Moms Make it Work: Elizabeth | Full-Time Working, Single Mom

Today on the Moms Make it Work series we have Elizabeth, a reader who emailed me offering up her story for a post. This is part of her email to me: "I'm 26, and a single mom to a really freaking cute 18-month-old boy. My ex-husband and I separated when he was just 5-months old. Being so young and already being divorced with a baby can be remarkably isolating, so of course I'd welcome the opportunity to tell my story, if only to try and reach some other women like me." She also had a great sense of humor throughout her email and I knew I'd love reading her submission because of that alone. I love sarcasm and the ability to have some fun and not take anything too seriously! Elizabeth's post did not disappoint and I love her take on being a working, single mom. Elizabeth blogs at Tales from an Underachiever and it is full of hilarity, totally worth the read. Her post on how she and Taylor Swift are alike and also opposites had me grinning ear to ear. Enough blog endorsement (so unlike me, but hers was really funny!) and onto Elizabeth's post for my own blog. Enjoy!


-What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And where are you now?

Why hello! My name is Elizabeth and I'm 26-years-old. I'm a svelte redhead who is trapped in the body of a chubby brunette. I have a sickeningly cute son named Harrison, who is 20-months-old. I'm currently in the process of a divorce, which is really not fun.

Yes, you read that right. I'm 26 and already getting divorced. Yes, it's strange, and trust me I've heard every comment you can imagine (my personal favorite was a co-worker asking me if I intended to return the wedding gifts. My wedding was three years ago, so I think we'll just call it square) so that doesn't phase me too much anymore. Still, trying to work full time, navigate this whole divorce thing all while raising a toddler who is, shall we say, spirited, is not the easiest thing in the world.

I'll back up a bit. My ex-husband and I have actually known each other for well over a decade. We ended up running in the same circle of friends for a long time and got to be pretty close. The rest is a boring love story that ended up not so great. I'm not too keen to get into the details of the split out of respect for my ex, but we maintain an amicable relationship and are doing our best to co-parent our little boy.

In college I had majored in education with my focus in English and Communications. I kinda just picked the major at random, since I thought I'd be a good teacher. I enjoyed my studies and and I really enjoyed the actual teaching part, but I never realized how hard public school teachers had it. They so rarely get to just...teach. So much butting in by parents and administrators and all that standardized just wasn't for me in the end. Luckily, training to be a teacher prepares you for just about anything and I started a boring office job right out of college, in the hopes that it would lead to something better until eventually I ruled the world.

Fast forward a year when I found myself laid-off, broke, and pregnant with Harrison. The timing was iffy to say the least, but I did the best I could. After I lost my job we had moved back to our hometown since the cost of living was so much cheaper, but it also meant that there were fewer opportunities for jobs. Especially once I was very obviously pregnant, the job scene was pretty bleak. I did what I could though--I worked at a clothing store part time and took classes in the hopes of starting a master's program the next year. Once I had Harrison though, all my plans went out the window.

Yep, you're reading the scale right. A veritable giant.

I've been around kids my entire life. I was never worried about how I would care for my own baby--after all, I knew babies! How hard could it be? Enter Harrison. This child, from the very second he was born, couldn't bear to be apart from me for one second. Not one. I wish this was an exaggeration, and I wish I could say he'd gotten over it by now, but neither is true. It was all I could do to shower and make dinner every day, never mind get any actual work done. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that after I had Harrison I'd gotten a couple gigs for different nonprofits--all contracted stuff so nothing full-time and all from home, but it was in my field and I was actually using my education so it was fine with me. The problem with working from home when you have a kid who doesn't take naps and refuses to let you put him down is that you have no time to do any actual work. Throw in a sleep-deprived mom who suffered from antepartum and postpartum depression and a husband who had checked out and it was a total recipe for disaster.

