daycare costs, etc.
  4. Apply for Social Assistance.
  5. Continue with your education such as college, university or other courses that will allow you to apply for a better paying job once the kids go to school.
  6. Sit down and think about your future and where you see yourself once the kids start school full time in 5-6 years. If you only have a high school diploma, what job prospects are available? What can you expect to earn?

University of Toronto
University of Toronto | Source

The Education Option

This one can be very tricky. If you are a single parent and have decided to receive social assistance, they do not allow you to collect assistance if you choose to go to school and take out ANY kind of student loan, part-time or full-time to cover the cost of your schooling. If you had some money in savings, social assistance used to force you live on that until you had no savings left, I'm not sure if they still maintain that policy.

The problem is that if you take a full-time loan so that all your expenses such as rent and food is covered along with tuition and books, you're forced to take a 60% course load minimum and that would require some time away from home, during the day most likely.

Part-time student loans are not really an option since you cannot receive any kind of loan and still receive assistance. At least, that's how it works here in Ontario. Not only that, but part -time loans require payment as soon as you receive it.

So how is this an option for me you ask? There is a way around the whole student loan vs social assistance predicament, legally, that can be of great help to you and your family. This is how:

  • Choose full-time studies and therefore full-time funding from Student Aid.
  • Decide what type of degree you wish to pursue and complete your studies all online through Athabasca University or the University of Guelph for example, because they offer a full degree completely online.
  • Pursue your degree at the 60% course load limit, because Student Aid allows you 340 weeks total for funding which equals 6.5 years for an undergraduate degree. This will allow you to manage your time with your kids, when you look after them and when you can do your studying. Athabasca also offers extensions on all of their courses should you fall behind.

One last bonus for taking out a full time student loan to pay for your education and your living expenses is that each province offers study grants for students with dependents as does Canada Student Loan. In other words, because of your unique situation, you get to have part of your education paid for. That's a pretty good deal!


Other Sources of Income for Stay-at-Home Parents

Whether you are a single parent working outside your home, a single parent on assistance or single parent on student loan funding there are ways that you can increase your income to help cover living expenses or help to pay off your loans which will come due once you graduate.

Ebay paid my rent for 3 months

A little over 6 years ago, my mother got remarried and moved to another province and as a result, she didn't want to take everything with her, so much of her unwanted stuff remained in my apartment storage locker. In the meantime, I was struggling to find work, especially work during school hours which is very difficult. All I could find was temporary work here and there.

Then I got laid off and suddenly I couldn't find another job and I knew that I had to make rent and get food, but I was no longer eligible for social assistance (long story- involves student loans). I had NO safety net if I wasn't able to find work. My back was against the wall and after much praying, my sister showed me how to sell things on Ebay. I was skeptical, but my mother's stuff she left behind was a bit of a gold mine.

I phoned her and got her permission to sell most of her stuff and next thing you know I was selling stuff on Ebay! For 3 months while I looked for work, I sold enough stuff to not just pay rent, but pay my utilities and buy groceries too! I wasn't rich, but I could sleep at night, and I was truly grateful!

What you can do:

Make a list of all your skills and talents. Writing? Painting? Jewelry making? Photography? You get the idea. Is there any skills that you would wish to utilize to make money selling your work on eBay or Etsy? Maybe it's more of a hobby and not something you want to waste time on.

Do you have a car? Do you live in a residential neighborhood or do you live downtown? If you have a car (or can afford to keep your car) you can look at making money with enterprises such as Avon or Mary Kay or doing private house cleaning once or twice a week at some one's home. Even if you don't have a car but live in an apartment or condo rich neighborhood, you can do pretty good selling cosmetics. Depending how little your little ones are you can take a flyer delivery route for extra cash.

Do you have a computer and Internet at home? If you have good computer skills (by computer skills I mean knowledge of Windows, email, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) You can get into the virtual assistant market which is growing all the time. This option may not be for anyone as it requires extensive self-promotion and longer hours, but many stay-at-home parents love this job and have been very successful at it. There is also blogging, which requires time to build up enough traffic to your site to make significant money from advertising, but is still worth setting up as it costs little more than your time when you first start out.

Last Word of Advice

The best possible advice I could give to any parent is to listen to your heart.  Listen to what your conscience is telling you.  Don't be afraid to do what you feel is best for you and your family.

Take time out to fully assess everything in your life.  Where you live, what resources you have available to you such as family, friends, a computer, a camera, etc.  Ask questions, do research, think about your life.  Decide where you want to be next year and 5 years from now and take action.

