After one meeting with my ex and our lawyers to negotiate the custody agreement of our divorce, I went home, busted out the calculator, and cried. I freaked out at the idea of being away from my kids for extended hours or days, and I need to know how many hours each week I would spend with my son and daughter under various arrangements. How many hours they would be sleeping, in day care and with their dad? How many minutes each week would they be mine? When we separated, I was pregnant and my daughter was not quite 2. I subscribed to many tenets of attachment parenting. I was used to being with my tiny children the vast majority of the time, running errands with one or the other strapped to my chest, their tiny bodies cozied up to mine in bed, the little one would nurse at least a year like his sister.
Anything less than that seemed devastating. They needed me so, so much, I thought. And I needed them.
Fast-forward three years, and when my ex texts to say he’s skipping a visit for reasons well within his control (a party, volunteer work, a last-minute weekend trip to California), I lose my mind. I get crazy-angry at his cavalier approach to parenting and how that affects the kids. I also resent that I don’t get my scheduled kid-free time. Those hours are a precious commodity I fully utilize to nurture friendships, date, work, exercise and relax. When the kids come home Sunday evening from their weekly overnight, we are all so happy to see each other and I can feel in my whole body how much more energy I have for them.
Never in a bazillion years would I have imagined I’d feel like that.
Recently I’ve heard a number of stories about mothers who fight against extended visitation schedules because, they insist, their tiny children should not be separated from them. In several cases, the mothers argued that their nursing babies should not be apart from them overnight, even though those babies were toddlers — a position my divorce lawyer friend says a judge would laugh at, especially if an enthusiastic father was pushing for more access to his kids. She’s seen judges order babies as young as 3 months stay overnight with their fathers.
When I hear about these cases, I sympathize with the women. After all, I was there myself! But I also see how easy it to get sucked into thinking of ourselves as mothers beyond everything else — women, wives, lovers. My first few years of intense motherhood were some of the sweetest of my life. The 24/7 selflessness required to care for a baby has infinite rewards for all parties involved. But then life changes, and it goes on. For me, being a single mother forced me to develop all the parts of myself: mother, women, professional, friend, lover. I cannot afford to hone in on my children as my everything. Eggs in one basket. One-legged stool. You know the clichés. Playing all these roles can be exhausting, but it makes me more dynamic and stronger person. And it makes me a more dynamic and stronger mother.
There are 60 peer-reviewed studies that prove that shared parenting — when children in divorced and separated families live with each parent at least 40 percent of the time — is what is best for kids, including in high-conflict situations. But it is also what is best for moms!
In this episode, I talk about my own journey from being a really primary mom, to one with a great co-parenting relationship and the many, many benefits for moms.
- Free time!
- Time to date
- Build a business and career
- More flexibility, since the other parent is there in emergencies, scheduling conflicts
- Many more!
Full transcript of the Like A Mother podcast, with Emma Johnson
Oh my gosh, if you are a mom like me and I’m going to say this, especially a single mom, how many times did you feel like you needed an extra set of eyes or maybe 20 extra sets of eyes? I mean, I know when my kids were really little, I’d have like the baby would be sleeping in the bedroom and the other toddler would be playing and then the baby would cry, but the toddler needed to be kept an eye on and it’s like you just need to be two places at once or you needed another adult or another set of eyes, but there wasn’t. It was just me and it was just insanity. Or maybe you live somewhere, you have a backyard and you know kids just need to get out of the house and go run around the backyard like kids do, but you’re maybe not quite comfortable with that yet, right?
Or, you feel all the pressure that we all feel to be with our kids 24/7, so instead of being out there keeping an eye on your kid, you really would rather be inside working, taking care of the house, watching a TV show, right? Because being in the backyard can be boring, but you need that extra set of eyes on the kids. Or, if you find yourself home alone a lot, especially at night. I mean, I’m a single mom, it can be really scary. I know a lot of moms that I know, feel really nervous being at home alone at night. All those sounds. Your imagination goes wild. Maybe there’s some crazy stuff going on in your neighborhoods, totally normal, but you don’t have an extra set of eyes. It’s just you and your babies.
