Why it can be so hard to find other professional, successful single moms

 

This post originally appeared in May, 2014, but I republished it now to celebrate the launch of Single Mom Society the awesome new forum for professional single moms to  hang out, dish on divorce, kids, sex, dating, money, career — and make friends. 

A few weeks ago a divorce coach IM’d me on Facebook: “I am having the hardest time finding successful single moms to connect with. Is this your experience? What’s going on?”

On one hand, the few times I’ve sent out media feelers to find these very women to profile for various projects I faced the same challenge. I’m talking upper-middle class on-up — women in any industry but could clearly be held up as a shining example of building professional success while parenting unpartnered.

On the other hand: I bump into these women all the time. At professional events or while interviewing sources for business stories, one of us will bring up this blog and my brilliantly successful conversation companion will say: “Oh, I’ve been divorced for 15 years — raised my kids without a nickel of child support;” or, “I’m on my second marriage now. It was really hard, but you get through it,” or, “I’m going through a divorce. I’m not sure I can do this!” I met one compadre last week — a high-level marketing exec who — in the pre-interview meet-and-greet — shared about her own divorce, singledom and remarriage. We had a nice dish about whether you can be feminist and also accept — or seek — alimony (“No way!” she said. “Those women are so entitled. I chose to downshift my career when my kids were young, and I could be earning more now — but that was my choice.”)

These women often have public profiles, are CEOs, entrepreneurs with 7-figure organizations, bankers, partners in management consultancies and the like. When they hear about my family status it frees them to share theirs — and the tone is generally matter-of-fact with a twinge of sisterhood relief- Finally! Someone who gets it! Because, like my colleague, I find these high-achieving women don’t initiate a whole lot of chitchat about being a single mom.

Why?

The negative connotation that comes with “single mom” is certainly a factor. And this is likely heightened amongst this group. After all, if you are a wildly successful woman in her 40s or older (meaning you grew up when the cards were really stacked against women), you were likely really freaking brilliant from the start. You’re used to being the smartest kid in the class and not failing. And whether it is productive or not, divorce usually leaves both parties feeling like they failed. That they’re failures. This sense of shame is only heightened among these high-achieving women who are not used to anything but kicking ass.

Another reason: These women are indeed scarce. I don’t need to tell you that women tail men when it comes income and professional rank across all high-earning professions, but the more money and education people have, the less likely they are to divorce. Single, professionally successful moms simply are outnumbered by their poorer counterparts.

But I sense that the most compelling reason these women do not lead with the fact that are — or were — single parents is that successful people don’t dwell on obstacles. Instead of being someone like the women I mention in this post who used single motherhood as an first-line excuse to make bad decisions and miss goals, these successful single moms just power through. They let go of anger for their exes. They accepted that they would have to work more and spend less time with their kids than they originally planned. After the initial crisis of divorce they simply embraced their new families as whole and moved forward with grace — and success.

But I wonder: Isn’t it terribly lonely to be one of these tight-lipped single moms, alone in her success and disappointments? Who do they talk to about the singular worries of single moms: The stress of dealing with exes, or burdening the financial brunt alone? What about the thrills and anguish of dating anew? This is a unique experience, single mothering.

No one sets out to be a single mom. No little girl in the whole world dreams about how awesome it will be to grow up and build a family by her lonesome in a charming yellow bungalow with a peony bush out front. This show you and I are on? This is Plan B (or maybe Plan K? Plan W?). And most of us ideally would not be single moms, but remarried or otherwise in a romantic partnership.

But here we are. It is what it is and we need each other. We want to know each other. Connect. Not just the really super-successful ones we can uphold and admire. Just a bunch of professional, educated women who happen to be not-married moms. It’s perhaps the most human experience to crave community – to be around like-minded others. To feel accepted. Normal. Also: to learn from those who achieve more than us, and can lend a dose of aspiration.

So this is a call to action: If you are a single mom and sense the presence of another in your vicinity — at the playground or school event or even the grocery store line — step up! Introduce yourself! Trust me: You have gobs to talk about! And if you are in the ranks of the very, very successful unmarried mothers — reach out, will ya? Maybe together we can share your story. It will inspire the rest of us, and maybe you will find companionship where you once did not.

