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Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom in Canada: Making Money Is Not Easy

Carolyn is a stay-at-home mom and knows the struggles of trying to make money while still being there for her children.

Being a stay-at-home mom has its rewards!

Being a stay-at-home mom has its rewards!

Being a stay-at-home mom 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 and make 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 firsthand.

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 arena. There are opportunities to make money online, but after much research, I found that the few sources that were legitimate didn't offer enough money for anyone to get by, let alone a single parent with kids to feed.

This article 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

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, still recovering from childbirth. 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 weren't good enough to get me a job. When my daughter was two and old enough to go into daycare, I began to look for work. What I discovered was that if you only have a high school diploma, your options for work are limited and the pay was sad, to say the least.

All the jobs that I could apply for were either in retail or restaurants, all of which required me to work evenings and weekends. This was a problem for me as a single parent.

While my job search (using only public transport) continued, my daughter got into public daycare and was sick with something that required antibiotics at least three times a month. 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 lived 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?

Anyway, 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.

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If you are like I was and have only a high school diploma, 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 two extra backup 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.

Why do financial blogs and websites say taking surveys is a good way to make money from home? I know NOBODY who ever made a living doing surveys.

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!


Ideas for Making Money from Home

Affiliate Marketing

Since I joined the Amazon Affiliate Marketing program through HubPages, the amount of money I make every month on the articles I write has more than tripled.

I have also discovered that making money through affiliate marketing programs requires little or no upfront costs and you can start making money the first month you start out. You won't be making thousands of dollars at the start but you can start making some sales.

What do you need?

  • A computer with internet access
  • Some basic writing skills and photo editing skills (optional)
  • Time: at least one hour a day (more when you are first starting out building websites or doing keyword research)
  • Knowledge on how to do keyword research, WordPress if you plan to create your own affiliate websites, and SEO (there are many books, websites, YouTube videos that can teach you for free).
  • A desire to be successful

Can You Start for Free?

Yes, you can.

If you have never done this kind of thing before and have no experience or knowledge in affiliate marketing and/or writing (this was me when I first joined HubPages) the best place to get your feet wet is by joining HubPages and creating articles using the knowledge you acquire for being successful in affiliate marketing.

The advantage of starting on HubPages is that it's an established website so you don't have to worry about getting traffic as long as you do decent keyword research on your topic.

HubPages has lots of good articles to help you write amazing articles and you get paid for advertisement revenue along with Amazon affiliates if you sign up for their program through HubPages and insert Amazon capsules into your articles.

Other Sources of Income for Single Moms

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?

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!

More Ideas for Stay-at-Home Moms

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 find sources of 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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Carolyn Dahl


best on April 10, 2020:


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Dominique Cantin-Meaney from Montreal, Canada on January 02, 2020:

This is definitely some helpful information. Being a stay-at-home mom, as well, I do understand how tight things can be. And this can be helpful for stay-at-home moms who would like to earn an income from home.

Grace on June 19, 2019:

Your article is very informative. I am also a mother and I have found a few tips that I believe will be very helpful.

DR on March 09, 2019:

Thank you for being real. There are some great legitimate options in your article. on April 12, 2018:

After reading ur post i feel its so inspiring.

JP on April 15, 2017:

LOVE your post it is so inspiring! Thank you for making this post

Victoria Van Ness from Fountain, CO on February 24, 2014:

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.

RobinzNest on January 09, 2014:

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!

Justlife98 from Georgia on April 05, 2013:

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.

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on February 23, 2013:

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

Pavlo Badovskyi from Kyiv, Ukraine on February 23, 2013:

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

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on February 22, 2013:

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

daisyjae from Canada on February 22, 2013:

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!

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on February 05, 2013:

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.

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on February 02, 2013:

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.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 19, 2013:

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

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on November 13, 2012:

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.

Mary Kelly Godley from Ireland on November 12, 2012:

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.

Veronica Almeida from TORONTO on October 15, 2012:

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

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on October 14, 2012:

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 ;-)