Darlene Egelhoff's plight is so bad she cleans houses and her son gets free school lunches, she tells PEOPLE

By Dahvi Shira
November 09, 2010 08:00 PM

It’s been a year of challenges for Heidi Montag‘s mom Darlene Egelhoff.

Aside from her estranged relationship with Montag since February, the mother of three and her husband, Tim, also now face an immense financial hurdle.

Timberlines, a popular restaurant featured on The Hills and owned by Egelhoff and her husband in Montag’s hometown of Crested Butte, Colo., recently went out of business after a 21-year run.

“We’re a tourist town, so our business department was dependent on the economy,” Egelhoff tells PEOPLE. “Business started declining. We tried to make the necessary adjustments, but we were just not quite in time. We were forced to close because of the economy.”

Borrowed Money

Egelhoff admits her family hit such a financial low that, at the end of last year, she even borrowed money from Montag.

“The restaurant was struggling, and I was crying on the phone,” Egelhoff recounts. “I fought it for so long, but finally, I said, ‘Tax guys are on the way. It’s $8,000.’ Heidi very generously wired me a check that day. That kept the restaurant afloat for at least six months. It was so generous and helpful.”

Egelhoff has now gone from owning a restaurant and making appearances on The Hills to cleaning houses for a living.

“The work is sporadic and competitive,” Egelhoff says. “My work is not enough to pay the bills. We need other work immediately. [My son] Sky is eligible for free lunch at school and is proud to take advantage of it.”

Positive Outlook

But despite the hardships she and her family have recently faced, Egelhoff maintains a positive outlook on life and on the possibility of rekindling the close bond she once shared with her youngest daughter.

“I have no regrets in life,” she says. “I feel like God makes all things for good, and the most difficult situations we go through in life are opportunities. That’s when we build character and strength – during difficult times.

Egelhoff adds, as her voice begins to crack, “I love Heidi more every day, even though I don’t talk to her. I love her unconditionally. I have total confidence that we will have a loving, strong relationship again. I think it just takes time. Heidi and I were so close when she was growing up. I think at some point she needed to disconnect from me in order to discover herself.”

Taking her mind off the struggles, Egelhoff has been able to share motherhood insight and experiences on her frequently updated blog, Metamorphosis of a Mother. Packed with old family photos and memories of Montag and her siblings Holly and Sky, Egelhoff says the site is about “me and my life, and what we’re going through as a family right now … I do reflect back on my 27 years of parenting.”