Security for single moms
So, you know, for a long time I thought about home security systems would be the answer, but all the systems I found, they’re so expensive. You get locked into these subscription services, it’d be hard-wired, maybe the cameras wouldn’t be where you need them. It just didn’t seem like a real option, but I found the coolest device. It really answers all those challenges. All your single mom worries are locked up in these cute little devices. It’s called Blank Home Security. Blank Home Security cameras and they have systems for indoor and outdoor. They are these cute little cameras and the best part is the prices are so affordable. They start at $100 and zero, there are no subscription services. It’s not that you could do it without that option, they literally do not have a subscription service. These are wireless. They run on two double A batteries. Two double A batteries run for two years. I mean, what mom does not have batteries around the house?
And I cannot emphasize enough how easy these are to install. My seven-year-old kid? I gave them to him. He more or less set it all up by himself. It runs on an app on your phone. You can see the screen and it is, again, the easiest, most affordable system that I have found out there. Blank Home Security. They have all these really cool features. You can run it on your Alexa system. Again, they have indoor and outdoor. The outdoor versions are weatherproof, unbelievable. They’re just these little guys so you can move them around. Maybe you want to watch the baby over here. Maybe you’re worried about somebody stealing packages from your outside this week, so you move your camera over there. Low commitment, I’m all about that. They have these other cool features, so for example, it will capture the video. You can watch the video on your phone in real time. It can capture the video, so again, if somebody’s stealing your packages, grab that video and take it to the police station. Really, really handy.
Your kids are doing something they’re not supposed to do and they’re lying about it? You have a video and you can confront them about that. The other great thing about Blank is they are offering a deal to listeners of this podcast, 10% off. Go to blankforhome.com/singlemom. Again, blankforhome.com/singlemom and use the code SINGLEMOM for 10% off. These are already a great deal. Now they’re just even cheaper. If you’ve been thinking about home security, even if you haven’t, these are such a great value. Again, blankforhome.com/singlemom and use the code SINGLEMOM for a 10% discount. Thank me later.
All about shared parenting and why it’s great for single moms
Hi, today I am talking on my most, most favoritest topics: Shared parenting. This is something that is part of my own personal journey and it’s really become one of my greatest passions which plays into my larger life agenda which is gender equality and feminism. But, for those of you who don’t know, I’m Emma Johnson and you might know me from my blog, Wealthy Single Mommy podcast, Like A Mother. My book, the Kick Ass Single Mom. Part of my story is going from a single mom with not much involvement from my children’s dad. My unique story is that he did suffer a brain injury and had some unique challenges that meant he was not able to co-parent for a long time, in an equal way, but fast forward to today and I couldn’t have guessed, right? Based on our past history together as co-parents, I could not have guessed that we’d be such great co-parents and share parenting.
So, if you’re not familiar, shared parenting means that after divorce or separation, it is presumed that both parents are equally good parents, that they both have equal legal rights to the kids and approximate equal time with the kids, about 50/50. We’re living in the real world, people have jobs and lives and kids have schedules, but it’s shared. Both people have space in their homes. Both parents have space in their homes for the kids and they’re shared. There is incredible research out there about they’re showing and proving that this is, unequivocally, what is good for kids. Nothing. There is nothing out there that supports that one parent having primary custody of the kids, primary time with the kids, is better. It is not. Fifty-five peer review studies, including in high conflict cases. I think that is so interesting. High conflict relationships between the parents, it is still best for kids when they have equal time with their parents.
Why primary custody for moms is sexist
And one byproduct of not having equal time is that when the dads, and let’s be real, we know that 80% of the time when these things go to court, the moms get the primary time. Eighty percent of the time the kids are primarily with the mom and that’s sexist. That is sexist. We cannot have gender equality and government in the workplace, in our economy, if we do not have gender equality at home and home might mean a wonderful long-term marriage. Home might be a separated family, but we cannot have gender equality if we do not have gender equality at home, which brings me to the benefit of shared parenting to moms. Ladies, today, now that I have a great co-parent in my ex-husband, my kid’s dad, my life is so much better. We’re all stressed out. Moms are stressed out. We love to talk about how we are burdened, because we usually are disproportionately burdened with caring for kids, which can be wonderful and joyful, but it can also and often is just a grind. It is just an exhausting grind to always be responsible for kids.