 

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32 thoughts on “Why it can be so hard to find other professional, successful single moms

  1. Thanks for your post. It got me thinking–which category am I in? Do I readily mention I’m a single mom–or not?
    I guess I mention in conversation, more often than not. And when talking with other women, either at a professional event or grocery store, it’s a feeling of camaraderie and sisterhood when I get a node of “I hear ya girl,” followed by a fist-bump. Despite one’s professional or economic status, I believe only single moms “get” single moms. It’s a club we don’t want to belong to. When when we find other club members, there is an instant kindred exchange of understanding.
    Hang in there fellow sisters. You/we are not alone.

  2. Thanks Elaine – could not agree more. But curious … what is your immediate hesitation about mentioning being a single mom? Do you feel differently in professional vs casual situations?

  3. I think a big part is where you mention that there are a lot that are remarried and so unless you dig a little deeper you won’t know that yes, they spent x number of years as a single mom. Being a single parent might be a more temporary status…

    I still think I’d first call myself divorced with kids… since my ex does share in custody.

    Also this:

    “We had a nice dish about whether you can be feminist and also accept — or seek — alimony (“No way!” she said. “Those women are so entitled. I chose to downshift my career when my kids were young, and I could be earning more now — but that was my choice.”)”

    I feel this had nothing to do with the article and you are just trying to alienate and piss off readers such as myself. How is it not feminist to take what has been determined to be legally fair?? To know that you deserve that money and that you assisted in building your ex’s career? To not settle for whatever crumbs he’s willing to throw your way on his own? I’m sure you’ve read the statistics about divorced women’s standard of living falling significantly while a mans actually rises… how is that fair at all? And trust me, in my case that will still occur, but hopefully not as badly. And by the way, I don’t believe downshifting her career was just your friend’s choice. Or it shouldn’t have been. You don’t typically make important financial decisions unilaterally when you are married with kids on the way.

    I’m close to not reading here anymore because I really feel you are much too judgmental about stay at home mom’s etc and feel that only your decisions are the RIGHT decisions and you are unable to see another side. I have never judged working moms and I don’t see why you feel stay at home moms are such a personal affront to you.

  4. Hi Erica- thanks for chiming in. Yes, I think that is true: many are older, remarried and so do look back at their single mom years as a) old history, and b) temporary.

    As for your other points …. nothing happens in a vacuum. If a woman chooses to abandon her career and stay home full-time, that affects me in my career. It colors how male executive hire, promote and pay their female employees. It dictates how working moms are treated in their careers. It works against our fight to close the pay gap.

    As for alimony … did you see the video interview I did with divorce lawyer Morghan Richardson last week? The fact is that alimony is going away. No judgement there. It just is. We’re in an interesting moment when many women divorcing today came of age expecting alimony to support them in the time of divorce, only to find that is no longer true. Our daughters are growing up with different assumptions — and, thankfully, more professional opportunity, so I guarantee far fewer of them will abandon their careers because they have never believed that was an option. They know first hand by watching their divorced moms, aunts and cousins struggle because they assumed they did not have to be financially autonomous. Just not the case.

    Again: Facts. No judgement.

    As for my new friend making unilateral decisions …. again, the boil-down of current relationship/marriage/divorce trends is this: Whoever makes the money keeps the money. Each person is responsible for their own career and financial future. That’s the laws talking. And human psychology talking. Ask any divorce lawyer: No person – man or woman – who is the primary earner in a family ever believes the other party is entitled to a share of their earnings or wealth if they did not work for it. I don’t care what kind of verbal agreements or good intentions are at play. That just is not what is going on.

    I do believe women all should have a way to support themselves. That does not include payments or support from current or past romantic partners. That is an old model that just does not apply. I have one single mom friend who was once very financially independent, gave it up to stay home for a few years and her successful lawyer ex gives her a nice chunk every month. She is now struggling to rebuild her business and she told me: “You need to tell women that they should be completely financially independent. It is horrible to wait for someone else’s money every month – remind him to pay, worry he will lose his job. There is no substitute for taking care of yourself.”

    Her words, not mine.

    1. Beyond the law, I’ve always found that when I try to give someone else as much as possible in the hopes that they will recognize it I’m disappointed by the results. It takes a lot of work and communication just to make sure that the other person understands what you’re giving them, appreciates it, and gives you what you want. A divorce usually isn’t the result of successful communication so you can expect that someone will not get what they expected.

