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A recent article by NBC News noted that two sorts of mothers are likely to stay-at-home. The first group are mothers whose husbands earn enough to put the family in the top 5% of wage-earners. These wealthy moms have the luxury of staying home with their kids.

The other group are mothers whose husbands earn just enough to put the family in the bottom 25% of household incomes. It might seem logical that mothers in these low income families would work outside the home to contribute to the household finances. But no. These moms stay-at-home because it costs too much to go to work.

It will come as no surprise to you that childcare is expensive. The families that are least well-off spend as much as 30% of their household income on childcare, according to the US Census report Who’s Minding the Kids. The report also explains that only 6% of families report that they receive assistance with childcare from the government, from an employer, or from the other parent.

Low-paying work available to mothers who opted for family first instead of a career cannot cover the cost of childcare, the cost of travel to and from a job, the cost of professional clothing and so on. It’s no wonder that mothers with the least family income see no point in getting a job.

If this is you, what do you do? There are two options: finding very affordable (but quality) childcare or finding work that requires no childcare at all.

Free or low-cost childcare. Your mother comes to mind. But if she were available, a non-smoker, and actually good with kids you’d have thought of her already. Trading shifts with your partner might be more workable. If your partner works the day shift and you work the evening shift, you can trade childcare and make things work. Trading childcare with a friend is also an option.

The bottom line in all these childcare options is quality. Your kids are better off with you, in a frugal household, than they are being cared for by someone who isn’t really paying attention, isn’t happy with the task, and really doesn’t much like filling in for you. No amount of money makes up for miserable or even dangerous caretaking.

But if you, your family, or your friends can work out a friendly and fun childcare community then your kids will thrive and you will too. Getting out of the house and making a little cash is a good thing. Most working moms say they wouldn’t go back to stay-at-home status.

Working from home. Just because you got a family instead of a college degree doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of living by your wits. And with business tools as close as your computer, the playing field is leveled. What matters is what you can do, not how long you went to school.

The simplest work-from-home ideas are ideas – sales, customer service, writing, advising, and so on. These are simple because they require no inventory and no shipping or accounting for sales taxes. But if you are handy, you can also make and sell crafts on sites like Etsy. I know a woman who buys cheap furniture from thrift shops, spiffs them up a bit, and sells them on Craigslist.

The key to making your own business work for you is to control your costs but also to deliver high value. You’ll be competing with the best, so you must be at the top of your game. Find something you like to do – something you want to do – and that works well in coordination with minding your kids and giving them all they need. It may take some creativity and daring, but the feeling of making your own way is tremendous.

Strong women set a great example for their children. When the deck seems stacked against you is the time to show your strength.

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. Dr. Anderson’s new book, Developmentally Appropriate Parenting, is available in bookstores now.