The other day I got in my minivan to go to work. It was still dark out, as most mornings are this time of year. I took stock of my surroundings. A fine haze of dust covers the dashboard. You can tell I have a ginger-colored dog because her hairs are all over. There are crumbs, gravel, and bits of decayed leaf ground into the black carpet. Dirty napkins, empty granola bar wrappers, and old cups litter the floors. Car duty was once my husband’s job. Since he’s gone, I can’t quite seem to find the time to do it.Now that I am back to being a single mom with a full-time job, detailing my minivan is not super high on my priority list. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone just came and cleaned my van for me? A-ha, what a great X-mas gift! Most of the things I want are so practical (vacuum, a nice blender, etc.), that it would bore your average childless woman to tears. However, as a multitasking mom short on time and cash, they’d be cherished by me!In an effort to help my fellow single mothers out, I decided to come up with a list of all the wonderful things that would make everyday life a thousand times easier. Here are they are, in no particular order.1) Car Wash/Detail. Depending on your own cash flow, you could offer to vacuum your single mom friend’s car out for her. Or, if finances permit, buy her a car wash gift card!2) Target Gift Card. Who can’t use a Target gift card? I mean, really, that store has just about everything. My paycheck usually runs out before the second week of the month. Being that X-mas, for those of us who celebrate it, falls at the end of the month, a Target gift card would allow your single mom friend to buy laundry soap and trash bags when she’ll really need them. Plus you can get larger, more expensive essentials there, like a car seat, too.3) Costo Gift Card. I know I am going to be out of money when Christmas rolls around. I would like to be able to feed my kids without charging groceries on a credit card. (I try not to use credit cards more than I have to, but I'm unwilling to let my kids go hungry.) My guess is that the average single mom can always put a Costco gift card to good use.4) A Petco gift card. If that special single mom in your life has pets, she would probably love a gift card to Petco (or to whatever local, independently owned pet shop exists in her area). If she’s like me, she covets the cat towers, crates, and miscellaneous toys, but if finances are really tight, she could use help with the basics, too, such as cat litter and dog food.
5) Take her to get her nails done. I’ve had three manicures in my entire life. I am almost 40 years old. It’s not that I don’t like nice looking nails; it’s just that I can’t afford them. I wouldn’t mind getting my nails done for the holidays, if a nice friend bestowed a visit to the nail salon upon me.6) Get her a tattoo! No, not OF her, but buy her a tattoo gift certificate. I am sure there are a few women under the age of 50 who don’t like them, but these days, a gift certificate to the local tattoo shop seems like such a cool gift! I haven’t gotten a new tattoo in like three years; the time is right.7) Gift certificate to Powell’s Books or Amazon. I love to read, but rarely can afford to buy books. On the rare occasion that I do, it’s either from Goodwill or from an Amazon card my mom gave me for my birthday. My dog chewed up my last library book (This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz); the library sent me a bill for $26.95 and then sent me to collections because I don't have the money to pay it. Ugh. Books are always great gifts, don’t you think? 8) A magazine subscription. Again, reading is awesome and fun. Find out what her interests are, and order her a gift that will give all year long. She’ll think of you every time she cracks open her new issue of Modern Cat magazine.9) A vacuum cleaner. I’ve become obsessed with vacuum cleaners. Probably because I have so many cats, I now want a vacuum to keep on every floor of my house. In fact, I wouldn’t mind having one for every room. And I would LOVE to have one of those steam mops for hardwood floors. For some reason, the old mop and bucket seem so labor intensive. 10) A Starbucks gift card. Who wouldn't like a cup of foofy coffee every once in a while? A nice, frothy, warm latte sounds good to me right about now. Some days at work, I take a mental inventory of the angles inside my cubicle and contemplate whether I might be able to get away with a five-minute nap under my desk. Instead, I could just run over to Starbucks and treat myself to a delicious White Chocolate Mocha. Yum!As a single mom, all of my money goes directly into running my household. The reality of my budget is that there isn’t much left after the mortgage is paid. I know there are lots of single moms in the same position: we work hard to give our kids as much as we can. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t love something as basic as a car wash. Single moms, what are the essentials you would add to this list?