      The man may also feel that he was let down or held back in his career. Right or wrong, when you have two opposite viewpoints you can’t win everything. If you’re prepared you can do better for yourself.

      Emma, you’re saying what people need to hear. I had no problem with splitting assets since those are a clear result of everything that happened in the past. But my future is for me (and I will make sure I can always support my daughter). Women aren’t their husband’s property anymore, and what I do now does not belong to someone who’s not in my life anymore.

    2. Richard – thanks for this. It is situations like Erica’s that can been viewed as a tragedy – a generation of women raised to believe that alimony and the theory behind it are applicable to them in the event of divorce — but recent law changes no longer apply. Again, our daughters will not make those choices (and if they do, will have to own the consequences).

      I can see how a short (1-2 year?) period of support makes sense as both parties transition into the new phase of life. But that is the whole point of divorce – moving forward, owning your own future. Yes, it will likely be unequal economically. But with economic opportunity comes responsibility – women cannot both demand equality at home and work and then not take full responsibility for their finances.

      Unfortunately there is this gap generation where old expectations do not hold up. But that happens with every cultural and political movement – for better or worse.

      1. Please do not refer to my situation as a tragedy. I don’t need your expressions of pity. I am perfectly happy and just finished up,a one year grad program and am in the midst of interviewing for positions. I also did not approach my marriage expecting alimony if it didn’t work out. If I had thought there was an inkling it wouldn’t work out I wouldn’t have stopped working in the first place. But hindsight is 20/20. All that I’m to blame for is being naive and thinking divorce could never happen to me.

        But yes, when divorce became my only option (or losing my self woth etc. by staying married to a cheater who wouldn’t even do the minimum to work on the marriage) you can be sure when I went to the table I wasn’t going to just roll over. I did not go for the jugular, only what was suggested as fair – in the eyes of a three time divorced male mediator, btw.

        Why should there be “consequences” to my actions? What exactly did I do wrong? Took time out to raise my children and consequently also made life a hell of a lot easier for my husband? Believe me, the situation will still be unfair, if that makes you feel better that I got what was coming to me or something.

        I’m not a gold digger, I’m a smart chick that made some poor choices out of loyalty and love. I’ve taken responsibility for that, but yeah I also expect my ex to own his fair share as well. I’m moving forward and won’t be making the same mistake of blindly trusting again. Notice I said blindly. I hope to still trust, but I’ll be going into it with my eyes open this time.

    3. So agree with you on this Em. The American model of feminism, is so different to the European feminism, and I would not get it when I first arrived here. I would have discussions with friends who would go out on dates and EXPECT the guy to pay for every date, and have these rules in the sand about he better pay for three dinners, before he expects sex… Isn’t that some messed up form of prostitution? I would think, never say… :) The way I always saw feminism and dating is: you are two adults that you are strangers and would like to get to know each other, you do this by sharing meals that you each pay for, then there is no expectation of sex or whatever. So I think the roots of this American feminism are deep into the olden American days, where women were possessions, and the majority of them can’t seem to wrap their heads around it.
      Similarly on the alimony/divorce front, I find it appalling that some women divorce and CHOOSE to stop working so their income drops so the father pays everything. I have a male friend who is the father of 4 children high school to college age, they are brilliant so have ended up at MIT and Harvard, he is paying three tuitions, has depleted his savings in the last 4 years, while he pays his non working ex wife alimony, and she pays no dime for their kids education, and spends most of his money galavanting thru Europe on expensive cruise ships… I could go on and on with several examples, but u get my point. There are very few women friends I know who went thru divorce and have shared custody and voluntarily shared the expenses of their child’s costs in a fair and square way. In my experience, women that go for the killing of their ex’s finances are bitter and want to revenge in the only way left to them at that junction in their relationship.
      Feminism to me means that you are a male’s equal, ladies, behave as an equal in every way.

  5. Hi there. First time posting! No, I don’t readily mention that I’m a single mother. However, when I was married, I didn’t readily mention being married either. When I meet new people, I tend to talk about my work, hobbies, and kids. If my marital status comes up, then I am honest but usually it doesn’t come up. It’s not something I ask of others (or even think about) when I first meet them.

