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?
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.