I live downtown, less than a block from Canada Post, make art in the form of paintings and jewelry and have a computer with Internet access.  Selling on eBay and Etsy makes sense for my situation.  It might be different where you are.  Take a look around where you live and see what can help you.

Life is full of endless possibilities, just be smart, and don't be afraid to seize an opportunity when it presents itself.

Comments 27 comments

Ddraigcoch profile image

Ddraigcoch 5 years ago from UK

Really good hub. Although I don't live off my income from on line. My family would certainly feel it's loss if I stopped. I know a couple of decent places to work on line that I had not even heard of last year. But am still finding great ideas out there.

Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 5 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Hello, I was thinking back while reading your hub, and I raised two babies by the time I was 18 years old, and no high school degree. I worked two jobs and never saw my children grow up, I was gone all the time. I think the bonding is important at that time, and staying at home is so important. Great hub, love & peace darski

renegadetory profile image

renegadetory 5 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Author

It's a tough decision, and in the end its about what you think is best for you and your kids. Being on social assistance you get labelled as a "welfare bum" and people automatically tend to think you're just lazy, and so forth. No choice is perfect or pain free.

Thank you for your comment Darlene, you did the best you could at the time, as we all try to. I commend you for your determination.

Avamum profile image

Avamum 5 years ago from Canada

Renegadetory - your hub brought back a lot of memories. I too was a young single mother with small children once. I was able to attend the University of Guelph taking a full course load arranged into three days a week for several semesters while my youngest was still a toddler. On the days I was in class my sons went to daycare - an excellent one, thank goodness. It took some juggling, and money was ALWAYS tight, but we made it through with student loans and grants, as your hub says. I remember feeling extremely guilty about putting the boys in daycare, until recently when my older son (almost 20 now) told me he had great memories of the daycare centre, and "OUR time at the U of G!" Going to university did wonders for my battered self-esteem, and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to get a degree and subsequently build a good career. Your hub is well-thought out, useful, and honest. Keep up the good work, keep thinking creatively, and the best of luck to you and your daughter. Above all, keep writing - I will watch out for your next hub!

renegadetory profile image

renegadetory 5 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Author

Thank you Avamum! It wasn't until I realized that all I would be able to work are crappy minimum wage jobs with just my high school diploma, I decided to go back to school when my daughter went to school. With the Internet now, a person can do this all online. I didn't have a computer until my daughter was 3. But I was glad I went back to school when I did.

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 5 years ago

Thank you for sharing your story, I am sure your story is not only inspirational for many in a similar situation but for all of us brings out the warmth and humanity of family.

renegadetory profile image

renegadetory 5 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Author

thank you billyaustindillon for your kind words. its much appreciated!

stayathome2 4 years ago

Finally! Someone tells it like it really is!

renegadetory profile image

renegadetory 4 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Author

Interesting website, I will check it out!

MomSpeaks 4 years ago

Your article was extremely helpful! thank you so much for all your tips and advice. im actually going to save this into my favorites folder :-)

varonny profile image

varonny 4 years ago from TORONTO

This is so true! I am not a single mother but both me and my partner are university students with a child, now 4 years old. We have been on social assistance, we have daycare subsidy which is being gradually cut. It is extremely frustating to even keep those. The only way we have managed for the past 4 years is because my parents bring in some food once in a while so we can reduce our food costs. We accumulate clothes from family and friends for our daughter so we don't have to shop. Being in University full-time is vry stressful but up until now it has been our only source of income - OSAP. This year they cancelled my OSAP. My partner had to drop university because he still has a previous loan to payoff and it was getting too expensive, I haven't been able to pay my tuition and are already acumulating interest on my tuition fee... I'm on my 4th year, I was going to go for an extra year to do my thesis but I guess I won't be able to. Have no clue how I will be able to pay this year.. And the problem is here in Ontario as much as there is great help, this help comes with strings attached and often it traps you in a very hopless situation. Some of the eligibiliy criteria for some assistance is just unrealistic and prevents you from moving forward, for example I have not been able to volunteer in my field (which I need to apply for thesis, masters or get a paid job for that matter) because daycare subsidy simply will not accept volunteer work, online school or anything other than full-time university or a job that pays you min. wage and gives you 30hr per week (Mon-Fri) weekends don't count. When you have very little experience, and can't work after 5 or on weekends... a job that meets that criteria (and is not cash job) simply is unrealistic! This year I'm seeing 4 hard working years going down the drain...