    One place I’m hesitant to mention it is work. I separated from my husband when I was off on a 1-year maternity leave. By the time I returned to work, the dust from drawing up legal papers and custody arrangements had already settled and I went right back to work full force without even blinking. My work friends know, but most others (including my own single mother boss!) don’t. My workplace is a major gossip mill, and I’d like to maintain my managerial position with definite boundary between work life and personal life.

    1. Thanks for posting, Amy! Welcome.

      Curious – what do you worry would happen should you tell colleagues or your boss that you’re now single/divorced? What is the worst-case scenario?

  6. I love this post because the few professional single moms I know and I talk about this issue all the time. I have honestly thought about forming some sort of ad hoc group in Denver of professional single moms. I don’t like talking about being a single mom with people who aren’t in my shoes because people seem to automatically revert to pity, not realizing I am far happier than I would be if I was still married. I hate being pitied. And to add to the complexity, it seems that when some folks do realize that I am happier not being married to my daughter’s dad, there is judgment – as if I brought this whole situation onto myself for selfish motives. It’s a hard dynamic to understand unless you’ve lived it, but when you’re facing either pity or judgment it’s no wonder most of us clam up.

    1. Thanks for sharing Katie. I live in New York City, where there is probably the highest concentration of professional single moms like you and me in the country (or world?), and it can still be challenging and isolating.

      What can we do to change this up? I find that in this and other circumstances whenever I am inclined to hide, but don’t, amazing things happen — introductions, people share their own surprising stories. There is real power in overcoming shame –for yourself, the other party and the movement in general :)

      Not to lecture. Just some thoughts.

      What do you think?

  7. Thank you for continuing an important conversation. I say “continue” because of my experiences as co-author of The Complete Single Mother. This book literally opened this conversation. At the time – 1995 – publishers openly disdained single moms no matter what circumstances led them to single motherhood.

    That said, I wonder if successful single moms – my hand is raised – of a certain age – again my hand shoots up – contribute to this dilemma. I earned my doctoral degree in psychology without telling anyone until I was several years into the program that I was a single mom. I was convinced that, if I shared this information, I would be afforded fewer opportunities than other graduate students. And . . . I was right. I know because my professors told me to my face that “if they had known . . .”

    Subsequently, I never mentioned that I had children on job interviews. I kept my home life life strictly private until my career was rock solid.

    So, my knee jerk advice is always to keep your private life private. Maybe this advice is now outdated. I absolutely hope so.

    Looking forward to reading more comments. Thanks again for a stimulating conversation.

  8. Thanks for sharing Leah. That is always a pickle of a question: Is each individual responsible for advancing the greater good? For you – maybe you could have moved the needle on stereotypes by being more visible at work, but you were an advocate in other, very important ways (for which I say THANK YOU!).

    Also – the career landscape has indeed changed (though maybe not much in academia), not only are there more women, mothers and single mothers in professional positions, but business in general is less formal with more emphasis on the relationship. Plus social media makes it impossible to conceal much about your life.

  9. Thought-provoking article addressing a challenge I have also faced. I’ve been divorced over five years and have sole responsibility for three kids (now teens and young adults). I have my own business as well. In the early days after divorce I looked for, and could not find, other women in similar circumstances. I never thought of myself as a single mom, so maybe I was using the wrong words. Single mom carries a variety of meanings and stereotypes, so I used “divorced breadwinner mom.”

    Regardless, I haven’t found too many other successful professional or business women openly identifying in that category, though like others have shared, we may find out as we get to know others in professional or personal settings. For me one of the challenges of connecting in person has been time. As a single working mom, there just isn’t much time for socializing, at least not until recently as the kids have gotten older and more self-sufficient. I’ve also found that many successful working women have remarried, and they don’t really advertise divorce (also mentioned by some others in the comments).

    In my consulting work with clients, the only time I ever bring up my marital status is when the need to travel arises. Then I usually just mention that I am divorced and parenting children, so I need advance notice to make arrangements and cannot be gone for extended periods of time. Otherwise I tend to keep private life private because I don’t feel like it’s important for my clients to know. I am of the generation and work background where personal life was kept separate from professional, and although those barriers are changing, it’s still a tendency not to over-share personal information.

    I established a blog and have been writing and reaching out online to try to find others in similar circumstances, so I look forward to more connection through your article and its follow-up.

