Guest post by Nina Siegal, an American freelance journalist living in Amsterdam and single mom to a 5-month-old daughter.
The story of how I became a single mother is not a new one. But my relationship to my money problems is.
It has almost become a contemporary cliché: a few years ago, I was about to turn 40, Mr. Right hadn’t shown up yet and I wanted to be a mother. Like many professional women (I’m a writer and editor) whose biological clock is about to pop a spring, I thought: I’ve taken care of myself this long without the help of a partner. I’ve always been financially stable. I own my own home and a sizable savings account. Why can‘t I do all this and have a child, too?
When I learned that my friends – a gay male couple who lived nearby — also wanted a child, it seemed like my Plan B might be even better than my Plan A. After all, I would get my freedom along with a child who would have two daddies – men who committed to helping to raise her and paying child support, no less! We went forth with some homemade IVF.
How could I have known at that time that just after I got pregnant my friends would be transferred to another country? Or that a month after I gave birth my company would go bankrupt and I would lose my job?
I couldn’t, of course. But that’s what happened and there I was, with a newborn baby in my arms, all by myself, and wondering when, or how, I’d see my next paycheck. I was terrified, and between moments of total bliss with my gorgeous and perfect baby girl, I had panic attacks about my finances and our future.
My thoughts quickly spiraled into self-berating: How could I be so presumptuous as to think I could do this alone? What right do I have to bring a child into this world without the security of a partner? To think that my own income would be enough in the first place was crazy. Why hadn’t I calculated the cost of daycare? Why had I thought I could keep working fulltime while being solely responsible for a baby? And then the voices of critics joined the chorus: Were my motivations for having a baby totally selfish? Why did I think I alone would be enough? Those voices quickly started to drown out all my feelings of self-sufficiency and confidence, and suddenly I found myself in an emotional hole.
The truth is, during my pregnancy I’d thought a lot about quitting my fulltime job as an editor-in-chief of a cultural magazine, where I frequently worked 10- and 12-hour days. I no longer loved the work. I knew in my heart I needed to make a change for professional reasons. Now I had a personal reason, too.
Lots of people have told me I was brave to have a baby alone, and then to do so while launching a career as a freelance journalist. Sometimes I think what they really mean is “foolhardy.” I’m starting now, with baby steps, to figure out how to balance my new life as a mom with my new financial responsibilities. I’m also working to get past the critical voices in my head and remind myself that I’ve been a financial success before, and can do it again. It’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But tell me, has anyone ever brought a child into a perfect world?