Singlemomhood, is that even a word? If not, perhaps it should be. I mean parenthood is a word!
Recently, just for “gits and shiggles” as they say, I posted on Facebook: “I remember being a single mom back in the day! It’s hard! Hey single parents: what do you think is the biggest struggle?”
I found that the challenges are much the same today as they were back in the day, if you can call the ‘90s “back in the day.”
Here are a few common struggles reported by single moms:
- “The non-stop moving and all the things to be done… and money. It’s like you have no sleep, then have to get them ready, work an 8-hour shift… get them settled, cook, clean and somehow do the things you need to do for yourself as well….”
- ”Doing it all alone with no child support.”
- “There is no quitting.”
- And the saddest of all, was when one mom explained: “The absent parent believes that the kid is not their responsibility and seeing the pain on my child’s face wondering where their dad is.”
I want my mistakes and successes to help other single parents. It wasn’t always quick or easy, but I reached my goal.
Here’s my journey from single mom to landlord and entrepreneur, complete with missteps, detours, and struggles.
Entering the Land of Single Mommies
Back in the early ’90s, I found myself in the land of single mommies. I did not expect it. Heck, I am not sure I even wanted it, but there I was. I had four little girls depending solely on me. The youngest was still an infant and the others ranged in age up through ten.
Money was a constant struggle, yet still not the greatest challenge I faced. I was so busy, busy, busy, trying to “get everything done,” that I missed the chance to enjoy my girls. They became projects. I had to make sure they were clean, fed, had a roof over their little heads.
In the rare moments I had time to spend with them, I fought to keep my eyes open.
Eventually I learned to think outside of the box. Before “house hacking” or “income suite” had been coined as terms, I rented out a section of my house just to survive. The renter paid most of my mortgage, allowing me to virtually live for free. I was even able to enlist some child care help from them as well!
Surviving in this Strange Land
As life marched onward, a norm evolved. An exhausting norm, but it had its own rhythm and routine. I worked, juggled my daughters’ needs, and worked some more.
At first, I was a personal assistant to a builder. The hours were long and the pay was short, but I started gaining skills. I learned about scheduling sub-contractors, and how to obtain permits, how to circumvent the tight-knit tangle of local politics to get things done. Before I knew it, I was managing the construction of a new home development. On the side I did bookkeeping for our contractors, to help make ends meet.
The head builder owned a vacation home, a block from the boardwalk in a New Jersey beach town. I proposed a deal: I would manage it, if I could use it when it was not rented. He accepted, and I was able to provide my troop with some summer fun.
Eventually, I moved on to manage a community of over two hundred apartments. It was closer to home and came with benefits. I had managed property in the past, so when the opportunity came along it was a no-brainer.
Emerging on the Other Side of the Land
Eventually, I began dating. Where did I find the time? Whenever I could squeeze it out of thin air.
I never was fond of the dating game. Sitting through endless meals, worrying about how my kids were, slogging through small talk and interview-like questions. Eventually, the question of kids would always come up, and as soon as most suitors heard I had four, they would leave skid marks in their hasty retreat.
Except one. I met my current husband through a friend. He already knew how many little ones I had, yet he remained. Two chaotic families became one: him, me, his young son, my four daughters, and a small zoo of pets.
Free Mini-Course: Passive Income from Rentals
Setting Goals Is the Prerequisite to Scoring Them
Real estate was in my blood, so to speak. While my brother twisted and turned his matchbox cars on the floor, I was sprawled out next to him scouring through the real estate section of the newspaper. Well, enjoying the pictures, anyway. My father owned and rented properties and I wanted to as well. Like daddy, like daughter.
A dream was born! First things first, I wrote down and pictured owning my own home. From a young age, I tracked prices and read all I could about real estate. From Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad, to Trump’s The Art of the Deal (this was back when he was a real estate mogul, not a TV personality), I could not get enough. Eventually I earned my real estate license.
But I wanted more than just owning my own home. I wanted to manage my own rental properties.
It is very hard to juggle a romantic relationship, five children, and two households. It was time to buy a little castle to fit the seven of us. After walking through dozens of homes, we found the one!
Still, I knew from the get-go that it was going to be the springboard to owning rental property.