    Thanks, Joy

    1. Hi Joy – So great to meet you. Your experience is so interesting. A few highlights (for me):

      “I never thought of myself as a single mom” — how do you mean? You didn’t identify as a poor, down-and-out stereotype? Or you somehow were partnered? Because I think you were technically a single mom, no?

      Yes, as Leah and I discussed, work culture changes by profession and generation. In media people tend to be both very open and open minded– we all have blogs, public social media accounts, etc. It’s considered an advantage to be open about your personal life (my platform being a very extreme outlier, but …)

      It is interesting to me that you never mention your single mom status except to explain your travel preferences. I’m the opposite – I’m extremely open about my family status but never say, “Oh, I can’t travel/work late/meet that deadline because I’m a single mom” — because other professionals are equally entitled to put those parameters on their schedules — and expect them to be honored — and are in any number of other family arrangements.

      Just some thoughts. I’m going to email you directly! So happy to connect.

      1. Thanks for the email. I also wanted to respond to your questions here on this post. I agree that technically I have been a single mom; certainly my circumstances are more like a single parent than the divorced couple who shares joint custody of their children. But because I was married when I had my children, I think of myself as a divorced mom instead. Mostly semantics, I suppose, but there is still a certain segment that associates being a single mom with being poor, down-and-out, etc., as you noted.

        As far as being open about my personal life, some of it is generational, I suppose, but more of it is probably personality. I grew up with messages like “keep it in the family,” and “what will the neighbors think?” And I’m somewhat introverted (though not extreme). So I tend to be private (or did). I suppose writing a blog that identifies me as a divorced breadwinner mom kind of shoots that whole privacy thing a bit. I still tend to be cautious, though, about what I share publicly – in part considering my children and my former husband, and in part just because it’s me.

        One other comment here on my single mom status and my work: I believe most of my clients know I’m a mom, and probably that I’m divorced (many of them have known me for a long, long time and remember me from the married days). I just don’t make a big deal of it one way or the other, and I almost never use it as an “excuse” regarding working late, etc. But I have occasionally been asked to take on extended travel (2 – 3 weeks) on short notice, and then I feel like it’s relevant to why I’m turning a client down or looking for alternatives. Could just be me feeling like I need to justify it to myself, as well.

        In addition, I have had too many experiences where once a male client finds out I’m single it changes the dynamic in ways that are uncomfortable for me. It hasn’t happened often, but enough times that I prefer not to volunteer much, at least not right away.

        Great conversations going here. Thanks again, Joy

  10. Wonderful, thoughtful comments.

    Joy: divorced breadwinner mom. Bravo. And you’re right about possible negative connotations. Sad, but, in my experience, totally true.

  11. A great topic and one that is seldom discussed. I’m also a single mum and after a break from my profession (having my daughter and completing a masters degree) I am now looking to go back to work. It’s a male dominated industry and I found myself slipping on a wedding ring when I went to see a head hunter. I wrote a piece in the Guardian about it:

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/08/gender-free-job-applications-its-almost-a-great-idea

    Why did I do that? I think because my profession is not family friendly. And I must admit, before I had children I would be annoyed sometimes if a senior woman wasn’t working that day because it could sometimes hold up a process. Being a professional mother is difficult enough, I figured it would sound even worse if I declared I was also a single mother. And the other reason? Shame. As Emma so rightly points out, no one chooses to be a single mother.

    I’m starting work tomorrow and I won’t be wearing the wedding ring. As this article so rightly points out, us single mums need to be encouraged to come out of the shadows and shine the light on our success.

    1. Wow, Sara, thanks for chiming in. Great article (read it ladies!). Glad to have a “mum” amongst us “moms” :)

      Confession: This hiding your single mo/um status shocks me a little. Sara -I sense you’re about my age, 37? So our older sisters here have certainly had a different experience. And you are in finance — certainly male dominated, chauvenist as I’ve heard from many friends and is quite documented. I work from home in my liberal media industry, self-employed and making my own rules. Plus, I have an innate fuck-you attitude. So I am surprised to see that so many women are hiding their family status. It never occurred to me.