I'm glad you wrote this. It is so true. I have tried to get some money online and I only get $20 once or twice a year... I mean Ontario is still a very good place to be but unfortunely the policies are still quite unrealistic.

great hub. sorry if comment is long but I had to say this a shared experience.


renegadetory profile image

renegadetory 4 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Author


I can totally relate to your situation! It's rather deceiving when OSAP or any other loan money becomes your sole source of income. I was fortunate in that I had a part time job here in Ottawa while I went to school full time (60% course load). I am now having to make payments on my $30,000 worth of student loans and I still have 2.5 credits left to graduate. My husband makes too much money for me to qualify for any loans now, but the reality is, what he makes is just enough for our family to get by.. and nothing to save up to pay for the schooling I have left.

My advice to you would be to hang in there, and try to think outside the box with regard to money, work, etc. Being a parent and a student means you often have to do things differently then everybody else. Get creative and don't be afraid to ask for help! Talk to your professors and see if they can offer any suggestions, I'm sure they would like to see you finish... and if that doesn't work, talk to someone at the university, probably in the financial aid department and maybe they can provide some suggestions.

Do you know why you were cut off from OSAP? If the decision seemed questionable, you can always take it up with your MPP and have them straighten it out- they deal with OSAP and your MP deals with any issues you might have dealing with Canada Student Loans.

I wish you the best!

varonny profile image

varonny 4 years ago from TORONTO

Hi renegadetory,

Thank you.

They cancelled my OSAP because of my partner's income. He was working while I was getting OSAP but that money went to his schooling as well. The school he was enrolled is very expensive and it sucked all the income he made. When i filled out the OSAP papers he did not have that income, so my application did not have that income reported. Then because I was still making the most (OSAP income), his income was stated under my tax files. OSAP saw that as a discrepancy and now they have restricted me. I am applying to grants from my school but have no guarantees or responses yet, plus they 'kick in' by the end of the year.

We live in Toronto, which is basically the golden city for everyone (or at least it was) - everyone comes here to make it in Canada. The bad part of that is that literally Toronto is becoming more and more expensive and job availability for someone who hasn't finished their bachelors yet is very scarce. The jobs that I do qualify for are either after 5pm or weekends which won't do because there is no one else to be with my daughter, or they are too far away for us...

The tricky thing is people look at us and say we are young and so should be able to get a job, but is not about whether we can get a job, is about the jobs we can get don't work for our situation.. at the moment it feels like it is a 'either -Or'.. we are trying to push it to the limit so I can at least graduate in April 2013..

Thank you for the advice. :)

renegadetory profile image

renegadetory 4 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Author

A lot of jobs are not advertised and as the saying goes, sometimes its who you know. I know you are doing everything you can, and with regard to having a little one and finding a job that not only pays the bills but fits in the school time table 9-4 can be extremely difficult, especially because like you said, a Bachelors Degree is the new High School Diploma.

One other recommendation I can give is to get in touch with your city counsellor, MPP and MP for where you live. You can do it by email, but it would be better if you could visit their constituency office in person (MPP & MP). By the very nature of their job they have to schmooze and meet with businesses and people in the riding in order to win their votes some election time. Let them know that you are a struggling parent and student who really needs a job that is not after 5 and no weekends and if they know of any businesses hiring or if they can recommend where to go. I say this because that's exactly what I did when I desperately needed employment when I was a single mom and my daughter was in school. I contacted my MP and they just happened to have a job opening in the office and the pay was great and the hours were perfect. You just never know. As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so don't be afraid to get squeaky ;-)

I wish you the best!

varonny profile image

varonny 4 years ago from TORONTO

Thank you so much for the advice. I will definitely take on your advice.

thewritingowl profile image

thewritingowl 3 years ago from Ireland

Interesting article with good advice, I have looked at many on-line and work form home options over the years too and as you say most of them are a hard slog with very little at the end of them. Yet there are ways to make money on-line and I have done but as you say it takes experience and a lot of gumption to make any reasonable amount. Selling products is the way to go though I think too, source something and open an Ebay store and others. This is my next route over the coming months and when you can combine that with lots of SEO articles about your products too in various sources hopefully it might all work together. Voted up.

renegadetory profile image

renegadetory 3 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Author

Thank you writing owl! It can be a bit scary to step out of the box and try something different to try and make ends meet. Trial and error will lead you to what works best I think.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

wonderful hub, my heart goes out to you, my dear. I am a mom too, our children are the main concern. I would love to try on ebay. Thanks for yr tips. Voted up

