5 Tips For Managing Income When Taking Time Off For Parental Leave by @MollyMersonMFT

Photo Credit: Garrett Gill via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Garrett Gill via Compfight cc

by Molly Merson MFT | Featured Contributor

You’re a successful woman who’s put her creative energy into her work, her education, her imagination and action. You’ve had plenty of kids already—in the form of employees, clients, and people you mentor. People look up to you. You’re appreciated and respected.

But when you’re someone like me, who’s staring down the barrel of 40 without a partner and without children—well, there are a lot of places your mind and your heart can go. Many of my successful friends and colleagues have decided long ago that having children isn’t the path for them. These are the women who, when I ask whether they want kids, shake their head and crane their necks backwards, offering an adamant “Nooooooo, nononono.” However, I’m not one of those women.

I’ve known I’ve wanted kids only for about the last 10 years, and have been trying to get my career and my small business set up in a way that could help me thrive as a parent. It takes a lot of energy to own your own business, and a lot of expense as well. Having a child—especially as a single mother who is self-employed—is in a whole other category of expense, and one that, well, keeps on expending!

As a sole proprietor, you also don’t get the benefit of having disability insurance or parental leave for the birth process—or the second income of a partner if you’re single. Due to the particular nature of having children later in life, as a single person, when you’re also trying to run a business: well, those of us who are crazy enough to try need to get more creative about our financial and business planning. Here are some tips I’ve learned in my own process of exploring single parenthood about how to do just that. (For the record: All of these tips can be used if you’re expecting to be out of work for a period of time, due to planned surgery or extended vacation—and, if you implement and research these options now, they could be ready for you if you have to be out of work unexpectedly in the future.)

  1. Get a part-time job in a field that would also help you get clients. If you’re a psychotherapist, for example, you could look for a part-time position leading groups for people with mental illness through a PPO or outpatient clinic. It could help you grow your business by having your name known in relevant contexts—and, having an employer could help pay for part of your disability and parental leave.
  2. Expand your offerings to include things that can be done virtually. If you’re a massage therapist, learn guided imagery and offer telephone sessions for your most loyal clients. If you’re a psychotherapist, research HIPAA-compliant video conferencing and set up online sessions with patients. Perhaps the kind of service you offer could be set up through videos recorded ahead of time and sell as a package while you are out on leave, with real-time follow-ups once you’re back on your feet.
  3. Write and publish an e-book. We all have something we’re awesome at—just look at this business you’ve built! Harness some of that creative energy and write a book. It can be a how-to book, a book that helps illustrate one of your specialties, or a reference book for people who need resources—if you need support around this, ask a friend to tell you what she admires about your skills and dive into that.
  4. Hire someone to take over your clients at a percentage of the fees you’d make. Think about it—if you hire a temporary worker and they can collect a percentage of what is charged, you would still be making enough money to possibly cover your expenses and keep your doors open while you’re out.
  5. Brainstorm with your business consultants and colleagues about other avenues of passive income. While not all passive income is truly “passive”, it can at least get your creative juices bubbling to think about what alternatives you have to allow some stream of income to pour in without having to expend too much more energy.

So now that I’ve got you thinking about all of this, what would you add to the list? What gets you excited to think about as you consider how to build your business into something you could leave for a few months at a time? Even if it’s not a kid you’re planning for, a long trip to Europe or South America sounds pretty divine, doesn’t it?


Molly Merson MFTMolly Merson, MA, MFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Berkeley, CA. She provides compassionate and thoughtful psychotherapy for people who are struggling with learning how to love themselves. You can find more about her at www.mollymerson.com. She loves movement, nature, gardening, walking meditation, her community, her puppy, and writing.

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7 Replies to “5 Tips For Managing Income When Taking Time Off For Parental Leave by @MollyMersonMFT”

  1. Molly Merson, MFT

    Yes! Judy, that is a wise sentiment about the desire to have kids– it’s about wanting them. There really are no guarantees in life, relationships, or money, but if you love something it’s easier to stay committed to it, and find ways to make it work. I suspect that this advice I’ve shared may be useful for any woman, even one who’s partnered or married, because it’s so essential that we have our own resources to utilize. That’s part of what can make us great moms, too!

    Thanks so much for reading and leaving your thoughts!


  2. Judy Yaron PhD

    Super tips, Molly, for anyone who wants to free herself from hourly rates income and increase her passive income. THANKS 🙂

    Kids bear long-term expenses and a life-time investment. Starting out as a couple or two-salary household is not a guarantee.

    IMHO and my experience, having kids is about WANTING kids not being able to afford them.

    HUGS <3

    1. Molly Merson, MFT

      Judy, I had meant to leave my recent comment as a response to you, but it ended up becoming another comment in the thread. THANK YOU for your thoughts and your support!

      Hugs back,

  3. Karen

    Thank you for writing this article and empowering more singles to follow their dreams! I am a single parent who thought traveling would be out of the question financially after I became unexpectedly pregnant. Now 5 years later, I remain financially independent, have a healthy and happy son, and have been traveling here and there since he was 2 1/2. Becoming a parent does require sacrifice, but I can say with confidence, my son is by far the investment of which I’m most proud. I’m paid out in smiles, hugs, and infectious giggles, and I wouldn’t trade parenthood for anything else in the world.

    1. Molly Merson, MFT

      Hi Karen,

      I would love to hear more about what you found most helpful in your journey to being a single mom with your own business. I love hearing about the “investment” in your little one! That is a lasting return, to be sure!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience.


  4. Kelly Higdon

    Great article! Love the part about having many children already because it is so true. I actually had to save for the time off. It takes planningr but it is so worth it!

    1. Molly Merson, MFT

      Thank you, Kelly! You are right, it is worth it when we really want it. And it can feel so overwhelming and out of reach, but there are ways we can value ourselves and our dreams that can make this kind of thing possible.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


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