      You wrote: “us single mums need to be encouraged to come out of the shadows and shine the light on our success.” What do you suggest? What do you feel is the responsibility for each woman to take a risk and “come out” as a solo mother? Be the proverbial Rosa Parks of single motherhood? Or is it the responsibility of senior women in an org- –especially if SHE is a single mother — to take a visible stand on the matter?

      Ideas? Thoughts?

  12. Hi Erica,

    I know you are a smart chick. I know you are doing everything you can to take care of your family and yourself and you will be fine. More than fine! And I don’t think YOU are a tragedy. But there is indeed this gap generation of women who understood that leaving the workforce to stay home with kids full time and support the building of her husband’s career is a viable option. And then the courts changed and alimony is all but gone and women like you are caught in the middle – though it sounds like you got a settlement you think is fair.

    I don’t believe anyone should be “punished” — but rather there are some harsh lessons about how the world works and a sense of what is fair and just. Very few people say they sensed their marriage would end, and yet divorce rates have been about the same for decades. The information was there, except the original info was that alimony was available. No more.

    Many women chose to take big risks with their careers by leaving them and investing in their husbands, and then expect someone else to pay the consequences of those risks when they don’t work out.

  13. Hi Ana – OK, first about dates, paying and sex…. I’ve written extensively about my complex views on who should pay. Intellectually I agree with you, yet I expect men to pay on the first date or three. http://www.wealthysinglemommy.com/men-pay-first-dates-end-story-heres-2/

    It’s complicated :)

    As for the sex-for-dinner? Joke is on your friends – they miss out on all the great sex!

    “Feminism to me means that you are a male’s equal, ladies, behave as an equal in every way.” That really is the root of it. Women arguably have just as many opportunities for financial and professional gain, so how can we expect special concessions in divorce?

    Fortunately the pendulum is swinging back, these outrageous settlements like you describe are being highlighted and alimony going away. Again: curious to see how this plays out in the next generation.

  14. Hmmm… My thoughts are going in lots of directions on this.

    First the Spousal support – in my state it is a formula so yes, I am paying my unemployed ex. I feel I am paying for all those stay at home moms who’s ex would have gotten shark lawyers and left them penniless ;-)

    I sometimes think I talk about it too much. But then again I really haven’t found many in my shoes. It may be that my kids are small… (3 &7) or I am working professional. Or that my kids go to Catholic school (lol!)

    I don’t think our culture really supports female friends, but that is a whole another subject.

    1. Hi Devon – Yes, you are paying for the SAHMs whose exes would have screwed them. But I think we will be having a different convo in a few years on this as the courts catch up with what is going on in the economy, in marriages and feminism.

  15. I must chime in with my experience which is very different from any of you.

    Mind you, I’m a single mom of a 3-y old and have my night owl little man next to me demanding my attention right now… so I’ll just share for the sake of sharing – without having the chance to make a very particular point (part of this is copy-pasted from my blog which is a totally different genre… about life and it’s meaning – searching and learning – semi-spiritual at times. I do write some stuff about motherhood there lately but it’s less about being a mom and more about being a human being).

    Anyhow, I read this earlier today and thought this might actually be the one blog entry I’ll comment.

    I grew up with a single mom and two siblings. Almost all the women in my family (forever and half) were powerful single moms with careers. None of them ever remarried.

    My mom, who was a gynecologist – now 73 – grew up in a family of three kids. Her mom was another gynecologist and single mom. She was born 1917: One of the first female doctors in my country (northern Europe). My father’s mother (born 1908) was a single mom of four kids – and a powerful, successful, diamond sharp CEO of a multinational company (by far the largest in it’s market sector). My aunts and female cousins are lawyers, advanced calculus teachers, executive producers, CEOs and so on.

    None of this was ever a big deal in my life. I have a master’s from NYU and a long successful career behind me. There never was any need to prove my place in the world.

    Not only did I grow up around powerful single moms, and in a culture that has always supported women – but to add – growing up I was stronger and smarter than pretty much any guy around me. Haha! Sounds overly confident but so it was. I beat every guy in arm wrestling until 16 (though I was a ballet girl and not buff-looking in the slightest bit). I took advanced physics, chemistry and math and had zero problems. (I had and have my own insecurities, so let’s not make it sound like I’m some sort of a goddess of confidence, ’cause I’m not ;-).