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma

Beautiful and truthful hub. I am not a single mom, but I can relate a bit to your situation. Last year my husband was hurt in an accident at work, and lost his job due to permanent injury. Nothing has worked out well. It took a year for him to find a new job, and it pays almost 70% less than his last job. While he was recuperating, I had to stay home and care for him as well as my baby. Now we have both agreed that having me stay home full time with her is much more important than having two incomes. Yes, we are struggling, and backsliding. I do clean houses for extra cash, but its only a few days a month. The rest of my income comes from writing online. Just when I was ready to give up and go back to work, the horrible school shooting happened, and again we both decided that I would continue to stay home. I know it isn't the politically correct thing to do, but I commend you for choosing your daughter. We all have the rest of our lives to rise to the top, but babies grow up too fast.

renegadetory profile image

renegadetory 3 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Author

Sharkye11, I commend you for making such an important decision with regard to your baby. Good for you! It doesn't matter what others think about your situation, you just do what is best for your family.

I too used to clean homes to make extra money every month too! It was nice because I could take my daughter with me.

I hope that you are able to find something that increases your family's income but allows you to stay home with your child.

daisyjae profile image

daisyjae 3 years ago from Canada

I like your article, it has many good ideas of how to work at home. You are right, people need to look at what is right for their individual families. for me, it was staying home with my kids and starting a home daycare.

Rated up & useful!

Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

Great hub and ideas to work from home. Thanks for sharing.

Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

Pavlo Badovskyy 3 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

My first son was born in 1990. Both me and my wife were students of the University. First years were just as horrible as it was in your situation. I had so many different jobs just for food! We were lucky to have a place to live and paid just bills, but uncertain tomorrow was an every day horror. I do understand how hard it was/is for you.

The only consolation in this is "what does not kill us make us stronger" :-) I am proud that we lived through those nasty times.

I can hardly believe in big amounts earned in the net. There are people of course, who make millions, but they are as frequent as those in a real life. That means, that anyone can make it, but not everyone is able to. Alas, I do not have a brain able to squeese money out of the net, while my son made his 10000 usd in the net at the age of 18. So it is all so much individual! Just do not give up and always try new ways to apply your talants.

Great hub, very positive approach. I like it! Shared

renegadetory profile image

renegadetory 3 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Author

Thank you for your wonderful comments Pavlo, and I completely agree that one should always try new and innovative ways to apply your talents!

Justlife98 profile image

Justlife98 3 years ago from Georgia

This article is and eye opener to me. Myself only having high school Diploma and CDL Driver license. I have often thought about going to college but high cost to go always stop me.Spend quality time with family is the best . Good hub keep it up.

RobinzNest 2 years ago

I have been struggling with accepting doing things my way (although I always end up doing it my way anyway.) Worrying about what other people think has been holding me down. After I google searched "stay at home mom finishes high school Canada," this evening I found your article. It was just the little push that I needed. Thank you.

I do have a partner who has his high school diploma and works full time but I on the other do not. I have been in and out of school forever taking my time but never giving up. I WAS just working for a couple of months on minimum wage when child care subsidy mailed me a letter stating they were lowering what they were going to help us with for child care and that my parent portion would go up. Thus making it worthless spending the time away from my 6yr old son and 1.5yr old daughter at a job I was not enjoying. I would have been working for nothing and the daycare getting very little of what they deserved.

Now I plan on staying home with my daughter and cherishing these growing moments together. I'll be doing online classes to finish my grade 12 and then do more online courses to become an education support worker. By the time I'm done my schooling my daughter will be ready for Kindergarten and I can go to work! In the mean time I might apply for a part time evening job and also sell my art work online!

Thank you again for inspiring clarity and the bigger picture!

VVanNess profile image

VVanNess 2 years ago from Prescott Valley

Thank you for sharing your story with us. We are sort of in the same situation. We had great jobs, a house, two cars, and great credit scores before the recession came and wiped everything out. We are now living in a different state, renting and barely able to pay the rent, with one car. Even though I have a Doctorate in Education (and have reached my limit on school loans), I still cannot find a job. I have been working overtime trying to find a way to pay the bills while my husband struggles at a $10/hour job and hates it.

We both feel like we worked so hard, did our part paying taxes and to set ourselves up for success, and yet here we are still struggling to pay even the rent after four and a half years. It's sad really. And I know too many other families in the same situation.

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