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Oct 29 2012

As a Single Mom, Can I Handle Being My Kid’s Sole Provider?

By at 5:05 am

As part of our ongoing series about Women, Work & Money, Emily Wolper, who is currently in the process of becoming a single mother by choice, shares her concerns about being the sole provider to her future child.

I grew up in a traditionally structured, suburban household. My dad worked and my mom stayed home to raise my sister and me. She was very involved with the community, serving as president of the PTA at almost every school we attended and leading boards of various organizations that had a significant impact on our town. Still, with all of this activity, I knew that my mom was, first and foremost, my mom.

I have vivid childhood memories of skipping up the hill to our house after the school bus dropped me off and seeing my mom, smiling in the doorway, eagerly awaiting my return. I have to admit that for most of my life, I thought she waited there all day and that her universe revolved exclusively around me. Sure, she may have left the house to pick up snacks or drop off a book I had left at home and needed at school, but in my naïve mind, my mother was on this earth to greet me at the door, ask me how my day was, and listen lovingly to my tales of glee, or in middle school, woe.

As I begin to think more intensely about the type of mother I want to be, I grapple with the reality of the kind of mother I will have to be. As a single mother by choice, I will be the sole financial supporter of our small family. I will not always be able to wait for my child at the doorway of our home. There will be many days when I will be away from the house attending or running meetings. I love my work and have always considered it a vital and special part of my identity. My entrepreneurial spirit manifested itself early in my life, but it really took hold when I started my own company at 24. I have proudly supported myself for a long time and I have enjoyed my career immensely in the process.

But, what will it be like when I have to provide for my child and I want to be present for him or her, too? Will it make me a bad mother if I’m excited to meet with a new student or head into the city for a consultation with a family? I don’t think so. In fact, I have often argued that children benefit from seeing their mothers as people with active lives and careers, serving as a model for the type of people they, too, could become. I believe we are living in different times from when my parents were raising my sister and me, and making decisions about who would be the bread winner and who would be at home with the children. Today, most families have two working parents, and, I’ve read, about half of the children in our country are being raised by a single primary parent. So, I’m not convinced that my story will be all that different. In fact, I’m confident that my experience will become part of the greater narrative.

This confidence guides me about 95% of the time. However, in the other 5%, my tougher days, driven by anxiety, insecurity, or perhaps hormones, I feel fear and worry. What if I cannot provide enough for my child? Wouldn’t life be easier if I had a spouse, helping me shoulder the load, both at home and in the financial arena? I have taken measures to allay these fears, including important types of insurance that will help me support my child if I am sick, or enable someone else to provide if the absolute worst-case scenario happens. These measures do provide some solace. I also recognize that I’m making a choice and that inherent in that is the reality that some of the normal concerns that parents have may weigh more heavily on me, alone.

But, I also take comfort, 100% of the time, in the knowledge that my family will hold onto some of the more traditional structures and that my child will have memories similar to mine. After all, I may have a little extra dose of stress, and I may not be at the door awaiting my child’s return every day after school. But when I can’t be there, someone very special will be. My child will enjoy the smiles, love, and dedication of his or her grandmother, my mother. In one very significant way, history will repeat itself.

This series was brought to you by a generous grant from the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York. JWFNY encourages women to make change. Learn more at JWFNY.org.

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