    The first time I actually felt (or noticed?) someone looking down on me as a woman, was while taking MBA courses and being unnecessarily “scolded” for something by an American male professor. I didn’t get defensive or annoyed, but I thought it was interesting (and odd).

    Here’s what I can say about having a career and being a single mom. (Well, a lot more than this – but these are some immediate thoughts.)

    My mom and her mother probably never regretted any of their choices. In fact my mom thinks she chose motherhood instead of a career (aka she didn’t go for her PhD). But she was pretty seldom home spending any real quality time with us kids. I have fond memories too – but since I was 4 or 5 years old I decided I would spend more time with my kids if I ever happened to have any.

    My CEO grandmother told me at her 90th birthday party that she actually – in some ways – regretted how incredibly much work she put in the company (and all with nobody’s help).

    More important that being a career woman – or a powerful person of any sort – is being true to yourself, searching, even stumbling and falling while looking for the path that has meaning to you as a person. Whatever path you’re walking (and how), your kids observe and learn through your behavior.

    Whatever that path is goes much beyond career / no career.

    I could go on (at least one book in there ;-) – but my son is asking for my attention and it’s time – even for night owls – to go to sleep! Here’s to hoping that my freakishly different experience gives someone a new angle. ;-)

    P.S. I chose to leave my son’s father when my son was just months old. Never wanted to be a single mom, but I made a bad choice; he is not the best of the bunch. But I’m extremely grateful for having my son, and for having my son with him. The Northern European system is different, I don’t think we even have alimony! Ha. I receive 150 USD per month for child support and have zero family or other support networks around me helping me in my daily life (they don’t live in the US and my NYC friends don’t have kids, and like to keep their lives kid-free). I try my utmost best to balance career, meaning in life (searching as we speak ;-) – and motherhood. If you read my blog entries on motherhood specifically, you’ll see I’m both old school and modern.

    1. My experience seems very similar to yours,and I’m struggling to find balance with child care and my work which is quite demanding at times with the work hours. I’d love to connect on how you successfully managed to balance that.

  16. Hi Vera- this is a really interesting perspective. Wondering: Where in Europe?

    But despite this amazing history …. what is your sense about building friendships with other professional single moms? Did your mom, grandmothers, aunts have such a network? Do you? Why or why not?

  17. Here I am! Professional, successful single mom! Late to class but here nonetheless!

    For me, in the 14 months since my son was born – making me a single mom – I have brushed up against a lot. A. Lot. Of stereotypes and judgment about single moms. This has caused me to be very careful about sharing my status. Especially at work and during interviews. I proceed as if I am childless and I’ve always just had a code of leaving my personal life far, far away from my professional life anyway. He only exception is when I discover someone else is a single mom and a hushed bonding conversation immediately ensues which seems to give both of us a little pep infusion. Bit I also find I don’t want to harp on it with friends (with or without kids of their own) because the stigma is so widespread I’ve found it to be friendship murder to go there.

    I do want to be a part of squashing the stigma and to be a lighthouse for other women with similar challenges. I’ve started a blog though I very rarely write about my professional life there. Because I’m pretty careful about identifiable information on there but also mostly because I’m sooooo busy juggling everything that I don’t have time to write about all of the things I would love to write about.

    Love your blog! Thanks for writing.

  18. Personally I don’t mention being a Single Mom right off the back. Reason for me is I don’t want to be looked at as if I have a hindrance in performing my job when it comes to attendance or traveling. For instance when my son is sick I have no one to go pick him up. I have to leave work & take a sick day to take care of him. Every time I have to travel out of town my Manager confirms if I have anyone to watch my son. This is nice & I may be paranoid but I just don’t want to be passed up on an opportunity because he thinks I can’t make it or as a single parent I may be overwhelmed. I’m currently work full-time, go to school full-time, raise my son alone with no financial help & working on opening a business. I’m a busy woman but I feel I’ve put my career on hold for the relationship I was in with his Dad & now I’m ready to soar & my Son & I will reap the benefits. But yes it is hard & sometimes overwhelming but I know it’s worth it. I commend all single parents. Also, I did go through the feeling of being a failure due to a failed relationship but Faith got me through it.

  19. Being a single mom is a joke! Say goodbye to your life LOL You will be required to be MOMMY and DADDY all wrapped up in ONE !!!

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