The other day an op-ed writer for The New York Times interviewed me about whether my single-mom status affects my politics. She originally reached out because on the assumption that because I preach financial independence, I must be right-wing — bucking stereotypes that all single moms are a) welfare moms, and therefore b) left-leaning. I cleared that up right away: I’m pretty freaking left.
However, I squirmed a little when she drilled me about politics and single moms. The reality is this: I vote Democrat because it seems absurd for a bazillion reasons not to, and this has never waivered, regardless of whether I was single, married, childless or a parent. But I also don’t spend a lot of my energy thinking about how to support low-income single mothers — despite knowing very well that the majority of single moms are poor. As I told the reporter: I launched WealthySingleMommy.com to speak to other professional single parents like myself. This is about my life, my interests and my paradigm.
I acknowledge that my life is tougher than if I had a healthy, mutually sportive marriage. I also appreciate very much that I am the fourth generation of women in my family to graduate from college. I am white and articulate and was raised by a mom who was single, but was also a professional who taught me things like how to write a resume, deal a firm handshake and look people in the eye when I speak with them. I have more advantages than 99 percent of people in this world, and I try to be cognizant of that every day.
So when it comes to local and national politics, about fighting for universal health insurance and child care and programs aimed at helping people out of poverty, I vote for the party that supports those things, because I have a hunch that what is good for low-income people is good for everyone. But I also join the legions of Americans not engaged in politics. I would be silly and naive if I blulstered on about why universal child care is guaranteed to be a positive for our country. After all, you could invite a Wharton PhD economist to debate the topic with a London School of Economics PhD and despite devoting their professional lives to the subject, they won’t come to a firm conclusion. Public policy is is complicated, and I mostly check out. I feel guilty for that.
So what does the privileged single mom owe her low-income sister? Are all single moms sisters? I feel that we are — but to a point.
On our walk to daycare the other morning, my kids and I bumped into one of our favorite teachers and her son, who also attends the school. One of the reasons I like this young woman is that she is a single mom, too, and I can see in her some of the same challenges of working to make a great life for her child, whom she clearly adores.
I mentioned that she looked like she lost a little weight, and she said yes, she joined a gym recently. However, the commitment to exercise is a challenge — she commutes 45 minutes each way to work, must pay for a babysitter while she works out, and then finds it hard to eat in a way that is convenient, affordable and healthy. By comparison, each day I go for a jog, bike ride or attend a yoga class while my kids are at day care or with their dad. I can do this because self-employment make it easy, but also because I earn a high hourly rate, so I can afford the time. I also don’t sacrifice too much to buy fresh fruits, veggies, fish and meat, and enjoy taking my time cooking tasty meals a couple times each day.
What do I owe other single moms like this day care teacher? I do believe that writing and blabbing publicly about single parenthood, divorce and family economics is a political act, and like it or not, you can expect to hear plenty more from me. But I also believe that advocacy starts in small ways, too. For example, I mentor a single mom who is a promising journalism student. I offer to let my cleaning lady, a single mom of three who is from Brazil, bring her daughter to hang out at my place if child care becomes and issue. And the teacher the other day and I arranged for her son to have a playdate at my apartment when she works out.
These are small, quiet ways to support single moms who are hustling to make things better for themselves and their families. These are things I can do, and I want to do, and I also feel an obligation to do because I can. I have an abundance of resources, and I have an obligation to give.
Do you feel an obligation to support single moms overall? How do you advocate for single parent families?
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.