I can tell people wonder. My kids are little, after all. Not too many divorcees at the preschool. I don’t wear a ring. I might mention that I just refinanced my apartment (I’m in New York, where real estate is the default conversation starter). Or gossip about the other parents. Or about a recent vacation with my kids. But I don’t talk about a husband or girlfriend or partner. I’m a single mom. If it comes up, it comes up. Otherwise, I don’t feel the need to explain myself.
It took me a little while to settle into this role (no surprise there!), but I’m nearly three years into it. While barreling towards the possibility that I would have to run this show on my own, I spent hours with an Excel spreadsheet, a calculator and my Mint.com account. How would I make the numbers work?! I had a career and income, but my husband was the primary earner then, complete with health insurance and a 401(k) match.
For a while there was child support, but that didn’t last. Nor did the health insurance. And there were teeny, tiny kids who needed a mom around — a lot, I felt. I had mostly stayed at home for my oldest kid’s first year while I was still married, and I couldn’t bear the thought of not cuddling and nursing my newborn son for hours like I had his sister. I also refused to accept that single motherhood automatically meant I would be constantly stressed, or that my family would be outcasts, or that my kids would worry about being homeless. I worried, maybe most of all, that I wouldn’t be the mom I’d dreamed of being — the fun mom, the mom abundant in time and love.
I wanted to create a big, full, happy life for my little family. I wasn’t totally sure what that meant (I’m still not), but I’m feeling pretty good that I’m on my way. One thing I am pretty sure about: you need time, and you need energy, and you need money to make this happen. It doesn’t mean I have to be rich. It doesn’t mean I need a lot of stuff or designer stuff or expensive things (to the contrary, actually). But making enough money, and managing that money well is critical to creating the family life that I want.
It’s intense, this life as a single mom. If I spend my energy stressing about whether the mortgage payment will clear, I compromise my ability to be that fun mom. Feeling OK about paying a babysitter once in a while affects how I feel about dating, which impacts how I feel about myself as a woman — which again, comes back to the kind of mother I hope to be. A little cushion in the bank gives me the confidence to take professional risks – which can lead to more money, more fulfilling work, and a better quality of life for myself and my kids. See how it’s all connected?
So this blog is about creating that wealthy life as a single mom. It’s a big topic, but I’m going for a big life.
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.