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Samuel Freshman and Heidi Clingen: Playing Mr. Mom can be maddening


Posted: January 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Dear Smarties: I have been trying to find an after-school job, but everyone is cutting back on hiring. — Teen in Temple City

Heidi: Your parents should be proud of you for looking so hard for a job! And you show initiative for asking for advice, as well. Many students are starting their own companies so they can hire themselves. Perhaps you could offer tutoring or computer services such as selling on eBay or converting VHS videotapes. You’ll find lots of advice by Googling “teen entrepreneurs.”

Sam: You can sell advertising for your school newspaper like I did in college. You can offer to do baby-sitting, gardening, car washing and other services for your neighbors and parents’ friends. Look for opportunities to be trained in an employment skill, even if you have to volunteer or intern for no salary at first. This will help you build your resume of work experience and employer references.

Dear Smarties: I get so tired of hearing people say they’re “broke.” What does that mean exactly? Does it mean that they don’t have enough money to buy food? Or does it mean they can’t afford a two-week vacation this summer?
— Puzzled in Pacoima

Heidi: Everything is relative. I remember when my parents used the term “dead broke” and it meant having no financial buffer at all. I’ve heard people claim they are “broke,” but actually were able to maintain their lifestyle. With so many people losing their jobs and their homes these days, we should be considerate of the circumstances of others before using the term “broke” casually.

Sam: Broke usually means you have no resources and live from paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, being “broke” is becoming an epidemic. We want to help people avoid this condition. We would love to e-mail you our “Principles of Financial Independence” that might help.

Dear Smarties: I am temporarily laid off, and my wife got a job. Now I am Mr. Mom. Help! The diapers are piling up and I’m starting to lose it. — Haggard in Half Moon Bay

Sam: You are not alone. With job losses, parents are dealing with the stress of switching earning roles and childcare roles.
This means more dads are helping with childcare.

Treasure this time because your children need you and they need to see that dads can be good caregivers.
In retrospect, this time will go by fast.

Nobody says on their deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” But they do often say, “I wish I had spent more time with my children and grandchildren.”

Heidi: It may be awkward and sometimes embarrassing to be “Mr. Mom.” Parenthood, whether as a mom or a dad, has its trying days. On other days, you can feel blessed to be present to collect the memories.

As a proud, longtime, stay-at-home mom, I am convinced that staying home with kids can be far more difficult than going to an office. (Note to the working parent, don’t ask, “What did you do all day?” This can be a very dangerous question!)
 Find a support group of other dads in your community and online.

Remember that if you are at the office, it’s natural to feel guilty because you are not at home.

If you are home, it’s natural to feel guilty because you are not at the office. Do your best where you are. Things could all change again tomorrow.

Heidi Clingen is a long-time resident of Stevenson Ranch. She wrote “The Smartest Way to Save: Why you can’t hang on to money and what to do about it” with Samuel K. Freshman. They offer only their opinion, which does not constitute professional, financial or legal advice.

To receive a copy of “The Principles of Financial Independence” or submit questions, e-mail them to


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