Don't let the smile fool you. He's scheming.
So, the relationship was bad and the baby was a terrorist (albeit a lovable one) but I found salvation in national service. Ever heard of Americorps? Don't feel bad, lots of people haven't. Actually I knew basically nothing about it when I applied either. Basically, I spent a year serving at a local nonprofit for a minuscule stipend, and in return the government pays off a nice chunk of my student loans at the end of my year, along with some other benefits. The month I started was the month I moved into a new apartment (solo). Everything was changing all at once, but I was determined to stay positive--I was doing work that I enjoyed, taking advantage of amazing professional development opportunities, and surely this would lead to great position at the end of the year, right? Well, I guess we'll see. I'm fast approaching the end of a great year of service and will start the job hunt soon in earnest. Even writing this, I cannot believe all that's happened in the last couple years--major highs and major lows, but I really feel that even if I haven't come away completely unscathed things are definitely looking up.

Also, if you made it through all that, you deserve a giant cookie.

-Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?

Definitely not. I mean, I don't think anyone gets married expecting to eventually be divorced and a single parent. That said, I definitely never considered being a SAHM. Working from home those first few month's of Harrison's life was enough of that for me. I absolutely love spending time with my boy, but I'm a much better mother when I'm working outside of the home.

-What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?

I enjoy the work/ life balance I have right now. Well, for the most part. Working full time is great for me, and Harrison has a blast at daycare, but we do have a tough time at home because he wants my complete attention. As much as I want to give it to him, I also need to make dinner and run errands and do laundry and all that. I try to explain that to my toddler, weirdly enough, he doesn't quite accept that as an explanation, so we're in the midst of a very tantrum-y phase. As tough as all that is, the toughest thing is when he's not around, getting under my feet and fighting bedtime with literal kicking and screaming. I miss the kiddo! He's with me half the week and his dad the other half. The schedule works, but those days away from him are very difficult.

-Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?

In my magical, unicorn world I'd be working full time and making enough to support myself and my kid beyond just barely making our bills. There's nothing wrong with frugal living, but I'd love to have enough of an income where I could put aside more savings and take a family trip every now and again. Dare to dream!

-Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years? Or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?

It's tough to say, since I've not really found my niche in the career world yet. I expect I'll stay in the nonprofit sector for the long haul--it's what I know and I mostly love it, but what my role there will be is up in the air right now. 

-Tips on how you make your situation work for you:

The thing about being a single parent is that your life is like an elaborate domino setup. A domino setup that you let a destructive toddler run wild around. Chances are all the dominoes are gonna go crashing down (and not in the cool right order!) before you're even done putting them up. With that in mind, my best tips are to just prep as much as you can. Harrison's and my clothes are laid out the night before, lunches are prepped, diaper bag is packed, and yet still something will happen to foil all that. So prep as much as you can, but learn to prioritize and adapt when all that goes to hell.

Captain Sasspants. 

-How do meals work in your family? Meal planning? How often do you grocery shop?

I love this question, because meals are literally the only facet of my life in which I am in any way organized. I plan my weekly menu and grocery shop once a week, usually Sunday. I do not stray from my list. Seriously, I'm a nut job about it. When I see people shopping without a list I want to report them to the police. It's madness. Usually I do three big meals, and I have the leftovers for lunch and on the days I don't cook. It works out really well for us.

{Thanks, Elizabeth! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}


  1. Really enjoyed this post and I can relate to a lot of it - I am definitely a better mom thanks to working full time, AND I also am psychotic about meal planning and CANNOT understand how anyone can function at the grocery store without a WELL PLANNED LIST!!!! Good luck with the job hunt, I hope you find something that you enjoy!

  2. Elizabeth, love your sense of humor and lightheartedness amongst a really difficult time in your life. Best of luck to you in your career path! Mad props to you for managing the solo parenting role on your own, and keeping such a positive attitude about it all. My husband works/travels a lot and I know how seriously stressful it can be to make it all work. Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. A sense of humor and a good attitude to get through the tough parts of life are so vital - you seem to be doing a good job of maintaining those! Your little guy is adorable. Best of luck with the job search!!

  4. I also agree that I am a better mom as a working mom. I love my kid, but I love that I get to use my brain in a different way while at work. Plus, daycare/preschool has been such a great experience for my kid. Also, love Harrison's dragon shirt.

  5. I love the domino effect metaphor. So true! I had a friend who served in Americorps!


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