Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom in Canada: Making Money is not Easy
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.
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.
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.
- Research Work at Home Scams
Work from home job postings are everywhere. There are listings for data entry jobs, research positions, multi-level marketing opportunities, and a variety of other ways to make a lot of money fast.
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:
- Get your support people such as friends and family on board and find a job that works for you and your family.
- 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.
- 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.
- Apply for Social Assistance.
- 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.
- 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?
- Canadian Virtual University CVU - UVC
Over 300 online degrees by accredited Canadian universities. Mix and match from over 2,500 distance courses, and save fees.
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!
- Top 10 Jobs for Parents With School Aged Children
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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.