Single mom doesn’t mean welfare mom

 

I can tell people wonder. My kids are little, after all. Not too many divorcees at the preschool. I don’t wear a ring. I might mention that I just refinanced my apartment (I’m in New York, where real estate is the default conversation starter). Or gossip about the other parents. Or about a recent vacation with my kids. But I don’t talk about a husband or girlfriend or partner. I’m a single mom. If it comes up, it comes up. Otherwise, I don’t feel the need to explain myself.

It took me a little while to settle into this role (no surprise there!), but I’m nearly three years into it. While barreling towards the possibility that I would have to run this show on my own, I spent hours with an Excel spreadsheet, a calculator and my Mint.com account. How would I make the numbers work?! I had a career and income, but my husband was the primary earner then, complete with health insurance and a 401(k) match.

For a while there was child support, but that didn’t last. Nor did the health insurance. And there were teeny, tiny kids who needed a mom around — a lot, I felt. I had mostly stayed at home for my oldest kid’s first year while I was still married, and I couldn’t bear the thought of not cuddling and nursing my newborn son for hours like I had his sister. I also refused to accept that single motherhood automatically meant I would be constantly stressed, or that my family would be outcasts, or that my kids would worry about being homeless. I worried, maybe most of all, that I wouldn’t be the mom I’d dreamed of being — the fun mom, the mom abundant in time and love.

I wanted to create a big, full, happy life for my little family. I wasn’t totally sure what that meant (I’m still not), but I’m feeling pretty good that I’m on my way. One thing I am pretty sure about: you need time, and you need energy, and you need money to make this happen. It doesn’t mean I have to be rich. It doesn’t mean I need a lot of stuff or designer stuff or expensive things (to the contrary, actually). But making enough money, and managing that money well is critical to creating the family life that I want.

It’s intense, this life as a single mom. If I spend my energy stressing about whether the mortgage payment will clear, I compromise my ability to be that fun mom. Feeling OK about paying a babysitter once in a while affects how I feel about dating, which impacts how I feel about myself as a woman — which again, comes back to the kind of mother I hope to be. A little cushion in the bank gives me the confidence to take professional risks – which can lead to more money, more fulfilling work, and a better quality of life for myself and my kids. See how it’s all connected?

So this blog is about creating that wealthy life as a single mom. It’s a big topic, but I’m going for a big life.

 

 

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17 thoughts on “Single mom doesn’t mean welfare mom

  1. Courageous, insightful writing! Beautifully said. I pray this platform inspires others Emma and know that it will! I love it and can’t wait to read your next piece!

  2. LOVE the blog. I’ve been on the single mom journey for twelve years — almost all of my daughter’s life — and this is the first time I’ve found a personal finance blog/perspective that understands where I’m coming from. Can’t wait for more!

  3. Wow! Everything you just wrote is exactly how I feel! I’m not a single mom-YET. It’s just a matter of time and I’m on a mission before it happens to try to put some ducks in a row so that I have some control over all of the factors you just mentioned when it does happen. I am determined that we will thrive when we are on our own, so I welcome your posts and discussions about making that happen! Get that autoresponder up & running so I don’t miss a post!:)

    1. @Anonymous For Now – I installed the autoresponder just for you. Let me know if it works, and feel free to reach out if I can answer any questions

  4. Can’t wait to read more! I’ve been a single mom for nearly 18 years, my youngest will be 18 in March so subtract 4 months from that. Yup, left at 5 months pregnant with my fourth.

    Has NOT been easy.. and is nice to see someone with some perspective on how it REALLY is..

    Oh I made mistakes along the way and have regrets and think what if a lot, but we’re happy, healthy.. two kids out of the house, two still at home.. youngest is going to be a SENIOR!! (sob).. but we made it and will continue to sail right along..

  5. Now that I have discovered your blog, I have to sit and read every single post, from the first to the last. I need it, believe me!

    Pretty soon I will be a single mom for the second time (If you place me in a room with a thousand men, I will pick a lazy, irresponsible, and preferably abusive one without mistake:) and even though I cannot wait to be on my own, I realize that I am in a predicament that is going to take a lot of “undo” button pushing.

    Yours is going to be one more encouraging voice I can add to my life, as I don’t intend on staying poor for much longer (and yes, I am very poor and unemployed at the moment).

    I use my writing as a form of therapy, but I want to jump ahead and start earning money from it.
    I am looking forward to leaning on your wisdom and experience!

    1. >>If you place me in a room with a thousand men, I will pick a lazy, irresponsible, and preferably abusive one without mistake

      Made me laugh! Then cry. Then laugh again! There is a lot to be said for self-awareness. You’re about to turn a corner!

  6. It’s been a challenge for me as well. Specially the idea that i lost my freedom. But i learned how to enjoy myself along with their company. I work full time and study full time as well to finish my degree. I also help my 7 year old son with ADD in his day to day in school and homework. I love my life and im making more money every day. Everything changes when you set and focus on the happy loving side :)

  7. Hi Emma,
    You couldn’t have said it better. I love your writing and how honest and provocative your posts are.
    I am also a single mom and let me tell you it took me a while (a long while) to get used to that “status”. There is so much prejudice and how people view single moms. I work as a Video Journalist at a TV station in Queens, NY and since my work entails to be on camera and to meet people I try to dress well. I was born and raised in Bulgaria, and there are dress codes for any place and occasion you can think of. Also, I do believe that we have to dress for the position we want. You cannot imagine the comments I would get from some people who know that I am single mom. “You certainly don’t dress like a single mom,” “How do you do it?”, “How do you buy clothes if you are on a single budget?” and so on.
    Some of them even asked me suspiciously, implying that I must have been doing something on the side or have a rich ex who gives me a large alimony check.
    At first I fell into the trap to excuse myself. I started thinking: “Really how did I do it and shouldn’t I put the money to a better use and so on. I started feeling guilty, even though, my clothes didn’t cost a fortune.
    I have a friend that is a Stylist and has her eBay business so each time she goes to the thrift store she will buy me brand clothes for almost no money, so my closet doubled. I stopped wearing the new clothes she gave me so I won’t attract more comments like that.
    You are right Single Mom connotes pour mom.
    One day I had a meeting with a friend that I was supposed to interview and he said to me: “wow you look great for a mom”. Okay, now what was that supposed to mean. It means one thing: People will always find what to say and you should ignore it and do what feels right to you.
    So I decided that enough is enough.
    I now wear whatever I want and when people make a comment I smile and say: “Thank you for the compliment. I have clothes, and I wear them.”
    Thank you for the great post.

    1. >>I now wear whatever I want and when people make a comment I smile and say: “Thank you for the compliment. I have clothes, and I wear them.”

      Good for you! I was just talking with a single mom today about how people say, “Wait, you are a mom! I never would have guessed!” I say – own it, not just for yourself but moms everywhere!

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