“I was a confident single mom by choice. Then I lost my job.”

Nina and her daughter

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

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.

13 thoughts on ““I was a confident single mom by choice. Then I lost my job.”

  1. A fine piece, Nina. I have no doubt that things will work out well. And for the record, I totally believe in you, your talent and your ability to raise a child. j

  2. I know you can do it,Nina. You’re smart, and you’ve done it before. You’re also a really great mother. I have faith in you in all respects.

  3. I came across your post by chance while doing some research on who to vote for in the upcoming 2012 election (as a future single mother). I can relate to your situation very much. I am a single 36 yo and have decided to start preparing to have a child on my own (via sperm donor). I work a lot right now so I am having to anticipate that I will not be able to work as much. My friend filled me in on the costs of childcare – OMG!! I was told that you can claim that on taxes but not completely sure about that. I am curious as to how different it is raising a child in Amsterdam vs the US.

    All those questions (accusations) you have made against yourself are those that I think about everyday as I get closer to my goal. I plan on getting pregnant at 38. I work in healthcare so my job security is also a concern.

    I want to commend you for your decision to have a child on your own. No one anticipates losing a job. That can happen to anyone, single or married. Be strong and you will get through this! I think what women like us are doing is becoming more acceptable. Why should we be deprived of the right to become mothers just because we didn’t settle or stay in bad relationships or get married right out of high school. At least that’s what I tell myself anyway. Best of luck to you. I would love to hear how things go for you as I prepare for my own journey into motherhood.

  4. Life throws us curveballs. God laughs at our plans. I was married, DINKs, had a house, and thought we were ready for kids. Pregnant, my husband lost his job, then became seriously mentally ill. I have a beautiful child. I now have an unstable ex-husband. I don’t know what life will throw next, but I will never regret having my son. You shouldn’t doubt yourself, either. Best of luck to you!

  5. P.S. Look at that beautiful, happy child! What a gorgeous smile! They just get more interesting as they get bigger. Eventually, you get some more sleep. I hope you have found new employment!

  6. Nina amazing piece of a story! you should think about writing this story down and many 1000 storys like yours, i see a best selling novel in the making! Am a flight crew and am planning to bring an initiative of helping out on single parents, men/ female, through our company, we see how it works out… i feel many people look for poor people box, terminal disease cases, poor stricken familys n cities, yet we could do alot ourselves as well here in Amsterdam! Goodluck Nina.

  7. Nina,

    I have respects for you!!! You are a brave woman and have a wonderful baby!!!

    I am 33 and 5 weeks pregnanet from my ex, he told me that he can’t tell me what to do but he can’t have an another child right now as he has a 4 years old daughter from his ex, who is a completely psychopath that controls him by threatening him not letting him see his child. So he did not answer my call or text after i told him.i know he wanted me to have an abortion because that will make his life so much easier but I told him it is my body and my choice, he turned his back on me, then he lost every single right to be involved if I am going to have the baby. Anyways, I have no feelings for him and the reason I told him about my pregnancy was not because I wanted him to raise the child with me but because I thought he has the right to know no matter what I decide ( yes, I haven’t decided yet).

    Financially I am doing very well, and my family is wealthy as well. I have a very good life, I travelled a lot, partying a lot, I basically can do most of the things I want. I am very high educated, independent and rational. But the reason i am not sure if i should keep the baby is that i really dont know if i will be strong enough to go through the whole pregnancy all by myself and after that have to raise the child on my own. i am sure it will require a lots of sacrifices of my current life style and life standards and I don’t know if all the sacrifices will be worth. But on the other hand, i do want to have a child eventually, maybe after 3 years, and I thought that if by that time I will not find my Mr right, then I will find a donor.

    Maybe to many women, they think I am very selfish to only think about my life when considering whether or not to keep the child, but I think I am just being realistic, i don’t know i will be a happy mom if I have to give up my fancy life, many ppl told me that it will be all worth it and my friends told me that I won’t regret if I do keep the baby… And I know probably I will be strong enough to raise my child on my own… But on the other hand, my family lives in another country, far away from me, of course I have friends here to help me out but I rather not to count on others but myself, so yes I think it will be a lot to take and I really don’t know if I am ready for this!!!!!

    Any advice from strong single moms? Thanks!!!!!!

  8. As a 35-year-old woman who is currently planning my journey to becoming a single mother by choice, I think Nina’s decision was brave. ‘Has anyone ever brought a child into a perfect world” – exactly my question. There is no such thing as having a child at the most perfect time. Perfect doesn’t exist. However, regretting not having a child is a very realistic possibility.

    “Homemade IVF” – I’m slightly uncomfortable with this. “Homemade IUI” makes more sense. If it were possible to have homemade IVF, I’d be the first on the list. IVF is an emotionally and physically trying process. I think it minimizes the trying process of IVF to put it this way.

    Nonetheless, thank you very much for sharing your story!

  9. Very brave decision, I’m just hitting this way… Somehow crazy but then again – there is no perfect time and no perfect world!!!
    Wish you all the luck!!!!!

  10. Nina,

    Unfortunate events like these do make us doubt ourselves. To me, you’ve made a brave, pioneering and well considered decision, I have no doubt things will turn around for you. Go mums! Single or not, bringing a new life into this world knowing all the sacrifices you must make is worth cheering for, we will do our best for our children in any situation.

    I have both male and female friends who have chosen to take this path alone, they are not rich, they work extra hard to support their kids. I admir their courage very much. Pat yourself on the back, and best of luck.

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