We moved in. I continued to work as a property manager, and continued accepting as many side jobs as I could. I started my own bagel business, which failed. But I had learned from my dad that a business failure is no different from college tuition. A price for education, on the long road to success.
Another opportunity came. It was a building with a tavern on the first floor, and four rental units on the second. There was a third floor that was large enough for more rentals. It was in a rural mining town built around a slate mine, aptly named Slatington.
Just how small was this town? Here’s a hint: my property was at the corner of Main Street and Church Street. No joke.
I took on a partner, learned about the bar business and worked and worked. We got tenants in place. We served beers at 7 AM, cooked bar food on a griddle, renovated the upstairs, got to know the local miners. It was fun owning a bar and mixed-use property, but eventually, we had to sell the building because I became ill.
Where to Go from Here?
Opportunity often comes in the face of ugly situations. I was in the throes of a chronic illness that made it hard for me to drive or do any type of physical labor. My thirst for learning and love for technology lead me to the perfect fit: a work-from-home stint at a startup real estate website. I hung my proverbial hat there for many years, keeping my dream of owning rentals always in the back of my mind. My kids were growing up, in high school and beyond. Life fell into a more “normal” flow. My father passed away and my husband and I thought it best to have my mother move in with us.
Most people would have seen hardship. But something clicked for me: This is it! Finally, my chance to own another rental. I would simply purchase a larger home for all of us (including dear mom) to live in, and rent out our current home!
And so that is precisely what we did. I still own that home today and it is rented. As a matter of fact, it has never suffered a single vacant day!
My girls survived. They are all now grown, living on their own, with their own kids. So, now I am a mom-mom (grandmother, for those that may not know that term) of eight.
Game On, Power Up
I don’t live extravagantly. I love nothing more than time with the family. So, most of my extra time and funds go there.
I am proof, however, that if you have a plan, and you have desire in your heart – a goal written down, pictured and imagined – you can do the same.
Real estate investing is a great step in the “my time” direction. There are so many resources. Even if you have a less-than-impressive credit score.
There are amazing programs available, like FHA loans requiring only 3.5% down. With some creative negotiation and a bit of money, on you go to become a real estate entrepreneur.
Enter: passive income, for more money with little or no extra work most months.
There are also grants out there. Some are just for single moms; for instance, in California there is a program called the Golden State Financial Authority that offers up to 5% down payment assistance. Others highlight other social causes; Philadelphia offers grants designed to revitalize struggling neighborhoods. There are hundreds of grant opportunities for homebuyers and real estate investors across the nation.
Oh, by the way, grants are money that does not have to be paid back! Tough to beat that.
Whether you’re a single parent or not, dreams plus action equal a done deal! As my husband would say, go out there and “git-r-done.”
Bought your first rental property yet? If not, how can we help (beyond our free mini-course)? If so, what was your journey like to get there? It can be a twisting road!
This is a beautiful story Denise! Life throws so many curveballs at us. But look how many sides of the real estate industry you’ve worked in, I can only imagine the expertise you’ve built up over the last few decades!
Thanks Deana! I have been very fortunate to be able to experience the many different facets of what I love doing the most. 🙂
I bought my first rental earlier this year. So far so good, although I’m preparing for some expenses when my first tenants move out. Hoping it goes smoothly, and in the meantime I’m trying to put together a decent cash cushion…
Great hearing this Nancy!! And even better knowing you have started a reserve fund. I cannot tell you how many people I see purchase homes and leave barely a penny to themselves. And then a roof leaks and they are living with a bucket until they accumulate some money. When your first tenants move-out, if they are not with you during the move-out inspection, make sure you take pictures! Several items saved my butt in many transactions, thorough tenant screening, a great lease (btw: we sell a great landlord-protective one, sorry for the sell) and inspections with notes and signatures and/or pictures! Good luck – I cannot wait to hear of your adventures!
Super inspirational. If you can buy rental properties with 4 kids I can do it with none! Thanks for sharing so openly.
haha, You definitely can! If you want it, you will do it! Wow! that sounded like the line from the movie: Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come” LOL! Excited to hear about your progress! Keep us posted 🙂