Living Below Your Means
Increasing the Means

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By melmaque
August 30, 2001

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Many people know I was left, in the middle of graduate school, with a toddler and not much else. I supported my kid without child support, without going on the dole, and without becoming a stranger to her. Here's how I did it.

Chapter One, In Which Melmaque Gets Paid to Sleep

It doesn't get better than this. Overnight childcare was one of the tickets here. I took care of the kids of people who had to work nights. Most of the kids ate with my kid, they all hung out in nifty group activities I had going for my kid anyway, played with the stuff I had for my kid anyway, then slept. Cool. The other thing I did was to take shifts at a local battered women's shelter that just wanted someone there to hold down the fort overnight. My kid and I showed up there after dinner, slept in the private staff room, and got up and went about our business in the morning. Lots of times she accompanied me to school. Other times she was in a preschool program or with another mom I'd bartered time with.

Chapter Two, In Which Melmaque Puts "Work at Home" and "Go With What You Know" to the Test

At this point in my life, I had a number of hobbies. Cooking was one, and so was art and calligraphy. I took orders for erotic pastry and made it at home, then delivered the items. To do this, I used the mixer that just died last week. I also made wedding cakes, specialty breads, birthday cakes, etc., but the erotic pastry brought in a lot of dough (pardon the pun). Many of these went to showers and bachelor parties for weddings for which I was doing the wedding cake. While I was at it, I did invitations, programs, seating charts, etc. for weddings as well using the calligraphy skill. I used that also to pick up business designing logos and stationery for businesses, and doing posters, flyers, programs, etc. I sold a lot of craft items I made as well. All this came in handy at Christmas, when friends got homemade gifts. I did a lot of this baking at night and on weekends, and my kid was there, and learned to bake as well (though not to do erotic art---that was after her bedtime).

Chapter Three, In Which It Pays to Be a Know-It-All

During this time, I also picked up work writing scripts for local cable television programs, tutoring in writing, and editing other people's work. My used computer paid for itself churning out resumes and writing projects for profit. My daughter was getting a lot out of preschool, so on those days I did temp work as a nurse's aide, secretary, typist, anything that paid. But she was with me a lot of the time, and I did a lot of my work, plus my own stuff for school, when she was asleep. To augment income along the line, even after graduation, I put a lot of skills/hobbies to work from home. I did custom leatherwork, custom figure painting, and teaching, whatever it took.

I come from a long line of self-sufficient, take-no-prisoners women. My great-grandmother single-handedly raised her kids and ran a ranch. My grandmother was a single parent during WWII. When things got rough on the reservation, my other grandmother kept the family going by hunting and fishing. I'm somewhat "retired" at this point in that I'm at a point in my career in which I head to work, do something I love, then head home time. For the years previous to this, though, along with heading up the household and raising my daughter, I put in at least 16 hours most days and pretty much found some way to get paid for as much of my daily activities as possible. And, of course, getting paid to sleep. My daughter is another self-sufficient young woman, of whom I'm sure our female ancestors are proud. My daughter doesn't know we were ever dirt poor and struggling. She just knows she had a happy and busy childhood, close to her mom, who can do a lot of things and taught her to do a lot of them as well. We had very low means, which taught us a lot of the LBYM skills that has us banking money now.

You don't have to depend on anyone, you can make enough money to support your family, and you can do it without neglecting your kids, and while in fact giving them some great experiences. I don't have any great abilities except I'm a scrapper, I'm stubborn as h*ll, and every time I've been knocked down ten times I've gotten up eleven. And I think you can do anything you want to do, if you want to do it badly enough.