I’m not gonna lie: I am pretty flattered that the New York Observer named me to its ‘9 New Overachieving New Yorkers You Must Date‘. After all, I was a late-bloomer, didn’t have a real boyfriend until senior year in college and was not asked to a single dance in high school. That stuff stays with you. No matter how cute I might feel, how much attention I might get from men, how many meaningful relationships I have, I am still a nerd, deep, deep down inside. So, when you wake up and are almost 40 and a big newspaper says you’re attractive, well … that feels pretty great on all kinds of levels, least of which is not the ego one.
When Observer Deputy Editor David Wallis first reached out, I asked why I was selected. “I wanted to include a single mother, and you seem to have a great story to tell,” Wallis says.
More than feeding my writerly narcissism (this weekend’s text brawl with my ex included this message from him: Single wealthy lonely promiscuous narcissistic mommy. I think that URL is free.), I am so proud that a major metropolitan newspaper chose a single mom as part of its most-datable lineup.
This sort of inclusion of single mothers represented as a normal, mainstream member of the community is such a triumph, and I am seeing more of it all the time. Even just a few years ago single moms were nearly always portrayed as a welfare queen / gold-digger / down-and-out-trying-to-make-ends-meet parent or other scourge of society. Recently, we’ve enjoyed Jennifer Lawrence in Joy, about real-life single mom / mega entrepreneur Joy Mangano, headlines about the fact that the majority of millennial moms are unmarried, and research that proves that children thrive when their moms work outside the home, and don’t spend tons of time with them — debunking assumptions that single, working moms automatically create miscreant offspring.
I’ve been blogging about single motherhood for 3.5 years, and in just the past six months I have seen a steep uptick in the number of meaningful inquiries from brands big and small about ways to reach single mothers in a way that is relevant to the professional, educated, awesome women who I connect with every day.
In other words: The world is finally starting realizing that single moms are large and in charge. We spend lots and lots of money, we cast votes, we have a huge influence over children in this country, and we are attractive romantic partners.
Like most social revolutions, it takes individual experiences of those in charge to make real changes happen. Certainly, various metrics indicate that single moms is a large, growing and increasingly affluent demographic that is smart for many brands to target. But more and more, my clients happen to be single mothers in powerful positions in the media, and they, of course, intuitively understand value proposition in spending money to address single mothers in brand marketing. Banks, toilet paper brands, job and dating sites, real estate and travel apps have all contacted me in recent months, asking how they can reach you, my awesome single mom readers.
When asked to explain his own motivation to seek out a single mom to include in his paper’s ‘most datable’ lineup, the Observer’s David Wallis explained that his goal is to represent in its pages the paper’s readership– which spans across race, age and marital status, he said. That single moms are often excluded in such projects is a symptom of cliched, negative stereotypes.
“The single mom is an especially maligned demographic,” Wallis said. “They raise our children, are amazing people and are sexy — and we shouldn’t forget that. If this (‘Most datable’) section inadvertently reminds readers of that, and makes them think, we’ve done our job as journalists.”
Wallis says that he examined his own feelings about single mothers through his personal experience as the primary caregiver for his young son for many years, combined with memories of Dan Quale’s 1992 presidential speech deriding Murphy Brown — Candice Bergman’s 40something sitcom character — for choosing to become a mother outside of marriage. “That really struck me. I remember it well,” he says. “As an editor, I see that as an opportunity to fight stereotypes.”
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.