(Laura’s note: I’m on the road this week, so I’m running some guest posts on my favorite time and money themes. Today’s post comes from Emma Johnson, better known online as the Wealthy Single Mommy. Please go visit her blog!)
by Emma Johnson
The demands on single moms’ time and emotional resources are far greater than many other demographics, and our financial resources – at least initially following a divorce – are far less. Which means we need to be as efficient as possible.
It took me a while to tune up my household’s little machine after I separated from my husband three years ago, but for the most part, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grip on that equation: I outsource all my laundry. My lovely housekeeper Sandra visits every week. And I bask in the flexibility my home-based freelance writing career affords my family. It took me a while, but I no longer feel guilty about having my kids, ages 3 and 5, in childcare 35 hours per week. As I ramped up domestic services, I found I had more time to invest in building my business, and guess what – the more I spent outsourcing, the more I earned. I also had more time to hang out with my kids. Last week when my daughter accidentally ground colored pencil shavings into the shag rug, I could have gotten out a comb and vacuum and spent a half hour cleaning it up. Instead, the three of us rode our scooters to the local burger joint. I can afford to buy us nice scooters and organic burgers because I earn enough at my business, which I spend many hours building at a much higher hourly rate than I pay Sandra or the laundry service.
All this time-money balancing has helped me get over my fear that since I’m a single mom I would be poor and never see my kids. Instead, I have embraced my reality – which has turned out to be a delightfully challenging and rewarding place to hang out.
But what is less evident in this system are the less tangible resources that it takes to raise children – and paramount in this diagram is the required emotional support. Everyone needs emotional buttressing: that adult hug after a crappy day with the kids, or a trusted ear to bounce a new work idea off of. Even a shared laugh about the kids’ latest antics is critically important. These are needs that a healthy marriage can fulfill. When you are single, you do not have that built-in companionship.
Instead, as a single mom, I must consciously find ways to get that support in order to fill my own emotional well, which then enables me to be the fully engaged mom my kids need and a creative, productive worker. Filling this need adds an additional layer to my time-money circus: I schedule breakfasts and drinks with friends on the weekend when my children are with their dad, set up after-bedtime phone chats with old friends who live afar, and arrange workday Skype meetings with colleagues and clients from my home office, which can be quite isolating. Ensuring that I am emotionally bolstered also means that I prioritize dating – in part because I enjoy the company of men now, and also because I would like to find a permanent partner for the long term. All these tasks take time that I could spend working, but that would leave me emotionally depleted.
One of my coping mechanism when I get stressed and overwhelmed by my single mom life is to remind myself that not all marriages are good marriages, and just because someone has a spouse does not mean that person is a true co-parent, or helpful around the house, or emotionally available. It has often been said that there is nothing lonelier than being married to the wrong person, and I know this to be true. I also know that a bad marriage can suck away one’s time, energy, emotions, and often money.
Figuring out how to create a fulfilling life as a single mom has been one of the most challenging and rewarding tasks of my life. Fitting together all the components is certainly a work in progress, one that will evolve and change as my children, business, and personal life grow and change. As it does, I expect to find myself shifting the time, money, and emotional pieces of the puzzle around to find a way to make it all work.
How do you make time for adult companionship?
Emma Johnson is a freelance business journalist who blogs at WealthySingleMommy.com and raises Helena and Lucas in Astoria, New York.