Well, guess what? When you have a co-parent that has the kids 30, 40, 50, 60, 70% of the time, those are hours you are not responsible for the kids. Yes, you may miss them, but you’re also not working as a mom. You can focus on your career. You can have a social life. I get all my dating done when my kids are with their dad. I’m in a wonderful relationship now for almost a year and I’ve been able to nurture that relationship because my kids are with their dad. In the summer, the kids are with their dad for a month and I travel around the world. It is wonderful. I’m able to have the flexibility. That is key right? All moms know that flexibility is the key. Let’s say that you have a business opportunity that comes up. It requires you go into a sales meeting or a conference for a few days. You’re a lot more likely to take that professional opportunity to grow your career, to grow your business, to grow your income which is great for your whole family and it’s great for feminism.
Coparenting, shared parenting allows women to pursue professional opportunities
You’re much more likely to jump at that opportunity if you know that you can work through it with your kids’ dad. If you can’t count on another co-parent, you’re holding yourself back. It’s so hard to invest the time and the hassle and the headache and the guilt in hiring a sitter or roping in family members if you have to do those things, opposed to just frankly taking for granted that you have somebody that has your back. Because you’re going to have his back, too, and it goes both ways. You know what? Recently, my ex-husband has a girlfriend. She’s really sweet. The kids love her. I have had to travel for work. I had the opportunities to travel for work, which frankly I think in the past I might have turned down because of the guilt, because of the headache, because of the financial expense of hiring a sitter.
Instead, my kids’ dad has taken the kids many days at a time. He has a life, too. He has to work, and so then he brings his girlfriend, who helps get the kids to school or whatever is going on and all of a sudden, I went from a few years ago being a mom who felt like I was it. It was like me and the kids and that was it, to now I have this extended web of people who care for my kids and it is wonderful. It is such a relief. It is such a relief in my mind and in my heart because I know there’s other people caring for the kids and I am free to go and be a successful professional. To go and work out, have free time when I’m not managing the kids and just a live a pretty awesome life because I have this really healthy co-parenting experience.
So, that is what I want for you. You know, I know there’s going to be comments, that you know, my ex is abusive and I believe you. I believe you and that is an exception or that he just doesn’t want to show up. He doesn’t. And what I’m trying to do here is change the culture because we know statistically that when the dads get that lousy every-other-weekend Wednesday night deal and in New York where I live we call it the Friday night special. When parents are marginalized to visiting their own children, when dads are marginalized to visiting their own kids, they are that much more likely to completely check out of their kids’ lives. They are. That is a statistical fact and that is something that, culturally, you and I can work together to change, to welcoming dads into their kids lives. Not presuming that our way is the best way.
Let fathers be parents too
When those kids are with their dad, they’re with their dad. Unless they’re actually being harmed, he gets to parent how he wants to parent and you’re welcoming him. You’re inviting him in to know about the kids, what’s going on, including him in medical decisions. Going to that parent-teacher conferences together, actually collaborating, and this is something that you, as a mom, you can make steps to do, right? You can make those steps. He has to meet you halfway eventually. He might not do it now, but together, I really believe that we can be changing family culture which affects the courts and that is really going to affect gender equality for the better in this whole country. So join me.
If you liked this podcast, what can I say? You’re going to like my book. It’s out now. You can find it at every retailer. The Kick Ass Single Mom, be financially independent, discover your sexiest self and raise fabulous, happy children. With Penguin, this book is already giving it tons of media. The book has not even been launched as I’m writing this promo. We have more than 105 media hits including The Doctors, Oprah.com, U.S. News, on and on, all the big ones and lots of your favorite small media are giving it great praise. This is the book to help you get … not just get on your feet, but really kick some serious ass in your career and business, discover and romantic and sex life that’s going to blow your mind and rest assured that your parenting is probably a heck of a lot better than you already think and your kids are going to turn out amazing.
There is a lot about my own personal journey, which I have never shared anywhere but in this book. It is dozens and dozens of testaments and stories from other amazing women that have thrived in their careers, have discovered new and positive relationships with their children’s dads they didn’t think was possible and found that they have thrived and enjoyed this period their life as single moms in ways they probably had never thought of before. So, check it out now. The Kick Ass Single Mom, be financially independent, discover your sexiest self and raise fabulous, happy children. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your local independent bookstore, online, in stores, Powell’s, Books-A-Million, every single one of them has it. Buy it, share it with your friends and thank you so much.
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.