“Just because my plan A didn’t work out didn’t mean plan B couldn’t be really kickass. In fact, who was to tell me that my life as a single mother couldn’t be completely wonderful.”
When I read these words in Emma Johnson’s new book Kickass Single Mom I wanted to punch the air and yell “YES!”.
In the book Emma sets out her manifesto for kickass single mums everywhere. She does her utmost to turn all preconceived ideas, including your own, about single motherhood on their head.
I’ve written before about the lack of single mum inspiration in the form of happy, successful, unapologetic women who are confidently living their best life as a single mother.
Well, that’s Emma Johnson in a nutshell.
So if you’re even slightly doubtful that you can live a totally fabulous life as a single mama then I urge you to read her book.
Not only is it inspiring, it’s also full of practical advice. Advice that will help you improve your financial situation, boost your earning potential, confidently cope with ALL the things AND have time for a social life.
Read it now, and thank me later!
Who is Emma Johnson aka The Kickass Single Mom?
In fact it was partly her blog that inspired me to start this one. Her writing helped me see how powerful sharing our experiences of single motherhood can be.
When Emma’s marriage ended she found herself broke, pregnant, and alone with a toddler. Searching for the advice she needed to navigate her new life as a single professional woman and parent, she discovered there was very little wisdom available.
So the New York based freelance journalist launched Wealthy Single Mommy to speak to other women who, like her, wanted to not just survive but thrive as single mums.
Now she’s taken the best of what she’s learned and put into book form. She guides you through confronting the naysayers in your life – and in your own mind – to build a thriving career, achieve financial security, and to reignite your romantic life – while being a kickass parent to your kids.
What I thought of Kickass Single Mom
This is a ‘read-it-in-one-sitting’ type of book. I devoured it in one afternoon.
As a long-time reader of her blog I thought I knew what to expect, but this goes above and beyond. Emma has shared the intimate details of her story like never before and used her vulnerabilities and successes to powerful effect.
Her triumph over the less than ideal circumstances that were thrust upon her throws down the gauntlet. She’s lived and breathed it all – marriage breakdown, negativity, financial insecurity – and come up stronger and way more fabulous.
It’s a challenge to all single mums to not allow themselves to be a victim of their circumstances, or of society’s idea of what a single mum can be.
While much of the book focuses on a single mum after a relationship breakdown, I could still relate. Because no matter the path you travelled to single parenting it can easy to feel ‘less than’.
You might feel like you’ve failed in some way, as a wife, as a woman. As a single mother by choice, while I’m proud of what I did to become a mother, that choice was not my Plan A. However as every page of Emma’s book urges, let’s make Plan B completely flippin’ wonderful.
Kickass single mom – my favourite take-aways
Letting others in
Right at the beginning Emma talks about how her single mother status deepened her relationship with her mother, who came to stay with her after her son was born.
One night she woke to the sound of her newborn son crying and when she stumbled to his side she found her mum already by his cot lovingly rocking him to sleep.
This has me in tears because one of the HUGE upsides of my solo mama experience has been the AMAZING relationship I now have with my mum. If I’d had a partner she wouldn’t have felt able to play the huge part she plays in our lives because she’d have felt she was intruding.
As Emma points out as a single mums you get to let other people in your family or community in your own and your child’s life in a way you wouldn’t if you were in a couple. While we may lack a partner, out of necessity we open ourselves up to more joyful, and supportive relationships with other people in our lives.
Powerfully positive message
Emma rightly points out that we single mamas have freedoms married mums will never have. And we discover part of ourselves, strengths, capabilities, compassion and vulnerabilities, that otherwise we may never have know we possessed.
I’ve been guilty of falling into a ‘woe is me’ mindset because yes it is bloody tough shouldering all the responsibility, and on crappy days I still have moments of feeling like this.
But then I look at other women around me and see that just because they have a husband/partner doesn’t mean they have it better than me.
In relationships it’s all too easy to ‘mute’ who you are and defer to the man to do so-called ‘manly’ things, when you’re just as, if not more, capable of doing them too.
In fact, so used am I to just getting on and doing things myself that often left speechless when married mums get in a panic about doing things that going on a camping trip with their kids, or coping when their husband is away for a weekend. I feel a bit sorry for them!
The stay-at-home mum myth
“My heart breaks for women who were fed the message that
stay-at-home moms are better moms and made a
big life-changing decisions as a result”.
I love Emma for addressing the very real fact of working mum guilt. Guilt that single mothers feel tenfold. But as Emma points out, and backs up with evidence, working is not only good for us, it’s good for our kids too.
What’s more the stay-at-home mum ‘ideal’ that we’ve all had stuffed down our throats – is a lie. It’s a myth created by the post-war advertising industry. Mothers, single or otherwise, are striving to achieve an ideal of family life that is pure fantasy.
We’re beating ourselves up for not having achieved something that a) never existed and b) wasn’t that great anyway. That conservatives and the right wing press use that lie as a stick to beat us single mums with is prepostorous.
Emma points out that at every point in history up women worked. Often that work was unpaid and unrecognised work on the family farm or in the family business. But communities throughout history wouldn’t have survived without the hard labour of women.
Yet somehow, now we’re supposed to devote ourselves to our kids full-time, staying at home to bake cakes and keep the house tidy.
Even I – a solo mama and proud feminist – still held in my mind that stay-at-home mum ideal. It’s hard not to be influenced by what’s shoved at your repeatedly by mainstream media. But reading this gave me permission to drop any fragment of guilt I feel about pursuing my professional dreams.
As a financial journalist Emma’s practical advice about improving your financial position as a single mum is particularly strong. But some of her advice will be confronting for some.
For instance she urges divorced mums not to chase alimony or even child support because of the negative impact in can end up having on your relationship with your ex. And with yourself.
I can’t really comment, because I’m not in that situation. But I can vouch for how empowering it is to be in full control of your finances. As modern women, married or single, we can and should provide for ourselves and our kids, not depend on a man to pick up the bills.
She also offers practical tips for earning more, minimising spending and planning your financial future. Thanks to her tips I’ve booked an appointment to make my will (during Will Aid month – check it out) and am looking for a financial advisor to make sure I’ve got my retirement ducks in a row.
Be open about dating
This is something I initially bristled against. To be honest I’m not fully sold on the need to ‘date’ – you can read thoughts on that here – and my natural inclination is not to tell my daughter if I do date.
However, I can see how openness could be helpful. It shows your kids you have a right to enjoy a romantic life. I think my daughter would feel threatened if she knew I was going on a date, because she’d worry someone new was going to steal my affection. But if I treat dating lightly then perhaps she would too.
For me I think I need to start a step back. I’m very guilty of not being as sociable as I could. But we’re all entitled to an adult social life. A social life that isn’t conducted in snatched moments between the school run and bed-time, while intermittently yelling at your child to stop interrupting.
As a single mum, it is much harder to get out regularly. So we tend to deny our needs as a grown woman. Our fun, sexy, flirtatious side. It’s so much easier to stay at home on the couch watching Netflix after all.
But Emma has flourished as a single woman dating in New York. I’m not sure it would be so much fun in Surrey (!), but I get her point. We need to prioritise ourselves and remember who we are when we’re not being someone’s mother. Or the myriad of other hats we have to wear.
We deserve to put ourselves first.
So I encourage you to read this ground-breaking book. As Emma points out, we have the power to redefine the perception of single motherhood for future generations.
We don’t need to be victims, we don’t need to be struggling and impoverished. We ARE NOT less than. We’re fucking fabulous.